Rechargeable and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries store a large amount of energy and post a threat if not treated properly. If not properly stored, charged or disposed, they can overheat, catch fire or even explode. When a Li-ion battery catches fire, the highly reactive components result in a hotter flame, which poses a greater danger of starting other nearby items on fire.
Rechargeable and lithium-ion batteries are commonly found in:
- Cordless power tools
- Cordless vacuums
- Cell phones
- Video game controllers
- Electric bicycles
- Electric scooters
- Two-way radios
Lithium-ion safety tips
Injuries from Li-ion batteries are preventable. Keep in mind these safety tips when handling and using a Li-ion battery:
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when charging a battery.
- Do not charge a device under a pillow, on a bed, or on a couch.
- Always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the device.
- Only use the battery that is designed for the device.
- Store batteries at room temperature and in dry areas with adequate ventilation.
- Remove batteries from their charger when fully charged.
- Purchase and use devices that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory.
- Inspect for damaged batteries before use. If defects are found, do not use and place them away from flammable materials.
- Immediately remove a device if a battery feels hot or shows damage.
Li-ion batteries should be stored at room temperature and away from direct sunlight or water sources. Store batteries in dry areas with adequate ventilation and away from hazards such as explosives, combustibles, or other highly flammable materials. Storage areas should not be subject to elevated temperatures, sources of open flame or spark-generating equipment.
How to dispose of batteries
Battery terminals that touch metal surfaces or other batteries can spark, causing a fire or explosion. For safe transportation, place the battery in a clear plastic bag. If no bags are available, tape the positive (+) terminal with a non-conductive tape such as clear packing tape, electrical tape, or duct tape (do not use masking tape, painter’s tape or Scotch® tape).
Placing rechargeable or Li-ion batteries in the garbage or a recycle bin can pose an extreme fire hazard risk. Please dispose of batteries properly by dropping them off at a City of Saskatoon Household Hazardous Waste Day or at a designated organization that recycles household batteries. For more information, visit saskatoon.ca/wastewizard.
What to do if 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 outdoors or on a non-combustible surface. If safe to do so, remove the battery. Simply disconnecting the battery from charge may not stop its destructive path.
Small lithium-ion battery fire
Small Li-ion battery fires can be put out using water since they contain only a very small amount of lithium metal.
Note: Do NOT use water on lithium batteries (single-use or non-rechargeable). Lithium reacts explosively with water to form hydrogen.
Large lithium-ion battery fire
If you experience a larger Li-ion battery fire, call 9-1-1. Li-ion battery fires are considered a Class B flammable liquid fire and are best handled with a type ABC or BC fire extinguisher. These fire extinguishers interrupt the chemical reaction in the Li-ion battery, eventually stopping the fire. If the fire can’t be extinguished, the fire will need to burn out in a controlled way. Douse the surrounding area with water to prevent the fire from spreading.