Emergency Services Mercury Cleanup-Spills Less than Amount in Thermometer

  • Remove everyone from the area where cleanup will take place. Shut door of impacted area. Turn off ventilation system. DO NOT allow or gain assistance from children. Remember to remove all pets as well.
  • Mercury can be cleaned up easily from the following surfaces: wood, linoleum, tile and any other like surface.
  • If a spill occurs on capet, curtains, upholstery, or other like surfaces, these contaminated items should be thrown away in accourdance with the disposal means outlined below. Only cut and remove the affected portion of the contaminated carpet for disposal.

Items needed to clean up a small mercury spill
  • 4-5 ziplock type bags
  • 2 trash bags-(2-6 mm)
  • rubber or latex gloves
  • paper towels
  • cardboard or squeegee
  • eyedropper
  • duct tape, or shaving cream and small paint brush
  • flashlight
  • powdered sulfur (optional)

Cleanup Instructions

1. - Put on rubber or latex gloves
2. - If there are any broken pieces of glass or sharp objects, pick them up with care. Place all broken obejcts on a paper towel. Fold the towel and place in a zip lock bag.
3. - Locate visible mercury beads. Use a squeegee or cardboard to gather mercury beads. Use slow sweeping motions to keep mercury from becoming uncontrollable. Take a glashlight, hod it at a low angle close to the floor in a darkened room and look for additional glistening beads of mercury that may be sticking tot he surface or in small cracked areas of the surface. NOTE: Mercury can move surprising distances on hard-flat surfaces, so be sure to inspect the entire room when "searching."
4. - Use the eyedropper to collect or draw up the mercury beads. Slowly and carefull squeeze mercury onto a damp paper towel. Place the towel in a zip lock bag and secure.
5. -After you remove larger beads, put shaving cream on the top of small paint brush and gently "dot" the affected area to pick up smaller hard-to-see beads. Alternatively, use duct tape to cllect smaller hard-to-see beads. Place the paint brush or duct tape in a zip lock bag and secure.
6.- OPTIONAL STEP: It is OPTIONAL to use commercially available powdered sulfur to absorb the beads that are too small to see. The sulfur does two things: (1)it makes the mercury easier to see since there may be a color change from yellow to brown and (2) it bind the mercury so that it can be easily removed and suppresses the vapor of any missing mercury. Where to get commercialized sulfur? It may be supplied as mercury vapor absorbent in mercury spill kits, which can be purchased from laboratory, chemical supply, and hazardous materials response supply manufacturers.
NOTE: Powdered sulfur may stain fabrics a dark color. When using powdered sulfur, do not breathe in the powder as it can be moderately toxic. Addtionally, users should read and understand product information before use.

If you choose not to use this option, you may want to request the services of a contractor who has monitoring equipment to screen for mercury vapors. Consult your local or state environmental agency or health agency to inquire about contractors in your area.

7. - Place all materials used with the cleanup, including gloves in a trash bag. Place all mercury beads and objects into the trash bag. Secure trash bag and label it as directed by your local health or fire department.
8. - Contact your local health department, municipal waste authority or your local fire department for proper disposal in accordance with local, state, and federal laws.
9. - Remember to keep the area well ventilated to the outside (i.e., windows open and fans running) for at least 24 hours after your successful cleanup. Continue to keep pets and children out of clean up area. If sickness occurs, seek medical attention immediately. EPA's Mercury web site presents information on health effects related to exposures to vapors from metallic mercury. For additional information on health effects, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) provides a Mercury fact sheet that also presents information on health effects related to exposures to vapors from metallic mercury.
Recommendation: If there are young children or pregnant women in the house, seek additional advice from your local state health or state environmental agency.

Back to Emergency Services Mercury Page