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How to Clean Battery Corrosion: Like a Pro

Learn how to clean battery corrosion from your electronics and save the devices.

Nothing is worse than opening up the battery case of your child’s favorite toy only to discover that the AA battery inside it has exploded. The case is full of battery acid and corrosion. Before you toss your child’s favorite toy in the trash, here’s how to remove battery corrosion so your child can continue to play with their favorite toy.

Key Takeaways

  • Battery corrosion occurs when hydrogen gas is released from the battery, causing oxidation.
  • Cleaning battery corrosion requires safety precautions, such as gloves and goggles, and neutralizing the alkaline battery acid with vinegar or lemon juice.
  • In electronics, use isopropyl alcohol to clean the battery case, while in cars, use a baking soda paste and wire brush to clean the terminals.
  • To prevent battery corrosion, apply battery-terminal grease, store batteries at room temperature or cooler, and don’t mix new and old batteries.

Causes of Battery Corrosion

Battery corrosion happens when hydrogen gas is released from the battery. It mixes with the air causing oxidation. This oxidation is the whitish and crusty corrosion that you may see on the battery or the terminals.

If the corrosion is exposed to moisture it may appear to be blue or have a greenish tint.

Corrosion is accelerated when the battery is exposed to moisture or heat.

Is a Corroded Battery Dangerous?

Yes, a corroded battery is dangerous. The potassium hydroxide that is used in many household batteries can cause serious damage to the eyes along with respiratory and skin irritation. It’s important to wear gloves and eye protection while cleaning a corroded battery or battery terminal.

The corrosion may also spread to electronics as well. As the corrosion is caustic, it’s capable of giving you a chemical burn. It’s best to clean the corrosion before using the electronic device.

How to Clean Battery Corrosion In Electronics

Waste batteries

Here’s how to clean battery acid in toys or in a remote. The first step is to neutralize the acid before cleaning the case.

  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

What You’ll Need

  • Protective gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Cotton swabs
  • White vinegar or lemon juice
  • Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
  • Pencil eraser
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Plastic bag
  • Toothpick

1. Prepare

Put on protective gloves and goggles to prevent yourself from being exposed to caustic chemicals. You may wish to wear long-sleeved clothing to protect your arms as well.

Remove any leaking or corroded batteries from the battery case and throw them away. Put all other batteries aside.

2. Apply Acid

Household batteries contain an alkaline chemical, so you will need to apply an acid to neutralize the residue in your battery case. Dip a cotton swab into the acid of choice and let it drip a few drops of acid onto the residue onto the corrosion. You will see it begin to fizz and bubble.

Wait until the fizzing and bubbling have stopped.

3. Clean the Battery Case

Dip your cotton swab into the rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, and then wipe up the residue inside the case. Use a toothpick to remove any hard debris and to clean around the springs.

4. Dry the Case

Once the case is clean, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth. A pencil eraser can be used to polish the contacts.

Wait until the case has dried before putting new batteries into the device.

How to Clean Battery Corrosion In Cars

Corrosion build up on car battery terminals

When you’re cleaning battery corrosion in cars, you will need to be careful and take precautions to protect yourself. The corrosion may cause chemical burns.

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

What You’ll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Petroleum jelly such as Vaseline
  • Wire brush
  • Distilled water
  • Small bowl
  • Spoon
  • Old butter knife
  • Rag or old toothbrush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Old towels

1. Lift Hood & Inspect

Turn your car off and lift the hood. You will be inspecting the battery and cables.

If the battery is swollen or cracked, it will need to be replaced. Also, check each cable to make sure that it’s not damaged or frayed. If so, it will also need to be replaced.

2. Disconnect Battery Cables

Now disconnect the battery cables. Always begin with the negative cable to prevent causing an electrical short. The negative cable is usually black and marked with a (-).

Once you’ve removed the negative cable, remove the positive cable. It’s usually red and marked with (+).

Once the bolts are loosened, you may need to wiggle the connectors loose as sometimes there is a lot of corrosion. This makes the connectors hard to remove.

Quick Tip

If you use pliers to remove the connectors, make sure you don’t touch the car frame and the battery at the same time with the pliers. This may cause your battery to short.

3. Make a Cleaning Paste

Make a cleaning paste using baking soda and distilled water. The baking soda is alkaline which neutralizes the corrosion from the battery acid.

Mix 2-3 tablespoons of the baking soda with 1 tablespoon of distilled water in a small bowl. Then stir the mixture until you have a thick paste.

4. Remove the Corrosion

Dip your wire brush into the paste to rub it onto the corrosion. Be careful that you don’t accidentally apply the paste to other parts of your car as you work.

The paste may bubble and foam. This is a sign that the paste is working and reacting to the corrosion. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before you begin scrubbing.

After the 5-10 minutes have passed, scrub away the corrosion on the terminals and battery cables using the wire brush. You may need to chip away at heavy deposits using an old butter knife. Keep working until all the corrosion has been removed.

5. Rinse the Battery

After the contacts are clean, pour distilled water over them. This will rinse away any leftover residue from the cleaning paste and corrosion.

Quick Tip

Don’t rinse any of the baking soda paste into the battery vents. It may neutralize the battery acid and shorten the battery’s life.

6. Dry the Battery

Use a clean dry rag to wipe the contacts clean and dry the battery. Make sure the battery is completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Quick Tip

Don’t use paper towels. Paper towels tend to shred and leave bits stuck to the terminals.

7. Apply Petroleum Jelly

Put petroleum jelly on the terminals to prevent corrosion.

8. Reconnect the Battery

Reconnect the battery cables in reverse order, making sure you connect the positive cable before you connect the negative cable.

How to Clean Battery Corrosion With Coke

Here’s how to remove battery terminals using a can of Coca-Cola and a stiff wire brush.

Pour the coke into a spray bottle. Spray the battery terminals liberally with coke and let it sit for a minute. Then use a stiff wire brush to scrub the terminals.

Keep applying coke as you work until the terminals are clean.

After the corrosion has been removed, use a microfiber cloth and distilled water to remove the coke and gunky residue from the battery.

Use a clean microfiber cloth to clean the battery. Make sure the battery is completely dry before reconnecting it.

How Do You Clean Battery Corrosion From a Camera?

You can clean battery corrosion in a camera by using vinegar to neutralize it. Wait until the foaming stops. Then dip a cotton swab into isopropyl alcohol to remove the residue from the battery case of your camera. Wait until the case is completely dry before installing new batteries.

Tips For Preventing Corrosion

To prevent your batteries from corroding, you can use these tips.

  • Apply some battery-terminal grease to the terminals.
  • Don’t mix new and old batteries.
  • Make sure you store your batteries at room temperature or cooler temperatures as they are sensitive to heat.
  • Don’t use expired batteries.

How to Dispose of Batteries Correctly

Single-use batteries are made of common metals and are deemed non-hazardous. You can throw it away in the trash or recycle it.

Rechargeable batteries should not be thrown away in the trash as they contain heavy metals. Call your local waste facilities to learn about the local recycling centers for batteries.

If you are preparing a single-use battery for recycling, you will need to place a piece of clear tape over the ends or put each battery into its own small plastic bag. Store them in a plastic or cardboard box.

Cover the terminals of rechargeable batteries with clear tape before recycling them.


Does WD-40 Clean Battery Corrosion?

Yes, WD-40 will clean battery corrosion. Spray the WD-40 onto the terminals and wait a couple of minutes. Then scrub with a wire brush and rinse the contacts with hot water. Repeat until the corrosion has been removed.

How Do You Clean a Corroded Circuit Board?

You can clean a rusty or corroded circuit board using a thick baking soda paste. Use a soft-bristled brush such as an old toothbrush to put the paste on the circuit board and give it time to work. Then gently brush away the paste and the residue should be removed with it.

Use distilled water to rinse away any paste remaining on your circuit board.

Can Corroded Batteries Start a Fire?

A corroded battery cannot start a fire. The only way a battery can cause a fire is if it’s being seriously overcharged.

What is the White Powder From a Battery?

The white powder from a battery is corrosion. It is commonly found on the battery terminals and areas around it.

Should I Wash My Hands After Touching the Batteries?

You should wash your hands after touching batteries, especially if they are corroded. The chemicals inside batteries are dangerous and can burn skin.

Why Does My Car Battery Keep Corroding?

There are several reasons why your car battery keeps corroding, including leaking acid, incorrect battery use, and an old or rarely used battery.

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About the Author

Sara Dennis

Sara Dennis is a coffee-loving freelance writer, homeschool blogger, and mom of six kids. In her free time, Sara loves reading books and researching more efficient and effective ways to keep a clean house, homeschool her children, and blog better while making a home for her large family.