How to Clean Battery Acid

Last Updated on September 1, 2020

It is important to quickly and safely clean up any battery acid leaks, as the chemicals released in a leaking battery can cause significant issues to your skin lungs and eyes. Is important that you take proper precautions when dealing with a battery acid leak. You should always where protective gloves, either latex,  nitrile or rubber. Always additionally put on safety goggles and a face mask to protect the eyes and to prevent the inhalation of toxic chemicals. Try and isolate the battery leaked and an area that is open with plenty of airflow to prevent succumbing to toxic fumes.

Cleaning Battery Acid Precautions

Other than protective deer you should also be on the lookout for any irritation to your skin or eyes. If you feel burning or irritation in these areas you must rinse the skin or eyes with clean water for at least 30 minutes.

There are many different types of batteries and each of them pose a different degree of risk to your health. While small household batteries are still dangerous they are less so than large car batteries.

The first step  to clean battery acid leaks is to fully contain the leaking battery. This can be done by double bagging it in two plastic bags. If dealing with a large battery such as a car or ATV battery, use two large plastic garbage bags. Once placed in the bags  completely seal them immediately.

Differences between batteries and the chemicals they contain

Large batteries such as those found in cars and trucks are almost always utilizing lead acid. While the batteries that you will use for small household items contain different types of chemicals, most small batteries are either lithium, nickel-cadmium, or alkaline. Some of them do contain lead acid. It is important to note that the size and shape of a battery is not sufficient to determine what chemicals are in them.

You can get a good idea of what is contained in the battery based upon the voltage that is written on the battery. For example, alkaline batteries tend to have a voltage that is a multiple of 1.5.

For lithium style batteries the voltage does vary widely but they tend to be in voltage of multiples of 3 to  3.7.

For nickel cadmium batteries they can be identified if their voltage is a multiple of 1.2. And last, lead acid batteries will generally show a voltage in a multiple of 2.

Cleaning lead acid battery and nickel cadmium battery acid spills

When dealing with a nickel cadmium or lead acid spill it is important to use extreme caution as these chemicals are very caustic. They are capable of eating through skin and other fabrics like your clothing. They can also eat through metals. Always wear protective gear when dealing with one of these battery acid spills.

The first step after donning your protective gear is to cover all of the spill with a thick layer of baking soda. You will continue to pour baking soda on the spill until you see no more fizzing and bubbling on the spilled area. Then make a paste out of baking soda and water that you will utilize to clean up any residual battery acid spill. 

One note, you should also put baking soda into the bag containing the damaged battery.

Using a cloth that can be thrown away, dab up all of the baking soda and battery acid after it’s sat for approximately 15 minutes.

How to clean an alkaline battery spill

Alkaline battery spills are generally smaller but still require you to take precautions.

Again make sure that you were wearing protective gear.

Take a cotton swab or other disposable cloth and dip it in a vinegar and lemon juice mixture. I utilize a one-to-one ratio.

Poor or  dab this solution on the spill.

Then take a small brush or toothbrush and dip it in the vinegar and lemon juice solution and gently scrub the spilled area. Do this after the first step has dried completely.

Never use water to clean an alkaline battery acid spill.

Repeat these steps until all of the battery acid has been removed.

Cleaning a lithium battery acid spill

Lithium batteries are very common and can be found in cell phones, laptops and smaller household items.

After putting on protective gloves and securing the leaky battery, place it in a strong container as lithium batteries are combustible.

Clean any spilled lithium using a cloth dabbed and water. Do this until all lithium has been cleaned up. Both the battery and the device must be disposed of as they are no longer safe to utilize.

For more battery guides and tips read these articles

 How to dispose of a battery

Once your battery has been secured and a double bagged and sealed, you must follow your States guidelines on the disposal of batteries. Many states require that batteries be recycled and not be thrown into the general trash.

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