How to Repurpose Old CFL Bulbs into Nightlights

How to Repurpose Old CFL Bulbs into Nightlights


In recent years, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have become a popular replacement for traditional incandescent light bulbs. CFLs use up to 80% less energy and can last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

However, when a CFL burns out, it can’t simply be thrown away like a normal bulb. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, which makes them unsuitable for regular trash disposal.

Fortunately, there are ways to repurpose burned out CFL bulbs rather than sending them directly to a hazardous waste facility. One creative way to reuse old CFLs is turning them into custom nightlights. With a few simple materials, those old bulbs can be given new life.

Gather Your Materials

Repurposing a CFL into a nightlight is a quick, easy project. But first, you’ll need to gather a few supplies:

  • Old CFL bulb – The most important component is a burned out compact fluorescent bulb. Be sure to choose one with an interesting shape that will look nice as a nightlight.

  • Light socket – To wire the CFL bulb, you’ll need an old lamp socket and mounting hardware. These can be salvaged from a thrift store lamp.

  • Electrical cord – A short length of cord will be used to supply electricity to the CFL bulb. Look for a skinny cord with a two-prong plug.

  • Craft materials – To decorate the base, gather art supplies like decorative paper, glue, glitter, beads, or paint.

  • Hardware – Small wood screws, washers, and nuts will be needed to mount the socket.

Before disassembling any materials, be sure to unplug lamps and read safety instructions. LED bulbs are not suitable for this project since they do not contain mercury.

Take Apart the Lamp Socket

To begin constructing the nightlight, the first step is dismantling the lamp socket. Here’s how to take one apart safely:

  • Unplug the lamp and remove the lightbulb.

  • Examine the socket casing and look for any screws or fasteners. Usually there are two small screws holding the sides of the casing together.

  • Carefully unscrew the fasteners using a small Phillips head screwdriver. This will allow you to separate the two halves of the socket.

  • Once open, examine the inner workings including the contacts and wiring. Note how the two socket prongs connect to the electrical cord.

  • Cut the existing lamp cord leaving at least 6 inches connected to the socket. The cord can then be wired to the new nightlight base.

  • Set aside the disassembled socket parts for reassembly later.

Taking apart a lamp socket is easy with the right tools. Be sure not to damage the wiring or electrical contacts inside.

Prepare the CFL Bulb

With the lamp socket disassembled, the next step is accessing the CFL bulb’s inner electronics:

  • Examine the glass CFL bulb and locate its plastic base. Look for any screws or tabs that hold the plastic base onto the glass tube.

  • Carefully pry off the plastic base to expose the end of the tube and wiring inside. Be sure not to break the thin glass tube.

  • Cut off any unnecessary inner plastic housing parts and trim away extra wires.

  • Identify the two terminals that connect to the CFL’s tombstone-shaped base. These two wires will eventually connect to the socket.

  • Use sandpaper or a file to gently roughen the surface of the terminals. This helps the wires adhere when soldering.

  • Test the CFL bulb with a multimeter to make sure it is burned out and no longer working. No current should flow between the two terminals.

With the inner workings exposed, the CFL is ready to be wired into the lamp socket.

Connect the Wiring

To wire the CFL bulb to the lamp socket, follow these steps:

  • Begin by fastening the socket casing back together using the original screws. The two halves should now fit back together around the intact interior parts.

  • Feed the CFL’s two wires through the center opening of the reassembled socket. They will attach to the two electrical terminals inside.

  • Use needle nose pliers to bend the ends of the wires into loops. This allows them to wrap around the socket terminals.

  • Attach the CFL’s wires to the corresponding terminals on the socket using rosin-core solder. Apply heat carefully to avoid damaging the plastic housing.

  • Once soldered, gently tug the wires to ensure they have a solid connection.

  • Wrap any exposed solder joints with electrical tape to prevent shorts.

  • Screw an appropriately sized light bulb into the socket and test it. If the bulb lights up, the wiring is complete!

With some careful soldering, the CFL bulb can be successfully connected to power through the lamp socket.

Add the Base and Finishing Touches

The final steps are decorating the base and mounting the hardware:

  • Gather your craft materials and decorative items. Paper, glitter, beads, ribbon, and more can be used to customize the base.

  • Cut a piece of plywood, MDF, or sturdy cardboard into a shape like a square, rectangle, or circle. This will serve as the base.

  • Adhere your choice of decorative materials to the base using glue, tape, or other adhesives. Get creative with colors and textures!

  • Mount the wired socket to the center of the base using short wood screws and washers. Make sure wires are not pinched.

  • Attach a washer and nut to the screw beneath the base to firmly hold the socket in place.

  • Use the remaining lamp cord to wire a new plug to the nightlight so it can plug into an outlet.

  • Screw the CFL bulb into the mounted socket. Your custom nightlight is complete!

With some simple crafting, you can build a one-of-a-kind nightlight using recycled CFL bulbs. The options for designs are endless!


Repurposing burned out CFL bulbs is a great way to keep this hazardous waste out of landfills. By converting the old bulbs into unique nightlights, you can give them new life while doing something positive for the environment.

The process of disassembling a lamp socket, accessing the CFL wiring, and soldering the connections is straightforward with the right safety precautions. And the finishing decorative touches allow you to create nightlights perfectly suited for any room’s decor.

So don’t discard those dead CFLs! With a little creative thinking and elbow grease, you can upcycle them into charming DIY nightlights. Your friends and family will be amazed at this eco-friendly lighting project.