How to Clean Up a Broken CFL Bulb

Each compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) contains a very small amount of mercury in either powder or pellet form. The greatest risk to you if a bulb breaks is getting cut by glass shards. The amount of mercury in a light bulb is extremely small however precautions must still be taken.

CFL spill cleanup kits will be available for the residence halls in the duty offices in each residence hall. The clean up kit will be a bucket containing safety glasses, tape, wipes, ziplock bags, small broom and dust pan, and nitrile gloves. Use the safety glasses and gloves at all times while cleaning up the broken CFL Bulb.


Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

  • Have people 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.
  • If a there is no window in the room or the window cannot be opened, leave for 30 minutes to air out the room.

Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag and put inside of a cardboard box.
  • Use sticky tape to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with wipes. Place the wipes in the plastic bag with the glass pieces.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Carpeting or Rug

  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them a sealed plastic bag and put inside of a cardboard box.
  • 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:  
    • During normal working hours, contact Environmental Health & Safety staff to vacuum up the visible material.  (Contact Information is Below)
    • After normal working hours, contact emergency maintenance to vacuum up the visible material.  Emergency Maintenance can be reached by calling the W&M Police at 221-4596. A mercury vacuum is located in the Bulb Crusher room for your use if needed.  Please be sure to return it when finished.

Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials

  • 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 clothing that you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into director contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into director contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with wipes. Place the wipes in a plastic bag for disposal.
Disposal of Clean-up Materials
  • Wash your hands after disposing plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Keep the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.
  • Contact Environmental Health & Safety to dispose of the clean-up material.
CFL Breakage Off-Campus
  • In the event of breaking a CFL bulb when you are off-campus, follow EPA Guidelines for the proper clean-up procedures.
These spill clean-up procedures are only good for single broken bulb clean-ups. For large amounts of broken bulbs, contact Environmental Health & Safety immediately, and they will respond to clean the area appropriately.

Environmental Health & Safety Contact Information
Primary Contact Environmental Health and Safety Specialist Email: [[pdshank]]
Office: 221-7629
Cell: 345-9856
Secondary Contact Senior Safety Engineer Email: [[sasin2]]
Office: 221-2288
Cell: 345-9856
Secondary Contract Director Email: [[slprio]]
Office: 221-2146
Cell: 345-9634