Ever opened the battery of a device only to find everything covered in crusty battery acid? Don’t panic, it’s actually pretty common. Even the best household batteries are prone to corrosion and leaking chemicals, especially when exposed to moisture or heat.
Luckily, there’s actually a pretty simple way to clean up your batteries, and you probably already have everything you need at home.
What is Battery Acid?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, close to three billion batteries are bought annually in the United States. Battery acid is actually a more common name for sulfuric acid, a mineral acid that is usually used in lead-acid batteries, and the concentration of sulfuric acid in water can range from 29% to 32% or between 4.2 mol/L and 5.0 mol/L.
To be less scientific, sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive substance that can very easily ruin whatever device it leaks into, contaminate the soil, burn your skin, and even harm your eyes.
Alkaline batteries usually leak a fluid that turns into a white, powdery crust. Lithium-ion batteries can often suddenly quit working or, in rare cases, catch on fire or explode. Yeah, explode.
There are a variety of types of batteries available around the country, so it is a good idea to make sure you know what kind you have available to you. Knowing what battery is corroded will really help when it comes time to clean them and dispose of them properly.
What You’ll Need to Clean Battery Corrosion
So how are you supposed to safely clean and even restore your batteries? Here’s everything you’ll need to clean and remove corrosion from most battery types:
- White vinegar OR Lemon juice
- Baking soda
- Rubber gloves to properly protect your hands
- Eye goggles (or another form of eye protection)
- Plastic bag with a small amount of sand
- Cotton swabs or a toothbrush for small spaces
How to Clean Battery Corrosion
Before you start the cleaning process, please make sure you are wearing glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from any flecks of dried battery discharge, as well as protective gloves made of cloth or synthetic rubber to keep the debris from getting on your hands.
You may want to consider wearing long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin. You don’t want to get any of the battery’s corrosion on your skin or in your eyes because it can easily cause some pretty permanent damage. So here is the proper method for cleaning a corroded battery:
- Start by protecting your work surface by covering it with an old rag or a sheet of scrap cardboard.
- Make sure you have separated and removed the battery from the device, toy, or object it powers, and then sprinkle some baking soda over the corrosion to neutralize the battery acid.
- Next, dip a cotton swab in vinegar or lemon juice so that it’s dripping wet, and then dab it over the baking soda. This combination of products will help to neutralize the acidic corrosion.
- Let the reaction fizz for a couple of minutes, then scrub the corrosion away with an old toothbrush. Once scrubbed, rinse the surface with clean, water-soaked cotton swabs.
- Make sure the battery compartment on the object has been cleaned and allowed to dry completely before you put new batteries in.
How to Clean Battery Corrosion in Toys
Have you noticed corrosion on your child’s favorite battery-operated device? Check out Justajolt’s quick guide on how to clean battery corrosion from your kids’ toys.
What Should You Do with Used Batteries?
When household batteries are tossed in the trash and end up in a landfill, the chemicals inside them leach into the soil and water systems. Fortunately, types of rechargeable batteries, including AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V, can be recycled. If the corroded battery you’ve removed from the object is long dead and needs to be thrown out, there are actually a few proper ways of disposing of it.
- The first is to carefully remove the battery and place it in a sealable plastic bag filled with a small amount of sand (or kitty litter). We suggest that you use a separate bag for each battery. Next, call your city’s household hazardous waste office to find out how they would prefer you to dispose of it. You should never throw corroded batteries in the garbage.
- To recycle corroded batteries, you should still collect them in a plastic bag with sand to keep them from contaminating clean batteries. But instead of dropping the batteries off in the recycling yourself, you can find a mail-in program on sites like Earth911 and Call2Recycle.
Watch Republic Services’ guide for information on how the electronics recycling mail-back program works.
Tips for Preventing Battery Corrosion
There are a few ways to avoid having to clean up battery corrosion, here are a few simple tips and tricks to prevent them from leaking in the first place:
- Improperly installing batteries can damage them and lead to acid leakage, so make sure you put them into your device, toy, or other objects correctly.
- If you’re donating items like toys, take a moment to take the batteries out first so that they aren’t damaged while being transported.
- When your device dies, you should always replace every one of the batteries in it with new ones.
- Make sure to store unused batteries in a cool, dry location and away from any direct sunlight.
For more cleaning tips and tricks from professional cleaners in Massachusetts, check out our blog or contact us today to find out how we can help you keep your home looking its best all year long!