If you own an electronic device with replaceable batteries (such as a remote control, flashlight, flashlight, wireless mouse, electric pepper grinder, or children's toy), you may have the misfortune of opening the battery compartment. A whitish, crusty mess awaits you.

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Even the best household batteries are prone to rust, corrosion and leaching of chemicals, especially when exposed to moisture or heat. Luckily, there's an easy way to clean up a dead battery, and chances are you already have everything you need at home.

what do you need
All supplies needed to remove corrosion.
Photo: Sarah Whitman
Protective gloves: Chemicals in batteries can burn skin.
Safety glasses or other eye protection: Same as above.
Cotton swabs: Finally, they are designed to be used without damaging the eardrum.

White vinegar or lemon juice: Most household batteries contain alkali, so the acid will neutralize their discharge.
Isopropyl alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol is a safe and effective way to clean electronic devices without leaving moisture or other residue.
Pencil eraser, microfiber cloth, and/or compressed gas: These will help clean the fibers that have come off the swab.
Plastic bags or other disposable containers: evidence of disposal.

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How long does it take to clean up?
Plan to spend about 10 minutes removing battery corrosion from electronic devices.

Protect yourself from chemical burns
Clean mouse and its battery case.
Photo: Sarah Whitman

Discharged batteries are not only messy, but also corrosive. You don’t want it to come in contact with your skin or eyes as it could cause permanent damage. Glasses or goggles will protect your eyes from flying particles from the battery's dry discharge during the cleaning process, and protective gloves made of cloth or synthetic rubber will prevent them from coming into contact with your hands. As an extra precaution, you may also want to wear long-sleeved clothing.

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Neutralize discharges with acid.
Most household batteries, whether disposable (alkaline) or rechargeable (nickel-based), contain alkaline chemicals, so the acid will neutralize them. After making sure the device is turned off, use a cotton swab to apply a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to the affected area. The white, crusty discharge should begin to bubble and break down.


NOTE: Most cars use lead-acid batteries, so you'll need a different set of supplies to remove corrosion from your car battery. Since these batteries are larger and more complex to handle, you may want to consult a mechanic before doing the job yourself.

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Use isopropyl alcohol
Someone wore latex gloves and used a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol to remove battery corrosion from the mouse case.
Photo: Sarah Whitman

Isopropyl alcohol does double duty for cleaning electronics. Removes residue from other cleaners (in this case, lemon juice or white vinegar) that may cling to electronics without leaving behind additional moisture.

It's safe, effective and dries quickly. You want to use the purest rubbing alcohol you can find, so check the label on the rubbing alcohol or disinfecting wipes. The wipes that come with first aid kits usually only contain 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, which is good for exterior plastic or metal, but for interior items, it's best to use 90 to 99 percent isopropyl alcohol.

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Dry (or blow dry)
A person uses an eraser to clean the battery compartment area of the mouse.
Photo: Sarah Whitman
After cleaning the entire affected area, wipe it with a microfiber cloth. You can also use an eraser for smaller sections. Finally use a can of compressed gas designed for cleaning electronics to remove the nasty fibers left behind by the cotton swab.

Allow the device (especially internal components such as the battery case) to dry completely before replacing the battery and opening the device.