I have recently bought a battery powered LED lamp for use on a camping trip.

When I return I would like to have it ready for use at home when the power goes out.

I am concerned that as it will be unused for long periods of time the batteries may leak and ruin the lamp.

How can I store batteries in/with an inactive device for an extended period without them leaking?

An ideal solution will allow for a simple and safe procedure to activate the lamp, it will need to be performed in the dark.

Photo Credit: GigerPunk

Photo Credit: GigerPunk

I have considered storing them loose on the shelf adjacent to the lamp but am concerned that they may:

  1. become separated or misplaced,

  2. short out (against each other or other tools on the same shelf)

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    Related: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/27147/… Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 15:31
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    My personal experience has led me to never buy Duracell brand batteries again. Once upon a time, they made an excellent battery. But nowadays, almost every leaking battery I see is a Duracell battery. Other brands of batteries, stored or used in identical conditions, are not leaking. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 5:23
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket I don’t know what to buy now, since I’ve had Energizers leak recently. The same Energizers that they advertise as having a “no leak guarantee”. That guarantee only gets you a coupon towards the purchase of more Energizer batteries. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 6:41
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    @pacoverflow You gotta love meaningless "guarantees". I switched from Duracell one-time use batteries to Eneloop rechargeable batteries for almost all of my electronics. It's been several years, and not a single leaking or dead Eneloop battery so far. :) Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 7:48
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket Oh I should try that then. I have a bunch of Eneloops lying around. I wonder what cases there are where an Eneloop would not be an acceptable substitute for alkaline. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 8:54

5 Answers 5


Batteries have greater leak risk the more they are discharged. You might do the following:

  • Keep the item in a cool place.

  • If the item has been used much, replace the batteries before storing even if they have charge remaining.

  • Inspect the item at least yearly.

  • Use reputable batteries since cheap batteries have greater long term leak risk.

  • Do not store an item long term with recharged batteries.

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    Note that due to the potassium hydroxide in it, preventing to leak is impossible, you can just lower the risk. Especially the point about cheap batteries is important imho since the better ones have much better sealing that can hold for decades. I would also add to the list to never use batteries that might be physically damaged (e.g. been dropped, have a dent etc.).
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 13:47
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    Would inverting one or more of the batteries achieve the same effect as removing them all? Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 15:33
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    As to cheapness - I stopped buying Duracells years ago thanks to their apparent propensity to leak and destroy things.
    – Ed Randall
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 11:39
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    @EdRandall I have had the same problems with Duracell batteries leaking. I no longer purchase that brand either. I have had expensive electronics damaged by their leaking batteries. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 5:24
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    @EdRandall Energizer has the same problem even though they have a “no leaks guarantee”. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 6:33

Leakage from batteries, if they are not drastically defective or damaged, results from the normal electrochemical reactions inside them consuming the metal casing and opening a hole. Therefore, the first line of defense — how to prevent nearly all leakage — is to remove and discard discharged batteries. Since all batteries have some amount of “self-discharge”, this means you must change them periodically, but as long as they still have sufficient voltage to operate the device, you're probably safe.

If the device has a “soft” power switch, one which does not actually break the connection through the batteries but signals an electronic circuit to shut down, then for long term storage you should remove the batteries to avoid the extra drain of the controller waiting for the button to be pushed to turn on. Ways to tell:

  • If the power switch has two mechanically different positions (pushed in and popped out, sliding/rocking, or just a distinct feel and sound when turned on or off), then it's a “hard” power switch.

  • If the device has control features like an auto-off timer, that don't require you to turn the switch off and on to reset, then it's likely a “soft” switch.

  • If the device properly uses the IEC standard power symbols on its switch, then the symbols with an unbroken circle ( ) indicate a “hard” switch where the broken circle () is “soft”. (However, the latter symbol is so iconic these days that it has been misused on switches that are actually hard.)

If the device has a soft power switch, you can break the circuit inside the battery compartment. The simplest way to do this is to remove one cell (or all of them, but one will do). A fancier trick is to insert something thin and non-conductive, such as a thin piece of plastic sheet, between the end of one cell and the battery compartment's contact, then pull it out before use. (I wouldn't recommend paper, because I've done that and later found rust on the contacts — water absorption? acid paper? Don't know.) Suitably thin plastic sheets can be cut out of plastic retail packages or those little collar-stiffeners in dress shirts.

The battery chemistry affects the probability of leakage. I haven't found any reliable comprehensive sources on this matter, but here is the information I have managed to accumulate — if someone could offer some references I'd love to see them.

  • Common alkaline batteries have the highest risk of leakage.

  • Zinc chloride (often called “super heavy duty”) batteries are somewhat less prone to leakage and are cheap but have inferior performance (less lifetime when in use).

  • Lithium-iron batteries have superior performance and long shelf life (low self-discharge), but are generally much more expensive. Lithium-iron batteries are generally highly recommended for infrequent use like you're looking for. (Lithium-iron cells in AA and AAA shapes sold in stores will likely be just called “lithium”, but note that there are many other types of lithium cells which are not 1.5 volts and different in other ways.)

  • Rechargeable cells, such as NiMH (nickel metal hydride), are also less likely to leak because their chemical reactions are designed to be reversible (and chewing up the canister wouldn't be very reversible). For this application you would use “low self-discharge” (aka “precharged”) NiMH cells, and still want to recharge them occasionally. (By the way, there is no need to periodically discharge rechargeables; “the memory effect” is approximately a myth.)

(If I were to use my first-hand experience only, I'd say “Alkaline batteries leak. Nothing else does.”)

All of the above said, the safest thing you can do is keep the batteries outside of the device. This prevents discharging of all sorts other than self-discharge, and allows you to keep the device and discard the batteries if they do leak. On the other hand, you have to insert the batteries with the correct polarity before use.

If you need to insert AA/AAA/C/D-style batteries blind, here are some cues for the proper direction you can find by touch:

  • The positive end of the battery holder will have some kind of “shoulders” sticking out past the contact that are designed to prevent the negative end of a backwards cell (which has no bump in the center) from making contact.

  • Usually, there is one contact which is sprung, and that contact is the negative end, whereas the positive end is rigid. This is not 100% reliable.

I wouldn't worry about short circuits — it's hard for loose objects to make a complete circuit (as long as the insulating plastic shell around the cell is intact) in AA/AAA/C/D type batteries, unless you're doing something like keeping them in a box of metal parts. You can be even safer by keeping them in a bag (also handy for less mess in the event of a leak) or wrapped up in a bundle with a rubber band or cable tie (face them all the same direction).


I try very hard not to store batteries in a device that I am not planning to use within a week or so. When I put a device away, I put its batteries in a small Ziploc bag (e.g. a half-sized "snack" bag) and attach that bag with a piece of tape, a zip-tie, or a rubber band to the electronic device. That way, if the batteries leak, the damage is contained and doesn't damage my device. Also, they seem less likely to leak when they are side-by-side in a plastic bag and none of the battery contacts are touching metal.


If you are an old fan like me you will know that long time ago batteries were placed in protective (plastic) boxes inside the devices. [I have "Grundig" radio constructed this way, it had plastic box for its (6x SizeD batteries). They had leaked MANY times but that box always kept the corrosive leak inside it and it was easy to disconnect, take out and wash/neutralize the battery spills; then reassemble back. There are battery boxes sold (like from RadioShack ago), so you can buy one of these suitable for your battery size and accommodate!

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    Most devices these days have a battery compartment that's too small to accommodate a box. A box would be a good solution for storing the batteries next to the device though.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 8:29

My experience is: by spending more money on batteries.

The cheapest batteries of them all, zinc-carbon non-alkaline cells, always will leak. The zinc casing will be consumed and it's a fact of life that a fully consumed battery WILL leak. Also so-called "heavy duty" batteries belong to this category.

Slightly better batteries, alkaline cells, leak only because of a failed seal. By buying name brand batteries like Varta or Duracell, you can usually get a 10 year shelf life. It's rare for a name brand battery to leak before the shelf life ends, but since seals aren't perfect they may occasionally leak at a very old age. Even a fully consumed alkaline battery (that is not past its shelf life) doesn't leak because they don't have consumable zinc in the casing.

However, the best batteries of them all, rechargeable low-self-discharge NiMH cells, don't leak, at least if you only buy name brand batteries. Their voltage, 1.2 volts, is fully compatible with any device using primary batteries (that have a discharge from 1.5 volts to 1.0 volts). The only drawback is that the voltage characteristics of NiMH are relatively flat so any battery life meter will show them half-full for 99% of the lifetime and then the battery life meter will suddenly indicate it's completely flat and surprisingly the battery dies very fast. Also in devices using lots of power like brightest flashlights and camera flashes NiMH has far better runtime than alkaline. Only in very low-drain devices like emergency radios alkaline batteries can have longer runtime.

There are cheaper and better low-self-discharge NiMH cells. The best of them all are Eneloops (made in Japan, originally by Sanyo, now by Panasonic).

My approach is that I always use Eneloops during "good times" (whenever grid electricity is available). However, preparing for "bad times" (large-scale grid outages due to for example geomagmetic storms similar to Carrington Event of 1859), you probably want to have a large stash of single-use primary batteries for emergency lights and radios, or maybe if you live in an area where solar power is available during winter too you may devise a solution using solar panels that can charge the Eneloops. If you decide to stash primary cells, store the batteries in a container where leaks won't be an issue, buy only batteries having at least 10-year shelf life and never store them in any electrical device. Use them only whenever a geomagnetic storm or a similar event causing grid outages happens.

I have experienced cheap no-name NiMH cells leaking. I have never seen an "unprovoked" Eneloop leak even though I have ones bought in 2008 or 2009 that are still working fine and have over 90% of their useful capacity left.

I have seen a "provoked" Eneloop leak -- in this case, the leak was provoked by a cheap zinc-carbon or alkaline cell leaking and the Eneloop being stored in the same container so the corrosive fluids touched the Eneloop battery. I suspect this "provoked" Eneloop would have been fine if it was stored away from leaking cells.

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