Mirrors beautify a home by multiplying light and adding accents to a room or hallway. In days long past, owning a mirror was a big deal and moving them across a country --or an ocean-- took serious care and effort. Modern mirrors take a lot less effort to get places and also contain fewer hard to find materials. The biggest risk associated with mirrors today comes from not knowing how to dispose of a mirror when they break or chip.
The reflective materials make recycling difficult in some areas. Worse, cleaning up a mirror that breaks has serious risks. Aggregate studies show that 13% of emergency room trauma wounds come from glass.
That's why we've gathered this list of six tips to help you dispose of your mirrors safely and effectively.
How to Dispose of a Mirror (Safely)
Safety isn't just for you while cleaning up, its also for everyone along the chain. Most of our industrial trash disposal revolves around the ability to keep materials together. Disposing of a bag of sharp-edged implements wreaks havoc on that.
Glass also does a bad job of staying out of the ecosystem. Its construction makes it granular when breaking. Even a single shard of glass ground down becomes a sharp powder capable of harm.
1. Gather Supplies
To avoid injury you want personal protection. To get the job done right you need some tools. We'll go over the list of musts and substitutes here.
Start with safety clothing. You don't want any exposed skin which can get struck by a sudden shard of glass. Closed-toed shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt all work better than their summertime counterparts.
Eye protection can be substituted unless you need to break down the mirror further, in which case it becomes a must. Cut-resistant gloves from the kitchen, thick gardening gloves, or some leather tool handlers are musts for the hands.
Make certain the gloves tuck into your shirt. When it comes to glass, 46% of injuries affect the wrist with 35% of those causing ulnar nerve damage.
With your body protected, it's time to grab the materials that will protect the environment. These items will be needed to enact the next two tips.
- Bubble Wrap
- Trash Bags
For the final three tips, you'll need a few extra items.
- Wet Wipes
Make sure any pets and small children are kept out of the area. You don't want to be halfway through cleaning up and have one of them wandering through and getting hurt.
2. Tape the Surface
No matter the condition of the mirror, you start by taping up the surface. Spiderweb cracks, missing pieces, or nearly empty frame tape keeps what's there inside.
Use a strong tape like packing tape or duct tape. Painting tape and masking tape will not hold well enough to keep the weight of the glass from coming out.
You don't want to refill the mirror. It's tempting to place the broken pieces in and tape them into a jumble. After all, if you go through the process of wrapping and boxing the mirror, the more glass the better.
Loose glass eventually gets out.
Tape an x-shape across the front of the mirror first. Then a band across the centre to carry more weight. Now's the time to lift the mirror off the wall if it's still hanging.
Assuming the mirror already hit the floor, take your x-pattern across the front and the back. Continous bands of tape hold better than partial strips. It's best if you tape the entire surface but if you want to save tape, the x suffices.
3. Wrap and Box
With the mirror taped and secure, you now want to reinforce the edges and protect the tape itself. This sounds a bit odd, but keeping pressure off the tape prevents it from pushing into cracks.
Tape that pushes into cracks tears. From there to glass everywhere is a bump away. Bubble wrap provides a nice cushion and gives an extra layer the glass must cut through if it does get free from the tape.
After you put the bubble wrap in place, insert the mirror into a box. You now have three layers of protection from the glass inside.
Label the mirror as 'glass for disposal' and follow your local trash collection rules. Depending on the size of your mirror, this may include dropping off the mirror at a landfill or placing the package next to a trash can.
4. Large and Medium Bits
With the frame and what glass remains disposed of, it's time to handle the remainder. Start by getting dedicated light on the area. Lighting from several angles provides better conditions to see smaller bits.
Especially in narrow hallways and small nooks. Mirrors look great in small spaces but make for extra sensitive cleanup.
Pick up the large and medium pieces and double bag them with puncture-resistant trash bags.
Vacuum up the small pieces with a shop vac or a hose attachment. Avoid using the upholstery brush or any brush attachment. You don't want to trap glass shards in the bristles.
Blot the area to pick up tiny shards that vacuuming missed. Bread works well for this as it is absorbent. Alternatively, roll up some tape in a ball and roll that over the area.
Drop your blotter into the bag with the larger shards. After a pass, if nothing sparkles, consider the area almost finished. One more tip to go.
6. Wet Wipe
Use a wet wipe to go over the area again. These last three tips basically have you employ smaller meshes to filter up the smaller pieces.
Even in a carpeted surface this helps collect glass dust you would otherwise miss. Run a few passes with wet wipes, if you soak the area, the dust can drift into the padding, where it will resurface.
When complete, take a seat and wipe down your shoes and your gloves to pick up any residue.
Take a Moment
The entire process of how to dispose of a mirror only takes an hour but it seems involved. That's because you want to use extra precaution upfront to avoid cuts and injuries later.
Speaking of avoiding injuries, avoid mirrors breaking by making certain they are installed properly. Sturdy installation minimizes the risk of falls and breaks. Check out our mirror installation service for more information.