Compact Fluorescent Bulb Clean Up Procedure
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Compact Fluorescent Bulb Clean Up Procedure

by TimJones on April 16, 2010


While I poke a little fun at the procedure in our video, I followed the EPAs instructions for cleaning up a compact fluorescent lightbulb (cfl) break on a hard surface.  DISCLAIMER: I used an incandescent bulb in the video, because I frankly did not want to break a CFL inside a home, if I could avoid it.  This has no effect on the procedure and we still followed the EPA instructions for cleaning up a CFL, not an incandescent bulb.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs  contain a small amount of mercury; a deadly neurotoxin.  Even though the amount of mercury in a CFL is very small (4-5 milligrams), you still need to take precautions and follow this procedure for clean up and disposal of compact fluorescent bulbs in your home.

Here’s the full clean-up procedure from the EPA (Italicized text are my own comments):

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb? Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

1. Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

  • Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. (Some groups recommend as much as an hour)
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:

  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:

  • 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.

5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials

  • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area.  Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

  • The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
  • Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

I’d love to have your feedback on compact fluorescent bulbs, their dangers, and their benefits.  Please, leave me a comment, below.

Related posts:

  1. The Truth About CFLs: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Kanata March 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

You've got to be joking! I'm going to swap an incandescent for something that is going to contaminate my home? I don't think so. And heres my take on CFL's. Bought 9 at 8 times the cost of incandescents, 3 failed within 3 months. One 8watt CFL was measured at 85watts! Two ran so hot they scorched the holder. They don't fit the table lamps, they cannot be used with the dimmer switches. Some of my incandescents were bought with the house 29 years ago, and still work. With the pollution danger and expense, there is NO WAY these things can be greener than a simple incandescent. I will never have a CFL in the house. Remember, if something costs more to manufacture, use and dispose of, you can guarantee it's carbon footprint is larger.

Ajit Nirmal March 31, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I completely agree with the above statement of Andy Kanata that,
If something costs more to manufacture, use and dispose of, you can guarantee it’s carbon footprint is larger.

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