Breaking a Fluorescent Bulb can be dangerous

CFL bulbs contain mercury. If you break one, don’t use a vacuum to clean up.

A vacuum cleaner will spread mercury containing dust throughout the area as well as contaminating the vacuum.

Link: Fluorescent bulb information, Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

What if I accidentally break a fluorescent bulb in my home?

fluorescent bulbs

The most important thing to remember is to never use a vacuum . A standard vacuum will spread mercury containing dust throughout the area as well as potentially contaminating the vacuum. What you should do is:

  • Keep people and pets away from the breakage area so that the mercury in the powder inside the bulb is not accidentally tracked into other areas.
  • Ventilate the area by opening windows.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, safety glasses, old clothing or coveralls, and a dust mask (if you have one) to keep bulb dust and glass from being inhaled.
  • Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top and gasket seal like a canning jar.
  • Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use a disposable broom and dustpan or two stiff pieces of paper to scoop up pieces.
  • Put all material into the glass container. Pat the area with the sticky side of duct, packing or masking tape. Wipe the area with a damp cloth or paper towels to pick up fine particles.
  • Put all waste and materials used to clean up the bulb in the glass container and label it “Universal Waste – broken lamp”.
  • Take the container for recycling as universal waste.

The next time you replace a bulb, consider putting a drop cloth on the floor so that any accidental breakage can be easily cleaned up.

More information

History and facts on CFL breakage (pdf format)