Ultimate Guide To Safely Cleaning Up Broken Glass

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No good can come from shards of glass left scattered on the floor or burrowed into a carpet. So whenever a glass item shatters, it’s best to address the problem immediately. But how do you safely clean up broken glass?

Before cleaning up broken glass, clear the area and wear protective equipment. Pick up large pieces with kitchen tongs or forceps. Sweep smaller shards onto a dustpan or suck them up with a vacuum. Alternatively, use a lint roller, duct tape, or even a slice of bread to pick up the tiny fragments.

Unlike a typical clean-up job, removing broken glass takes a bit of ingenuity, care, and patience. Let’s take a closer look at how to do it right so that you and others around you don’t get hurt.

1. Prep the Area and Yourself 

Broken plate on floor

If you don’t have thick work gloves, use kitchen tongs or forceps to pick up the large pieces — don’t use your bare hands! Place the shards in a triple-layered plastic bag or wrap them with thick layers of newspaper before putting them in a regular plastic bag.

As soon as the incident has occurred, move children, pets, and anyone else out of the area where the glass shattered. You should also block all entrances leading to the area to prevent injuries. 

Have someone check children and pets for signs of cuts or scratches and administer first aid, if necessary.

Once you’ve cleared the area, it’s time to protect yourself. Remember, shards of broken glass are sharp and can easily prick and cut through your skin. Put on sturdy closed-toe shoes, safety goggles (on Amazon), long pants, and thick work gloves (also on Amazon) before starting the clean-up process.

2. Pick Up Large Pieces

With your gloves on, pick up big shards individually and put them in a coffee tin or a plastic container that’s thick enough so the glass won’t cut through and fall out. 

Don’t kneel in the area with broken glass to pick up the shards, even if you’re wearing long pants. Glass pieces could puncture the fabric and cut your knees. Sit on a small step stool if you can’t bend over easily.

And to help you see every glint of glass, it’s best to use an LED flashlight. You can’t go wrong with the one on your smartphone since it’s bright enough and you can angle it across surfaces. The pieces of glass will glitter in the bright light, allowing you to spot them easily and pick them up.

3. Sweep or Vacuum the Area 

Manufacturers often don’t recommend vacuuming tiny pieces of glass, but sometimes it’s the best option for removing tiny pieces from a rug or carpet.

Use a handheld or wet/dry vacuum that can handle metal shavings to clean up the glass. And while you’re at it, stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines for operation.

Although it may be tempting to use an ordinary vacuum with a flexible hose to suction glass pieces, you risk damaging the machine if you do so. Even if you pick up the large pieces first, the sharp edges of the remaining small shards can still cut the vacuum hose. 

Moreover, glass fragments that remain in the vacuum hose can fall out if you turn off the machine.

To vacuum the glass fragments safely, cover the hose with a stocking or sock and collect the glass fragments. You also want to start by vacuuming on the low setting and switch to the highest suction level to capture the tiniest shards.

If the glass pieces are lodged in upholstery fibers or carpets, use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub them off the surface before sweeping or vacuuming. 

Just be careful not to flick the shards up, or they’ll scatter. Follow with a stiff-bristled broom and dustpan to sweep and collect as many glass shards as you can.

Methods for Picking Up Small Shards

Broken glass on the floor

These are the methods to use for safely cleaning up small pieces of glass from carpets, tiles, counters, and hardwood floors:

Lint Roller

A lint roller meant for pet hair removal — like this one (on Amazon) — is your best option because it has a stronger adhesive and will trap the glass pieces more efficiently.

Pass the roller across the floor (or whichever surface you’re dealing with) to pick up the glass shards. Then peel away the glass-filled sheet and dispose of it safely.

Raw Potato

Cut a raw potato along its length and use both halves to trap the broken glass. Press the flesh of each potato piece on the broken glass, but don’t rub back and forth.

Throw away the potato pieces once you’re finished and wipe away the starchy residue with a damp cloth.

Duct Tape

Tear off about 12 inches (30 cm) of duct tape (on Amazon), then hold each end as you sweep it gently across the surface to be cleaned. Duct tape uses a strong adhesive, and the glass fragments will be trapped on the underside of the tape. 

Once you’ve collected as many bits of glass as possible, fold the tape onto itself and dispose of it safely. Repeat with as many strips of tape as you can until you’ve cleared the whole area of the glass.

Damp Paper Towels

Fold a damp paper towel in half and use it to gently pick up the pieces of glass left on the floor after you’ve swept. 

As paper towels usually vary in thickness, it’s important you wear heavy-duty gloves while using this method so you don’t risk cutting yourself. Dispose of the paper towels carefully once you’re done.

A Slice of Bread

It may sound a bit silly, but fresh bread makes an excellent sponge for picking up tiny pieces of glass, and it works well in hard-to-reach spots. Take a slice of bread and press it gently on the area you suspect has stray glass fragments. 

The glass will embed itself into the soft bread, and you can repeat with as many slices until you’ve cleared the whole area. While at it, don’t rub the bread back and forth as this can make it ineffective.

Dedicated Broom and Dustpan

Use a stiff-bristled broom to sweep the tiny glass shards onto a dry dustpan. It’s highly recommended you use short, efficient strokes to avoid accidentally scattering the pieces around the room. Put the fragments in a thick bag and dispose of them immediately.

Final Tips for Cleaning Up Broken Glass 

Tiny glass fragments may cling to the bristles of your broom, dustpan, or underneath your shoes. So, for safety purposes, take these items out and rinse them thoroughly with a garden hose over a bucket. 

Dispose of the water down a utility drain once you’re done. Use duct tape or paper towels to remove leftover shards from underneath your shoes.

Here are additional tips for cleaning up and disposing of broken glass:

  • Always clean in a 15-foot radius around the area where the glass has shattered. Broken glass might travel much farther than you can imagine.
  • Take out the trash with broken glass immediately after cleaning up.
  • Consider keeping broken glass separate from regular trash if you can.
  • When you’re removing broken glass from the carpet, wear protective eyewear.

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