I had broken a CFL partially on carpet last week. It was a spent bulb, and the outer glass shell broke but not the fluorescent tube - apparently the tube did have a small hole in it which found out after all my other steps when I saw it in the garbage.

When I cleaned it up first, I used a mild spray cleaner which contained methyl esters and various surfactants - I found this out now, not then, or I wouldn't hzve used it. Wiped it all up with a paper towel, then vacuumed in case I missed small pieces. I did ventilated at that point.

About two hours later, my cat made a mess on the rug. At that point, I sprayed down the carpet with resolve (which says it contains hydrogen peroxide). Wiped that all down with a towel, then revacuumed...and realized I hadn't cleaned out the dust cup. I think I then emptied that outside and cleaned out the HEPA filter.

My concern now is what I may have exposed myself to in that botched cleanup. Any ideas on what may have formed? Do I need to be concerned?

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    – M.A.R.
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ I realize that I cleaned it up entirely wrong, and have ventilated the house for a week. Should I be worried about the interactions between any of the mercury/hydrogen peroxide/methyl esters that may have been in my vacuum? $\endgroup$
    – chemnoob1
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 23:52

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, you seem to have already broken some of the protocols of cleaning up a broken CFL according to the EPA's website.

According to this site:

Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.

Also according to data from a study of the effect of the breakage of CFLs performed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection:

Mercury concentration in the study room air often exceeds the Maine Ambient Air Guideline (MAAG) of 300 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) for some period of time, with short excursions over 25,000 ng/m3, sometimes over 50,000 ng/m3, and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single compact fluorescent lamp.

and also:

Vacuuming a carpet where a lamp has broken and been visibly cleaned up, even weeks after the cleanup, can elevate the mercury readings over the MAAG in an un-vented room.

At the end of the report, it states that although mercury vapor is extremely toxic:

...it is unclear what the exact health risks are from exposure to low levels of elemental mercury...

It seems as though the best course of action you could take now would be to ventilate the room and if possible your house extremely well for several hours, and to avoid vacuuming any more.


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