It’s important that you know how to clean up broken CFL bulbs properly. CFLs, as well as standard fluorescent, high-intensity discharge, mercury short-arc, and neon bulbs, contain small amounts of mercury, which may be released as a vapor when the bulb breaks. Mercury can be harmful to people, animals, and the environment, so proper handling is essential.
Read on to learn how to dispose of broken CFL light bulbs safely after they break so you can reduce the risk of being exposed to mercury.
1. Prepare the Room
After a CFL breaks, have any people and pets in that room leave. If possible, open a window or door to the outdoors, and allow the room to air out for 5-10 minutes. If there’s an active central air conditioning or heating system, turn it off.
2. Gather Cleaning Materials
Next, you need to gather the following cleaning materials:
- Stiff cardboard or paper
- A sealable plastic bag or glass jar
- Wet wipes or damp paper towels
- Duct tape or a similar type of sticky tape
3. Collect Broken Glass and Powder
Now that you have the materials ready, you need to understand how to dispose of broken CFL light bulbs without accidentally spreading mercury powder or vapor. First, don’t vacuum unless you have followed all of the cleaning procedures and broken glass still remains. Vacuuming can spread the powder or vapor.
It’s always a good idea to wear a face mask or handkerchief around your face to prevent breathing potentially toxic air, even if you already know how to clean up broken CFL bulbs without it. Use your stiff cardboard or paper to scoop up broken pieces and any residual powder. Use the duct tape to pick up any small fragments that can’t be scooped.
4. Check Local Regulations
Some areas have specific disposal requirements for broken fluorescents. Check your local laws to see if you need to bring the pieces to a local recycling center.
5. Dispose of All Materials
Now that you know how to how to clean up broken CFL bulbs, you need to learn how to dispose of broken CFL light bulbs safely. First, place all of the pieces and cleanup materials into the bag, jar, or other container, and seal it tightly. If you don’t need to bring it to a local recycling center, bring the sealed container to an outdoor trash receptacle or somewhere it can be stored until trash pickup.
6. Air Out the Room
Now that everything is all cleaned up, it never hurts to continue to air out the room for a few hours, if possible. Of course, if it’s during the winter, this isn’t always practical. You may want to avoid the room for a few hours after the breakage, just to be safe, but you should be fine now that you know how to dispose of broken CFL light bulbs the right way.
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