Cleaning Up a Broken CFL
What to Do if a CFL Breaks
Other Types of Light Bulbs
that Contain Mercury
Follow the recommendations on this page if you’ve broken another type of mercury-containing light bulb, such as:
- Linear, U-tube and circline fluorescent tubes
- Bug zappers
- Tanning bulbs
- Black lights
- Germicidal bulbs
- High output bulbs, and
- Cold-cathode fluorescent bulbs.
High intensity discharge bulbs:
- Metal halide
- Ceramic metal halide
- High pressure sodium, and mercury vapor.
Mercury short-arc bulbs; and
- Main CFL page
- Why is it important to take these steps? Learn more about CFLs and mercury.
- Find out how to recycle and dispose of a CFL after it burns out
- Download and print a color brochure on how to safely clean up and recycle compact fluorescent bulbs (2 pp, 869 K) | en español (2 pp, 876 K)
This document contains information designed to be useful to the general public. This document:
- does not impose legally binding requirements, nor does it confer legal rights, impose legal obligations, or implement any statutory or regulatory provisions;
- does not change or substitute for any statutory or regulatory provisions;
- presents technical information based on EPA’s current understanding of the potential hazards posed by breakage of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps (light bulbs) in a typical household setting;
- is a living document and may be revised periodically without public notice.
EPA welcomes comments on this document at any time and will consider those comments in any future revisions of this document.
On this page:
- Cleanup instructions
- Why is it important to clean up a broken CFL properly?
- What if I can’t follow all the recommended steps? or I cleaned up a CFL but didn’t do it properly?
Download and print instructions (PDF) (4 pp, 96 K)
- 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.
- 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. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag. See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
- Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
- 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.
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.
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.