How to Clean Up Broken Glass Safely

Cleaning up broken glass can be a dangerous task if not done properly. Glass shards are sharp and can easily cut skin and damage floors or carpets. This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to thoroughly clean up broken glass in the safest way possible.

Gather the Proper Safety Equipment

When handling broken glass, it is essential to protect yourself from cuts by wearing thick gloves and closed-toe shoes. Here is the safety gear you should have on hand:

  • Thick rubber gloves – Regular household gloves may rip and won’t provide enough protection for your hands. Rubber dish washing gloves or heavy-duty rubber gloves work best.
  • Closed-toe shoes – Wear shoes that cover your whole foot, not sandals or slippers which leave skin exposed. Thick soles also help protect feet from being cut through by glass shards.
  • Safety goggles – Shattered glass can fly up into eyes. Wear protective goggles to shield your eyes when cleaning up the mess.
  • Dust mask – Tiny glass particles can be inhaled. Cover your nose and mouth with a dust mask as you sweep.
  • Broom and dustpan – Have a broom and dustpan ready to sweep up the large glass pieces. Do not use a vacuum yet, as it can blow small shards into the air.
  • Stiff cardboard or cardboard box – Use thick cardboard to scoop up the smaller glass pieces that the broom misses.

Clear the Area of Any Remaining Glass

Before starting to clean, clear the immediate area of any remaining glass to avoid accidentally cutting yourself.

  • Pick up any intact glass objects carefully and set them aside in a safe location.
  • Gently sweep away the largest glass shards with the broom and dustpan. Dispose of them properly wrapped in newspaper or a bag so they don’t fall out.
  • Place the stiff cardboard on top of the smaller glass pieces and scoop them up carefully. Throw the cardboard away when finished.
  • Check for any remaining glass stuck in surrounding objects or furniture and remove it. Shake out rugs, cushions or curtains in the vicinity.
  • Ensure everyone, including children and pets, have left the area to avoid injury. Block it off with furniture if needed.

Vacuum Thoroughly

Once the large debris is removed, vacuum the entire area thoroughly to pick up the tiny glass splinters that are hard to see.

  • Use a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner if possible, not a lightweight model, for better suction power. Empty the vacuum first so glass doesn’t mix with other dirt and debris.
  • Vacuum the surface where the glass broke first, using overlapping strokes to cover all areas.
  • Then vacuum surrounding surfaces, including floors, furniture, shelves, and countertops where glass may have scattered.
  • Replace the vacuum bag or canister afterward since it will now contain sharp glass that can tear through it.

Clean Surfaces

Surfaces with invisible glass dust need to be carefully cleaned to remove any remaining shards.

For Tile, Vinyl or Wood Flooring

  • Sweep again with a broom to loosen any glass particles. Discard the sweepings right away.
  • Wipe down the floors using a paper towel or lint-free cloth dampened in warm water and vinegar. The vinegar helps remove dried liquid and debris.
  • Rinse the area with plain water and wipe dry with a clean cloth. Check the rinse water for glass shards and repeat cleaning if needed.

For Carpeted Areas

  • Use a stiff brush to work out embedded glass from the carpet fibers. Avoid vacuuming again right away so shards don’t get ground in deeper.
  • Sprinkle a light coating of baking soda over the area and let sit for 15 minutes. The tiny glass pieces will stick to the baking soda.
  • Gently vacuum up the baking soda. Use the hose attachment and go over the carpet slowly.
  • If glass remains, repeat the baking soda treatment until satisfied the area is clean.

For Upholstered Furniture

  • Brush or shake out the furniture to remove any remaining glass pieces stuck in fabric.
  • Mix a solution of mild laundry detergent and cool water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray it on the fabric and pat (don’t rub) with a paper towel.
  • Rinse the spot with a clean damp cloth and blot dry with a towel. Check rinse water for glass and repeat if needed.
  • Vacuum the furniture with a hose attachment again when fully dry.

Dispose of Glass Safely

Never put broken glass into the garbage can loosely. It can cut through trash bags and pose a hazard to waste disposal workers.

  • Place glass pieces in rigid containers labeled “GLASS” like milk jugs or detergent bottles. Seal tightly.
  • Wrap larger shards thoroughly in newspaper, cardboard or duct tape so they don’t poke through.
  • Take glass waste directly to your recycling center. Do not put glass in curbside recycling bins.
  • If needed, call your local waste management company to inquire about proper glass shard disposal. Never put it in the compost.

Wash Your Hands

Make sure to carefully wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning up any broken glass, even if you wore thick gloves. Tiny nicks or scratches can occur without being immediately visible. Thorough hand washing removes glass dust and particles and prevents potential injury.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Up Broken Glass

Cleaning up shattered glass takes time and care. Here are answers to some common questions about how to do it safely:

How do I know when I’ve gotten all the glass cleaned up?

It can be tricky ensuring no glass shards remain. Give the area a very thorough final vacuuming concentrating on cracks and crevices. Run fingers gently over surfaces to feel for any lingering splinters. Rinse and wring out rags used to wipe down areas and check that no glass comes up. The absence of any glinting reflective pieces means the area is glass-free.

Is it okay to just sweep up broken glass and throw it in the trash?

Never simply sweep up glass shards and toss them loose into the garbage can. The sharp pieces can poke through plastic bags and cut waste disposal workers or recyclers. Always place broken glass into rigid containers first, or wrap well in duct tape, newspaper or cardboard before putting in the trash.

Can I vacuum up broken glass with my regular vacuum?

It’s not advisable to use a regular lightweight vacuum on broken glass as the shards can fly back up through the air flow. Use a heavy duty shop vacuum if possible. Empty the vacuum first too so glass doesn’t mix into the bag or canister with other dirt and debris. The vacuum parts will need to be cleaned out afterward as well.

What should I do if I don’t have rubber gloves to clean up broken glass?

Thick rubber gloves provide the best protection when handling broken glass, but if unavailable you can use multiple layers of other materials. Wear cotton gardening gloves underneath dishwashing gloves, or wrap hands in several layers of duct tape. Use tongs or tweezers to pick up shards. Leather work gloves can also help prevent cuts from sharp debris.

How do I get tiny glass pieces out of my carpet?

Use a stiff bristle hand brush to work down into the carpet fibers and loosen embedded splinters. Let baking soda sit on the area for 10-15 minutes before vacuuming to allow glass to adhere to it. Avoid immediately re-vacuuming the spot so shards don’t get pushed in deeper. Go slowly over the carpet with the vacuum hose and repeat with baking soda as needed until no more glass comes up.

Is it safe to use a wet/dry shop vacuum on broken glass?

Wet/dry shop vacuums are ideal for cleaning up broken glass since they have high suction power. Make sure to empty the tank completely first to avoid glass mixing in with other dirt and debris. Change or dispose of the filter afterward, since fine glass particles will embed in the fibers. Do not use the blower function, as that can re-circulate glass fragments. Keep kids and pets out of the area since glass can still fly up as you vacuum.

How to Prevent Broken Glass Accidents

While cleaning up shattered glass takes effort, preventing the breakage in the first place is preferable. Here are some tips to avoid accidents involving broken glass:

Use Shatter-Resistant Materials

Choose shatter-resistant options when possible:

  • Tempered Glass – Designed to break into pebble-sized pieces instead of jagged shards. Safer for windows and cookware.
  • Plastic – Plastic cups, dishes, and windows are lighter and less prone to breaking than glass ones.
  • Screens – Window screens prevent outdoor balls or debris from shattering interior glass panes. Use sliding door screens too.

Cushion Falls

Don’t leave hard surfaces like tile or wood completely bare.

  • Put down area rugs and runners to cushion potential falls. Choose padded versions with non-slip backing.
  • Install padded floor mats in bathtubs and showers. Use non-slip bath mats and decals.
  • A fixes, soft surfaces like carpets, curtains, and cushions help safeguard a shattering fall.

Use Non-Slip Materials

Friction prevents slips and falls that lead to breaks.

  • Choose dishes and glasses with non-slip bottom pads or silicone rings. Drying hands well lessens dish drops.
  • Install non-slip adhesive floor strips in kitchens, bathrooms, and stairways. Apply non-slip treads on outdoor steps.
  • Use rubber backed bath mats, appliques, curtain liners, and decals in showers and tubs.

Pad Sharp Corners

Cushioning hard corners and edges prevents forceful impacts.

  • Affix clear corner guards on tabletop and countertop corners. Use soft edge bumpers on furniture.
  • Install rounded shower rods and glass doors that don’t swing outward. Choose a frameless pivoting enclosure.
  • Pad sharp hearth edges with foam. Use corner covers or removable edge bumpers on fireplace glass doors.

Store Safely

Keep glass objects properly contained and positioned.

  • Replace lids on glass jars and bottles right away. Never use containers with cracks or chips.
  • Set glass shower doors to open inwards into the shower rather than outward into the bathroom.
  • Ensure glass shelves have sufficient bracket support and are not overloaded. Place heaviest items on lower shelves.

Handle with Care

Avoid forceful contact with glass items.

  • Never place very hot items directly on glass surfaces. The extreme temperature differential can cause it to crack or shatter. Use hot pads.
  • Open windows gently and slowly. Do not let window panes slam shut. Keep windows locked when not in use.
  • When washing glass, use soft cloths or sponges in a light circular motion. Avoid abrasive scrubbing or squeegees on glass doors and windows.

What to Do If a Glass Break Occurs

Despite precautions, glass may break unexpectedly. Here’s how to respond:

  • Stop – Freeze in place and don’t move right away if glass starts shattering. Cover eyes and face.
  • Wait – Allow any falling glass to settle before attempting to move. Wait 30 seconds or more if needed.
  • Survey – Look carefully at the floor and immediate area for glass debris before taking a step.
  • Contain – Prevent others from entering the space until completely cleaned up. Block it off if necessary.
  • Clean – Follow all safety steps outlined in this article for thorough glass cleanup and proper disposal.
  • Inspect – Check everyone’s hands and feet for any cuts or embedded shards. Seek medical care for deep cuts.
  • Prevent – Determine the cause so future breaks can be avoided. Add safety measures like plexiglass barriers or window film if needed.


Broken glass accidents frequently happen, but can be hazardous if not properly cleaned up. Follow these detailed steps to completely remove glass from a space:

  • Don protective gear like gloves, shoes, and goggles to safeguard yourself from cuts.
  • Carefully sweep, scoop, and vacuum all visible shards. Dispose of them securely wrapped or contained.
  • Thoroughly clean all surrounding surfaces like floors, carpets, and furniture to remove microscopic glass dust.
  • Wash hands well afterwards, even if gloves were worn. Tiny nicks can occur.
  • Make prevention a priority by utilizing shatter-resistant materials, stability products, padded edges, and careful glass handling.

Knowing how to completely clean up every tiny remnant of broken glass helps ensure the safety of everyone who uses the area next. With the right preparation and cleanup methods, you can take the peril out of glass particle removal.