I was cleaning my wardrobe when I found some huge white-brown blots where there was a lot of batteries that I have use. I was keeping them for properly disposal but I forget to do that.

I accidentally touch one of them and noticed a incolor liquid. I just washed my hands with soap and put the batteries outdoor in a disposal bag. There was not any rust or white mass, just blots on the wood of the shelf and maybe a little more of that liquid (I guess the wood absorbed most of it).

Most of the batteries was Duracell LR6 alkaline but there was a few of Eveready carbon zinc R6 too. So, I would like to know how to clean up the possible remaining liquid and if I need to worry about vapors or something.


Carbon-zinc (Leclanché ) chemistry is comparatively innocuous, but manganese-alkaline cells contain potassium hydroxide, $\ce{KOH}$, which is caustic (can dissolve skin). Some older alkaline cells contained small amounts of mercury to improve shelf life, but that has been phased out. Mercury compounds are very toxic, but there should be little even in old cells.

The main damage is caused by the electrolyte, which contains some water, and for alkaline cells, $\ce{KOH}$. The liquid does not create toxic fumes, but it can damage paint, wood surfaces, and skin if left in place for a long time. Just wash with plenty of water, scrub, and wash with more plain water. If your hands have a "soapy", slippery feel from the caustic $\ce{KOH}$, after rinsing with water, you can rinse with a little bit of vinegar. Vinegar may also help remove some stains, idf the surface is not too badly damaged.

Both cell types are very messy if broken open, because the black manganese dioxide, $\ce{MnO2}$, is finely divided and hard to remove from hands, cloth and carpet (as I discovered in my misspent youth).


Per this reference, there is a range of metals employed in battery technology.

Some problematic metals salts likely found in select batteries include ions of Hg (mercuric oxide battery), Cd and Ni (in the nickel and cadmium battery, nickel–hydrogen battery and nickel–zinc battery).

I have listed them in decreasing order of which metal salts for which I would prefer to avoid direct contact.

I would recommend proper (as in professional) disposal of Mercury and Cadmium salts.

For cleaning up leakage of battery contents, I recommend Seltzer water (aqueous CO2) and/or Washing Soda (Na2CO3).

Do not add complexing agents (like acetic acid) increasing solubility and the likelihood of skin absorption of toxic metals and possible further introduction into the water table.


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