Cleaning up a broken CFL or fluorescent globe

What is the best way to clean up a broken CFL or fluorescent globe?

Some members of the public have expressed concerns about the release of mercury from broken CFLs.

A broken CFL can provide amounts of elemental mercury vapour which could reach a comparable value to that from dental amalgam fillings in adults, especially if not cleaned up. While the levels of exposure are similar, the timeframe for exposure arising from a broken CFL is likely to be much shorter.

  • Open windows and doors to allow the room to ventilate for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken lamp. Do not leave on any air conditioning or heating equipment which could recirculate mercury vapours back into the room.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom on hard surfaces because this can spread the contents of the lamp and contaminate the cleaner. Instead scoop up broken material (e.g. using stiff paper or cardboard), if possible into a glass container which can be sealed with a metal lid.
  • Use disposable rubber gloves rather than bare hands.
  • Use a disposable brush to carefully sweep up the pieces.
  • Use sticky tape and/or a damp cloth to wipe up any remaining glass fragments and/or powders.
  • On carpets or fabrics, carefully remove as much glass and/or powdered material using a scoop and sticky tape; if vacuuming of the surface is needed to remove residual material, ensure that the vacuum bag is discarded or the canister is wiped thoroughly clean.
  • Dispose of cleanup equipment (i.e. gloves, brush, damp paper) and sealed containers containing pieces of the broken lamp in your outside rubbish bin - never in your recycling bin.
  • While not all of the recommended cleanup and disposal equipment described above may be available (particularly a suitably sealed glass container), it is important to emphasise that the transfer of the broken CFL and clean-up materials to an outside rubbish bin (preferably sealed) as soon as possible is the most effective way of reducing potential contamination of the indoor environment.