How to Clean up a Broken Fluorescent Bulb

A Printable Mercury-containing Bulb Clean-up Card is available. 

Be careful not to break fluorescent bulbs.  However, if you do break a fluorescent or other mercury-containing bulb, do not panic, and follow the following instructions:

Avoid breathing vapors or touching broken materials. Do not vacuum or sweep.

Do not vacuum or sweep.
  1. Open windows to vent vapors for at least 15 minutes. Leave the area during this time.
  2. Use stiff paper or cardboard to pick up large pieces.
  3. Use duct tape to pick up small pieces and powder.
  4. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or wet wipe.
  5. Place all materials in a sealed container, preferably made of glass and with a good lid.
  6. Immediately remove the container from the home.
  7. Wash your hands.
  8. Dispose of at your local hazardous-waste facility—not in your trash. (Contact 1-800-RECYCLE for locations.)

It may be a good idea to cover porous flooring with a sheet of plastic when changing bulbs.  Some people choose to wear nitrile or neoprene gloves and/or a chemically protective mask, but there is no evidence that this is necessary.

Related information

Printable Mercury-containing Bulb Clean-up Card
How to Build a Bulb Carrier Save your bulbs safely until your next trip to the recycler
Mercury and Its Compounds has more information about mercury's chemistry and toxicity. 
Mercury Vapor Video at Michigan Department of Community Health