How to Clean Up a Broken CFL Bulb

Yesterday afternoon, my naughty 16-month-old golden retriever was making the telltale sound of destruction upstairs. It took me a moment to register the evidence I found in his grinning mouth: the bloody stump of a CFL light bulb! And I had nearly stepped barefoot onto the glass shards and powder strewn across the floor. Oh dear. My first thought was to take care of my dog, naturally, and after cleaning the glass from his mouth and face I rushed him to our nearby vet in a panic. Luckily, there were no serious lacerations in his mouth, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that he didn’t swallow anything. Phew for now. He'll eat something else tomorrow.

My relief was followed by the realization that I had no clue how to clean up the mess. Since CFL bulbs contain mercury, it occurred to me that I’d need to use some caution, so I quickly found some tips from the EPA and Energy Star (as well as a great post on Unplggd), which I’ve included below.

By the way, it’s natural to freak out a little when anything containing mercury breaks in your house — I did! — but from what I’ve read, it’s a very miniscule amount and if you follow these fairly easy steps, you and your family — crazy puppies included — should be perfectly safe.

Before cleanup
• Have people and animals leave the room.
• Air things out for 15 minutes by opening a window or door.
• Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.

During cleanup
• Wear gloves, and use stiff cardboard or paper to scoop up the glass shards and visible powder.
• Place cleanup materials in a sealable container like a plastic bag or glass jar with lid.
• Use stick tape to pick up any remaining fragments or powder.
• You can vacuum the carpet, but Energy Star advises not to vacuum the hard floors.
• For hard floors, use damp paper towels and wipe the area clean; dispose of them in the sealed plastic bag.

After cleanup
• Place all debris and cleanup supplies outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. (“Disposed of properly” varies from place to place; a quick online search should yield that info.)
• Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup supplies indoors.
• 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.

Image: via Unplggd

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