Cleaning Up CFLs
Question: What is the safest way to clean up CFL lightbulbs if they break?

Answer: Visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency website at

First of all, what is a CFL Lightbulb?

A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also called compact fluorescent light, energy-saving light, and compact fluorescent tube, is a fluorescent lamp designed to replace an incandescent lamp (regular). Compared to regular bulbs giving the same amount of visible light, CFLs use ⅕th to ⅓ the electric power and last 8 to 15 times longer. CFLs typically have a rated service life of 6,000–15,000 hours, whereas standard incandescent lamps have a service life of 750 or 1,000 hours. A CFL has a higher purchase price than an incandescent lamp, but can save over five times its purchase price in electricity costs over the lamp's lifetime. Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain toxic mercury which complicates their disposal, thus why we got this great question from our viewers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published best practices for cleanup of broken CFLs, as well as ways to avoid breakage, on its website. It recommends airing out the room and carefully disposing of broken pieces in a jar. A Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) study of 2008 comparing clean-up methods warns that using plastic bags to store broken CFL bulbs is dangerous because vapors well above safe levels continue to leak from the bags. The EPA and the Maine DEP recommend a sealed glass jar as the best repository for a broken bulb.

  1. Before Cleanup - Have people and pets leave the room. - Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment. - Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  2. Materials Needed - Stiff paper or cardboard or dustpan; - Tape (either duct tape, painter's tape, even scotch tape) - Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces) - A glass jar with a metal lid - Spray bottle of water - Rubber, plastic or ANY gloves (disposable are best) 

  3. During Cleanup - DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming will actually release the mercury vapor into the air, spreading the danger you are trying to clean up! If at the very end, you are concerned with bits of broken glass, you can vacuum then, but only after these steps are taken. - Take your spray bottle and lightly spray water over the area. This helps to prevent and dust in the air. - Take your cardboard and gather all glass pieces and any powder. Use your damp paper towels to clean up the area. For the rest, use your tape (like a lint roller) to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and any powder or residue. Place the used tape in the glass jar. - You want to make sure that everything you used will fit in the glass jar, including your disposable gloves.
  4. After Cleanup - Take your glass jar (and any clean up materials) and place them outside. Do not throw into your trash. - Disposing of these items will vary from county to county, state to state, so check with your local government about their rules of how to dispose of this properly. - Since there is still a possibility that there may be some mercury left over, keep your windows open, air conditioning off for a few hours, and keep pets, children and adults from walking over the area.

    What if I can't do the steps or already cleaned it up the wrong way? I did that exact thing! I cleaned mine up with a broom, dustpan, and vacuum. WRONG! Oops…but don't be too worried about it. These are just precautions and unless you are breaking hundreds at a time, you really won't have to worry about anyone getting sick. And just FYI, CFLs only contain a very small amount of mercury. Remember those old school thermometers we had when we were kids? Well, CFL's have less than 1/100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer. Restoring Hardwood Floors Questions from Fans:

    1. Sue Yokley: I have an 80 year old house. Recently I took a look under the linoleum in one of the bedrooms and found beautiful hardwood floors. How do I refinish them myself???

    2. Yvonne Shank: Our house was built in the 1950s. How is the easiest and cheapest way to restore the hardwood floors?

    Answer: I LOVE hardwood floors, and once I found out how simple they are to refinish, I was so excited to restore them and (bottom line), save thousands of dollars. I know my definition of "simple" might differ from a lot of people, but I will share with you HOW to make it simple. Don't get me wrong, it will take a few days and you will be really dirty, but if you can tough it out, you'll have beautiful floors that will last! Back when these older home were built, they used wood flooring or wood planking to build the floor. At that time, if you didn't have the floors covered, it meant you didn't have the money to put carpet (or other flooring) over it. It became more of a status symbol to cover them. Now, we see them as a luxury. Here's what you do:

    1. Remove all flooring on top of the wood (carpet, linoleum, tile, etc.). Try to clean any residue left with a scraper. If there are any nails sticking out, tap them in. If there are any staples, remove them with a needle-nosed pliers.
    2. Go to your local hardware store and rent either a large, push-operated orbital sander or "square-buff" sander or belt-sander. (Harder to rent because they won't trust you.) Also get sand paper that fits your rental. You will need to get various grits and the friendly rental store should tell you what to get. (See more below.)
    3. Prepare your room! There will be dust EVERYWHERE, so close off all vents, doors, etc. Turn off heat/air. Remove everything from the room (including drapes, pictures, etc. unless you don't mind cleaning them after). Raise any hanging lights (I've hit my head so many times from that one!)
    4. Check to make sure that all of your flooring is in good shape. If you see any raised boards, nail them down. If you have any raised nails, counter sink them otherwise it will ruin your sanding belt. If you are not sure if you have raised nails, grab a metal shovel, turn it over and drag it along your floor (remember, it's ok to scratch it at this point). When you hear a "ding," you know you either need to countersink it or remove it. If you see any areas that the wood has deteriorated or broken, take pictures and measurements down to your local working store. I was refinishing floors from 1932 and they used Douglas fir 2 ½" planks that are not manufactured anymore. Instead of having to replace my entire floor, I was able to take specifications to Superior Moulding here in Los Angeles and they were able to duplicate my exact flooring. I only had to replace 7 boards in a 2,000 square foot house. Much cheaper!

    Now Get Started:

    1. The lower the number of "grit" on sand paper, the rougher and tougher it is. So if you have a harder wood like oak, you can be pretty rough with it. I usually start with a 24 grit, then move to 36, then 60, then 80. If you have softer wood (pine, birch, maple), finish off with a 100-grit. I know it sounds like a lot but DON'T SKIP A GRIT!!!
    2. Get your sander with the correct paper on it and sand WITH the grain of the wood (not against or you will have even more scratches). If you have a lot of crud to get off your floor, the initial grit may need to be changed a few times. (I was removing laminate glue.) Once the sand paper gets too gunked up, it won't work, so you need to change it.
    3. Your rented sander will not get the edges and corners, so you will need to use a hand sander for that. Follow the same grit sequence. Want a great tip for doing this? Get a skateboard, sit on it, and just scoot yourself along the perimeter of your room.
    4. Wipe down with a damp rag between each step.
    5. Continue changing grits until you are at the smoothest.
    6. At this point, some people recommend "Screening" or "Buffering," which is similar to a waxing buffer you would use on a car. I skipped this step and was just fine.
    7. If you like the color the floor is naturally, skip to step 9.
    8. If you want to add a stain to the color of your wood floor, apply this now. You can use a roller or rags or paint brush or a stand-up applicator.
    9. Pick up some clear polyurethane and use an applicator (kind of like a mop) to apply it to the entire floor. You will not be able to walk on this area for about 24 hours, so time it accordingly. Note: You can pick up poly in the same finishes that paint comes in: satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Decide what you like best.

    Choosing Paint Colors for WallsMichele Kaake: I'm painting inside home...I'm looking for the colors on your living room wall....looks tan and red...can you tell me what those colors are and do I paint the tan looking color throughout home or do different warm colors in each room? Thanks! 
 Answer: I will then move to talking about neutrals and tans, etc. Rule is: If you plan on keeping your house for a while, go crazy on paint colors. I love bolds! Since we here at "Home and Family" and don't plan on selling for a while, we were able to go bold. (Give paint colors.) If you plan to either flip a house or upgrade to a new house in the near future, you are going to want to pick a theme color and bring it through the house.

Follow lifestyle design expert Paige Hemmis on Twitter @paigehemmis and check out her site We love to hear your questions and comments, so keep asking. Visit

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