Battery Acid on Skin

Symptoms and How to Treat It

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If you get battery acid on your skin, you need to flush the affected area with cool, running water—without interruption—for at least 15 minutes. While some battery acids are more caustic than others, it is best to err on the side of caution and continue flushing the skin even after 15 minutes if pain, irritation, and burning sensations persist.

This article walks you through the symptoms of a battery acid burn and how different battery burns are treated. It also describes the signs of a medical emergency and possible complications if chemical burns are inappropriately treated.

Household batteries

Robert Houser / Getty Images

Symptoms of Battery Acid on Skin

Battery acids are caustic, meaning that they can burn or corrode tissues. The severity of a battery acid burn varies by the type of battery acid involved, the duration and level of exposure, and which tissues are exposed (since some are more delicate than others).

You may not have symptoms immediately after getting battery acid on your skin. This does not mean that you are not in any danger.

The corrosive effects of some battery acids can be slow and progressive, and unless the skin is flushed and appropriately treated, can lead to the classic symptoms of a chemical burn, including:

  • Skin redness and irritation
  • Burning pain or numbness
  • Rash, itching, or swelling
  • Blistering of the skin
  • Blackened skin

Other Symptoms

If battery acid is inhaled, ingested, or comes into contact with the lips or eyes, other symptoms can develop, including:

  • Headache
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bright red or blushing lips
  • Eye redness, pain, or blurring
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Convulsions or seizures

Treating Battery Acid Burns 

Irrespective of the type of battery acid involved, the acid needs to be flushed from the skin immediately even if it doesn't feel like it is causing any damage. The longer the battery acid stays on the skin, the more severe the damage can be.

If you're helping someone who has gotten battery acid in their skin, make sure that they don't touch their mouth or eyes. You also need to protect yourself by avoiding contact with the acid and possibly opening windows and doors to avoid inhaling fumes.

Home Batteries

Home batteries commonly found around the house are called alkaline batteries. Most are made with a chemical called potassium hydroxide, commonly known as lye.

Rather than being an actual acid (meaning a pH of less than 7), lye is alkaline (meaning a pH greater than 7), hence the name. Even so, lye is extremely caustic and can cause potentially severe chemical burns.

Most alkaline battery burns occur when the battery is corroded and leaks chemicals. It can also occur if the battery is broken open accidentally or intentionally.

Here is what to do if someone is exposed to alkaline battery acid:

  1. Move them from the battery acid leak. Be careful not to touch the acid yourself.
  2. Remove clothing and jewelry from the affected area. Cut away the material rather than dragging it over other areas of skin.
  3. Start flushing. Place the affected skin under running, cool tap water. Use a gentle flow rather than a hard spray to avoid injuring the skin. Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Avoid rubbing: Do not rub, wipe, or try to clean the skin. Let the water do the work.

After 15 minutes, stop and check for any signs of worsening pain or skin injury. If there is any doubt, continue rinsing.

Once you are reasonably assured that the signs of danger have passed, you can apply a cold compress to the skin to relieve any pain. Severe burns should be seen by a healthcare provider or at your nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

Car Batteries 

Car batteries are usually lead-encased batteries that contain sulfuric acid (also known as sulphuric acid). Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive substance that is destructive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Severe exposure can result in death.

The treatment of sulfuric acid exposure differs slightly from lye exposure in that it is more easily removed from the skin with soapy water. Soapy water is also more alkaline (pH 12) than sulfuric acid (pH 2 to 3) and can help counter its effects.

To treat a sulfuric acid burn:

  1. Move the person from the battery acid leak. Open windows and doors if the leak occurred indoors, such as in a garage.
  2. Remove clothing and jewelry from the affected area.
  3. Start flushing. Place the exposed skin under running, lukewarm tap water. As you do, mix dish soap with water in a large bowl and continue flushing the skin with the soapy mixture without rubbing. Continue this for at least 15 minutes if the exposure is relatively minor and at least 30 minutes if the exposure is more substantial.

Continue until you are reasonably satisfied that the symptoms are not worsening.

Car battery acid burns almost always require immediate medical attention. Loosely wrap the injured site with a sterile bandage or clean cloth and rush to your nearest emergency room.

Rechargeable Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries found in items such as mobile phones and e-cigarettes. They are made with a combination of lithium-based compounds that react with crystalline carbon (graphite) to create an electrical charge.

Neither lithium nor graphite is an "acid." However, lithium is known to be highly reactive and flammable, and can spontaneously combust when overheated. This is known to occur when lithium-ion batteries malfunction.

The combustion or explosion of a lithium-ion battery can spill lithium onto the skin. Lithium generally only causes skin rash and irritation but when super-heated can cause severe thermal burns along with skin corrosion and pitted ulcers.

The treatment of lithium-ion battery burn is similar to that of alkaline battery burns:

  1. Move the person from the accident site. Extinguish any fires or call 911 if you can't.
  2. Remove clothing and jewelry from the affected area.
  3. Start flushing. Place the affected skin under a constant, gentle stream of cool water for at least 15 minutes without rubbing or wiping.

Assess the injury after flushing and go to your nearest emergency room if there are signs of a second-degree or third-degree burn.

Immediate Care After Flushing

If the injury is relatively mild, apply a cool, wet compress to the skin to relieve pain. You can then wrap it in a dry sterile dressing or clean cloth. Wrap the dressing loosely to avoid pressure or friction.

If medical treatment is not needed, you can take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Advil (ibuprofen) to help ease the pain.

There are several things you should not do with chemical burns:

  • Do not apply any household remedy such as salve or ointment to a chemical burn.
  • Do not remove dead skin or disrupt blisters.

How to Treat Battery Acid in the Eyes

If you get battery acid in your eyes. flush your eyes with cool water for at least 30 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them first.

When you are reasonably assured that the acid is fully rinsed from your eyes, call 911 or have someone rush you to the emergency room. This is true even if your vision seems fine and you feel no pain.

When to Call 911

You need to call 911 immediately if a chemical burn is severe. This includes:

  • Second-degree burns that affect the top and middle layers of skin, causing blistering, exposed tissues, and pain
  • Third-degree burns that affect deeper layers of skin, exposing yellowish fatty tissues
  • Burns that are larger than 3 inches in diameter
  • Burns on delicate skin, such as the face, mouth, and genitals
  • Chemical burns in or around the eyes
  • Chemical burns on children

If in doubt, seek medical care.

For less severe burns, call the Poison Control Hotline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (800) 222-1222. They can give you information over the phone on how to treat a chemical burn.


Other complications can occur after exposure to battery acid. These include:

  • Permanent skin injury: Severe chemical burns can cause scarring, nerve damage, and permanent disfigurement. If not cared for properly, a wound can become contaminated with bacteria and cause a secondary infection.
  • Vision loss: If deeper membranes are involved, the eye can sustain irreversible damage leading to blurring, impaired central or peripheral vision, or vision loss.
  • Respiratory damage: Inhaling sulfuric acid fumes can be especially harmful to the lungs. In severe cases, it can lead to chemical pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring), and bronchiectasis (abnormal widening of the airways).


Battery acid can cause severe burns. If your skin comes into contact with battery acid, it's important to take action right away.

Treatment depends on the type of acid. Alkaline battery acid should be rinsed with clear water. Use warm, soapy water for sulfuric battery acid. Always seek medical care or call poison control for any kind of chemical burn. 

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Akelma H, Karahan AZ. Rare chemical burns: review of the literature. Int Wound J. 2019 Dec;16(6):1330–8. doi:10.1111/iwj.13193

  3. D'Alessandro AD, Sikon JR, Lacy AJ, Smith AT, Shah KS. Vitriolage by sulfuric acid: unique challenges and considerations in patient resuscitation. J Emerg Med. 2020 Oct;59(4):e123-e126. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.06.038

  4. National Capital Poison Center. Suspect a poisoning? Get expert help. 

By Helen Massy
Helen Massy, BSc, is a freelance medical and health writer with over a decade of experience working in the UK National Health Service as a physiotherapist and clinical specialist for respiratory disease.