Broken Thermometers, Fluorescent Bulbs & CFLs

Mercury Spills

Mercury spills can be very hazardous and should be cleaned up as soon as possible. Mercury will vaporize slowly over time and can expose your family to toxic fumes for a very long time if not thoroughly cleaned up.

Loudoun County does offer Household Hazardous Waste collection events eight times per year. The zip-top bag of recovered mercury, the cleanup tools and contaminated material should be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste collection event.

Clean-Up Tips

If you break a mercury-containing thermometer or a fluorescent bulb, including CFLs, (compact fluorescent lamps) in your home; please visit the Environmental Protection Agency website for guidelines for clean-up.

Some general response and clean-up tips are:

  • Never use a household vacuum cleaner (even one with a HEPA filter), broom or any type of towel to try to wipe or blot up the spill since it will only scatter and spread the mercury.
  • Keep children, pets and other persons out of the room where the spill occurred.
  • The affected room should be isolated from other rooms in the house by closing connecting doors.
  • Turn off the heat and any circulation systems in the house and open all windows in the affected room to ventilate it to the outdoors.
  • Never use household cleaning products to clean the spill, particularly products that contain ammonia or chlorine. These chemicals will react violently with mercury, releasing a toxic gas.
  • Remove all jewelry before beginning cleanup as the mercury will bind to gold and silver.
  • Prior to cleaning up the spill, put on old clothes or disposable coveralls, old shoes or disposable booties, and disposable rubber, latex, or nitrile gloves. These items may need to be disposed of after you have completed cleanup of the spill. Place clean clothes, shoes, and a trash bag just outside the room where the mercury spill occurred.
  • After cleaning up the spill, carefully remove your gloves by grasping them at the wrist and pulling them off inside-out. Place the gloves in the trash bag for disposal.
    If you were wearing disposable coveralls and booties, carefully remove these items and place them in the trash bag for disposal.
  • Any clothing or shoes that came in direct contact with the mercury should be placed in the trash bag. Clothing and shoes that did not come into direct contact with the mercury should be placed outdoors to air out. Once thoroughly aired out, they can be laundered as normal.
  • The tools used to clean up the spill (index cards, tape, eyedropper) should also be placed in the trash bag and the trash bag double wrapped in another trash bag.