Cleaning Up Broken Compact Florescent Lights

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated May 18, 2009)

Compact florescent lights (CFLs) are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners in the United States because of their longevity. It goes without saying that if an item can be used longer without needing to be changed, then the fewer items needed. Even the most environmentally friendly CFL, though, is going to break every once in a while. For those instances where you need to clean up a CFL, there are specific steps that you need to take for the safety of both you and those around you. Follow the steps listed below, and you will soon have minor hazardous spill cleaned up safely.


  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Duct tape
  • Paper towels
  • Freezer bags
  • Broom
  • Dust pan


  1. Ventilate room. When cleaning a broken CFL, the very first thing that you need to do is ventilate the room. The reason for this is that compact florescent lights are filled with mercury gas. Now, while you may have heard that mercury can poison you if ingested, it is much worse if you inhale it in gas form. To combat this, open the windows to the room and leave for at least fifteen minutes. This will allow the room to properly ventilate so you can work to clean up the broken bulbs.
  2. Sweep. Like normal, you will need to sweep up as many of the large pieces of broken glass as you possibly can. Before you begin sweeping up, though, make sure that you are using some latex or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the sharp glass. Place the large broken pieces of glass into a large freezer bag, preferably gallon size, for later proper disposal.
  3. Tape. Wrap some duct tape into a loop, sticky side out, and tap down on the area where the broken bulb was. This will help you pick up the larger "invisible" pieces that you may have difficulty seeing. Keep doing this until you do not see any more pieces or dust coming up; it might even help if you change out the pieces of duct tape a couple of times. Place the tape into the same freezer bag as the pieces of glass for later proper disposal.
  4. Wipe. Wipe down the area where the broken bulb was located with a damp paper towel. This will help you get even the smallest pieces of broken glass that you cannot see. Don't have the paper towel too wet, as it may not pick up everything that way. Dispose of the wet paper towel by placing it into the same freezer bag that you have placed everything else for proper disposal later on.
  5. Gather. If you have not already done so, be sure that you place everything disposable into the freezer bag. This includes any used duct tape, paper towels, pieces of glass, and most importantly the rubber gloves you are wearing. Make sure that you have picked everything up.
  6. Properly dispose. Because of the high mercury content within these types of light bulbs, it is strongly recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency that they are disposed of properly. For further information on how to do so, please visit their website to learn how:

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...


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