How to clean up a car battery leak

Updated March 23, 2017

Car batteries are rechargeable cells in the lead acid family of batteries. These high-powered batteries are needed to supply the output demand required to start your car. Car batteries sometime leak a highly-corrosive acid that is harmful and may corrode your terminals, destroy clothing, and burn skin. Cleaning up a car battery leak is a simple task, but you should always use the utmost caution when dealing with battery acid. Be sure to wear protective clothing, goggles, and gloves before attempting a cleanup.

Examine the battery casing and cover for any signs of leakage or moisture. If you detect a pungent acidic smell, powdery specks, or other signs of corrosion, then you may have a car battery leak.

Put on a pair of work gloves and goggles and remove the plastic covers on your terminal heads (if any).

Disconnect the negative battery terminal (minus sign), then the positive side (plus sign) using a wrench.

Prepare a baking soda paste in a ratio of three parts baking soda to one part water.

Apply a generous amount of the baking soda solution on battery cables, terminals, and clamps. Scrub the terminals and clamps with a wire brush. Wipe the cables with a cloth. Remove excess debris and baking soda with a damp cloth.

Give the terminals a final wipe with a clean, damp cloth to remove any remaining grit before reconnecting the terminals. Be sure to reconnect the positive terminal first, then the negative.

Apply a dab of petroleum jelly to your terminal connections to help prevent any future corrosion. Return plastic caps to terminals.

Soak any affected clothing in a solution of one cup of baking soda to every gallon of water before regular washing. Pavement and other materials may be neutralised by applying one part baking soda to three parts water applied to the affected area. Rinse the area with plain water.


Always disconnect the negative cable before the positive to avoid an electrical shock.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Wrench
  • Wire brush
  • Soft cloth(s)
  • Petroleum jelly
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About the Author

Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.