Crust on old Battery -- What happens when you drop Vinegar on it?

In summary, the conversation discusses the discovery of a white crust on an old Duracell battery and its reaction to vinegar. After a quick online search, it is suggested that the crust is likely potassium carbonate and that the main by-products of the reaction are water and carbon dioxide. The conversation also touches on the composition of acetic acid and how it reacts with carbonates to produce these by-products. It is noted that the potassium in the battery is converted to potassium acetate during the reaction.
  • #1
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I had an old Duracell battery with the bottom covered by a whitish encrustation. When I dropped some vinegar on this, there was a vigorous fizzing, and the encrustation disappeared.

Any idea what the encrustation was (presumably soething alkaline, since vinegar is acidic) and what the likely by-products were?
 
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  • #2
A quick Google 'crust on battery' suggests some likely candidates. Why don't you kick start the discussion with some initial facts?
 
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  • #3
Thanks for the suggestion.

I've seen online that the crust may well be potasssium carbonate. I've also checked and found that acetic acid is an elaborate combination of hydrogen carbon and oxygen.

This being so I should guess that the main products would be water and carbon dioxide. Only thing I'm unsure about is what happens to the potassium Might it just get deposited aon the bottom of the battery, or would it combine with something?
 
  • #4
Mikestone said:
I've seen online that the crust may well be potasssium carbonate.

Quite likely. Batteries contain concentrated KOH as an electrolyte, if it leaks it absorbs atmospheric CO2 producing carbonate.

I've also checked and found that acetic acid is an elaborate combination of hydrogen carbon and oxygen.

Beware: just because it is a combination of these elements doesn't mean it will decompose during the reaction to produce water and carbon dioxide, which you seem to be suggesting:

This being so I should guess that the main products would be water and carbon dioxide.

Yes, but it has nothing to do with the composition of acetic acid. Actually the important part here is not the "acetic", but "acid". Any acid reacting with any carbonate will produce water and carbon dioxide.

Only thing I'm unsure about is what happens to the potassium Might it just get deposited aon the bottom of the battery, or would it combine with something?

Potassium is all the time there, just converted to potassium acetate. Could be it was washed away with the acetic acid (I suppose you used a vinegar, which is a diluted solution of the acid).
 

1. What causes crust to form on old batteries?

The crust on old batteries is formed by the buildup of a chemical called potassium hydroxide, which is a byproduct of the chemical reaction that powers the battery.

2. Why does vinegar react with the crust on old batteries?

Vinegar is an acidic solution that can neutralize the basic potassium hydroxide, causing it to dissolve and break down the crust on the battery.

3. Will vinegar damage the battery if I drop it on the crust?

No, vinegar will not damage the battery as long as it is not left to sit for an extended period of time. It is important to clean the battery thoroughly with water after using vinegar to prevent any potential damage.

4. How long should I leave the vinegar on the crust before cleaning it off?

It is recommended to leave the vinegar on the crust for no more than 5-10 minutes before cleaning it off with water. Leaving it on for too long can potentially damage the battery.

5. Is it safe to handle the battery after using vinegar on it?

Yes, it is safe to handle the battery after using vinegar on it. However, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards to avoid any exposure to the acidic vinegar solution.

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