How to Clean Battery Corrosion from Industrial Lead-Acid Batteries
Is battery corrosion costing you money?
Without regular cleaning, industrial batteries may have significantly restricted operating lifespans. Corrosion occurs when sulfuric acid contacts metal, creating a powdery residue that can damage charging cables, cell caps, and the battery’s casing. Since batteries are often the most expensive component of lift trucks and other heavy equipment, maintenance should be a priority for every operation.
But while cleaning corrosion isn’t especially difficult, it’s a potentially hazardous task: Workers need access to appropriate protective equipment, and they need to avoid taking any actions that could cause a spill or damage the equipment. Follow these four steps to reduce your risks.
1. Inspect the battery and don appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Make sure that the corrosion is limited to the battery’s terminals and that the corrosion can be safely cleaned. If the battery was recently charged and is hot to the touch, wait until it’s cool to begin the process. All cell openings must remain sealed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) generally requires employers to provide PPE for their workers. OSHA 1910.132 (“General Requirements") reads:
Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.
Battery acid is certainly a chemical hazard, and providing PPE isn’t just about compliance: Exposure to sulfuric acid can endanger workers.
Provide your team with an appropriate supply of eye protection, nitrile gloves, and chemical aprons. Products like the PPE Deluxe Kit are an excellent way to maintain your stock.
Finally, make sure workers understand how to properly don their equipment — remember, PPE training is essential for OSHA compliance.
Related: Battery PPE for Changing, Charging, Washing, and Watering
2. Neutralize the acid.
Battery acid may be neutralized with a solution of water and baking soda or soda ash. OSHA recommends a solution of one pound per gallon of water.
Of course, in many facilities, workers don’t have time to mix neutralizers — and your facility might not keep baking soda or soda ash on-hand. A dedicated granular sorbent like AcidSorb can save time (and provide additional benefits if workers need to respond to a spill or other serious hazard).
Give the neutralizer time to work. Wait until the fizzing stops before proceeding to the next step.
Related: How to Neutralize Battery Acid Safely
3. Use a no-spark brush to clean the terminals.
When cleaning battery corrosion, always use a clean, no-spark brush. Slowly work the neutralizer under the connectors.
After all acid has been neutralized, workers can gently clean the battery with clean water. Do not use high-pressure hoses.
Products to Consider: BHS Equipment Cleaning Kit
For basic battery maintenance, we recommend the BHS Equipment Cleaning Kit, which provides all of the necessary supplies for cleaning corrosion from industrial batteries.
In addition to PPE, the kit contains reusable spray bottles with a color-changing detergent that indicates when battery acid is completely neutralized. The Equipment Cleaning Kit includes brushes, spray bottles, and other essentials — while minimizing the risk to workers and equipment.
4. Take appropriate steps to prevent corrosion from reoccurring.
Make sure to keep batteries watered, but don’t overfill them. When overfilled, electrolyte may spill over, causing corrosion.
You should also avoid over-discharging batteries. If your lift trucks frequently reach the “red zone" of their discharge meters, you may need to expand your fleet or re-assess your charging practices.
Other tips for limiting industrial battery corrosion:
- Where possible, avoid operating equipment at extremely hot temperatures. Use fans to keep batteries below 115°F (46°C).
- If the battery is hot after a charge cycle, give it time to cool before operating.
- Inspect and clean batteries regularly. Corrosion isn’t just an aesthetic issue — it shortens the life of your batteries and can cause issues in lift trucks. Regular cleaning is an essential part of maintenance.
For more guidance, read: Forklift Battery Charging Racks for Small Facilities.
Whether you’re upgrading your battery room or adding to your fleet, we’re here to help. Contact the Solus Group sales team by calling (314) 696-0200 or by clicking here.