How to clean up a broken CFL as instructed by the EPA

CFL bulb

The CFL bulb, if broken, can be hazardous to your health

Since there is a safety concern with these bulbs, we wanted to get this information out word for word to what the EPA recommends as a proper cleanup of a broken bulb. It is our opinion that children’s bedrooms are very important to properly clean if a CFL bulb is broken as well as other areas where children play. LED lights while more expensive, cost less to operate over time and are a much safer option for your home.

The following information is on the proper cleanup of a broken CFL light bulb from the EPA website.

Before Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb: 
    • stiff paper or cardboard;
    • sticky tape;
    • damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
    • a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

During Cleanup

  • DO NOT VACUUM.  Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken.  Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After Cleanup

  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.  Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

Why is it important to clean up a broken CFL properly?

CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described on this page.
What if I can’t follow all the recommended steps? or I cleaned up a CFL but didn’t do it properly?

Don’t be alarmed; these steps are only precautions that reflect best practices for cleaning up a broken CFL. Keep in mind that CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury — less than 1/100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer.

However, if you are concerned about your health after cleaning up a broken CFL, consult your local poison control center.  You can reach your local poison control center anywhere in the U.S. by calling 1-800-222-1222. You can call your poison control center any time you have questions or in an emergency.  You can also consult your physician about potential health effects from mercury exposures.


How to clean up a broken CFL as instructed by the EPA — 1 Comment

  1. Hmmm… Now I’m even more afraid of breaking one of those CFLs. Excellent writeup on how to take care of them if I do happen to drop one.

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