I broke a CFL in my home (so elemental mercury is present in a small amount) and wiped up some of the mess with a clorox wipe. The wipe in question contains dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride and dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride.

I'm not chemical-phobic, but can someone please tell me, I didn't accidentally expose myself to dimethylmercury? I realize that it is something you don't find outside of very specific lab environments.

Edit: Thanks everyone for the quick responses. It's been a long time since I took a chem class! Can you help me to better understand why this will not methylate the mercury?

For example, I had been cleaning my carpet at the same time with resolve (water, hydrogen peroxide, sodium lauryl sulfate, probably other ingredients too) and threw out paper towels soaked with it to clean the rug into the same bag as the CFL. Am I correct to assume that despite the methyl group on the SDS, it is also stable like the BZK and thus unlikely to methylate the mercury?

  • $\begingroup$ Don't worry, the "dimethyl" part is locked up in a stable form, and there's no pathway for it to somehow create methylmercury and other organomercury compounds in your conditions. Furthermore, the mercury content in CFLs is rather small, and if it was a well-used lamp, most of the mercury vapour will have been trapped in the glass/phosphor, reducing the already small inhalation risk. Ventilate the area well, to be sure, but it's extremely unlikely you're in trouble. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2015 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


According to the US EPA, disposable wet wipes are a recommended tool for cleaning up a broken CFL. Although having a number of adverse health hazards at high concentration BZK is a common ingredient in many sanitizers, wet wipes and disinfecting wipes, where it occurs at very low concentrations; typically much less than 1%. These ingredients are not likely to react adversely with the released mercury.

For future reference to cleaning up broken CFLs, be sure to read this guide.


No, because you don't have a strong oxidizing agent to oxidize the mercury to $\ce{Hg^{2+}}$.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You generally don't use or need strong oxidizers to prepare dimethylmercury. However those methyls are definitely not able methylate the mercury, so the answer "no" is still correct. $\endgroup$
    – Greg
    Apr 21, 2015 at 2:51

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