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Batteries Not Included** - November 2023

What to do when batteries explode in your remote control.

Now that many folks are wandering back indoors, it's not unusual for them to pick up the remote control for one device or another and they don't work. Most people quickly think of opening the battery hatch and replacing the batteries when horror appears. Not only are the batteries dead, they have "exploded" or leaked.

Now, your next step depends upon what brand of batteries you use. That's right, it makes a difference. Higher quality batteries, like Duracell, Energizer, and a few others, will contain themselves for quite some time after going dead. When they do leak, it takes the form of being rather dry and crusty. These are rather easy to address and I shortly will have an upcoming YouTube video how to handle it. The worst offenders are the "discount" batteries and these include both Maker's Mark from Walmart and the Costco house brands and those sold at various outlets like Aldi, Dollar Stores and the like. When they leak, their leakage is more fluid-like and very corrosive. It is not unusual for them to badly eat away the actual contacts in the remote and in some cases, actually leak into the actual remote itself though open slots in the plastic housing. It's a good practice, regardless, to remove batteries from remote controls if they are not going to be used for a period of time. Otherwise, use will tell you if they are working or not and with the cheaper batteries, get them out of the remote ASAP if they are dead.

In any event, never, I repeat never, use a water-based cleaning solution to start. Rather, remove the batteries and throw them away either in the trash or recycling bin. Standard batteries can be recycled so check with your local service first. Some places cannot do it. Ni-Cads and Lithium-Ion cannot be easily recycled and should never be trashed. Very bad for the environment. Instead, put them in a plastic back and take them to the recycle bin at Lowe's or Home Depot. Those bins are usually around the service counter area. It is my understanding that in California they have special recycling centers for those. Kudos.

Next, if they are the better brands and have left a crusty mess, often times the use of a toothbrush is very effective. Take the remote over to a garbage can and brush the contacts while holding the open side of the remote downward so the contamination falls into the can. If you brush with the remote hatch faced upwards, you risk some of that crust wandering into the remote itself. Repeated inspections might be necessary. At this point, a little house cleaning with q-tips is in order and they can be dry or slightly dampened with something like Windex to pick-up the dust. At this point, inspect the contracts. If they are still crusty, a sharp pointed object like a fine screwdriver or knife might be needed to flick off what remains stuck. Brush them again. A sort of rinse and repeat but dry. Once all has been cleared away, you may need to burnish the contact surfaces with the sharp object or small file, depending upon access and the discoloration of the contacts themselves. (If the contacts are deep inside the remote, well, you are going to have to take the remote apart (another upcoming video or buy a new remote). Then, treat those surfaces with Deox-it from a squeeze bottle. Don't use spray (cans) unless you are going to spray it on a surface or bowl and them use a q-tip to mop it up and use it as a brush on the contacts. Or, you can use a fine modeling brush and apply it. Don't use spray in the remote! It's a mess. Once applied, use q-tips again to mop up the excess on those surfaces. I can not speak for other contact cleaners and you really need to be careful about their use as some will "eat" or dissolve plastics. Not good.

Now, if we have the cheap leakers, well, the first step after removing the batteries is to mop up that leakage with q-tips. It may take several of them and multiple passes. Once that is done, you need to look at the contacts themselves. I just got into one of those cases and the leaked acid ate away the contacts! There was nothing to clean. Dead remote. I had other case a few weeks ago that not only ate into the contracts, but caused them to rust. If you have contacts left, that is where you use q-tips soaked in Deox-it and start wiping it down repeatedly trying to remove both the liquid portion and anything that looks like crust. You may need to do the work and let it sit a day or two so that you can then use the toothbrush. The process may then proceed like above. Note, be very careful in these situations as the leaky fluid can also eat through clothing. It doesn't burn like car battery acid but it will put holes in clothing that will show up with the next wash.

Again, for those who like videos, I have an upcoming YouTube video on dealing with the better battery situation and you can watch the process. As for the "Nasties" that will be a separate and later YouTube video. I'll need a remote that has been screwed up by them. So, if you want to donate a remote for an autopsy, I'd appreciate it.

Last words: If you are not going to use a remote, or for awhile, remove those batteries!


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