How do I clean a lead acid battery?

Posted by Battery Accessories on

Man wearing hardhat putting safety goggles on

Keeping your battery clean is an essential part of battery maintenance and should be carried out regularly. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it; well, everyone should do it, really. The intercell connectors, any battery filling system or vent caps should remain free from any grease, grime and build-up that could affect the battery's performance.

DO YOU NEED TO CLEAN A LEAD ACID BATTERY?

Surfaces in any industrial setting are dirty; that’s a fact of life, dust from concrete, oil from machinery, dirt from outside blowing straight in through doors and vents. With some lead acid batteries, the problem is magnified due to the film of moisture from the gas given off during the battery operation, particularly at the end of the charge or during equalise charges, which attracts grime.

Most of the liquid particles in the gas given off by the battery evaporate, but the acid remains and can pose a potential safety hazard. Any dirt on the battery sticks to the film of moisture, creating a layer of grime. The electricity from the battery leaks as it ‘tracks’ across the grime, which reduces run time and leads to increased battery changes meaning lower-performing batteries. Electricity tracking across a battery has even been known to ignite gasses and cause the battery to explode.

Electricity always wants to track to earth, so with the help of moisture and grime, the electricity continues to track across the top of the battery until it finds an earth, usually in the form of the steel battery case. This poor electrical connection causes a build-up of white and yellow highly corrosive substances all around the battery case. If left untreated, this corrosion expands, crushing cell walls, corroding the steel case away, and robbing the battery of power and causing cells to become very uneven in output and prematurely fail.

In short, dirty batteries are a safety hazard and reduce the performance of the batteries, and in turn, forklifts, lift platforms, and whatever else flooded lead-acid batteries are used to power. Keep them clean!

WHEN SHOULD I CLEAN A BATTERY?

Well, remember, it’s much easier to keep a clean battery clean than waiting till it’s a dirty battery and bringing it back to a good condition. Our rough rules of thumb are:

• If the battery has had a ‘boil over’, whereby it has been watered before charge, and the electrolyte levels have risen so the cells overflow.
• When the battery has been overfilled.
• When dirt begins to accumulate upon the battery, this can be as frequently as fortnightly or as infrequently as every six months; it depends on the environment and use of the battery.

It is worth noting that liquid may have gotten into the tray if the battery has had a boil-over or been overfilled. A SmartBlinky Tray Monitor will indicate if the battery tray has fluid in it and needs draining. An Electrolyte Vacuum Pump can help remove the spilt liquid and stop it from corroding the bottom of the battery tray.

Clean wipes are handy to remove moisture from minor spills and gassing to prevent dirt and grime in the environment from sticking to the battery surface and beginning to build up. In more severe spills, SpillPro will make the clean-up operation a lot quicker and safer.

Good practice is to wipe the battery over during watering as it’s a good way of scheduling battery cleaning and staying on top of the battery condition. The wipes can easily be disposed of in general waste when they are finished with.

HOW DO I CLEAN A LEAD ACID BATTERY?

There are some basic methods of battery cleaning using everyday items found in a supermarket, such as baking soda or window cleaner. Whilst cheap and readily available, they are not efficient at either neutralising or degreasing. Baking soda, a commonly used neutraliser, forms a paste on the battery that needs to be removed; furthermore, it has no degreasing properties. Household cleaners don’t neutralise the battery acid.

One of the best ways to keep a battery clean is to prevent it from getting dirty, we know that sounds a little bit crazy, but if you use a lead acid battery filling system, you can stop both boil over and overfilling before they happen, which is half the battle won. Like the AFS system, a battery filling system uses float valves that are placed into the vent caps and connected via tubing or hoses. They are designed to stop your battery from over-filling, save you time when watering the battery and are considerably safer to use compared to watering by hand. All you do is run your distilled water into the connector, and the AFS Battery Filling System does the rest.

When it comes to cleaning a battery, use products designed for cleaning batteries, such as 7Clean, which both neutralise the battery acid and include an industrial degreaser to remove the grime. They are applied directly to the battery and then absorbed with rags or rinsed off. 7Clean Wipes combine the concentrate and absorbent material in one item. By using these specific cleaning products helps make the task quick and easy to carry out:

• The neutralisers remove any safety or environmental hazards from the battery acid.
• The degreasers effectively remove the grime.
• The colour changes when acid is present so the technician can see if all the acid has been removed.
• Relatively cheap and straightforward to use.
• Batteries can be cleaned ‘in-situ’ in the charging stands.
• You can also use it on floors and battery racks.
• Tested on battery materials to ensure it doesn’t damage the battery.


BATTERY CLEANING RECOMMENDED ITEMS CHECKLIST:

We’ve put together a checklist of the items we’d recommend you use when you’re cleaning a battery:


• 7Clean – Neutraliser and Degreaser.
• Stiff Brush – For removing stubborn materials, especially corrosion.
• Safety Equipment – Gloves, apron, safety goggles, safety shower, spill kit.
• Rags.
• Waste Disposal.

 

BATTERY CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS


• Identify the battery to be cleaned.
• Check if there are any potential hazards before working on the battery.
• Disconnect battery from the application or charger, if practical.
• Either use the 7Clean all in one wipe or liberally spray 7Clean concentrate onto the battery cells, cables and casings while keeping cell caps tightly closed. 7Clean will change colours in the presence of acid and will change to a different colour when neutralised.
• If needed, agitate with a brush.
• When using the concentrate, wipe clean with a cloth, rinse with water, or air dry.


So that’s it, how and when to clean a lead acid battery. As we said, it’s a dirty job, but everyone really should do it and using a preventative approach, and the correct cleaning products helps keep your battery looking spick and span. If you have any questions or comments, get in touch below or via hello@batteryaccessories.net





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