How To Clean Up A Mercury Light Bulb

Friday 10th February 2023

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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Some types of light bulbs contain mercury to generate a bright, powerful light with minimal energy. Should one of these energy-efficient bulbs break, you must call in professional cleaners to clean up any spilled mercury as soon as possible, or your health could be at risk.

At ICE Cleaning, we offer rapid response mercury clean up services. Our hazardous chemical clean up specialists can handle spills of any form and size, and take care of mercury disposal for you. We operate nationwide, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Read on to find out what to do when a mercury light bulb breaks.

Does your light bulb contain mercury?

Elemental mercury is present in lots of household products, like barometers and thermometers. But it can also be found in compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), black lights, neon bulbs, ultraviolet bulbs, and high intensity discharge bulbs.

They don’t emit any mercury when in use, but a broken bulb will release small beads of the metal and some vapours. You can find out more about which ones contain mercury here.

CFLs on average only contain four milligrams of mercury - a much smaller amount than the 500 milligrams found in thermometers. Although a broken bulb is less dangerous than a broken thermometer, it should still be cleaned up immediately.

If you’re not sure if your light bulb contains the metal, check the label for the symbol “Hg” in a circle or “contains mercury”.

The dangers of spilled mercury

Mercury is harmful to touch, ingest, and inhale. At room temperature, it becomes a colourless, odourless gas and you may not realise you are breathing it in.

This is the most harmful form of exposure as it can be absorbed through the lungs into the blood. Exposure might cause health effects including:

  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing and chest paints
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Weakness and exhaustion

Prolonged exposure can cause more serious health problems, including kidney and respiratory problems, and could even be fatal. You can find out more about the health risks of exposure here.

When a mercury spill happens, you must respond quickly - even if it’s a small amount - or you might be putting yours and others health at risk.

Don’t try to clean up spilled mercury yourself

Although it is tempting to wipe up the mercury spillage and toss the broken bulb into the bin, you must leave this to professionals. Clean up and disposal are very complicated and must be done properly to keep people safe and avoid pollution.

Firstly, without personal protective equipment, you will be putting yourself in much closer contact with the dangerous element and are more likely to touch or inhale it.

You also might leave traces of mercury behind which can slowly vapourise. It splits into tiny beads when touched, too, which could slip into crevices or roll away.

Professionals have the training, equipment, and PPE to clean up the mercury spillage safely and effectively.

What to do when a mercury light bulb breaks

Contain the area

Evacuate everyone from the room where the bulb broke. Then, close any doors or windows that lead to other rooms to stop the mercury vapours spreading through the property. Open any windows or doors that lead outside to ventilate the affected area.

Contact professional cleaners

They will start by clearing up the broken light bulb. If you do this yourself, you could get cut by the shards of glass, and might not get rid of all of them, putting others at risk of physical injury.

Then, they can remove all the mercury and thoroughly clean the area. Professionals will be able to correctly dispose of the light bulb and mercury for you according to local regulations. You can find out more about what to do in the event of a mercury spillage in this blog.

What not to do

  • Don’t use a vacuum cleaner to hoover up mercury: heat from the motor will help it evaporate.
  • Don’t mop the spill up: this could spread the chemical around, split it up into very small beads, and make clean up more difficult.
  • Don’t pour it down the drain: it might pollute the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Don’t walk around the affected area: your shoes can be contaminated with mercury and may spread it around the property.

Contact us today

Our technicians can quickly make your home a safe environment, again. They can be on site in a matter of hours in an emergency.

To find out more about our mercury spill cleaning services and get a free, no-obligation quote, contact our team on 0208 066 0360 or at

Zoe Dunning

Zoe Dunning

Sales Representative

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