Key Takeaway: Take seriously your electronic devices’ instruction manuals telling you to remove the batteries if the product won’t be used for a long time. They can corrode or leak in your device, potentially damaging it – and your skin if you touch it – and thus cutting its life short.
As a child, I used to have lots of electronic toys and games, most notoriously my Game Boys that I could not let go of (I regret it now, as it contributed to my shallowness as a child). I did mention before that I would read anything including packaging write-ups, so I always read the instruction manuals of said electronics. I notice that in most if not all of them, there was always a curious little instruction to remove batteries from those products if they were not to be used for a long time.
Precisely because I couldn’t keep my hands off my Game Boy (no wonder I felt like I’d played Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal forever – I’d played and restarted so much in such a short period of time!), my batteries ran out quite quickly and as such needed to be replaced frequently. I did notice, though, very rarely, that some of my, or our, electronic devices’ batteries had already leaked or corroded.
It was with three fairly recent discoveries of said incident that I made up my mind once and for all to prevent it from happening and the future, and look it up. The first was with my electric toothbrush sometime last year. When I first got it, it was an old new toothbrush – Mom had bought it perhaps a decade ago, but had never opened it (which was why I took the initiative). It’s one of those battery-operated products that come with a free battery already installed – and when unused for a very long time can be disastrous. Fortunately, I was able to have it removed and cleaned, although some residue remains.
The second incident was just a few days ago, while I was in Hong Kong and we were weighing our luggage. My luggage scale was prematurely switching off as it finalized the weight calculation on screen. Auntie said it might be due to a weak battery, and when I opened the battery compartment, voilà – corroded battery. I had it removed and cleaned yesterday morning only; fortunately, there is no trace of the damage anymore.
By this time, I’d already made up my mind to be careful. The final blow came just yesterday afternoon – after the luggage scale incident – when I was cleaning a 17-year-old Winnie the Pooh dollhouse. As I was doing it, I suddenly remembered that there were batteries installed for the lights. When I had the compartment opened, the corrosion was blue. I was informed that the thing will no longer work, but I’m keeping my hopes up.
Clearly, the instruction manual’s provision needs to be taken seriously. Battery manufacturers themselves emphasize this, such as on the Web page of Duracell. Unpleasant results – and how to deal with them – are discussed in this eHow post and this Instructables entry. On the other hand, this post on Love to Know talks just about how to clean the aforementioned corrosion.
It seems that the concept of phantom power, which I discussed before, may also apply to battery-operated devices. In storage, batteries won’t leak or corrode; however, they can when placed inside devices. This is because inserted, the battery creates an ideal set-up for a connection electrical currents flow through, regardless of power on or power off – the same way that a shut-off device plugged in can also still “work” one way or another.
Oh, and it can cause injuries too – it can burn your skin if not careful.
This seems to apply more on alkaline batteries only. Towards the end of my time with my old MacBook, the 2008 model that still had a removable battery, I sometimes removed the battery while studying at home, leaving it to run on only A/C power. I’d like to believe it helped, although since my laptop was replaced not long after that I wouldn’t be able to know. My current MacBook Pro is the 2012 model whose battery isn’t user-removable, so I can’t apply this practice. The same goes with my phone, a Sony Xperia Z (one reason I want a Samsung Note is because I can remove the battery and replace it with a back-up while I charge the former). Our old mobile phones’ batteries are still good as of now, and we don’t remove them always.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to make sure.
As such, I invite you to look over your electronics and see if there are any seldom-used or unused ones with batteries still installed. Do yourself a favor and remove them today!
Featured Photo copyright 2015 Allister Roy S. Chua.