Cleaning Alkaline Battery Compartments Using The Power Of pH

I have a bunch of recordable storybooks that my kid’s grandparents recorded for them. We knew my father-in-law was terminally ill, when we asked all of the grandparents to record themselves reading these books. We wanted my kids to have the opportunity to always hear their grandparent’s voices. It was a fantastic idea and I’m so grateful for the technology that made this possible! I sure wish I had recordings like this of my grandparents!

This is the absolute best present my kid’s have ever received. (Most of these books were made by Hallmark Cards.) The grandparents recorded these books 5-7 years ago. Their grandfather passed away 3 years ago. We got all the books off of the bookshelf we were storing them on, this Christmas, to test the batteries and see how the books were holding up.

About half of them were still working, but the other half were not. I opened the battery compartments on the ones that weren’t working and they were completely corroded. I opened the working ones and most had at least one corroded battery in them. So, obviously, storing them with the batteries inside was not a good choice.

Salvaging these books was very important, as they are truly not replaceable. So I needed a gentle and effective way to clean the battery corrosion. Enter the Power of pH!

These are alkaline batteries. Alkaline means that the active substance in the battery is a base, not an acid. I was always using the saying “battery acid” when referring to the crusty corrosion around batteries that had leaked. That’s an occasionally incorrect, but almost universal statement, that most of us use. Alkaline batteries, have it in their very name, that they are not an acid based battery.

So the white crusty corrosion that forms around an old alkaline battery, is a leaked base, not an acid. That is why vinegar (a mild acid) is the absolute best thing you can use to carefully clean your battery compartments of alkaline corrosion.

Before you start cleaning, you need to know that corroded Alkaline batteries will burn your skin just as bad as an acid can. If you get any of this on your skin wash it off and use a vinegar rinse to lessen the possibility that you will get a chemical burn. It would also be smart to wear gloves and eye protection.

What you will need:

A sharp knife

Paper towels

White Vinegar (although you can use whatever vinegar you have on hand.) Plain old, cheap, white cooking vinegar is usually 7% acid and works extremely well.

Cotton swabs

How To Clean The Compartments:

First pour some vinegar into a small container. I used a cap for a cleaning product. Before you pour the vinegar, if you are using a random cap from an aerosol can, the cap may have a pin hole in the top to release pressure. Obviously, if it has a hole: look for a part of the cap that won’t leak or use a small bowl.

Remove the cover on your battery compartment, if you haven’t already done so. Mine are all closed with tiny screws and I needed a small Philips head to open them.

Look on the cover. It may also have some of alkaline battery leakage on it that will also need to be removed.

If your batteries are glued into position from the leaked base, turn the compartment over and smack the compartment across the rim of a trashcan a couple of times until all of the batteries fall out, and into, your trashcan. This takes a little bit of force, but I found it was the simplest, cleanest way to remove the batteries.

Hopefully, most of the corrosion will have dropped into your trashcan. Most of what was in the battery compartments I was cleaning, fell into the trash, leaving just what was firmly attached to the ports and sides.

Next dip your qtip in vinegar. Touching the corrosion with the vinegar will cause bubbling (or slight foaming.) Add as much as your qtip can hold and then gently rub the corrosion until it lifts off of the battery compartment. I had a lot of battery compartments (15 books) and I ended up using both ends, of at least two qtips, to finish cleaning each set of compartments.

When you have removed (or loosened) all of the the corrosion with the vinegar on your qtips, rip a piece of paper towel small enough to fit its folded edge, in the battery compartment.

Use the tip of a sharp knife (I used an old steak knife) to get the paper towel square into any tight areas and soak up any excess vinegar.

Scrape any hardened corrosion off of the battery compartment, if there’s any left. If there was more corrosion, go back and do the step with the vinegar and qtips and then clean up again with the paper towel and sharp knife.

This is all you need to do. I did not wash out the vinegar, there’s no noticeable smell left and you shouldn’t have any liquid left. If you do, soak it up with the paper towel and knife.

This was a really easy fix to something I was originally very worried about. The compartments came out clean and the books were saved. There were a few contacts that were corroded, but luckily they still work after removing most of the gunk from the batteries. I will not be storing these with the batteries in them again!


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