How to clean corroded battery terminals in electronics [step-by-step]

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If you have observed the formation of the notorious white, crusty substance on the battery terminals of one of your devices, here is how to clean corroded battery terminals in electronics safely and effectively.

If you notice the white, powdery crust settled around the battery terminals on your electronic goods, it could be a sign of trouble and you should act fast to clean it.

That is because corrosion is one of the primary causes of permanent damage in alkaline batteries.

At worst, the corrosion could ruin your electronic device altogether.

Follow these steps to get rid of the corrosion before it is too late:

How to clean corroded battery terminals in electronics

Before we begin, remember that the white fluffy stuff is, in fact, potassium carbonate that has formed on the terminals.

And if you’re not aware, these types of batteries start to emit hydrogen gas once a leak has developed (for example, due to age).

The biggest problem with that is that the liquid electrolyte (potassium hydroxide) also escapes with the gas leading to the formation of the potentially destructive crusty, white mess once it has reacted with carbon dioxide (this happens on reaching the open air).

With that out of the way, we can now look at the steps:

How to clean corroded battery terminals in electronics- step by step

First things first: Potassium hydroxide is known to be extremely toxic and can cause issues such as skin and/or eye irritation.

That being the case, we recommend that you wear gloves before proceeding with the procedure.

What you need

For this simple project, the following items are needed:

  • Distilled white vinegar (you can substitute this with lemon juice)- both should neutralize the alkaline chemical (note that potassium carbonate is, in fact, a base on pH scale)
  • Cotton swabsQ-tips are quite tiny and should fit into the battery compartment effortlessly.
  • Lint-free cloth (optional)

Step 1: Remove the batteries

The best approach when it comes to cleaning corroded battery terminals is to perform it with the batteries removed.

So begin by removing your batteries.

It would be best to refer to the manual that came with your electronic product if you’re unsure how to go about removing the batteries.

Step 2: Apply vinegar/lemon juice onto the corrosion mess

Next, apply some lemon juice or vinegar directly onto the corroded terminal on your electronic device using a cotton swab (of course, you need to first dip in into your preferred acid).

The idea behind the entire operation is to have the white, powdery crust neutralized so wait a minute (or two) for the neutralization to effectively take place after applying your chosen acid.

You will soon notice the caked residue beginning to dissolve.

Quick Tip: You may also observe the liquid beginning to fizzle as a result of the interaction with potassium carbonate.

Step 3: Wipe off the residue

This step involves gently wiping the terminals with a cotton swab to clear the crystalized leakage residual.

You want to make sure you don’t miss any residual in the battery compartment so double-check all around the surrounding areas.

Step 4: Allow the terminals to dry

Once you are done cleaning away the corrosion, you’ll need to allow the device enough time to dry completely.

As an alternative, you can use lint-free cloth to dry the wetness as a way of speeding up the process.

Step 5: Reinstall the battery (or replacement batteries)

The last step is obviously re-installing the batteries (or the replacement batteries if the original ones have been badly corroded).

How to tackle stubborn corrosion

If any residual is still stuck on the spots, try to scrub it off using a stiff wire brush (dipped into your acidic liquid).

Scrub every side near the affected areas inside and out then wipe the residual off and see if you will finally get the better of the corrosion.

An old toothbrush could also suffice when tackling dogged traces of corrosion though it may not be as fast as a wire brush.

Lastly, sandpaper or even a file may be handy for such stubborn lingering residue.


Other products you can use to clean battery corrosion

Instead of using vinegar to clean battery corrosion, there are commercial solutions you can use to clean the battery terminal:

  • Baking soda- You can use baking soda and a small amount of water to neutralize and remove battery corrosion. You can sprinkle baking soda (over the battery terminals) then pour several tablespoons of water. Finally, scrub with a brush to remove the corrosion.
  • Isopropyl Cleaning Alcohol- With cotton swabs/ soft toothbrush, rubbing Isopropyl Cleaning alcohol should remove most leak residue. Be sure to rinse using sterile water after the procedure.

How to prevent battery corrosion

While it may not always be possible to completely prevent a battery from developing a leak (leading to corrosion), there a couple of precautions you can take that can be helpful.

These include:

  • Avoid using expired batteries– To start with, expired batteries are prone to leaking (and hence corrosion) so you should ideally never use them.
  • Do not mix new and old batteries– While you may think that mixing new and old batteries is saving money, you could be risking corrosion especially if the old ones are expired or nearing expiry.
  • Be sure to store your electronics properly- Another thing that we recommend is storing your electronic gadgets at room temperature (some leaks are caused by expansions in the battery case as a result of temperature changes). Also, do not place electronics near heat sources or in direct sunlight.

Final words

Preventing- and not cleaning- is the best way to handle the issue of battery corrosion in electronic devices.

For this reason, taking the precautionary measures we have recommended in the article should be your first priority.

The good thing is that you now know how to clean corroded battery terminals in electronics should you encounter corroded battery terminals.

Over to you!


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