Easily clean up corrosion

Battery corrosion can ruin electronics and sap car batteries. A little vinegar or Coca-Cola applied with a stiff brush can resolve (or dissolve) the problem.

Severe battery leakage and corrosion from the author storing the remote for decades with batteries in place.
Severe battery leakage and corrosion from the author storing the remote for decades with batteries in place.

In the day and age of battery power, terminal corrosion from a leaking battery is almost unavoidable. Even with the best batteries, a leak can develop. You've all seen the telltale signs of corrosion, that crystalline growth around the point of leakage.  I place the following photograph into evidence...

TV Remote with terminal corrosion

It looks nasty and left as is, renders the device inoperable. Fortunately, this is a simple fix with the following items:

  • An old toothbrush - no, not one in use by a person you want to prank. I think we've covered this before.
  • Vinegar - white or cider. Balsamic isn't the best choice - expensive and too viscous.
  • Coca-Cola - Regular works for me. I've never tried diet, so let me know if that does the trick. Can you use Pepsi? Yes, but why make a special trip when Coke is on hand? You do drink Coke, right?
  • Some paper towels to catch and dry off vinegar or Coke.

Warning, Will Robinson: You do need to take some precautions before using this fix. They are:

  • Be careful around the corrosion. It might cause skin irritation. It has never bothered me, but people say I'm thick-skinned. Wear latex/rubber gloves just to be sure.
  • Give yourself some space when pouring on the liquid. I've never had it react vigorously enough to spray up and out, but I suppose stranger things have happened.
  • For electronics, use a small amount of liquid. You don't want any to get inside the enclosure. Liquid and electronics don't mix well.

Ready for chemistry? Then follow these steps.

  1. Remove loose corrosion over a trash can. Leave enough for dissolution, it's cool to watch.
  2. Put the object on a work surface that liquid won't mess up.
  3. If using vinegar, pour a little in the cap and pour onto the corrosion. If using Coke, carefully pour it on the terminals. Take a refreshing sip while it works its magic.
White vinegar dissolving battery corrosion

​4. Watch with mad scientist glee as the acids interact with the corrosion and         makes them bubble up.

5. Scrub the terminals with the toothbrush and dry them off. Repeat if necessary.

Battery terminals after cleaning with white vinegar and a toothbrush

​By the way, this works on cars and other vehicle batteries just as well. There are only a couple of differences in the process.

  1. For safety, turn off the vehicle, whatever it is; car, boat, truck, quad, etc.
  2. You don't have to worry about protecting the surface beneath.
  3. A stiff brass or wire brush might work better than a toothbrush.

What should you expect?

It has been my experience that this process will restore your battery-using device to full working order in nearly every case. Naturally, there are exceptions. If the corrosion was severe enough to destroy the terminals, this process will not fix the problem.

Final word

Use quality batteries in anything of importance. Cheap batteries are much more likely to corrode and damage terminals. My go-to brand in years past was Radio Shack's batteries. I don't know why, but they outperformed everything else. Since that company is no longer around, I use Energizer for everything from AAA to D to 9V.  When the siren song of low low prices has led me astray, I have regretted it.