Chemistry Question #3799

Anthony Daddazio, a 42 year old male from Maple asks on March 1, 2007,

I have had some alkaline batteries (AAA, and AA) that have leaked. These batteries were in a TV remote control and a battery operated lantern in my night table along with my other personal items such as books, medicine, music cds and other personal items. In both cases the batteries leaked. Are the liquid and crystal-like substances that form after the battery leaks corrosive and if so, do they remain corrosive indefinitely or does time reduce the corrosiveness and eventually does it become non corrosive? If this crystal substance does become non corrosive how much time must pass? Finally, do I need to throw out all the contents of my night table because this remote control unit with the leaking battery came into contact with these items? I am worried that they became contaminated with the corrosive leakage.

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The answer

Reg Mitchell answered on March 1, 2007

First of all do not worry too much. The mix is not particulary toxic, just strongly alkaline like Drano, so things need to be well washed, but that's about it. Alkaline batteries contain zinc, manganese dioxide and Potassium hydroxide. The last one is similar to lye or sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient of Drano. Potassium hydroxide is corrosive and since it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, it becomes less corrosive with time. In any case, it is easily neutralised with a bit of vinegar. Use rubber gloves and wash anything that was touched by the contents of the batteries with a damp cloth several times, or better yet, a cloth dampened with vinegar, then with water on another cloth, then dry. That should fix the problem. Any other objects can be washed (just as though you are washing the dishes) but paper may or may not be salvagable.

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