Batteries: Can you go a day without their help? They power our smoke detectors, remote controls, laptops, and even our cars! That’s why learning how to store batteries long-term is so useful—it’ll save you some money and keep your devices working well.
Not to mention, batteries can be hazardous when they’re not stored and cared for correctly. Long-term battery storage requires specific considerations to ensure the battery won’t leak, explode, or ruin other batteries. You can also do things to prolong the life of commonly used batteries.
We’ve put together a straightforward guide that discusses how to store batteries long-term as well as how to care for batteries while in use. We’ll explain how to dispose of batteries safely, the best place to put them, and some other factors that might be new to you.
If you’re looking for specific battery care information, feel free to skip ahead using the links below. Although, you might benefit from reading the entire guide. Let’s get started!
- Household batteries
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries
- Vehicle and car batteries
- How to care for batteries
- Frequently asked questions
How to Store Batteries Long-Term
- Take batteries out of their devices before storing them unused. If you’re leaving a device in storage for a few months, battery manufacturers recommend removing the batteries from their devices first. Why? Anytime you leave a battery inside a device—even if you’re not using it—the device is still drawing some power from the battery, and over a long period of time, this could lead to leakage and corrosion. And no one wants that!
- Choose the optimal environment. Store batteries in a dry environment at room temperature or slightly cooler. Avoid storing batteries in extreme temperatures that range from hot to below-freezing.
How hot is too hot? According to battery manufacturer Rayovac: “Heat over 85ºF can shorten battery life and power delivery.” So you might want to avoid storing them in an attic, especially if you live in a warmer climate.
Storing batteries in cooler temperatures might lengthen the life of some batteries, but this isn’t necessary for many household batteries.
It isn’t always easy to control a home storage environment, especially if it’s your attic or garage! That’s why we recommend investing in a climate-controlled storage unit if you can.
To prevent leakage or premature power loss, follow these storage tips for different types of batteries.
- Store one-time-use batteries in their original packaging so they are not in contact with other batteries.
- If the original packaging is missing, line up like batteries in a container with all the positive ends facing in the same direction.
- Do not store batteries with the opposing ends touching one another.
- Avoid storing household batteries with other metal objects, like desk staples or loose change.
- Contact with metal can cause the battery to short-circuit, which could then cause the battery to leak.
- Keep batteries of the same type and age stored together. Avoid mixing different types of batteries with varying levels of power. The older batteries can drain energy from the newer batteries.
- Do not remove the plastic caps from 9V batteries until they are in use.
- Make sure the batteries won’t be punctured or crushed while they are in storage. Keep them inside a container that cannot be smashed or otherwise damaged. This tip is especially important when traveling with batteries.
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are used in many devices, from cell phones to power tools. Store these batteries at 40% capacity to keep them in good condition. Avoid depleting the battery entirely before storage.
- Charge the battery to 100% capacity before use.
- Remove a fully charged battery from a charger as soon as possible. Do not leave your cellphones, laptops, or other devices plugged in indefinitely, as this can shorten the battery’s lifespan.
Vehicle and car batteries
- The best way to preserve a car battery is to use it. When storing a car temporarily, take the car for a spin every few weeks to charge the battery. If you’re storing a car you can’t drive for over a few months, consider removing the battery completely.
- To remove a car battery, turn off the vehicle. Next, disconnect the battery by first removing the black cable and then the red cable.
- Clean the car battery to remove any corrosion, then store the car battery in a dry location that is cool but will not reach freezing temperatures.
- Consider hooking up the car battery to a trickle charger to preserve the life of the battery while it’s in storage.
- Read the battery manual for more specific instructions.
Basic Battery Care
Even when they aren’t in storage, caring for batteries is still important. Batteries that are currently in use are subject to improper handling and can leak, become corroded, or otherwise become defective if you’re not careful.
Keep the following warnings in mind when using or disposing of batteries:
- Keep batteries away from children. Coin-shaped lithium batteries are especially hazardous because they are a choking hazard.
- Keep all batteries away from warm or hot temperatures. For instance, avoid leaving devices like laptops inside your car for an extended period. The heat can cause the battery to explode, leak, or become damaged. Heat exposure can also shorten a battery’s lifespan.
- Dispose of used batteries immediately after they stop working. Keeping depleted batteries inside a device can lead to unwanted damage.
- Remove batteries from any device you’re putting into storage and won’t be using for an extended period of time, including remote controls and kids’ toys.
- Remove all batteries once a device stops working. Avoid mixing and matching batteries with different manufacture dates inside a device.
- Never try to recharge a battery unless it is labeled ‘rechargeable.’ Also, only recharge batteries on their designated chargers. There are different types of rechargeable batteries. These batteries are not compatible with all chargers, even if they fit.
- When traveling with batteries, keep spares in your carry-on. If there is an issue with the battery, crew members can address it much faster in the cabin than if you stash the battery in checked luggage.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Store Batteries Long-Term
How long do batteries last in storage?
- How long you can store batteries varies depending on battery type, who makes them, and when they were made. The lifespan of unused household batteries in their original packaging ranges anywhere from 5 to 20 years in storage. Be sure to check the manufacturer details for more specifics.
- Several factors impact the shelf life of a car battery. On average, a car battery will last about four years under normal conditions. Some car batteries may last several years beyond that.
What is the best thing to store batteries in?
Battery manufacturers recommend storing batteries in their original packaging. Hopefully, you didn’t throw the packaging away as soon as you got the batteries! But don’t worry, even if you did, the next best thing to store batteries in is a container where you can prevent the batteries from touching each other. Loose batteries rolling around in a junk drawer could potentially touch terminals or other metal objects, which might cause them to short circuit or leak.
And one thing’s for sure: As mentioned earlier, definitely don’t store batteries inside of electronic devices. Take them out beforehand.
Can I store batteries in a Ziploc bag?
This isn’t a good idea because you don’t want batteries touching each other in storage. If it’s just one battery in the bag, or if you find a way to store multiple batteries tightly enough that they don’t roll around and touch terminals, that should be fine.
Can I store batteries in a plastic container?
Yes, storing batteries in a plastic container is fine, as long as they can’t move around and the terminals can’t accidentally touch each other. Consider investing in a plastic container designed specifically for storing batteries.
How do you properly dispose of batteries?
- Contact your local municipality for instructions on how to dispose of household batteries. You can usually dispose of single-use batteries in the trash, but most areas will encourage you to recycle them. In some areas of California, recycling may be a requirement.
- If a battery explodes, do not touch the battery or acid with bare hands. Instead, put on a pair of latex gloves and carefully remove the battery from the device. Make sure not to touch any skin in the process. Next, dispose of the battery according to local guidelines. Again, some counties allow you to dispose of alkaline batteries in the trash, while others require you to recycle them at a local recycling center.
- Larger batteries like car batteries and lithium-ion batteries should be recycled and never thrown away in the trash. For car batteries, contact a local mechanic, parts store, or retailer to dispose of them properly. Contact your local landfill for a battery recycling drop-off point for lithium-ion batteries.
Can you put batteries in the fridge?
- No, you should not put batteries in the fridge! If you’ve Googled how to store batteries long-term, you’ve probably seen the myth that putting batteries in the refrigerator will help them last longer, but that isn’t true. While the cooler temperature might lengthen the battery life, the moisture inside the refrigerator could damage the battery in other ways. Most battery manufacturers do not recommend storing batteries in the fridge.
In fact, Duracell, one of the leading battery brands in the U.S., even states this on its website: “DON’T – Place your batteries in a refrigerator. This will not ‘recharge’ your batteries, increase storage life, or increase your batteries’ power.”
If your goal is to extend the life of a battery while it’s in use, then no, putting the battery in the fridge so it will be cold will not make the battery last longer while it’s powering an electronic device. There’s a fun episode of MythBusters that tests this out in real life. They put remote-controlled toy car batteries inside a freezer, at room temperature, and underneath a man’s armpit (to warm the batteries up) to see at which temperature a battery lasts the longest while in use. The result? The battery that lasted the longest while powering the toy car was the one at room temperature!
Store Batteries Wisely: Your Devices and Wallet Will Thank You
Batteries are expensive, and we need them to power so many devices we use daily. For peace of mind (and wallet!), you’ll want to keep those batteries in tip-top shape. We hope these battery storage tips help you extend the life of all your batteries.
Update: This post was originally published on January 24th, 2018, by Lauren Thomann and was revised on April 19th, 2023, with further information from Amy Rigby.