You know you’re supposed to store your electronics in a dry spot after you’ve removed the batteries, right? You don’t always do that, though, do you? You just haphazardly toss those decorative, battery-operated holiday candles into the storage bin, and you pile those musical toys your kid once loved into an old toy chest without further thought, like the irresponsible battery-owner you are.
And then next year (or many years later!), you discover the consequences of your actions: A battery that has leaked and corroded the terminal it sits in with that gritty whiteish-blueish substance caused by leaking potassium hydroxide.
It’s OK. We’ve all been there. Your instinct may have been to sigh a little and mutter, “Well, I guess THAT’S ruined!” And up until recently, I would have nodded sombrely in agreement and bid that toy guitar a sad farewell.
But then I discovered that you can clean those compartments, or — if they’re really bad — replace them altogether.
Instructables has stepped up to give us a crash course in how to safely get this job done. (First of all, wear rubber gloves, eye protection and a mouth and nose mask. This stuff is toxic.)
There are tool lists and instructions for both cleaning and replacing, although I admit that replacing sounds like a big enough job that I’m probably just junking the thing (sorry, Earth, there’s only so much I can do). Cleaning a more minor leak, though, isn’t too big of a deal.
1. Remove the old battery
You’re wearing your protective gear, right? OK, then go ahead and remove the old battery with a screwdriver and dispose of it.
2. Neutralise the acid
You’ll need a little vinegar or lemon juice to neutralise that residual potassium hydroxide. Here’s how:
1. First thing to do is to add the vinegar to a small container like a bottle cap lid.
2. Next, add a little to each terminal with a small paint brush or something similar.
3. Wipe off any excess from the terminals and leave to dry.
3. Clean it out
If you can easily remove the terminal without needing to also remove any wires, that will make things easier. Using a small file, sandpaper or an emery board, file away at the terminal to remove any corrosion — or as much as possible. Then, wipe it down with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.
If you are looking to be extra thorough, Instructables suggests that you may want to add some non-oxidising grease to help stop any further oxidisation.
Put the terminal back into place, and add a battery to test it out.
Now you’ve probably learned your lesson about storing electronics with batteries in them, but minor leaks and corrosion can still happen on items we use every day. To stack the odds in your favour, Instructables instructs us not to mix different battery types in the same device and to replace all the batteries at the same time.