What NOT to Do In Case of a Mercury Spill

As previously stated, many products in our home may contain mercury. Of course we should always handle these with care and caution at all times. However, accidents happen and you may find yourself in a situation where you have, for example, broken a mercury filled thermometer or light bulb.

According to the EPA, here is what you should NOT do:

  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
  • Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
  • Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded. By "direct contact," we mean that mercury was (or has been) spilled directly on the clothing, for example, if you break a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came in contact with your clothing.
  • Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

Depending on the size and/or amount of the spill, you will want to take different actions when cleaning it up. It is very important to take the right actions when doing so, as this is not stuff to play around with. For a full list and instructions of how to clean different types of mercury spills visit the EPA's website at: