Can Batteries Catch On Fire? Do They Ever Explode? (2023)

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In an electronic world, there’s no doubt that we all have more batteries in our homes than we can probably count. We’ve already examined the risks posed by lithium-ion batteries and car batteries on this site, but we’ve not looked at ordinary household alkaline batteries, yet. With so many of them in our lives, do they represent a fire hazard, and should we be taking more precautions with them?

An ordinary alkaline battery in normal use in your home is unlikely to catch fire spontaneously. However, if a battery is kept in a device for too long, it may leak the contents and this could potentially start a fire. You might also short circuit a loose battery to cause a fire.

There are some safety concerns when it comes to batteries and fire. Here’s what you need to know.

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Also read: Is Lithium Flammable? Battery Explosions

What Are Batteries?

Can Batteries Catch On Fire? Do They Ever Explode? (1)

For the purpose of this article, we are considering alkaline batteries and standard rechargeable batteries of those commonly used in household appliances.

A battery is, of course, a store of electrical power that can be released by triggering an electrochemical reaction within the cell (or cells) inside.

Alkaline batteries rely on the reaction between zinc and magnesium dioxide to drive the flow of electrons and they are “alkaline” because they contain Potassium Hydroxide which is an alkali, in contrast to other batteries which tend to contain acid solutions.

If you have A, AA, C, AAA, N, PP3, etc. batteries in your home, they are going to be alkaline batteries. These batteries account for about 80% of all the batteries manufactured each year around the world and account for over 10 billion sales annually!

They are gradually being phased out in many countries to be replaced by a rechargeable version that looks similar and function identically but which have a cell in which the reaction can be reversed.


The earliest alkaline batteries appeared in 1899 and were invented by Waldemar Jungner, they would be invented independently (again) two years later by Thomas Edison.

The current versions, however, are based around a design by Lewis Urry a Canadian Engineer who was working for Union Carbide when he filed a patent for alkaline batteries which was confirmed in 1960.

One big change in these batteries in the interim years has been a drive to eliminate the metal mercury from their manufacture and to do this, they now require much purer Zinc than they once did.

Can Batteries Cause A Fire?

Technically, yes. Even the smallest voltage batteries such as a AAA battery can, given the right circumstances, start a fire.

However, in normal use or when stored in their original packaging, this is unlikely.

In order to start a fire, these batteries must be short-circuited, that is the negative and positive terminals on the battery touch the same metal object (or a series of metal objects such as coins in a pocket). This starts to draw electric energy through the circuit which as it is not required to drive any electrical item – manifests as heat.

Leave this short circuit in place for long enough? The battery gets so hot that it will set fire to things around it and, in turn, those things will set fire to your battery.

That means if you want to avoid your batteries catching fire – you should store them properly if they are not in a device.

If they come with a plastic cap on the end, keep it on. If they are in original packaging, keep them in that. If you have loose batteries, tape over the contacts on each end until you need them.

Store batteries in an orderly fashion lined up side by side so that contacts don’t touch, never throw them in a container haphazardly.

You can see how his is done here:

(Video) Lithium Ion Batteries: Why They Explode

Also read: The Best Fire Extinguisher for Lithium-Ion Batteries – 2022

What Causes Batteries To Catch Fire?

As we’ve already noted, it’s a short circuit that causes a battery to catch fire.

You can avoid short circuits by storing your batteries properly as outlined above.

What Happens When Batteries Get Hot?

Heat will damage the lifespan of your batteries in the first instance. If they are in use, they will work harder to produce a similar current – and this reduces their longevity.

However, here we mean heat that is in reasonable excess of normal room temperature.

If batteries are allowed to get too hot then worse can happen – they will malfunction completely, they may start to bulge at the seams, the surface might bubble and they could even start sparking, catch fire and explode!

Take a look at this video:

How Hot Can A Battery Get Before It Explodes?

A battery will only explode if it gets hot enough inside the battery to ensure that the contents expand so much that they rip through the battery casing.

This tends to happen at a temperature of around 500 degrees Celsius, 1000 degrees Fahrenheit – sometimes the cell may simply burst into flame if there is a leak in the cell to allow contact between the electrodes and the outside air.

(Video) 4 Experiments with Batteries! We Explores Battery Explosion, Battery Blast & More In This Experiment

Also read: Can Static Electricity Start A Fire?

What Happens When A Battery Explodes?

Some people term a battery “exploding” as the battery leaking within the device that is being used. This can happen when the battery is left in a device for a long period of time rarely drawing current.

It’s not good news for the interior of the device, mind you, because the battery will leak potassium hydroxide onto the circuitry and terminals of the battery compartment and as this is corrosive, it will eat through the metal.

If you find that this has happened, you should clean it off with a cloth but do not touch the solution with your bare hands.

If a battery explodes in the more standard understanding of “explodes” – the chemical vapors inside expand enough to rip the casing to shreds. This is pretty much exactly how a grenade works – and while a battery doesn’t produce as much shrapnel or shrapnel as heavy as that from a grenade, it’s still not a desirable outcome.

Worse, once the shrapnel has done its worst, the potassium hydroxide inside will be sprayed all over the place as this is highly corrosive it can cause burns to you and damage to anything else it lands on.

Also read: How Hot Is Lightning? Hotter Than The Sun?

Can AA Batteries Explode?

Yes. All batteries can explode if they get hot enough, AA batteries are no exception.

Can Batteries Explode In The Cold?

An alkaline battery is not likely to explode in the same way in the cold as it does in the heat. It is possible for an alkaline battery’s contents to expand when frozen (in the same way water freezing expands to form ice) and if this happens it may crack the casing on the battery.

If this happens you should throw the battery out using appropriate local disposal methods to avoid contaminating your garbage with potassium hydroxide.

What Happens If You Puncture a AA Battery?

If a battery is punctured there is a very small chance that it might explode if the contents ignite with the spark created, however, this is unlikely.

(Video) When lithium batteries catch fire: How overcharging can do bad things to Li-ion cells

What is more likely is that the potassium hydroxide inside will leak out of the interior and present a corrosion hazard. Leaking batteries should be disposed of safely and any fluid should be mopped up without touching it.

Are AA Batteries Poisonous?

While not poisonous to the touch, it’s worth noting that your average AA cell contains a load of toxic heavy metals and the interior is full of highly corrosive potassium hydroxide.

That means it would be an incredibly bad idea to eat or swallow a battery and if you were to do so, it would be imperative to seek medical treatment immediately. There is a substantial risk of severe damage to your gastrointestinal tract.

What Happens If A Child Swallows A Battery?

Exactly the same as if adults do, children should not be allowed to chew on batteries as there is a risk that they might leak and cause burns to the mouth, throat, face, etc.

If a child licks a leaking battery that has had white crystals form on it, you must call your local poison center immediately.

And if they swallow one, it requires an immediate trip to the hospital.

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

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Can Batteries Catch On Fire? Do They Ever Explode? ›

A punctured battery rarely explodes, but it can vent super hot fiery gas and spit out shards of hot shavings, which can cause severe burns. Inhaling the smoke and solvent is unhealthy, but rarely fatal.

Will a battery explode if it catches fire? ›

As the heat of the fire increases, a process called thermal runaway can begin. This is where the heat generated inside the battery begins to exceed the amount that is dispersed elsewhere, potentially resulting in an explosion from the battery.

What are the chances of a battery exploding? ›

Lithium-ion batteries have a failure rate that is less than one in a million. The failure rate of a quality Li-ion cell is better than 1 in 10 million.

Which batteries are most likely to explode? ›

Lithium-ion batteries are full of flammable parts. Ultimately, lithium-ion batteries explode because the energy within them is released in an unintended way. The root cause of this is often one of a few reasons.

Can a battery set on fire? ›

Are batteries dangerous? When used properly, no. But batteries can present a fire risk when over-charged, short-circuited, submerged in water or if they are damaged.

Can a battery explode if dead? ›

One report relating to electric vehicles states that, while a 'dead' Li-on battery may no longer power a car, it will still retain around 80% of its charge. This means there is a great potential for fire, explosion or leakage if a battery is not disposed of correctly.

Can batteries explode if thrown? ›

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser. Batteries thrown in household rubbish bins cause about 700 fires every year in dustcarts and waste-processing centres, local authorities say. Lithium-ion batteries can explode if damaged or crushed.

How do you prevent battery explosions? ›

8 Ways To Avoid Fire and Explosion in Lithium-Ion Batteries
  1. Install Sprinkler Protection. ...
  2. Store At the Correct Temperature. ...
  3. Don't Store Fully-Charged Batteries For Long Periods. ...
  4. Charge Lithium-Ion Batteries In a Safe Area. ...
  5. Cover Battery Terminals Before Disposing of Batteries.

How do you know if your battery is exploding? ›

7 warning signs that your smartphone or laptop battery could...
  1. The gadget gets really hot. ...
  2. The device is swelling, or the seams are bursting open. ...
  3. A nasty chemical smell comes emitted from the device. ...
  4. Smoke. ...
  5. Device doesn't charge properly. ...
  6. Liquids leaking from a device. ...
  7. The device has suffered serious damage.
May 2, 2022

What batteries are causing fires? ›

The problem with lithium batteries

All lithium-ion batteries use flammable materials, and incidents such as the one in the Bronx are likely the result of "thermal runaway," a chain reaction which can lead to a fire or catastrophic explosion, according to Khoo.

What is the safest battery in the world? ›

Today, lithium-ion is one of the most successful and safe battery chemistries available.

What is the most harmful battery? ›

Rechargeable batteries should be recycled or disposed of properly.
Types of Rechargeable Batteries and their Dangers
  • Nickel-Cadmium "NiCad" NiCad batteries are the most hazardous because they contain cadmium. ...
  • Nickel-Metal Hydride "NiMH" ...
  • Lithium Ion "Li-Ion"

What is the most common cause of battery explosions? ›

Primary sources of ignition such as static sparks, naked flames, cigarettes and sparks caused by metal objects touching or shorting the battery terminals, loose battery connections and corroded cables can ignite the flammable gasses built up in a battery.

Can you stop a battery fire? ›

Lithium-ion batteries contain small amount of lithium metal and in case of a fire they can be doused with water. Lithium-metal batteries on the other hand require a Class D fire extinguisher.

Can phone chargers cause fires? ›

Most fires caused by electronics being charged are started because the battery overheats when being charged for too long, but the third reason that the Kent fire station gave for not charging phones overnight is that cheap chargers can be the ones to cause fires.

Can an iPhone battery cause a fire? ›

An iPhone battery should only be repaired by a trained technician to avoid battery damage, which could cause overheating, fire, or injury.

What to do if battery explodes? ›

Store the pieces of the exploded battery in a safe place together with any clothing that you were wearing at the time of the injury. If the battery came into contact with any metal, for example loose change in your pocket, store these items as well.

Can you touch a dead battery? ›

That's pretty much bad news all around. Keep in mind that, although you can't be electrocuted by simply touching the terminals of a regular car battery, due to the low voltage, you can receive a nasty shock from other components of a traditional automotive electrical system.

Can a dead battery come back? ›

If your battery is sulfated, which results in low power and difficulty in recharging to full capacity, it can sometimes be recovered using proper pulse charging techniques. Wehmeyer warns, however, that there are an infinite variety of pulse charging techniques used by a wide variety of equipment sold for this purpose.

Can you throw away batteries? ›

We would not recommend putting alkaline batteries in the bin, as they could be harmful to landfill. Most supermarkets and some leisure centres, will have a battery recycling – you can take your batteries here to be recycled for free.

What happens if a AA battery gets wet? ›

Do not expose the battery to water or moisture. Water can corrode or damage the internal battery safety devices and cause the battery to overheat, ignite, rupture or leak.

How do you store batteries safely? ›

Keep the temperature to about 40°F to 60° F and no higher than 80° F. Humidity and other sources of moisture, like a flooded warehouse floor, can lead to corrosion on the batteries, so keep all battery types in a dry environment.

What kills a battery? ›

Electrical devices or lights left running, a defective charging system or alternator, and extreme weather are some common reasons but maybe it's just time to get a new battery.”

What kills your battery fast? ›

Avoid situations where your phone can overheat, especially when your battery is fully charged. Your battery drains much faster when it's hot, even when not in use. This kind of drain can damage your battery. You don't need to teach your phone the battery's capacity by going from full charge to zero, or zero to full.

Is it safe to leave batteries on charge? ›

Avoid leaving batteries or devices unattended while being charged or charging overnight. Once the indicator shows that a device or battery has been fully charged, disconnect it from the charger.

What is the white stuff coming out of my battery? ›

White Crystals and powder on the battery is potassium carbonate. This is electrolyte (potassium hydroxide) which reacted with O2 to form Potassium Carbonate. In this condition the battery is no longer usable. Potassium carbonate is a very strong alkaline and water soluble material.

What is the most flammable battery? ›

However, lithium-ion batteries are extremely sensitive to high temperatures and inherently flammable. These battery packs tend to degrade much faster than they normally would, due to heat. If a lithium-ion battery pack fails, it will burst into flames and can cause widespread damage.

Which batteries do not catch fire? ›

Li-ion batteries, which power devices including smartphones, electric cars, and hoverboards, rarely catch fire.

Which battery is highly flammable? ›

Lithium-ion batteries are energy-dense and contain electrolytes that are highly flammable. There are several situations that can lead to lithium-ion batteries catching fire, including: Overcharging or use of non-compliant charging equipment.

Is there a battery that never dies? ›

Like the name suggests, a diamond battery lasts forever. Its effective life is more than 20,000 years or approximately 28,000 years.

What brand of batteries last the longest? ›

1. Energizer Ultimate Lithium: The longest-lasting AA battery. If you're looking for a battery that can go the distance no matter the drain, look no further than the Energizer Ultimate Lithium.

What is the #1 trusted brand of battery? ›

AAAA Alkaline Battery

Duracell is the #1 trusted brand, so you know it is a battery you can trust. Long-lasting Power, Guaranteed.

What is worse than battery? ›

Given that it implies the use of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault carries more severe penalties than a simple battery offense. In Florida, simple battery is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor while aggravated assault is classified as a third-degree felony.

What wastes the most battery? ›

Here are some of the most common ones:
  • There are too many push notifications and alerts draining the battery.
  • There are too many apps running location services.
  • There are too many apps running in the background.
  • The screen is too bright.
  • The screen is staying on too long before going to sleep.
Jan 19, 2023

Can a dead lithium battery catch fire? ›

They can catch fire if they are damaged and/or shorted. Overcharging can damage them. Prevention of abuse is the best way to avoid fires and leakage. Most issues have been due to large quantities of lithium batteries being damaged or over-heated during shipment.

Do you use water to put out a battery fire? ›

Small lithium batteries contain very little lithium, so they can be doused with water. To put out large lithium-ion battery fires, use a foam extinguisher containing CO2, powder graphite, ABC dry chemical, or sodium carbonate. In battery pack fires, each cell may burn on a different timeline.

How do you store batteries so they don't catch on fire? ›

If batteries must be stored loose, place a piece of electrical tape over the terminals until you are ready to use them. This simple step can save your home and save the lives of those around you by preventing a fire in an unexpected location like a garbage bag or junk drawer.

Why are battery fires hard to put out? ›

That oxygen enables combustion reactions. Now those liquids and gases can burn, which generates more heat and more gases. By the way, this is why EV fires are so hard to put out. Even though batteries are way less energy dense than gasoline, they generate their own oxygen when they burn.

Why you shouldn't leave your phone charging overnight? ›

Batteries decay from the moment you start using your new phone. This means they gradually lose their ability to hold a charge. By charging your phone overnight, you're increasing the amount of time it spends with the charger. As a result, it degrades the capacity much sooner.

Is it OK to leave charger plugged in without phone? ›

Most devices we own consume electricity even when not in use. This is also true of energy-efficient, Energy-Star-rated devices such as your laundry machine or even your fridge. In reality, a phone charger uses energy whenever it is plugged in, regardless of whether it charges your phone or not.

Is it safe to charge phone while sleeping? ›

Don't charge any electrical devices, including phones and tablets, on your bed or under your pillow while you sleep as they could overheat and cause a fire. If possible, avoid charging devices unattended or overnight, and when necessary only charge them on a hard surface such as a desk.

Can I leave my iPhone plugged in all the time? ›

Well, the rule of the thumb is to avoid charging your iPhone overnight. Naturally, lithium-ion batteries are reactive. As such, they can easily overheat especially when left overnight to charge. This can cause them to catch fire, as was the case with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Can AA batteries catch fire? ›

Even batteries with a small voltage like commonly used AA and AAA alkaline batteries can start a fire under the right conditions. If the negative and positive posts of the batteries come in contact with something metal, the heat begins to build.

Is it bad to leave an iPad dead? ›

If you don't plan to use your iPad for a long time (say, a few months), store it with about a 50% charge for best performance. Storing it at 100% isn't ideal, and storing it completely dead is even worse. The best advice is to charge it to 50%, then turn the iPad completely off and store it in a cool area.

What to do if a battery catches fire? ›

What to Do When a Battery Overheats or Catches Fire. If a Li-ion battery overheats, hisses or bulges, immediately move the device away from flammable materials and place it on a non-combustible surface. If at all possible, remove the battery and put it outdoors to burn out.

What happens if a battery falls in the fire? ›

Once alight, lithium-ion battery fires are very hard to extinguish. Common fire suppressants don't work and the fire can burn very fiercely. In some circumstances, the battery can explode. “If you have a problem with one cell, it's going to start spreading,” says Magrabi.

Can a 12V battery cause a fire? ›

12V systems don't need to be enclosed, but they still need to be secured. You can't have exposed wires or terminals carrying 12V flopping around where they might touch the body of the car and cause a short to ground, which then creates an immediate fire hazard. 12V isn't a shock hazard, but it IS a burn hazard.

What causes batteries to start a fire? ›

This takes place due to chemical reactions inside the cell. Self-discharge of cells increases with age, cycling, and elevated temperature. Elevated self-discharge can cause temperatures to rise which if uncontrolled can lead to a Thermal Runaway also known as 'venting with flame'.

Which batteries cause fires? ›

The problem with lithium batteries

All lithium-ion batteries use flammable materials, and incidents such as the one in the Bronx are likely the result of "thermal runaway," a chain reaction which can lead to a fire or catastrophic explosion, according to Khoo.

What happens if you put a battery in water? ›

Do not expose the battery to water or moisture. Water can corrode or damage the internal battery safety devices and cause the battery to overheat, ignite, rupture or leak.

Can a dead phone battery catch fire? ›

There may be enough stored energy to ignite the battery even if it's discharged to below 25%.

How toxic is a burning battery? ›

The vented battery gases, vapour and smoke are highly toxic and flammable and must not be inhaled. Call Triple Zero (000) and wait in a safe location for firefighters to arrive. If anyone has been exposed to spilled electrolyte, flying debris, smoke or vapours, or flames, seek urgent medical assistance.

How many gallons of water does it take to put out a Tesla fire? ›

Tesla Car Battery 'Spontaneously' Catches Fire, Requiring 6K Gallons of Water to Put Out – NBC Bay Area.

What happens if a battery pops? ›

Even if it is a sealed lead-acid battery, punctures almost always lead to acid leaks. These acid leaks can cause acid burns, corrosion, and equipment damage. If the puncture is severe, the lead plates can make contact with each other and create an internal short within the battery.

Can a battery explode if jumped improperly? ›

A damaged battery has the potential to start a fire when placing the jumper cables on. Car batteries contain sulfuric acid that can become vapors, leaking out of vents. These vapors can be highly flammable. Jumper cables are known to cause sparks and can ignite these vapors, causing fires or even possibly an explosion.


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5. An Electric Bus Caught Fire After Battery Explosion in Paris
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