How to Clean Up a Broken CFL


CFL light bulbs are great for saving energy, but they also contain small amounts of mercury, which makes them a precarious mess to clean up if one happens to break. Here are the EPA-recommended steps to take if and when you have a broken CFL on your hands:

Right after it breaks:

  1. Have all people (pets included) leave the room.
  2. Open a door or window, and air out the room for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Shut off the heating or air conditioning system, if one is running.
  4. Collect the following items for cleanup: stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape (such as duct tape), damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes, and a glass jar with a metal lid or a resealable plastic bag.

To perform the clean-up:

  1. Do not vacuum. Vacuuming may spread mercury-containing powder or vapor.
  2. Scoop glass shards and powder into your jar or bag using the stiff paper or cardboard. Then use tape to pick up remaining fragments and powder. Be thorough.
  3. When finished, place all cleanup materials into your jar or bag, and seal it.


  1. Immediately place all cleanup materials and debris outdoors in a trash receptacle or protected area.
  2. When ready, dispose of these materials as hazardous waste.
  3. If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating or air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

For more detailed cleanup instructions, visit the EPA’s website.