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Thread: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

  1. #1

    Default Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Hi everyone,

    First time poster, so please forgive me if this has already been answered. I opened up my flashlight the other day and I found a leaky AA alkaline battery inside. I got rid of the battery and washed my hands.

    Then I started worrying: if some of the leaky battery electrolyte (potassium hydroxide?) got on my clothing, and then I touched my clothing, and then touched other electronics (e.g. my computer), would there be a big risk of the leaky battery residue damaging my other electronics?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Unless direct contact, otherwise its unlikely to be so as,
    Most of them were left on ur cloth unless ur finger were wet then it would have a chance
    Similar to letting salt water to make contact with metal

  3. #3

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    If you have stains on your clothing try vinegar on them. Alkaline leaks can damage things depending on the amount of the liquid that saturates the area. Once it dries the damage after that decreases to minimal it is when wet you tend to get the most damage and it acts like a corrosive just as laundry detergent on bare metal will slowly eat it away (it is also alkaline in Ph). Unless you touch metal though the damage most likely is not much of an issue. I am not sure if alkaline leaks can stain plastic, typically the stains are from the metal parts eaten and corroding in the area.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Arc View Post
    If you have stains on your clothing try vinegar on them. Alkaline leaks can damage things depending on the amount of the liquid that saturates the area. Once it dries the damage after that decreases to minimal it is when wet you tend to get the most damage and it acts like a corrosive just as laundry detergent on bare metal will slowly eat it away (it is also alkaline in Ph). Unless you touch metal though the damage most likely is not much of an issue. I am not sure if alkaline leaks can stain plastic, typically the stains are from the metal parts eaten and corroding in the area.
    Thanks!

    I think the battery liquid was contained to the device containing the batteries itself, which I quickly bagged in a plastic bag and took out to the trash. I then washed my hands. I didn't see any visible battery liquid on my clothes, and so I guess I was concerned about very small amounts of the leaky stuff.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarragon View Post
    Thanks!

    I think the battery liquid was contained to the device containing the batteries itself, which I quickly bagged in a plastic bag and took out to the trash. I then washed my hands. I didn't see any visible battery liquid on my clothes, and so I guess I was concerned about very small amounts of the leaky stuff.
    It is ok to wash your hands first with vinegar when they get alkaline juice on them as it will neutralize the base liquid and make washing your hands easier.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Thanks for the replies everyone. Sorry I haven't had a chance to post a followup since I was away for a while.

    Lynx_Arc, you mentioned that the electrolyte is only really damaging when it is liquid. I had a few batteries in my flashlight that were leaky. Some were wet and some were crusty white. I was pretty careful when I removed the batteries and placed them in a plastic bag. But, if a few particles of the white powdery stuff flaked off and fell on my hands, and then I touched some other device, should I be worried that it would eat away at the metal in the other device?

    I was pretty careful and washed my hands after touching the leaky alkaline but I'm just concerned about the dried on flaky white particles. i.e. How corrosive would a few particles be?
    Last edited by Tarragon; 11-25-2011 at 06:12 AM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarragon View Post
    Thanks for the replies everyone. Sorry I haven't had a chance to post a followup since I was away for a while.

    Lynx_Arc, you mentioned that the electrolyte is only really damaging when it is liquid. I had a few batteries in my flashlight that were leaky. Some were wet and some were crusty white. I was pretty careful when I removed the batteries and placed them in a plastic bag. But, if a few particles of the white powdery stuff flaked off and fell on my hands, and then I touched some other device, should I be worried that it would eat away at the metal in the other device?

    I was pretty careful and washed my hands after touching the leaky alkaline but I'm just concerned about the dried on flaky white particles. i.e. How corrosive would a few particles be?
    The powder from an alkaline battery can be corrosive but when it is dry enough it won't react with anything just like other powders have to have a liquid to react with something. The chemicals that come out of an alkaline battery is corrosive but not very dangerous to your skin in moderately small amounts but could be an big issue if got in your eyes. I wouldn't worry about a tiny bit of powder but I do recommend getting as much of it taken care of as possible because if you do get the light wet it will make the inert powder into a liquid capable of corroding again. When in doubt some vinegar is best to neutralize any residue followed by water to wash the acid completely away.
    I would like to add that sometimes you may see only powder and think there may not be damage but it is quite possible that what you see as only powder may have been a wet residue more akin to a paste leaking that later dried into a powder. I have had alkalines leak in various ways from nothing but harmless powder to powder over contacts that the plating was eaten off of to a wet liquid substance. Alkaline leaks tend to be less messy and less chances of damage than older heavy duty zinc carbon etc batteries but they still are bad enough on occasion to may you want to rethink about using them in anything valuable again.
    Last edited by Lynx_Arc; 11-25-2011 at 06:45 AM.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    I tossed the flashlight (it was pretty inexpensive) since I was pretty worried when I saw the contamination. I'm not concerned about health effects, since it has been some time since I was exposed to the powder and I haven't had any ill effects yet. I am definitely taking your advice and switching to Eneloops or some other rechargeables from now on.

    Just to be sure I understand, is it very unlikely that a few particles of the powder from the leaky flashlight in my house would damage a second device? e.g. If some particles fell on the floor (I didn't see any, but who knows), was touched by someone, who then touched the second device?

    Sorry if this is a strange question but I have OCD when it comes to chemicals.
    Last edited by Tarragon; 11-25-2011 at 06:50 AM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarragon View Post
    Just to be sure I understand, is it very unlikely that a few particles of the powder from the leaky flashlight in my house would damage a second device? e.g. If some particles fell on the floor (I didn't see any, but who knows), was touched by someone, who then touched the second device?
    Tell them to get their feet off your electronic devices.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarragon View Post
    I tossed the flashlight (it was pretty inexpensive) since I was pretty worried when I saw the contamination. I'm not concerned about health effects, since it has been some time since I was exposed to the powder and I haven't had any ill effects yet. I am definitely taking your advice and switching to Eneloops or some other rechargeables from now on.

    Just to be sure I understand, is it very unlikely that a few particles of the powder from the leaky flashlight in my house would damage a second device? e.g. If some particles fell on the floor (I didn't see any, but who knows), was touched by someone, who then touched the second device?

    Sorry if this is a strange question but I have OCD when it comes to chemicals.
    People do not touch the parts of devices that a tiny amount of powder would normally affect. The parts that could be damaged has to be metal and has to be unprotected and even most battery contacts are plated in devices such that it can withstand a minimal amount of leakage that could be cleaned with no damage.
    As long as you get as much as possible cleaned up you should be fine. I have cleaned up after many alkaline leaks some of which stripped the plating off battery springs and contacts such I had to use sandpaper to remove the corrosion and the devices work normally now. I know there is probably very minute amounts of the powder floating around inside of the device I am not worried a bit about that.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarragon View Post
    I tossed the flashlight (it was pretty inexpensive) since I was pretty worried when I saw the contamination. I'm not concerned about health effects, since it has been some time since I was exposed to the powder and I haven't had any ill effects yet. I am definitely taking your advice and switching to Eneloops or some other rechargeables from now on.

    Just to be sure I understand, is it very unlikely that a few particles of the powder from the leaky flashlight in my house would damage a second device? e.g. If some particles fell on the floor (I didn't see any, but who knows), was touched by someone, who then touched the second device?

    Sorry if this is a strange question but I have OCD when it comes to chemicals.
    The powder should be in black, which is manganese-whatever-oxide
    Used to oxidize zinc metal to give out electricity, the effect of contact is only short term if not swallowed
    Washing after contact is fine without major concerns

  12. #12

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Arc View Post
    People do not touch the parts of devices that a tiny amount of powder would normally affect. The parts that could be damaged has to be metal and has to be unprotected and even most battery contacts are plated in devices such that it can withstand a minimal amount of leakage that could be cleaned with no damage.
    As long as you get as much as possible cleaned up you should be fine. I have cleaned up after many alkaline leaks some of which stripped the plating off battery springs and contacts such I had to use sandpaper to remove the corrosion and the devices work normally now. I know there is probably very minute amounts of the powder floating around inside of the device I am not worried a bit about that.
    I actually tinker around with computers a lot, and so I do end up touching the motherboard, etc. during PC assembly. So my concern was that some minute amount of this stuff may have flaked off, and then I come into contact with it, and then touch the internals of my PC.

    But if your devices that had leaking batteries inside them still work despite the chemicals, then I guess the chances of some other device being damaged from me touching the chemicals and then touching the other device is pretty well non-existent.

    I guess if the battery chemicals were that corrosive I would find huge holes all over my floor.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarragon View Post
    I actually tinker around with computers a lot, and so I do end up touching the motherboard, etc. during PC assembly. So my concern was that some minute amount of this stuff may have flaked off, and then I come into contact with it, and then touch the internals of my PC.

    But if your devices that had leaking batteries inside them still work despite the chemicals, then I guess the chances of some other device being damaged from me touching the chemicals and then touching the other device is pretty well non-existent.

    I guess if the battery chemicals were that corrosive I would find huge holes all over my floor.
    The concentration of alkaline liquid is not typically that high and it becomes like you said nearly non existent when it dries into a powder. The corrosion is typically localized where the original contact when it was wet and dried took place and continues at lower level till the bonds are broken between the where solid substance dried and contact area. It is like dry sand vs wet sand on your windshield. Dry sand blows right away and doesn't cause any damage (other than perhaps wind abrasion), if the sand is wet however it sticks to the windshield and may have to be washed off as it cakes upon things.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    This stuff is worse than zinc carbon muck as it eats battery terminals if left to long, how badly were those terminals eaten away because sometimes gentle sanding with a motorised hobby tool can remove such gunk on battery contacts, with regards to getting it on your skin its not like sulphuric acid but wash hands in soapy water afterwards. I had a near miss with my eyes the other day as i had removed some leaky Alkerline cells from a pocket lamp and i wanted to get the contact springs out to clean them, i gug at it with a screwdriver, the springs came out an so did bits of battery corrosion some went in my eye an it started stinging so i flushed my eye with cold water right away, no ill after effects. Lesson learned dont rush jobs and give a torch barrel a gentle tap to remove any nasty bits.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Exide View Post
    This stuff is worse than zinc carbon muck as it eats battery terminals if left to long, how badly were those terminals eaten away because sometimes gentle sanding with a motorised hobby tool can remove such gunk on battery contacts, with regards to getting it on your skin its not like sulphuric acid but wash hands in soapy water afterwards. I had a near miss with my eyes the other day as i had removed some leaky Alkerline cells from a pocket lamp and i wanted to get the contact springs out to clean them, i gug at it with a screwdriver, the springs came out an so did bits of battery corrosion some went in my eye an it started stinging so i flushed my eye with cold water right away, no ill after effects. Lesson learned dont rush jobs and give a torch barrel a gentle tap to remove any nasty bits.
    Exide, I actually threw away the flashlight since it was cheap. I did wash my hands afterwards as well. My concern was from particles of dried on battery leakage contaminating another device and in turn causing the other device to corrode, which Lynx Arc said should not occur.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    If its the powder leakage it will be ok an should not harm other things so long as you dont get this powder wet. Its a shame about your flashlight though all the same, some can be saved an some cant sadly.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Leaky alkaline batteries - should I be worried?

    KOH Concentration wouldnt be as high as the level which may cause pain at touch

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