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.
Corroded Electrical Wires FAQ
What can I use to clean corroded wires?
Corroded wires can be effectively cleaned with a mixture of distilled water, vinegar, and baking soda. Mix one cup of distilled water with one tablespoon of vinegar and one tablespoon of baking soda.
Stir the mixture well and soak the head of a cotton swab in the solution to carefully clean corroded wires.
Can white vinegar clean corrosion?
Vinegar is highly effective at removing corrosion from various types of metals, including steel. The vinegar will remove dirt, grime, and even rust from metal wires.
Is hydrogen peroxide corrosive to electronics?
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical formula that reacts with other materials and can cause corrosion. Electrical wires are made with many different types of metals, some of which can be corrosive with hydrogen peroxide.
Unless you know the exact metallic composition of your wires and you know they won't react poorly with hydrogen peroxide, you probably shouldn't use it to clean wires.
Is bleach bad for electronics?
Bleach is a great disinfectant and cleaner for many household items, but it can be too harsh for some electronics. Screens and other parts of electric devices can be damaged by bleach.
How do you remove green corrosion from electrical terminals?
Mildly acidic cleaners, such as vinegar, work very well to clean electronic wires. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can remove corrosion when vinegar isn't enough.