Bang bang into the room, bang bang all over you (lightbulb explosion)
January 8, 2017 10:54 PM   Subscribe

I have a lamp above my bed with one of those GE "energy saver" halogen bulbs, and without warning, it EXPLODED, leaving tiny shards of glass all over my sheets and the mess of laundry in the room. Yes, this happened in the middle of the night - miraculously, I had happened to step out to brush my teeth. I am sleeping on the floor in another room, but I just received a set of those fleece blanket-like sheets as a gift a few days ago. I am very paranoid about shattered glass - how will I get it out of the carpet (whatever the "durable" type they use in apartments is called)? Do the sheets go in the garbage? How about my other laundry? Once again, I hate the thought of shattered glass in a bedroom. (There is no mercury in this bulb - it is the teeny tiny glass fragments that scare me.)

(It's the middle of the night, so sorry if my angry rambling doesn't make sense.)
posted by Seeking Direction to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
That's crazy, inconvenient as hell, and kind of scary! Sorry you have to deal with this.

Here's what I'd do (not necessarily what YOU should do, but w/e):
-Put on shoes to protect my feet.
-Vacuum up the glass from the carpet as best you can (assuming it's not too late/likely to disturb others)
-Strip the sheets from the bed, folding everything inward to contain the shards.
-Shake out the sheets where glass shards won't be problematic, then wash them. Run a 2nd rinse, or do an extra cycle if it will make you feel better. I'd be too stubborn and cheap to throw out a nice new set of sheets.
-Remake the bed with fresh sheets.
-Go to bed on my usual mattress. I'm too old and crabby (at 41?) to sleep on the floor anymore.

Tomorrow I'd deal with washing the other laundry and a more thorough vacuuming of the carpet. I wouldn't throw anything out, just make certain it's washed thoroughly. Obviously, broken glass is dangerous, but I don't think you need to be paranoid, just careful. It'd be one thing if this was in the kitchen where ingestion was a concern, but in your case I think your sole concern is lacerations/abrasions. As long as you're vigilant in your cleanup, I wouldn't worry. Our skin comes into contact with tiny irritants all the time, which is how I'd characterize any pieces of glass tiny enough that you might miss them.

FWIW, sometimes halogen bulbs can explode due to skin oils on their surface, usually this happens when you install them. As I understand it, the oil causes the bulb to heat unevenly and weaken. Because halogen bulbs are pressurized, when the bulb gets weak enough an explosion occurs. If you elect to use halogen bulbs again (I'd understand if you did not), you can try to handle the bulb with a paper towel or gloves to avoid getting oils on the glass.

Good luck, let us know how it goes!
posted by EKStickland at 11:17 PM on January 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

You can find shards of glass with a bright flashlight in a dim room. Get down near eye level and they should reflect or brighten. (Same goes for metal - earrings, needles, pins...)

I'd probably want to shake the laundry out gently in a place without carpet. You could transfer it in a garbage bag.

Just put on some gloves and shoes and eye protection if needed and carefully clean it all up and vacuum and sweep and check with a flashlight.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:18 AM on January 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

Stained glass window makers use a damp towel to pick up the teeny shards. After you clean up the visible ones, fold a paper towel over to quadruple thickness, which is also conveniently hand-sized, wet it through, squeeze it out a bit so it's damp but not dripping, and gently press (not wipe!) the towel-pad on the floor spots with shards. Then lift up on the towel. You can do a few spots before changing the towel, depending on the density of the little glass bits. Throw away! Single best tip I learned taking a stained glass community rec class, have cleaned up countless broken glasses and lightbulbs this way!

You can also use duct tape to adhere the bits up, or a slice of soft bread even (although I don't know how that would work on carpet. It's useful for uneven tile as it can get in the crevasses which might help on carpet but I feel like paper towels or duct tape are better).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:44 AM on January 9, 2017 [21 favorites]

"how will I get it out of the carpet "

vacuum cleaner.

1. go get shoes from another room if you can
2. also rubber gloves and a garbage and a laundry basket
3. shake out laundry glass into garbage bag, put laundry in basket
4. vacuum bed with bedlinens on it
5. strip bed, shaking remaining glass into garbage bag, put bedlinen in basket
6. carry laundry basket to washing machine, put first load in to wash
7. vacuum your way back from washing machine to bedroom
8. vacuum floor, mattress, stripped bedding
9. put on clean bedlinen
10. unplug the lamp if you haven't already
11. make a note to buy: laundry hamper, non halogen bulbs in the morning and throw out existing halogen bulbs
12. make sure alarm is set, go to sleep
posted by tel3path at 1:00 AM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dude, that sucks! I'm so glad you weren't in the room when that happened.

Here's what I'd do as a fellow freak about glass: bundle up the bedding and everything the glass exploded on and place in a plastic bag. Put that bag in the garage or whatever storage area you have. Contact the 800 number or twitter account of the company that made the exploding bulb and give them an itemized list of your expenses due to this mess (take pictures). They'll reimburse you. This type of shit happens.

Sheets - garbage. Sorry, friend. I wouldn't want to take the chance of something getting through the wash, and honestly, as an insomniac, I'm super picky about my bedding. Call a well-rated carpet cleaning company to deal with the floor. Send the bill to the exploding bulb company. Nag or twitter shame them until they reimburse you.

ProTip: As a person who has lived their entire life in California: please don't put bookcases or lamps or anything else over your bed that could harm you if it fell down or exploded.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:08 AM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Let me echo what LuckySeven said. You can probably get enough glass out of the carpet to make it usable, though I would still wear shoes/slippers on it from now on. The bedding? Nah.

My car window got bashed one night. I cleaned it out thoroughly, but we were still picking glass-crumbs out of the upholstery, floor mats, and various crannies until the eventual demise of the vehicle, many years later. Glass is great when in use, but all-hell when it breaks.
posted by Weftage at 8:00 AM on January 9, 2017

FWIW, sometimes halogen bulbs can explode due to skin oils on their surface, usually this happens when you install them. As I understand it, the oil causes the bulb to heat unevenly and weaken. Because halogen bulbs are pressurized, when the bulb gets weak enough an explosion occurs.

Good advice above about dealing with the glass.

I wanted to chime in and say that I know that the skin oil/halogen thing sounds like bullshit, and I dismissed it myself until I happened to ask a professional theater lighting designer friend about it and it's totally a real thing.
posted by cmoj at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2017

Everybody knows that halogen bulbs can explode, so there are safety regulations that light fixtures are supposed to meet, to shield you from exploding halogen bulbs. There is supposed to be some sort of secondary containment feature.

If this is a medium-base incandescent replacement, there would be a small halogen bulb inside a larger "normal-size" glass envelope that is not supposed to explode.

I agree with contacting the bulb and/or fixture manufacturer, as appropriate.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:49 AM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! It indeed seems like the containment mechanism failed.
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:13 PM on January 9, 2017

So there was less glass than I expected. I used my iPhone's flashlight to find (hopefully) most of them, and I vacuumed/lint-rolled EVERYTHING. Carpet, sheets, you name it! As for what I did with the sheets, I have another set, and I obsessively shook, inspected (with flashlight), shook again, and vacuumed every sheet that was on the bed at that point, and then brought them to the laundromat. (Knock on wood...) Honestly, if I were to buy new sheets, I'd be stuck checking them just as neurotically, worried if they picked up any debris from the floor. Thanks, everyone!

Once again, knock on wood!
posted by Seeking Direction at 2:00 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Final update from the OP:
Update - I cleaned thoroughly and didn't end up throwing anything out, but the manufacturer sent me a check for the damaged property. I found a few shards in the corner (thankfully not in an area I walk through) over the next few months, but thankfully nobody was hurt!
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:27 AM on January 25, 2018

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