How Does A Mercury Spill Kit Work?

Thursday 3rd August 2023

Ellen Warren

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A yellow bucket marked with an 'emergency spill kit' sign


When mercury spills in the workplace, it is a distressing situation that warrants immediate action. Most workplaces handling or using mercury will have measures implemented to protect employees from spills, such as keeping a spill kit on-site, which can prevent disaster in a spill.

Our technicians at ICE Cleaning are qualified to tackle situations that require extensive mercury spillage cleaning services. We can be on-site within a few hours of your first call in an emergency, effectively containing, cleaning, and decontaminating an affected site.

Read on to learn more about mercury spills and what a mercury spill kit does.

What is mercury?

Mercury is a toxic metal that occurs naturally in various ways. This element has been used largely in industrial and construction settings for many decades but is now more restricted in its use due to the health risks it is associated with.

Although we continue to use mercury to this day due to its recyclability and conductivity, there are organisations slowly phasing it out. However, until we find replacements, they will continue to be used in various objects. There are three types of mercury we use which include:

Elemental mercury

This form of mercury is well-known and what we usually refer to when discussing mercury. It is a liquid form previously used in thermometers but still in some electrical appliances. When dropped and exposed to room temperatures, it dissolves into a lethal, odourless vapour.

Inorganic mercury

Cinnabar and metacinnabar minerals produce this inorganic mercury, which creates inorganic salts employed in industrial processes. One of these processes, the Castner–Kellner process, is still used in electrolysis methods — the practice of passing an electrical current through an electrolyte solution to create a chemical reaction.


Also known as organic mercury, methylmercury is cycled between land, air, and water, deposited across the natural elements, and changes its chemical and physical form. Methylmercury is often found in the ocean and ingested by shellfish and large predatory fish.

What types of mercury exposures are there?

There are two types of mercury exposures: general exposures are incidents that can occur at home, and occupational exposures happen in the workplace.

Humans encounter small doses of mercury throughout their lifetime, but large amounts for an extended period could result in illness or death. Exposure to mercury can occur through the following:

  • Eating large amounts of shellfish and predatory fish
  • Broken mercury thermometers and barometers
  • Imported novelty jewellery
  • Exposed electrical switches
  • Dental fillings
  • Illegal skin lighteners and anti-ageing creams
  • Spilled mercury at work

How can a mercury spill occur?

Mercury spills are not as common at home as they are in the workplace. This is because of the tight restrictions on mercury in household products, but some objects, like energy-saving bulbs, use mercury. Therefore, most mercury exposures recorded are occupational.

Workplace exposures occur during transportation, mining processes, chemical processes, or broken mercury products. When this happens, workers are at risk of inhaling the toxic vapours produced by mercury if they are left unprotected.

What is a mercury spill kit?

Mercury spill kits are vital tools for workplaces that either handle or use mercury in their industrial processes. They are integral in the event of a spill to help contain or absorb the element to prevent it from further spreading.

Although some kits may contain different equipment, they all aim to achieve the same result: absorbing, cleaning, and decontamination. The pieces of equipment will include:

  • Calcium hydroxide
  • Sulphur powder
  • Waste container
  • Absorbent materials
  • Mask and gloves
  • Clean-up tools (e.g. syringe, brush, scoop, etc.)

How to use a mercury spill kit

According to NHS guidelines on using a spill kit, you must evacuate, ventilate, and confine the affected area immediately. You should be qualified to deal with a mercury spill before cleaning, wearing gloves and a mask provided by the kit. The following steps include:

  • Using the clean-up tools to collect the mercury
  • Creating a paste with the powders provided and some water
  • Decontaminating the area with the paste
  • Disposing of mercury effectively

A mercury spill kit removes this element using the tools and powders provided. These are designed to remove mercury effectively, and the powders act as an absorbent for the liquid. Once used, a mercury disposal team is still needed to help.

What to do when mercury spills

If you are not qualified to deal with a mercury spill at work or home, you must evacuate the area immediately. Pets, children, and vulnerable individuals should go first to protect them.

Next, ventilate the area by opening doors and windows that lead directly outside to help any dangerous vapours escape. Once you have done this, leave the area and restrict it by alerting others or placing a warning sign on the door.

Finally, you must get in contact with mercury clean-up services, who can attend the site in an emergency and effectively deal with the spill.

Get in touch

Our mercury spill cleaning services can give you the peace of mind that your property is safe again. Our technicians will use state-of-the-art technology that eliminates all traces of mercury and scrubs the air of mercury vapours.

To get in touch with our team about mercury spills, contact us at 0208 066 0360 or Our technicians are available 24/7, 365 days a year, nationwide, and are ready to assist in an emergency.

Zoe Dunning

Zoe Dunning

Sales Representative

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