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Cleanup Instructions for Small Mercury Spills - FACT SHEET: Mercury Spills

For information on broken fluorescent light bulbs see- FACT SHEET: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

If you spill mercury or break a product that contains mercury, it is important that it be cleaned up immediately. When mercury is spilled, it evaporates and gives off hazardous vapors that are invisible and odorless.

Take Immediate Precautions

Do not touch the mercury. Keep pets, children (especially infants and young children) and pregnant women out of the room. Do not walk on the mercury or track it into other areas of the house. Open windows to ventilate the area. Close off the room from other rooms in your house. Shut the door and close any air pathways (like floor or ceiling grates, air conditioning or heating vents) which will circulate mercury vapors into other areas of the house.

Can I clean up a small spill in my own home?

You can probably clean up a small spill by yourself if the following is true:

  • The spill is a small amount, less than or equal to one household thermometer.
  • The spill is limited to a small area and mercury has not been spread around.
  • The spill is on a hard surface like tile, linoleum or wood that is in good condition.
  • The spill is on a small porous item like and area rug, a blanket, or clothing that can be safely and appropriately disposed of as indicated for mercury debris.

Large Spills

If the spill involves a large area, has been spread around, is in cracks and crevices or other difficult to clean places, or is on non-disposable porous items such as wall-to-wall carpeting or upholstery follow steps below "On a hard surface" then call the emergency spill response program at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Waste Management Division at 802-241-3888 during normal working hours or by calling the 24-hour emergency number at 800-641-5005.

Contain the Spill

Spilled mercury can spread quickly. Move furniture and other objects away from the spill and prevent the mercury from flowing into drains, cracks or crevices. The mercury that remains in cracks, crevices or drains will continue to emit dangerous vapors so it is important to contain every drop.

Never Vacuum or Sweep Up the Spilled Mercury

Vacuuming or sweeping up a mercury spill will spread the mercury throughout the house and contaminate your vacuum or broom. This will result in a release of mercury every time you use your vacuum or broom in the future.

Clean the Spill

Follow the cleanup procedure below.  For more information see - FACT SHEET: Mercury Spills

On a hard surface, wear disposable gloves if at all possible. Use stiff cardboard (such as playing cards or index cards) to push mercury droplets together and to scoop up beads of mercury; a flashlight will reflect off of shiny mercury beads and make them easier to see. Use the sticky side of duct or masking tape to pick up any remaining mercury beads.

Dispose of the Mercury Waste Responsibly

Place the mercury-contaminated cleanup materials (cardboard, gloves, tape, etc.) into double plastic bags or preferably a glass or rigid container with a lid for containment. In the meantime, store the bag or container (label and separate from your regular trash) - outside the house in an area inaccessible to children. Never put the mercury waste in the trash! Contact your local solid waste district, alliance or municipality for proper disposal of cleanup debris. The following disposal options are available to Commercial/Institutional generators of mercury waste:



Mercury Education & Reduction Campaign    103 South Main Street    Waterbury, VT 05671    802-241-3455
MERC is a program of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

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