Most small mercury spills (such as a spill from a thermometer used to take a person's temperature) can be cleaned up by following these instructions:
- Never pour mercury down the drain.
- Keep people away from the spill to avoid contact with mercury and to keep from spreading it.
- Keep the room where the spill has occurred at below 70-degrees to minimize evaporation. Close all heating and air-conditioning vents in the room until the clean-up is finished.
- If the weather allows, open exterior doors and windows. Keep air flowing through the room to the outside but close doors to other parts of the building to avoid spreading the contamination.
- If you can't find the mercury, ventilate the room to the outdoors for at least 24 hours.
- Contain the spill. Build a berm around the mercury with rags or other disposable material to keep it from spreading
- If the spill was on a hard surface, work from the outside of the spill toward the center. Use a card, stiff paper or a plastic squeegee to push the mercury together to form larger and larger droplets.
- Push the droplets into a plastic dustpan or pick them up with an eye dropper or turkey baster. You may also be able to pick up small droplets with tape, but be careful. The drops won't always stick.
- Collect all of the mercury into a sealable plastic bag or a plastic container with a lid that will seal tightly.
- The mercury and anything that has come into contact with it should be taken to a hazardous waste recycling facility for appropriate disposal.
- Useful items for cleaning up mercury:
- Rubber squeegee
- Plastic dust pan
- Plastic trash bag
- Zip-shut plastic bags
- Plastic container with a screw on or other leak-proof lid
- Eye dropper or other suction device such as a turkey baster
- Index cards or stiff paper
- Tape – electrical or duct tape works best
- DO NOT use an ordinary vacuum cleaner or a shop vac to clean up mercury. Vacuuming mercury will blow vapor into the air and increase the chance that someone will breathe it in. It will also contaminate the vacuum cleaner.
- DO NOT use a broom or a paint brush to clean up mercury. These devices will just break it into smaller and smaller droplets.
- If someone's shoes or clothing has come into contact with mercury, do not let them walk around in your house. They can easily spread the contamination.
- More information about cleaning up small spills can be found at these locations:
- Mercury Spill Information and Clean up Guidance - Explains why mercury spills are dangerous, what you should do if a mercury spill occurs and lists some common items that can release elemental mercury if mishandled.
Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts - Solid waste districts provides services for solid waste planning, household hazardous waste education an disposal, recycling, market development, education programs and technical assistance.
For large spills or when in doubt about what to do, call:
Fort Wayne Water Pollution Control Plant at 260-427-1243
Call the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Spill Line toll-free at (888) 233-7745. IDEM personnel can determine if IDEM and or US Environmental Protection Agency staff should be called in to perform a clean-up operation.