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Cleaning up a Small Mercury Spill

Household items like fluorescent light bulbs, thermometers, and thermostats contain mercury.  Should any of these break open, follow the directions below to ensure a safe clean-up:

Leave the Room

  • Avoid stepping on broken glass.
  • Remove people and pets from the room.  Keep them out of the room during the clean-up process.  Do not let children play with the spilled mercury.


  • Open all available windows and doors to the outside. 
  • Leave the room and wait 15 minutes before re-entering.  This will ensure that mercury vapour levels are reduced before you start cleaning.  

Clean-up Directions for Hard and Carpeted Surfaces

  • Do not use a vacuum.  It will spread mercury vapour and dust throughout the area and can contaminate the vacuum.
  • Wear disposable gloves, if possible, to avoid direct contact with mercury and to prevent cuts.
  • Scoop up the broken pieces and debris with two pieces of stiff paper or cardboard.  Playing cards work well for this.  Do not use a broom. 
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape or hockey tape, to pick up any remaining fine glass or powder.
  • Wipe the area with a damp paper towel, cloth, or disposable wet wipe to remove any remaining particles.
  • Place the broken glass and clean-up materials in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.  This will further reduce the release of mercury vapour.
  • If you get mercury on your clothes, or on any other materials, put them in a trash bag and seal it.

Carpeting - Steps to Take after the Initial Clean-up

  • If the rug is removable, take it outside, shake it, and air it out for as long as is practical.
  • The first time you vacuum an installed carpet after the clean-up, shut the door to the room or close off the area as much as possible.  Ventilate the room by opening the windows and doors to the outside.  When the vacuuming is done, remove the bag, and wipe the vacuum with a damp paper towel, cloth, or disposable wipe.  Place the vacuum bag and paper towel in a sealed plastic bag and move it outside.  In the case of a canister vacuum, wipe the canister out with a wet paper towel and dispose of the towel as described above.  Continue to ventilate the room for 15 minutes once the vacuuming is completed.


  • Immediately place waste material outside of the building in a protected area away from children.  Labeling the items brings attention to the importance of properly disposing of them.
  • DO NOT place the waste material with regular household garbage.  It is considered to be household hazardous waste.
  • Household hazardous waste (HHW) is accepted free of charge at any one of six household hazardous waste depots located at Waste Watch Drop-off Centers across the province.  Contact IWMC for more details at 1-888-280-8111 or visit their website at


  • Wash your hands after storing and disposing of the waste.

For larger mercury spills, a certified professional should be called to clean up the contaminated area.

For additional information, contact the:
Environment Division (902) 368-5024

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