How to Dispose of Corroded, Leaking Batteries

Corroded, leaky batteries are a major safety hazard to have in your home. But you cannot dispose of these batteries by simply throwing them in the trash like you can most things. You must dispose of leaking and corroded batteries in a way that is safe for you and the environment, but how do you do that? 

First, you need to put them in a sealed bag, so the battery acid does not spread to anything else. Next, clean up whatever the battery was in so the object does not get damaged. Depending on the battery, you may need to take it to a recycling center or the retailer.

This article has the steps you need to take to properly dispose of the battery and clean up the area in which it corroded. Make sure to read these steps carefully, as the type of battery you have may affect the steps you need to take to properly dispose of these batteries.

Disposing corroded batteries.

1. Put Them in a Sealed Plastic Bag

The first step you need to take in disposing of corroded, leaky batteries is to put them in a plastic bag. This step is important because it will prevent the battery leakage from damaging anything else.

You want to do this step as soon as you notice that the battery is corroded. Primarily, this will prevent the battery from leaking even more and causing an even bigger mess that you will have to clean up in the next step.

The other reason this step is so important is that the longer the battery sits in your device, like a TV remote or kids’ toy, the more likely it is to damage that item.

While some of the other steps have different methods to use depending on what type of batteries you have, this step is the same for all batteries since they all have harmful materials.

Different types of batteries have different harmful materials in them, and when they leak from the batteries, they pose a huge risk to your health. The hazardous materials vary by battery type, but the most common hazardous metals in batteries include the following:

  • Mercury
  • Sulphuric Acid
  • Lead
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Cadmium
  • Cobalt
  • Graphite
  • Lithium

If you want to know what specific materials are in your batteries, they should be marked accordingly.

Additionally, if you want to take further precautions with lithium-ion batteries, you can put tape over the terminals on the batteries. By doing this, you can help prevent fires from these batteries.

2. Clean Up the Leaking Battery Acid

Now that you have put the corroded battery in a bag so it cannot leak and damage anything else, you need to clean up the leakage. It is important to clean up all the spilled battery acid so it cannot do any more damage to whatever it was powering and cannot hurt you.

The leaking acid from a battery can damage your skin if you come into contact with it. It is also not good to breathe in, and if you do touch it, be sure to wash your hands immediately to prevent it from getting into your eyes. So, ensure you wear protective gear like gloves, eye goggles, and long sleeves when cleaning up the battery.

Next, you want to neutralize the leakage, which is easy with any acidic liquid like lemon juice or vinegar. You can add a few drops of one of these acids, and it should start to come off the surface. If it is not coming off, get a toothbrush or something similar, wet it with your lemon or vinegar, then scrub the acid off. 

When the area dries up, you can scrape off any excess residue, and all the leakage should be gone. If it does not come off on the first try, repeat this step until the spill is completely cleaned up.

Remember that this method to clean up a battery leak is only for alkaline batteries. If you have another type of battery, like a lead battery, you will have to take more intense cleaning steps to eliminate the battery leakage.

This Youtube video explains how to clean a leak from a lead acid battery:

3. Do Not Throw Them in the Trash

Now that the battery is safely stored in a bag and any leakage from the battery is cleaned up, you need to get rid of the battery. The most important thing to remember is that you cannot throw the corroded, leaky batteries in the trash. These batteries are harmful to the environment and cannot be thrown away like normal items.

In fact, it is even illegal to throw away batteries in California. In California, you are required by law to properly dispose of batteries by either recycling them, taking them to a waste disposal facility, or any other place that handles and recycles waste.

One reason you cannot throw batteries in the trash is that they could set your home on fire. If anything happens to the batteries and the materials leak out of them, as they come into contact with something hot or something else explosive, they could start a fire. You do not want this to happen in your home, and you also do not want this to happen once they leave your home, like on a garbage truck or out in the middle of a landfill.

Batteries thrown into the environment, mostly in landfills, release toxins as they sit there. The more batteries in a landfill and the more they release into the environment, the faster we destroy our planet. Additionally, it is not good for all these toxins to be in the air and for us to be breathing them in.

4. Dispose of Them (Method Depends on Type of Battery)

The final step is to actually dispose of the battery. Depending on the type of batteries you have, you may need to recycle them using a local disposal program, or you may need to go back to your retailer or manufacturer and have them disposed of.

Use a Local Recycling Program

Most batteries can be disposed of through your local recycling program. You cannot throw them into your recycle bin as you can with paper, cardboard, and plastic, but you can take them to a designated recycling dropoff point and recycle them there. Every city or county will have its own program for recycling batteries, so reach out to your town hall for more information.

The batteries you have in your home are most likely recyclable through these programs. And you can even dispose of non-leaky batteries through these recycling programs.

Here are some of the types of batteries you can typically recycle through these programs:

  • Alkaline batteries
  • Zinc-carbon batteries
  • Small batteries like button-cell or coin
  • Lithium single-use batteries
  • Rechargeable batteries (nickel-cadmium, lithium-ion, nickel metal hydride, nickel-zinc, and small-sealed lead acid)

Some rechargeable batteries are non-removable and must stay in their original electronic device. In this case, you can bring the whole device to a recycling center.

Even though the batteries you are disposing of are leaky and corroded, these programs may be able to recycle parts of them, which is important since some batteries use non-renewable resources to provide power. When these materials run out, finding a replacement for them may be extremely difficult. So, the more proactive we can be about recycling batteries, the better off we will be in the future.

Return the Batteries to the Retailer

If you have specialty batteries, your best option is to return them where you got them. Specialty batteries include large lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries. Since the retailer or manufacturer knows what is in the batteries, they will know how to recycle them and dispose of them without negatively impacting the environment.

This method is also helpful since you can buy a replacement battery while you dispose of the old one if you need one. And, since you have the old one with you, you will know exactly what type of replacement battery you need.

In some instances, the retailer will replace the batteries or your device if the batteries are leaking. For example, Energizer has a No Leak Guarantee. They design their batteries to prevent leaks that will damage your items. If their batteries leak within two years after they are fully used, they will repair or replace whatever the batteries end up damaging. But this should not happen since the batteries are designed not to leak.

Final Thoughts

Leaky, corroded batteries are not fun to deal with, but disposing of them is not as hard as you might have thought. You just need to isolate the battery in a bag as soon as possible, clean up any leakage, then take the battery to a recycling center or the retailer you got it from, like a car dealership. Leakage from batteries is dangerous, and properly handling the spillage is important in keeping us and our planet safe.

Leave a Comment