Mercury Spill Cleanup

Mercury is a very dangerous element that can cause serious health problems if it comes into contact with skin or if it is inhaled. DO NOT vacuum or sweep up a mercury spill. This will only disperse the mercury into the air.

Basic Method

  1. Get all people and pets away from the spill area. If possible, lower the temperature in the room so that less mercury will evaporate into the air.
  2. Have the following supplies on hand: gloves, eye dropper, two (2) stiff pieces of paper or cardboard, two (2) plastic bags, duct tape or packing tape, a flashlight, and a wide mouth container.
  3. Remove all jewelry and watches as mercury will bond to metal. Put on rubber gloves. Using a flashlight, locate the mercury. Remember, mercury can roll some distance, so you’ll need to look all around.
  4. Carpet or rug cleanup: The mercury-contaminated section should be cut out. This cutout section, along with all cleanup items, should be placed in a plastic bag. Label it as mercury waste and dispose at a household hazardous waste drop off station.
  5. Hard surface or tightly woven fabric cleanup: Use the stiff paper to push the beads of mercury together. Use the eyedropper to suction the beads of mercury, or work over the tray to catch any spills. Lift the beads of mercury with the stiff paper and carefully place the mercury into a wide mouth container. Pick up any remaining beads of mercury with sticky tape and place it in a plastic bag along with the eyedropper, stiff paper, and gloves. Label the bag as mercury waste. Place this and the sealed container into the second bag. Label it as mercury waste and dispose at a household waste drop off station.
  6. In a sink of water clean up: Mercury will sink in water. Remove as much water as possible without disturbing the mercury and then recover the mercury with an eyedropper. Place in a wide mouth container, close the lid, and seal it with tape. Label it as mercury waste and dispose at a household hazardous waste drop off station.
  7. In a drain clean up: Because mercury is heavier than water, it will get caught in your sink trap. Working over a tray, remove the trap and pour the contents into a large container. Close the container lid and seal with tape. Label it as mercury waste and dispose at a household hazardous waste drop off station.
  8. All cleaning materials and any material-containing devices (like unbroken mercury thermometers and some blood pressure cuffs and older thermostats) need to be taken to a hazardous waste drop off station for proper disposal. Call the local health department for the location nearest the site.

If you need additional assistance with clean up efforts beyond what is written here, call Poison Control at 1-800-POISON1.