Some household items have larger amounts of mercury than other items. These include:
- pendulum clock counterweights
- home medical items. For example, devices used to measure blood pressure.
When these items break, it’s considered a large spill. You shouldn’t try to clean up large spills. Instead, follow these steps:
1. Clear the area
- Remove all people and pets from the room immediately.
2. Create air flow in the room
- Close all the room’s doors then open all windows in the room.
- Turn off all heaters and air conditioners.
3. Call 000 and ask for fire services
- Seek advice about any potential hazards.
4. Contact an experienced cleaner
- Contact a cleaning contractor experienced in chemical clean ups.
You can clean up smaller spills from thermometers or barometers yourself:
1. Clear the room
- Remove all people and pets from the room.
2. Create air flow in the room
- Open all windows and close the room’s doors for 15 minutes before starting your clean up.
- Turn off all heating and air conditioners.
3. Ensure you don’t make more vapours
- Don’t vacuum or sweep mercury. This spreads it and makes more vapours. Mercury can also contaminate your vacuum cleaner.
4. Follow these clean up steps carefully
- Take off your watch and any jewellery.
- Put on gloves you can dispose of later.
- Shine a torch on the spill area to find mercury droplets.
- Use an eyedropper or syringe to pick up droplets. Use a pen to guide droplets onto a piece of card.
- Use sticky tape to pick up smaller droplets.
- Carefully place all droplets into a strong plastic container with a lid.
- For mercury spilt over a drain or sink, check the plumbing for mercury.
5. After your clean up
- Keep windows open so air can flow through the room for 24 hours. Take all rugs and mats outside and hang in open air for at least a week.
- Dispose of all items that mercury contacted. For example, gloves, eyedropper, pen, card, broken glass and clothing. Put them in a plastic bag and then into your general rubbish bin.
- Don’t wash clothing that mercury contacted in your washing machine. This will contaminate the machine.
- Don’t pour mercury down the sink. It’ll stay in the water trap and keep spreading vapours.
- Dispose of carpet, curtains, furniture cloth or fabric and any other household cloth that mercury contacted. Mercury can stay in these materials and release vapours.
Broken fluorescent light globes or tubes can release tiny amounts of mercury that aren’t easy to see. You can clean up these breaks and spills yourself. Follow these steps:
1. Create air flow in the room
- Open all windows.
- Clean up carefully.
2. Put gloves on and pick up all glass pieces
- Use sticky tape to pick up smaller pieces.
- Put all glass pieces in a sealed container.
- Wipe the area clean with damp paper towel or disposable wet wipes. Put these in a glass jar or sealed plastic bag for disposal.
3. After your clean up
- Maintain air flow in the room for 12 to 24 hours.
- Put glass and any items that mercury may have contacted in your general waste bin. Don’t put them in the recycling bin.
Find out more about other public health issues related to pollution and waste
Reviewed 7 August 2020