How to Clean Corroded Electrical Wires

A man works on electrical wires.
  • 1 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 45
What You'll Need
Rubber gloves
Protective glasses
Wire brush
Baking soda
Current tester
Wire connectors

When electrical wires are left alone too long in the elements, the metal in the wires can corrode. Electrical wires are usually made from copper and, as such, prone to oxidation. If connected to a battery, the subsequent corrosion can take the form of acid leakage. The electrical wires will appear to have a white or greenish powder coating on them, and they will lose their conductive properties. This can be very bad if something that is putting out a lot of electricity now has no place for it to go. Read on to learn how to clean corroded electrical wires.

Step 1 - Be Safe

When dealing with electrical wires, you must be safe. Turn off the circuit breaker at the main panel for the power line feeding electricity for the area where you are going to be working. Use the current tester to make sure there is no power coming through. Wear rubber gloves and safety glasses while you work as the corrosive residue can mildly burn your skin or eyes.

Step 2 - Access the Electrical Wires

Use your screwdriver to remove the faceplate over the electrical outlet you are working or remove the cover to the electrical box. If you are working on an electrical box you will need to remove the plastic covering to gain access to the electrical wires. Locate the screws and remove them all then remove the covering. You will be able to determine if the electrical wires are corroded by their discoloration. Detach the wires from the contact points and work one at a time so that you do not connect the wires incorrectly when you are finished.

Step 3 - Cleaning the Electrical Wires

Use the wire brush over the electrical wires. Use as much force as you need because you will not damage the electrical wires. The point of the wire brush is to remove any corrosive material that is on the electrical wire. You should also use the wire brush on the contact point because the corrosive material could spread much faster. Mix several tablespoons of baking soda into a cup of warm water and stir until the baking soda has been dissolved. Dip the toothbrush in the mixture and then scrub the electrical wire and the wire connected with it. The mixture will begin to fizz on the corroded metal so do not be alarmed. Once the fizzing has stopped, the wire and connector are mostly free of corrosion. You may repeat scrubbing if you like until the wire and connector do not produce fizzing. Once you are satisfied with the results, the wires can be reattached to their terminals and using new connectors to reconnect wires. The electrical box can then be closed back up.