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CFL Cleanup Guide


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Broken compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) require careful cleanup to help protect the environment and ensure safety. Read on for instructions on how to safely and effectively clean up CFLs from both hard and soft surfaces.


Cleanup Prep
Step 1 — Have people and pets leave the room, avoiding breakage on the way out.
Step 2 — Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 3 — Shut off the central heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
Step 4 — Collect materials:

• Stiff paper or cardboard
• Sticky tape (e.g. duct tape)
• Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
• Glass jar with a metal lid or sealable plastic bags

Cleanup Steps
Step 1 — Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris (including the paper/cardboard in a glass jar) with a metal lid. If a jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove it from the home after cleanup.)

Step 2 — 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.
For hard surfaces, wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Step 3 — Since it’s possible that vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor, vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after completing all the steps. If vacuuming is necessary to ensure removal of all broken glass, try these tips:

• Keep a window or door to the outdoors open.
• Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using a vacuum hose, if available.
• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister).
• Seal the bag/vacuum debris and any materials used to clean the vacuum in a plastic bag.

Step 4 — 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.
Step 5 — Check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area. Some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) to be taken to a recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.

Step 6 — Wash your hands with soap and water after throwing out the bulb debris and cleanup materials.

Step 7 — Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off (when practical) for several hours.

Future Carpet or Rug Cleaning
The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet after a CFL cleanup:

• Shut off the H&AC system, close doors to other rooms and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming.
• Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.
• After vacuuming, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open (when practical) for several hours.