It can be easy to forget that the batteries you use to power your toys, electronics, household appliances, and vehicles are actually filled with dangerous chemicals.
When a battery is damaged, liquid battery acid can leak out and put you at risk.
Battery acid on your skin needs to be treated right away to prevent serious chemical burns. How you treat battery acid on your skin depends on the type of battery.
Let’s take a look at how different types of battery acid affect your skin, and the steps for what to do if you come in contact with battery acid.
When battery acid makes contact with your skin, it can create a skin reaction. Chemical burns can be the result. Unlike thermal burns caused by fire or heat, burns caused by batteries can quickly dissolve your skin.
Here are the different types of battery acid you may encounter:
Batteries in your household appliances tend to be alkaline batteries.
When these batteries become corroded, they leak potassium hydroxide. This substance is can cause chemical burns, but it can be safely neutralized and carefully cleaned up.
Car batteries are usually lead batteries, and they contain sulfuric acid. The sulfur in a lead battery is highly corrosive.
Diluted sulfur is sometimes used topically to treat acne and other skin conditions, but sulfur in battery acid is not diluted enough to be safe for your skin.
Skin contact from battery acid from a lead battery can be a medical emergency and may require immediate attention from a doctor.
If you get battery acid on your skin, don’t panic. Follow the directions below to treat the problem properly.
Alkaline battery acid
Follow these steps if you get battery acid from an alkaline batter on your skin:
- Immediately flush the area with lukewarm water for 30 minutes.
- Remove clothing and jewelry from the affected area.
- Wait to see if symptoms appear. If you still feel a burning sensation on your skin after 20 to 30 minutes, continue to rinse with a stream of clean water and contact your doctor or the Poison Control Hotline.
Sulfuric battery acid
If your skin comes in contact with battery acid from a lead battery, rinsing with water may make symptoms worse.
Follow the steps above, but use a solution of warm, soapy water to remove the sulfuric acid. Even if washing your skin stings at first, continue to rinse off the acid.
Battery acid on your skin can result in skin, eye, and respiratory conditions.
Brief contact with alkaline battery acid may cause contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis describes any redness or irritation on your skin. This condition can cause some temporary discomfort, but it usually goes away on its own.
Contact with battery acid can cause chemical burns. These types of burns might not show up right away. It can take several minutes or hours for symptoms to start to appear.
Skin irritation, redness, and blackened or dead skin can be symptoms of chemical burns.
Damage to your eyes
If battery acid or battery acid fumes get anywhere near your eyes, there’s a chance that your eyes will experience tearing, redness, and inflammation.
In cases where there is direct contact between your eyes and battery acid, there’s a possibility that your eyes can become damaged, interfering with your eyesight, and potentially causing blindness.
First aid for chemical burns to your eyes involves immediately flushing with water for 20 to 30 minutes and seeking immediate medical attention.
Exposure to sulfuric acid can result in difficulty breathing and tightness in your chest. Breathing in any type of battery acid fumes can be toxic and cause dizziness or nausea.
Minimizing your exposure to battery acid fumes is important as you treat the respiratory irritation it causes.
Disposing of batteries properly depends on the type of battery.
If an alkaline battery is leaking, put on protective gloves before you try to pick it up. Place the battery in a plastic bag and seal it before putting it on the garbage.
You can use a cotton swab dipped in vinegar to neutralize the acid and clean it off any electrical surfaces. It’s safe to dispose of household alkaline batteries with your regular garbage.
Lithium and lead
Lithium and lead batteries need to be disposed of as hazardous waste, whether or not they’re leaking. You can call ahead to your local household waste center and ask about their preferred method for battery disposal.
You can often dispose of lithium batteries at laptop and cell phone retailers. If you’re having your car battery replaced, your mechanic will most likely dispose of the lead battery for you.
Battery acid on your skin can cause itching, pain, redness, and burning.
Household batteries are typically alkaline and the “acid” inside is less caustic than lead batteries, but exposure to either kind of battery should be treated immediately.
Prevent contact with battery acid whenever possible by getting rid of old batteries and following best practices for disposing of them.