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How to handle batteries and accumulators safely

These four rules of thumb will get you far:
1. Cover the terminals of discarded batteries and accumulators with adhesive tape.
2. Place leaking batteries and accumulators in a bag.
3. Keep button cell batteries out of children’s reach.
4. Use the battery safely and monitor its operation.

1. Harmless when taped

Discarded batteries and accumulators usually have a residual electric charge in them. Consequently, they may short-circuit and overheat enough to cause a fire if stored carelessly. The risk of fire is easy to minimise by covering the terminals of all batteries and accumulators with adhesive tape as soon as they are removed from their device. Lithium batteries and accumulators are especially prone to reacting to other batteries and metal objects, which is why you should tape the terminals of all batteries and accumulators.

2. Place leaking batteries and accumulators in a bag

Over time, alkaline batteries may leak potassium hydroxide, which is strongly alkaline and thus corrosive. You can prevent battery leakage by removing all batteries from their device when the device is not being used. You can also prevent leakage by using only one type of battery at a time and changing all the batteries of the device at the same time.

Potassium hydroxide may cause respiratory, skin or eye irritation. If your skin is exposed to a leak, rinse it immediately with plenty of water for 15–30 minutes. If the irritation doesn’t subside, you should seek medical assistance. The space in which leaking batteries have been handled should be aired out thoroughly.

You can try to clean any potassium hydroxide that has leaked onto the device or other items with an acidic solution, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Always wear plastic gloves in the cleaning phase and otherwise when handling leaking batteries.

When recycling leaking batteries, you should pack them in a plastic bag, such as a discarded bread bag, in which you can return them to a collection receptacle found at stores that sell batteries.

3. Button cells are dangerous to children

Many everyday household items and children’s toys use button cell batteries, and the battery compartments can be accidentally opened in the hands of children. If a child swallows a battery, the consequences can be serious.

If a battery gets stuck in the child’s throat or oesophagus, it may result in suffocation or damage to the oesophagus. In the worst case scenario, the child’s saliva or stomach fluids can trigger an electric current in the battery that can burn the oesophagus or the intestines.

If a child swallows a battery, seek medical assistance immediately. Do not try to make the child vomit. In any unclear cases, you can ask the Poison Information Centre hotline for instructions, tel. +358 (0)9 471 977. Keep all batteries and accumulators to be recycled out of the reach of children and pets.

4. Use the battery safely and monitor its operation

Handle your battery-powered device carefully and use it in accordance with the instructions for use. Avoid dropping, squeezing or twisting the battery, as it may damage one of the cells of the battery. This may lead to an internal short circuit and overheating.

Above all, follow the charging instructions provided and use the correct charger. Rechargeable batteries always warm up slightly when charged. Do not cover a device being charged, as it will prevent the heat from dissipating.

If a battery seems to act strangely, heats up severely, bulges or emits a sound, stop using the device. Inability to charge properly may also indicate a defect.

Check the website (in Finnish and Swedish) for instructions on how to return damaged accumulators and how to act in the event of a safety hazard.

It is typical of lithium-ion batteries and accumulators to swell slightly during use. As the battery approaches the end of its service life, the swelling may become very noticeable. In that case, discard the battery and take it to a battery recycling point.

Read more about the safe handling of batteries and accumulators here.

A Battery Guide on the safe handling of lithium-ion batteries has been produced, aimed specifically at professionals in the trade, but also suitable for other operators handling and collecting batteries. Click here to view the guide.