Liquid or residue from leaking Batteries can cause serious harm, so approach the cleanup task with caution. Identifying the type of Battery before clean-up is extremely important, or you could risk a dangerous chemical reaction. If the battery was powering a device while it was damaged, you may need to clean the electrical contacts as well, or have them replaced.
EditIdentifying the Battery Type
- Protect your hands and face. Battery leaks can contain caustic chemicals that irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes. Always wear rubber, nitrile, or latex gloves before you handle the leaking battery or the leaked material. Wearing safety goggles or a face mask is highly recommended when handling car batteries or lithium batteries. Work in an area with good ventilation, blowing away from your face.
- If you feel a burning sensation in your eyes or on your skin, or if the spill gets on you, leave the area and remove affected clothing. Rinse in lukewarm, gently flowing water for at least 30 minutes.
- Acid leaks, typically from a car battery, are much more dangerous than alkaline battery leaks.
- Double-bag the battery. For small batteries, use transparent plastic so you can identify the type of battery before you continue. For car batteries and other large batteries, put them inside two trash bags, ideally made from 6mm+ (0.2 in) thick polyethylene. Tie or seal the bag closed immediately.
- Determine the battery type. Batteries for cars and other motor vehicles are almost always lead-acid batteries. Smaller batteries that slot into electric devices are more varied, so examine the label to find the type. The most common types for small batteries are alkaline, lithium, and nickel cadmium, followed by lead-acid.
- Size and shape alone are not reliable identification methods.
- Guess at battery type based on voltage. If the only label is the voltage display (V), you can make an educated guess: Alkaline batteries have voltages that are multiples of 1.5. Lithium battery voltages can vary, but are often written as multiples of 3 to 3.7. Nickel cadmium voltages are multiples of 1.2, and lead-acid batteries are multiples of 2.
- Continue to the next section. Be sure only to follow the instructions for your type of battery. Treating the spill with the wrong chemical could cause an explosion.
- See the end of the next section for information on battery disposal and cleaning electrical contacts.
EditCleaning the Spill
- Use baking soda to neutralize lead-acid or nickel cadmium spills. These types of battery can leak a strong acid, which eats through clothing, carpet, or in some cases even metal. Approach it with protective gloves and face shield, and cover liberally with baking soda, until newly added baking soda does not cause additional fizzing or bubbling. Clean up remaining residue using a thick paste made from baking soda and water.
- Also pour baking soda into the trash bag containing the damaged battery.
- Clean up alkaline spills with mild household acid. For alkaline batteries, dip a cotton swab in vinegar or lemon juice, and swab the spill to neutralize the basic leak. Use an old toothbrush dipped in the same material to scrub at a spill that has dried. Water can cause further corrosion, so wet a paper towel as lightly as possible and use that to wipe up the acid. Repeat until clean, then let the device dry for several hours.
- Wipe up lithium spills with water. For lithium batteries, often used in cell phones or "button" batteries, immediately place the bag in a sealed, sturdy container, as it could cause a fire or explode. Any electric device exposed to the leak is no longer safe to use. Throw the device away, and clean up spills with water and nothing else.
- Dispose of the batteries. In some states and countries, you may dispose of alkaline batteries in the regular trash, but most batteries are required by law to be recycled. Visit earth911's online tool to find a nearby hardware store or other location that will recycle your type of battery.
- Some battery manufacturers may offer you a free or reduced-price replacement battery.
- Clean the electrical contacts (optional). If the battery was connected to a device when it leaked, the device's electrical contacts may need to be cleaned before the device can be safely used. Scrape off any residue using a plastic or wooden stick, and use a slightly damp paper towel to wipe it off, throwing the towel away immediately. If the contacts themselves are corroded, pitted, or discolored, file them down using sandpaper or a metal file, but be aware that they may need replacement.
- To avoid future problems, adopt the following practices:
- Do not mix and match different battery brands in the same device.
- Remove batteries from devices that are being stored.
- Make sure the electronic device is completely dry before trying a new battery.
- Large spills involving many liters (several gallons) of liquid or more should be handled by the fire department. Call an emergency number and keep everyone away from the area.