Save Your Gameboy Color and Other Small Electronics From Battery Leaks





Introduction: Save Your Gameboy Color and Other Small Electronics From Battery Leaks

About: I am an engineering student in the midwest. in my spare time, which become increasingly non-existent, I enjoy cooking, fixing things of mine, and wasting time on this website of course!

You must know that feeling, the dread that fills you when you find that batteries have leaked in one of your expensive pieces of technology. You'd think that would've been solved by now in 2014, but you're wrong!

I know it's been a while since I created an Instructable. Now that I'm in college, I do not have as much free time to mess around as I used to. I tried to make another one a little while back, "Turning an old router into a wireless bridge with DD-WRT", but I ended up bricking the router instead. So, I figured that I should probably not instruct people on something that is above my skill level to begin with. Anyways, I hope you find this Instructable just as instructive!

*I did not expect this Instructible to take off like it did. Thank you for all of the favorites and suggestions. I have made some edits to the steps based on your suggestions.

Step 1: Gather Your Weapons!

First, know what kind of battery leaked into your electronics. Disposable batteries are either acid or alkaline, usually alkaline. Check what it says on the batteries. From chemistry, you should know that you can cancel out an acid with a base, and vice versa.

The batteries that leaked into my Gameboy were alkaline, and as the name implies, were made with basic chemicals. You will need:

-Vinegar(an acid) or baking soda(a base) (which you use depends on the type of battery that leaked)

-Paper towels

-Toothpicks (optional)

-plenty of Q-tips (cotton swabs or an old toothbrush would work just as well)

-Shot glass or other small container (for the solution you will clean with)

-Electrical tape (optional, but good to keep liquids and dust particles out of the circuits)

-A pencil eraser

-Steel wool (optional, but useful as a last resort)

Pour the vinegar or water into the shot glass, add the baking soda to the water if making a base solution. Go to a cleared and cleaned area, preferably well ventilated too, with your electronics and sit down.

Step 2: Get Cleaning

If you have toothpicks, you can use these to pick off larger pieces of corrosion from the springs.

If you have electrical tape, cut it into small squares and cover openings to the circuits inside to prevent water from getting inside. Dip the q-tips into the solution and start scrubbing. They are not sturdy when wet so you will need a lot of them. I find it useful to clean with one end of the q-tip and dry with the other; after all, you don't want to get the electronics wet inside. That is why q-tips are good since they can't hold enough water to really drench things. In between scrubs, you can use a toothpick to get off more loosened gunk.

If you have the leeway, use the paper towels. They are larger and slightly more abrasive than the q-tips. Be ABSOLUTELY sure that they are not soaking wet as you do not want to get the delicate circuits inside wet (yet another reason to use electrical tape). Repeating what you did before, scrub off the the corrosive chemicals and dry. You may hear fizzing as your solution reacts with the leaked chemicals.

You need not be perfect with your cleaning. You only need the parts of the metal that touch the nodes of the battery to be clear enough to conduct electricity. The metal underneath the corroded area will still conduct just fine.

**Be careful not to touch your face, eyes, mouth, nose, etc... as some of these chemicals are very caustic! Plastic gloves, or even goggles, would be great for safety here.

If you are not having any luck, see the next step.

Step 3: Additional Cleaning

Once you've sufficiently dried off the nodes, use a pencil eraser to get more of the corroded material off of the metal. This is especially good for the though spots that did not lift with your solution.

If necessary, use the small piece of steel wool. I wouldn't recommend using it right off the bat since it is very abrasive and can leave particulate steel dust inside your device, potentially creating shorts. Again, cover openings with electrical tape to mitigate this issue. I think my cleaning did a good enough job clearing the connectors, but I resorted to it briefly as my Gameboy had been sitting in this state for quite a while. It really took care of one spot that just wouldn't clear with the vinegar.

Step 4: Enjoy Your Games Once More!

Voila! Your electronics are once more functional and ready to fulfill their purpose! I learned my lesson, never keep batteries inside something too long. Be sure to wash your hands once finished!



    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest

    76 Discussions

    yes i found leaky duracell batterys in the package at wallmart brand new

    My salvation! I feared that when i checked my poor Gameboy and found corrosion that it was finally lost to me :(

    Thank you very much!
    It was useful

    I'm just wondering... have you had problems with Duracell batteries leaking over the last year or two? Or is it just me. I know they have to be fresh and have come from Costco. They never used to leak... only cheapo cells did. Whats up?

    2 replies

    no not at all! ( sarcastic answer )

    yes I now avoid them like the plague

    i usually suspected the cheap ones would, but usually anything else is long dead before they leak. i like to reuse wireless microphone batteries AA's in this case, problem was before my supplier switch brands i actually ruined a two-way radio.

    I haven't noticed any problems with Duracell batteries in particular. This issues extends to most alkaline batteries.

    Nice! I've had some things that use batteries in the past and..... Uhg... That nasty corroded stuff......

    Very informative instructable. I wish I hadn't deep sixed the 4 batteries that went south on a digital camera recently. I was wondering if you had tried aluminum foil? I have been fairly successful using it in cleaning rust off of knife blades. The aluminum is soft enough that it won't scratch the steel, not all by itself, at least. I suppose if you managed to get some grit on the steel some way rubbing it with the AL foil might scratch.

    2 replies

    I suppose Al foil is another option. I agree that it shouldn't be too abrasive for this purpose. However, these connections are typically made of silver or gold plated copper, not steel, so there is always the risk of ripping off the coating which is designed to resist regular corrosion in the first place. It is possible to imagine that you could shape the foil into different shapes and tools to fit what you are trying to clean.

    Seems to me I have seen, perhaps on Instructables, about making a conductive paint, it may have been using carbon. If that is the case might it not be a good idea, once the connections are cleaned to paint them with the conductive paint?

    Good call and Amen to stevetork on the subject of steel wool ! The
    gaps between copper tracks and between IC chip pins on modern PCBs is
    tiny, and little shreds of steel wool getting in there will be deadly to
    your electronic device.

    Another useful substance: Railroad Modeller's Track Rubber. This is like a pencil eraser with embedded fine abrasive grit. Very good for cleaning all kinds of electrical contacts. (But useless for model railroad tracks !)

    2 replies

    Where is the best place to get that? That railroad rubber seems lie the perfect things to clean up my slot car tracks when I whip them out of storage.

    It should be sold at any model shop selling railroad stuff. BUT, I won't recommend it, for the same reason I think it doesn't work for railroads.

    The original model railroad track was tin-plated steel, so the track rubber just sanded off the plating, and it went rusty and became useless.

    Modern railroad track is nickel-silver, so the oxide is conductive, so it doesn't need sanding off, just a wipe to keep it clean. But the track rubber leaves grit and rubber on the track, which is bad for both traction and contact.

    If your slot car track is tin-plated steel, I suggest cleaning off any rust with a green scouring pad. (Even steel wool would strip off the plating) (Another good trick: make a disc of of green scourer for your dremel.) Then ALWAYS preserve the track with a wipe of ordinary household oil or WD40 type oil before storing, and just polish it off with a cloth or tissue before use.

    Do they make nickel-silver slot car track ? (If they don't, then they should.)

    If you have some distilled water on hand... I would suggest wiping the contacts with that when finished to remove any residue. Once they are completely clean, a THIN layer of WD40 applied to the contacts will also help.

    WD40 is "Water Displacement formula 40" and is designed to keep water vapor off metal surfaces. A thin coating can help keep the metal from oxidation which can act as a resistor and/or insulator. Use a Q-tip and only apply enough to leave a thin film.

    2 replies

    I never thought to use WD40 on small devices. I imagine that if it is over applied, it can block the contacts.

    Not really... I just don't know if it would deteriorate the plastic housing or not. It's okay for some plastics... but I don't know about all plastics. But to prevent contact corrosion... it works well.

    Thanks for writing this Instructable. A lot of people will find it useful. Most circuit boards have a thin coating that protects from water, but the coating may not cover connections made after the board is made. Power connections are one of those later connections, so your advice to use small cotton swabs is good. I would avoid steel wool because it can leave small particles behind that could migrate to an exposed electrical contact and cause a short. Avoid shorts by taping off openings and cleaning up residue. Blast with compressed air or canned air. I avoid steel wool by using a set of small diamond abrasive files from an on-line tool dealer.

    1 reply

    I like the suggestion with electrical tape. Would that be enough to keep particulate matter out of the circuits? I'm glad you like my 'ible. I have several more in mind for this summer.

    I find a "pink" eraser works better than steel wool, Allow the corrosion area to dry first, and then carefully erase the remaining crud. Steel wool is conductive and will leave conductive powder and bits behind that can short out your device. For really heavy duty work, a wooden stick can help too. Popsicle sticks or one of those cuticle probes (check with wife or girlfriend if you don't know what these are) can chip away large bits of corrosion.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the suggestions! I have toothpicks that could also be good in place of popsicle sticks for smaller devices.