Efficiency Vermont

CFL Corral


What to do if you break a CFL?

DO NOT VACUUM OR SWEEP - to clean up a broken lamp, this may spread any mercury vapor that is present to other rooms. Keep all people and pets away from the breakage area.

Is it harmful to be in the room where a CFL has broken?
It is best to avoid exposure to mercury. If a CFL breaks, follow the instructions below. If you have any health related questions about bulb breakage in your home, call the Vermont Department of Health at (802) 240-5076 (24 hour pager-return call within 15 minutes) .

What to Do if Your Bulb Breaks:

  • By following the directions below, you can safely clean up a broken CFL. It is not necessary to hire a professional to clean up the bulb.
  • Keep people and pets away from breakage area so that mercury is not tracked into other areas of your home.
  • Assemble the following supplies before cleaning up:
    Disposable gloves, tweezers, masking or duct tape, cardboard and a puncture resistant container or sealable plastic bag.

For Breakage on a Hard Surface:

  1. Ventilate the room by closing all interior doors and vents, opening windows and any exterior doors in the room and leaving the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Remove all materials you can and don't use a vacuum cleaner.
    a. wear disposable gloves, if available.
    b. carefully scoop up the glass fragments and powder with a stiff paper or cardboard (such as playing cards or index cards).
    c. pick up any remaining small pieces of glass and powder using sticky tape (such as masking or duct tape).
    d. wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.

  3. Place all cleanup materials (cardboard, gloves, tape, etc.) in a plastic bag (and double bag) and seal it, or preferably, place into a glass or rigid container with a lid. Store the bag or container outside of the house in an area inaccessible to children.
  4. Wash your hands.
  5. Contact your local solid waste district, alliance, or municipality for proper disposal; or call 1-800-974-9559 (dial 1) or (802) 241-3888 (for a list of districts see mercvt.org "proper disposal"). You can also use our disposal finder.
  6. Leave windows in the affected room open as long as practical (weather permitting).

For Breakage on a Carpet:

  1. Complete steps 1 through 6 above.
  2. If rug is removable, take it outside, shake, and air out as long as practical.
  3. (After cleanup and the room has been ventilated) The first time you vacuum the area where the CFL was broken, shut the door to the room or close off the area from as much of the rest of the house as possible and ventilate the room when vacuuming. Remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area, wipe vacuum with wet wipe and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, including cleaning materials, into a plastic bag and double bag and store the bag outside the house in an area inaccessible to children. Contact your local solid waste district, alliance or municipality as instructed in #5 above.
  4. After vacuuming, keep window open, door closed and children/pets out of room.
  5. Consider removal of carpeting section where the breakage has occurred as a precaution when there are infants, small children and pregnant women present. For questions, call the Vermont Department of Health at (802) 240-5076 (24 hour pager-return call within 15 minutes).

Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials:

  • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
  • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

When You Are Ready to Dispose:
If you need to dispose of your bulbs, or any other household item containing mercury, please visit our disposal locator or www.mercvt.org or refer to the Solid Waste Districts and Alliances listed below. Vermont law states that all mercury labeled products must be disposed of with hazardous waste rather than included in your regular trash.

Download a Mercury Information Sheet (PDF)


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