Easy Static Electricity Science Experiments

Our weather has been so cold and dry lately – not my idea of perfect weather! But, it’s perfect for static electricity science experiments!

We did two experiments that quickly demonstrate the effects of static electricity in an exciting way.

Two Static Electricity Science Experiments

Experiment #1: “Magically” Separate Pepper from Salt

Step 1: Put some salt and pepper in a small dish. Stir it together.

Step 2: Have your child give a plastic comb a static charge by running it through their hair. (The book said to use wool cloth, but we don’t have anything wool…) By the way, we discovered that if one person charges the comb and then hands it to another person, it does not stay charged! The person who wants to do the experiment must also be the one who charges the comb!

Step 3: Hold the statically charged comb over the dish, and the comb will attract the pepper causing it to jump up out of the dish! This was really pretty amazing to watch! If you hold the comb too close, the salt will jump up too, so it might take a little practice for just the right “magic” effect!

Experiment #2: Use a Comb to Bend Water

This experiment came from my 5th grade science teacher, and I have remembered it all these years!

Simply charge your plastic comb as you did in experiment 1. Then, hold your comb close to (but NOT TOUCHING!) a small stream of water coming from the faucet.

Then, watch the water bend! It was hard to get our timing right to get a good picture of this one, but if you do it on a very dry day, you’ll get results that will amaze your kids!

The Science Behind These Experiments:

All matter is made up of atoms, and all atoms are made up of protons (positive charge), neutrons (no charge), and electrons (negative charge). The charges (negative and positive) are usually balanced in each atom, and so the atom is not charged. However, when you rub two things together (like a comb and hair), some electrons move from one to the other, causing one item to have a positive charge and the other to have a negative charge. They now attract each other.

Static electricity does not build up very well on a humid day because the charged particles are likely to attach themselves to water molecules in the air.

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