How to Clean Up Energy-Efficient Bulbs That Break

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Energy-efficient light bulbs are cost-saving alternatives to traditional incandescent bulbs. Light-emitting diode bulbs, or LEDs, and compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, are two of the most common energy-efficient bulbs for home use. LED bulbs contain several small diodes encased in either plastic or glass, while CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury encased in small glass tubing. Cleaning up a broken CFL bulb requires more care and considerate handling than cleaning up an LED bulb, though proper disposal of each type of bulb is essential for preventing injuries and maintaining environmental health.

Things You'll Need

  • Work or leather gloves
  • Hard-soled shoes
  • Hand-held broom and dustpan
  • Brown paper bag
  • Trash bag
  • Duct tape
  • Vacuum cleaner and hose attachment
  • Two pieces stiff paper or cardboard
  • Glass jar with lid
  • Wet wipes or paper towels

LED Bulb Cleanup

  • Put on your gloves and hard-soled shoes to prevent injuries during cleanup.

  • Use a hand-held broom and dustpan to sweep up large pieces of broken plastic or glass. Pour the contents of the dustpan into a brown paper bag.

  • Fold over a piece of duct tape so that the sticky edge faces outward. Pat the area with the tape to pick up any remaining small pieces of glass or plastic. Place the tape in the brown paper bag. Roll the bag top shut and place it in a trash bag.

  • Use the hose attachment of your vacuum to clean up any remaining fragments, if necessary. Dispose of the bulb remains with your regular trash.

CFL Bulb Cleanup

  • Evacuate the immediate area of people and pets. Open windows in the room to ventilate the area for at least five minutes before returning for cleanup. If your home has a forced air system, shut it off so that it doesn't pull mercury vapors into other parts of the home.

  • Protect your hands and feet from glass shards with gloves and hard-soled shoes.

  • Scoop up large pieces of glass and debris with two pieces of stiff paper or cardboard. Do not sweep up the glass, as small fragments may cling to the bristles and remain after cleanup. Drop the debris into a glass jar.

  • Remove remaining pieces of glass fragments and powder with the sticky side of a length of duct tape. Deposit the used tape into the glass jar.

  • Wipe the floor or counter with wet wipes or damp paper towels to pick up remaining powder. Deposit the wipes or towels into the glass jar.

  • Vacuum the area only if you suspect remaining glass or powder. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, using a vacuum could actually spread mercury vapor or powder. If you choose to vacuum, keep the windows open and remove the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming. Deposit the vacuum bag into the glass jar. Seal the jar with its lid.

  • Contact your local town hall for information about disposing of CFL bulbs. Some states or towns require bulbs to be taken to a hazardous waste disposal facility or to a local recycling center. Place the jar in an outdoor trash container until you are able to dispose of its contents.

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap after you are finished cleaning. Keep the room ventilated for several hours after cleanup.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are concerned about the tape damaging your surface, use a thick piece of bread to pick up glass or plastic shards.

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