Although a metal, mercury is liquid at normal temperatures – but not wet. It cannot be picked up, mopped up or brushed up without breaking into globules.
In the home, it is most likely to be found in thermometers, and if a thermometer is broken the spilled mercury, sometimes called quicksilver, can be difficult to remove.
If mercury spills on a carpet it may be swept up, but silvery traces are likely to remain. DO NOT VACUUM IT – under heat, mercury becomes a highly toxic vapour.
On a flat surface, try rounding up spilt particles by slipping a stiff, thin sheet of paper beneath them. Wrap them well and dispose of them in a dustbin.
Mercury is poisonous if inhaled, or if it gets into the bloodstream, or is absorbed through the skin.
But if swallowed, it usually does no harm, as the gut cannot absorb it. It is in fact widely used in dental fillings, and in pharmaceuticals, agricultural and industrial fungicides, and chemical pesticides.