What if I accidentally break a CFL in my home?
CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when handling a bulb, and always screw and unscrew the bulb by its base (not the glass). Never forcefully twist a CFL into a light socket. In the event of breaking a CFL, you can clean it up through the following procedures:

Note: Intact used bulbs can be recycled at most Home Depot and Ace Hardware locations. Broken CFL’s are not accepted and must be disposed of at a hazardous household waste facility.

* Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the breakage. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust throughout the area and could potentially contaminate the vacuum.

* Keep people and pets away from the breakage area until the cleanup is complete.

* Ventilate the area by opening windows, and leave the area for 15 minutes before returning to begin the cleanup. Mercury vapor levels will be lower by then.

* For maximum protection and if you have them, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the sharp glass.

* Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top lid and seal like a canning jar. A glass jar with a good seal works best to contain any mercury vapors inside. Other jars that can be made of glass and also work are pickle, peanut butter and applesauce jars. Not ideal but also a good choice for containing breakage is a heavy duty No. 2 plastic container with either a screw lid or push-on lid such as a joint compound bucket or certain kitty litter-type containers.

* Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use two stiff pieces of paper such as index cards or playing cards to scoop up pieces.

* Pat the area with the sticky side of duct tape, packing tape or masking tape to pick up fine particles. Wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel to pick up even finer particles.

* Put all waste and materials into the glass container, including all material used in the cleanup that may have been contaminated with mercury. Label the container as “broken lamp.”

* Remove the container with the breakage and cleanup materials from your home. This is particularly important if you do not have a glass container.

* Continue ventilating the room for several hours.

* Wash your hands and face.

* Take the glass container with to a facility that accepts household hazardous waste (Closest: Naperville Fire Station No. 4, 1971 Brookdale Road. Open every Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. except holidays) If there is no permanent facility near your home, keep the glass container in a safe place until the next one day household hazardous waste collection occurs in your area. Do not take a broken CFL to a retail collection facility.

* When a break happens on carpeting, homeowners may consider removing throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred as a precaution, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women.

* Finally, if the carpet is not removed, open the window to the room during the next several times you vacuum the carpet to provide good ventilation.

Show All Answers

1. What if I accidentally break a CFL in my home?
2. Where can I recycle old or unwanted fire extinguishers?
3. Where can I recycle medical sharp needles?
4. Where can I take my household batteries (AA, AAA, B, C, D, 9-volt)?