We live in a digital era where most household items require batteries to work. This applies to simple tools such as flashlights, TV remotes and toys to more essential tools like cellphones. Battery corrosion is a major reason why these devices fail to work, and today we address it. But before that let’s first take a look at types of batteries used at home:
Determine the Type of Household Batteries You’re Using First
1. Alkaline Batteries
These are the most common household batteries. They come in different sizes (AA, AAA, C, D) and are mostly used in toys, TV remotes, flashlights and other small gadgets. They are also non-rechargeable and should be discarded when their juice runs out.
2. Nickel Cadmium Batteries
NiCad batteries are rechargeable. They are also used in small household gadgets. NiCad batteries are more expensive than alkaline batteries but are more durable. They are also more corrosive than alkaline batteries but less likely to leak.
3. Lithium-Ion Batteries
Li-ion batteries are mostly used in cellphones and other substantive gadgets such as laptops. They are less likely to corrode and leak hence we wont cover much about them.
Items Needed for Cleaning:
- Cotton swabs
- Old toothbrush
- Protective gloves (latex gloves should work just fine)
- Safety eyewear
- Baking soda
- Lime juice or vinegar
- Paper towel or old rag
- Petroleum jelly
- A small glass/plastic bowl
The 9 Steps of Cleaning Battery Corrosion:
Here are the steps to follow when cleaning rust off your alkaline batteries and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries:
Step 1: Set Up a Work Space
Organization is perhaps the most important aspect here because you’re working with harmful chemicals. Find a nice, ventilated work station and start prepping the cleaning compound. First, lay down old rugs, paper towels, newspapers, or any discardable material on the work station.
Step 2: Wear Protective Gear
Once you’ve set up your work station and laid out everything you need, put on your protective gloves and eyewear. The substance that alkaline batteries leak is called potassium hydroxide and can cause irritation when it comes in contact with exposed skin and eyes. Protective gear keeps potassium hydroxide away from your skin.
Step 3: Prep your Homemade Battery Cleaner
Mix a table spoon of baking soda into half a cup of water and stir to dissolve all the baking soda.
Step 4: Remove Batteries from the Device
Remove all batteries (corroded or not) from the device. Leaky batteries are toxic so you want to wrap them in a paper towel or plastic bag and dispose them as per your community’s chemical waste guidelines. Do not try to recharge leaky NiCad batteries. Dispose them as well.
Step 5: Cleaning Process
Both alkaline and NiCad batteries leak an alkaline chemical called potassium hydroxide which leaves a trace of corrosion in the devices. Take a little vinegar or lime juice and sprinkle on the corroded regions. Wait a minute or two for the mild acidity of the lime juice or vinegar to neutralize the affected area.
Step 6: Scrubbing Away the Corrosion
Start with a cotton swab. Try to scrub all the corrosion residue off the corners and contact points. Feel free to dip the cotton swab into the lime juice or vinegar mixture if you need more moisture. Switch to a toothbrush if the cotton swab is not working. A toothbrush will be more effective at getting rid of deep-rooted corrosion.
Step 7: Dry the Device
Once all the corrosion is scrubbed off, pat the device dry using paper towels. Use a toothpick to get remove residual rust in hard-to reach corners.
Step 8: Balance the Device’s pH Level
This step is vital. The acidity of the lime juice or vinegar needs to be balanced out. Take a pinch of dry baking soda and sprinkle it across the region where the batteries sit and give it a minute. Next, take a clean cotton swab and carefully rub the baking soda mix into the contact points and corners.
Step 9: Install New Batteries
Dry everything and let the device rest for a couple of minutes then install new batteries.
5 Tips for Stopping Battery Corrosion in The Future
You can avoid more cases of battery corrosion in the future by following these simple but proven tips:
- Batteries are highly reactive so store them in a cool dry place
- Smear your batteries in Petroleum Jelly to help prevent corrosion
- Batteries have a lifespan so trash all expired batteries, even if unused
- Do not mix new and old batteries in a device. Replace all old batteries with new ones.
- Remove batteries from unused devices