Quick Tip: Cleaning Up a Battery Leak
The next time you face a sticky situation caused by a battery leak, follow these steps to clean up the mess safely and effectively.
All batteries—particularly the alkaline variety—leak over time, whether drawing a current or not. So even if you heed the expiration date listed on the package, you can end up with leaks, if not within the battery compartments of home electronics, then in the junk drawer where you like store extras. With alkaline batteries, leaks usually manifest near the contacts as a white and flaky substance To clean battery corrosion like this, follow these guidelines.
First, set up a safe place to do the job. Spread newspaper over the surface where you plan to work, and since there are chemicals involved, it’s recommended that you wear protective gear.
Alkaline batteries leak, not acid, but a chemical that registers as a base on the pH scale. For that reason, it’s wise to clean a battery leak with a mild household acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Both liquids work to neutralize the alkaline discharge. Place a drop of vinegar or lemon juice onto the corroded area, then wait a minute or two for the neutralizing effect to take place.
Having dipped a Q-tip or toothbrush dipped into your chosen acidic liquid, gently wipe away the crystalline white residue. Again, be careful not to get the chemical on your skin or in your eyes.
Address lingering residue with a toothpick or, even better, a pencil eraser. If you’re cleaning the contacts within the battery compartment, sandpaper or a file may prove handy for the purpose.
Now what do you do with the leaky batteries? Some municipalities allow you to throw in alkaline batteries with your regular trash. Other counties and states enforce more stringent regulations. Check with your local sanitation department for the appropriate disposal method.
Going forward, there are few simple things you can do to help prevent alkaline battery leaks. First, don’t use expired batteries. Second, don’t mix old and new batteries; when replacing one battery in a bay, go ahead and replace them all. Even mixing battery brands commonly causes problems and should be avoided if at all possible. Finally, know that batteries are highly sensitive to heat and must be stored at or below room temperature.