Curtain Fabric Static

Grey Mohair Velvet Upholstery
Grey Mohair Velvet Upholstery

If you are unfortunate enough to have created beautiful curtains that are plagued by static problems then please read on.

Fortunately static is rarely noticed when curtains are hung, this is partly because of the chosen combination of materials and partly also because the weight of the material overcomes the weak power of static electricity. However if you do have this rare problem then you have already invested a lot of time, effort and money into buying curtain material and having them made up and hung. Do you have to start again?

Before answering that dreaded question it is important to understand what causes the problem in the first place. There is little point in re-making the curtains if the same problem is going to happen again.

Static is a natural phenomena. The main way in which static is created is when two materials are rubbed together causing an excess electrical charge on their surfaces. It is not, however, caused by the friction itself and it is not caused because a material is synthetic/man-made.

All materials differ in their propensity to cause static. It takes the properties of TWO materials to cause static; one must be good at giving up ‘electrons’ and the other good at receiving ‘electrons’. The better that each of the materials are at giving/receiving ‘electrons’ then the more static there will be. For any scientists reading, you might remember that this is measured by The Triboelectric Series.

On the Triboelectric Series; hair, wool, glass, nylon and fur are good at giving up electrons. Whereas silk, paper and cotton are at the other end of the scale and are bad at giving up electrons. Conversely; wood, metals, polyester and styrene are bad at attracting electrons whereas at the other end of this side of the scale polyurethane, polyethylene, vinyl/PVC are good at attracting electrons.

Thus a combination of PVC and hair would produce the most static whereas cotton and wood would produce the least. If you think about combing your hair then this should ring true.

Polyester is very similar to gold, platinum, brass, silver, nickel and copper in its static generating properties. Whereas, cotton is one of the lowest materials on the scale.

So the first lesson, bearing in mind the above, is that the choice of materials ie the curtain and the lining are critical. Also any surface that the curtain comes into contact with is important. So the second lesson is to consider the location.

Let’s turn now to how the curtain is made up. An experienced, professional curtain maker should know how to avoid the static problem.

Taking an example of a mixed composition fabric. Let’s say 40% cotton, 40% viscose and 20% polyester. And let’s also say that the material is loosely woven and has movement. Looking at such a fabric an experienced curtain maker would say that the fabric ‘needed taming’ and that a light cotton inter liner should be used. In addition to that the following details should be followed:

• The interlining should be locked in with 3 inch stitches. This should not be knotted;
• At the leading edge the interlining should be serged and locked in;
• The hem should be herring bone stitched. The stitches should not be too large and should not catch the face fabric; and
• Because of the nature of the fabric, the hem should slightly break on the floor.

These are not generic solutions to all curtain static problem. But they should be considered by the curtain maker.

So we have seen that: the choice of material; how the design works when hung; and how the curtain is made up, all have impacts on the creation or dissipation of static.

5 Comments

  1. Our curtains in our new house “cling” to the inside of double glazed tinted windows on hot sunny days. When there is no sun, the curtains hang naturally. These are large north facing windows with a big surface area and the inside glass gets very hot which draws the fabric like a vacuum to the inside of the glass and clings.

    The curtain suppliers have tried earthing the glass, curtain rail, the curtains and also the frame to see if this is caused by static electricity, however no luck. The carpet in the house is 100% wool which is not a problem. The curtain fabric is 100% polyester and they have now tried three (3) different linings including a anti static white lining yesterday, however this makes no difference at all. Is this a static or thermal problem? Any ideas on a fix would be appreciated.

    • I think the article explains it pretty well.

      Sounds like static to me. Suggestion is to stop the curtains touching the floor and/or use a different liner. Ask to see the instructions that come with the anti-static liner.

      Your problem may be linked to: carpet, liner, curtain material, glass. You have to isolate the problem and find which two are causing it.

      This is really a question for your curtain maker to answer.

      • Thanks for your comments. The fabric supplier has used this material in hundreds of homes without any problems like this. The curtain fabric does not cling to the glass because it is touching the glass, it is drawn in or sucked onto the glass surface very much like a thermal syphoning effect. When the curtains are pulled cross and are hanging freely and when it is not a sunny day, they hang free. On a hot sunny day, after a few minutes when they heat up, they are slowly drawn or sucked onto the glass surface which is truly an odd thing to watch.

        • I’m not sure what a thermal siphoning effect might be. Sounds like you have an annoyingly intriguing engineering problem on your hands.

          If it is due to rising warm air in a narrow space then make the space larger or the heat less (somehow!)…sheers or external shading or just set the curtains further from the glass.

          Not sure i can really help further…I did a business degree!

          • Hello – do you think that a linen/cotton blend curtain fabric would perform better than 100% polyester fabric to stop this problem etc? Our concern would be this material breaking down over time due to the hot sun and also shrinking when dry cleaned?

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