Quicksilver is also known as liquid mercury or metallic mercury. A small spill of quicksilver in a household setting is not regulated by federal law for disposal. However, service facilities, manufacturers and schools are to follow federal guidelines for disposal. Any spill of quicksilver that is over one pound is considered extremely dangerous. One pound of quicksilver is equal to two tablespoons. Contact local poison control professionals for any spill that is over one pound or has been spilled onto a porous surface such as carpet.
Things You’ll Need
Damp paper towel or napkin
Plastic container with lid
Masking or duct tape
Flowers of Sulfur or zinc powder
Step 1 – Immediately evacuate the area where the spill of quicksilver has occurred. Make sure no quicksilver has been spilled on the clothes or shoes of the individuals leaving the area. Remove any clothing that has quicksilver on it and place it in a plastic bag. Tie the plastic bag shut.
Step 2 – Lower the temperature in a warm area to help prevent the quicksilver from evaporating into the air. Turn off the air conditioner to prevent the fan from starting and moving any fumes to other areas. Note: Quicksilver vapors are colorless and odorless thus making it a dangerous element.
Step 3 – Close off the area to all other areas within the home. Shut all doors to other rooms. Open the windows in the spill area to ventilate to the outdoors. Place fans in the windows and face them outward. Start the fans to help move any vapors out of the room.
Step 4 – Remove all jewelry from fingers and arms. Put on latex or rubber gloves and safety glasses.
Step 5 – Place the containers holding the contaminated items in a secure location. A secure location would be in a covered garbage container preferably in the garage and away from human contact. Call the local hazardous control agency in your area. Make an appointment for pick-up of the contaminated material.
Hard Surface Contamination
Step 1 – Create a vertical fence around the quicksilver spill with masking or duct tape. This will keep the quicksilver contained in one area so it does not spread.
Step 2 – Pick up any broken glass or other small objects in the contaminated area with a tweezers.
Step 3 – Place the items in a plastic bag.
Step 4 – Tie the plastic bag shut after all objects have been removed from the contaminated area.
Step 5 – Place the plastic bag in a sealed garbage container.
Step 6 – Place the an index card on each side of the quicksilver. Slide the index cards together along the flat surface. The quicksilver drop will slide onto the card for pick-up and easy disposal. Place the droplets in a plastic container that has a lid.
Step 7 – Use an eyedropper to pick up any pieces of quicksilver that are too small to remove with the index cards. Place the contents of the eyedropper in the plastic container. Tighten the lid on the plastic container after all quicksilver drops have been removed from the contaminated area.
Step 8 – Shine a flashlight over the contaminated area. Look for any small reflective objects. Quicksilver reflects light and is easily seen when light hits them. Remove any reflective objects with an eyedropper and place them in the plastic container.
Step 9 – Place the plastic container and all contaminated items in a covered garbage can. Call the local hazardous waste agency in your area and set up a time for pick-up.
Step 10 – Continue to ventilate the area for a minimum of two days after clean-up. Allow fresh air to continually flow into the area to remove all mercury fumes.
Carpet, Rug or Fabric Contamination
Step 1 – Contact a professional if the quicksilver was spilled on a large carpet area. It is impossible to remove the quicksilver in the carpet fibers with household items.
Step 2 – Roll the rug or fabric over the top of the spilled quicksilver.
Step 3 – Place the contaminated item in a plastic bag. Place the contaminated item in two more bags to contain the quicksilver and prevent it from escaping.
Drain or Sink Contamination
Step 1 – Remove any standing water from the drain or sink with a turkey baster or small disposable cup. Do not disturb the quicksilver beads.
Step 2 – Remove the quicksilver from the contaminated area with an eyedropper. Place the removed quicksilver in a plastic container. Tighten the lid on the container after all quicksilver is removed.
Step 3 – Shake Flowers of Sulfur or zinc powder over the contaminated area to bind together any small quicksilver drops left in the water. Use a damp paper towel or napkin to wipe up the Flowers of Sulfur or zinc powder. Place the damp paper towel or napkin in a plastic bag and tie shut.
Step 4 – Place a plastic container under the sink trap. Remove the sink trap and pour any water into the bucket. Place a lid on the plastic container and place the container in a garbage container with a lid.
Step 5 – Call the local hazardous waste agency and set up a time for them to pick-up the contaminated items.
Strategies for Preventing Elementary Mercury Exposure in Homes and Schools
Northeast Waste Management Official’s Association: INSTRUCTIONS FOR CLEANING UP “SMALL” LIQUID MERCURY SPILLS
EPA: Mercury Releases and Spills