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Forklift battery cleaning - rust-like residue?


Aug 12, 2018

A while ago I bought an old electric forklift with a working battery, just enough for my needs as I could easily rearrange and move machines in the shop for a few hours without any problems. The problem is that the battery had quite a lot of oxidation on some of the contacts, so I wanted to clean it up. I prepared a baking soda + water + detergent solution to clean it up, but it turned out that there was a lot of oxidation also in between cells and then I noticed that even the drain in the bottom of the battery is covered in white powder. So I kept adding baking soda with water slowly to let it neutralize all of the buildup. After it stopped bubbling I added some more just in case there was some place where the baking soda didn't reach and left it for a while (got busy with some other stuff). When I got back there was no bubbling at all, but the cells tops were covered in brownish residue and the concrete floor underneath the forklift was also stained - brown-red color, just like rust.

I cleaned most of it from the battery, but I the staining on the concrete mostly stayed. Does anyone know what is it and how to best clean it? As it looks like rust I'm guessing that iron oxide has been a byproduct of the neutralization, but all the information I could find about baking soda and sulfuric acid reaction mostly mentions carbon dioxide not iron oxide. I'll try cleaning it with vinegar and maybe more detergent, but any help would be welcomed.

Btw, I can't wait till li-ion batteries get even cheaper, those lead-acid batteries are a mess to work with.