Battery acid is not only difficult to clean up, but it is a serious health and safety hazard that needs to be taken care of right away. Whether you’re cleaning it off of a bed, carpet or you have gotten it on your skin, it is important to act fast to reduce the amount of damage. Battery acid cannot just be cleaned up using traditional methods; instead, you must find a way to neutralize the acid so that it can be cleaned up properly.
The Dangers of Battery Acid
Battery acid contains sulfuric acid, which is a strong, corrosive chemical. It can cause severe burns to the skin, damage tissue and permanently damage eyes if it comes into contact with them. Sulfuric acid is found in car batteries as well as household batteries, detergents and some toilet bowl cleaners. The second your skin comes into contact with the acid you will feel immense pain, but you may also experience other symptoms of sulfuric acid poisoning, which include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Burns to the mouth and throat
- Low blood pressure
- Speech problems
- Vision loss
- Body weakness
- Chest pain
If you have been exposed to battery acid, you must contact emergency services right away. You can flush the skin and eyes for 15 minutes with cool water, but you still should seek medical attention. Battery acid can cause long-term damage. These cleaning tips are only meant to clean surfaces – not to help clean up battery acid that is on your skin or has gotten into your eyes.
5 Ways to Neutralize Battery Acid
There are ways you can neutralize battery acid safely at home. But, be careful using these methods since battery acid is a very caustic substance. Neutralization only occurs when the acid and the base react to one another to create a salt. This then deactivates the corrosive nature of the acid so that you can safely dispose of it.
1. Baking Soda
The most common neutralizing method is that of baking soda. Baking soda is also the cheapest way to quickly neutralize sulfuric acid. You will need to mix the baking soda with water to form a paste, and then spread it over the area. If you are removing a car battery, you can sprinkle baking soda (without water) directly onto the leaking sulfuric acid. It will fizz and bubble. Once the bubbles have stopped you will see a powder that is similar to salt – this means it is safe to remove the car battery. Do not touch the sulfuric acid while it is fizzing and avoid any contact with the battery acid while you apply the baking soda.
2. Calcium Hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide, also known as lime or hydrated limestone is an alkaline reagent used to neutralize sulfuric acid. It is not soluble in water; therefore, you can only use it directly on sulfuric acid leaking from a battery. Lime does react more quickly than magnesium hydroxide. But, lime can also be highly caustic; therefore, you will want to only use lime if the baking soda method did not neutralize your leaking car battery. Lime should never be used on fabrics or to clean up spilled battery acid on concrete or the interior of your vehicle, because it can damage the surface.
Ammonia compounds naturally help neutralize dangerous acids. Ammonium hydroxide can be used to neutralize sulfuric acid from a leaking car battery and is available at most hardware stores. But, this is not the best option for neutralizing battery acid and should only be used if you don’t have access to another neutralizing base. This is because it is difficult to handle, can emit corrosive gases and requires you to wear a special mask to protect your lungs as the ammonia comes into contact with the sulfuric acid. However, ammonia compounds are relatively affordable compared to professional neutralizing kits.
4. Professional Neutralization Kit
One of the safest and most effective ways to neutralize battery acid is through a professional kit. These kits contain specialized agents that help neutralize the sulfuric acid from the battery, including nitric and hydrochloric acid. They also come with the safety gear required to safely neutralize that acid. These kits are purchased at local hardware stores as well as online. Make sure you purchase a professional neutralization kit that is for a car battery – and not general acid neutralization.
Water can be used to dilute and naturally neutralize battery acid, but you cannot use this directly on your vehicle. This method can only be used to clean up leaking battery acid that has dripped onto a concrete surface or your driveway. You will need to add enough water to effectively neutralize the compounds and dilute it. Water is also used if a person accidentally ingests sulfuric acid, but water does not reverse the damage already done from exposure.
<WARNING> Safety Precautions
Any time you are cleaning up battery acid you should wear thick gloves, safety goggles and some sort of face mask. The chemicals are airborne; therefore, they can damage your mucous membranes even if you do not come into direct contact with these caustic substances.
Never touch battery acid with your hands; instead wear rubber gloves that are designed to handle caustic materials. Regular dish or medical gloves will not protect your skin from the acid.
Before using a neutralization method, you should test a small amount using your base to see if it effectively neutralizes. This will prevent you from having to clean up excess. If you are cleaning up acid spills on fabric, test a small area to ensure it does not bleach or destroy the fabric.
For excessive spills, you may need to call in a professional to clean the battery acid. While small sulfuric acid spills are harmless and can be cleaned up at home, a spill that is bad enough to get into your engine and onto the ground should be handled by a professional company. Also, do realize that if you do not act fast, the corrosive material can eat through the frame and other metal components of your vehicle; therefore always take care of sulfuric acid spills as soon as they occur.