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The Pros and Cons of Cleaning with TSP

Trisodium phosphate, commercially known as TSP, is a commonly used cleansing agent. This cleansing powdered product consists of 75-80% trisodium phosphate and 20-25% sodium carbonate.


The granular product is a white crystalline solid which is mixed with hot water before use. TSP is highly soluble in water and the solution is alkaline in nature.


The chemical formula of TSP is Na3PO4. TSP is a very effective cleanser for an oily/greasy surface. Painters commonly use this product for cleaning the surface before painting.


What are the applications of TSP? 


Before applying TSP powder is to be mixed with warm water. Complete dissolution of the powder is to be ensured before applying.


TSP has numerous applications, owing to the ease of availability. Moreover, TSP has grown to be the most preferred chemical for cleaning walls. Beyond cleaning, it has found its applications in the food industry as well.


Reducing the acidity in foods is one such area. Improving the pH levels in food, thus making them edible is why TSP has gained its prominence.


TSP has various uses. It is used for :


  1. Clearing oil stains

  2. Preparing the surface for painting

  3. Washing the decks

  4. Removing creosote from fireplace

  5. Stripping paint from the masonry surface

  6. Food-additives

  7. Lubricant.


Rubber hand gloves and goggles have to be used as a precautionary measure while applying TSP.


Consumption of TSP at milder levels is not an issue. But, if you are consuming them at higher levels, you run the risk of kidney failure. It can also impact bone density, and result in intestinal inflammation as well. 


Why is TSP a preferred cleaning agent? 


TSP is a preferred cleaning agent for the following reasons.


  1. Cost: It is inexpensive

  2. Durability: It has long shelf life if it is stored in dry condition

  3. Application: Easy to apply

  4. Grease Removal at Ease: Very effective to remove oil and oily stains from the walls. It often succeeds to remove the stains where cleansers fail to function effectively.

  5. Ease of Access: The ease of availing the TSP makes it one of the most preferred. 

  6. Alteration of Strength: The strength of the cleansing liquid can be easily varied by changing the quantity of water

  7. The great utility of application: TSP can remove mold and mildew also.

Why is TSP losing its sheen? 


Even though TSP is a very effective cleanser, it has got certain drawbacks for which it’s losing its sheen


  1. Toxicity: TSP is highly toxic. It needs to be handled with utmost care. Rubber hand-gloves and goggles are to be used while applying TSP. Full-sleeve shirts have to be worn while applying TSP. While applying indoor, very good ventilation is to be ensured. TSP can irritate eyes and skin. So proper care has to be taken while applying.

  2. Government Regulation: Usage of TSP is banned by certain governments.

  3. Eutrophication: If TSP gets mixed with water, then algae growth is promoted. The growth of algae in the water body results in depletion of oxygen level and it affects aquatic life.

  4. Reaction with moisture: TSP can get damaged if it is not kept in dry condition.

  5. Damaging properties: TSP can damage glass, mirror, tiles, aluminum surface, etc.

Alternative to TSP and its efficacy


Due to environmental reasons, there are continuous efforts to find a substitute for TSP.


Borax can be an effective substitute for TSP. Stringent safety measures as taken while applying TSP are not required while applying borax. Borax is less expensive than TSP. Borax is environment-friendly and can remove mold and mildew.


In some cases, a high-pressure water jet can be an effective substitute for TSP. With calibrated “pressure & volume” of water, difficult areas also can be cleaned. It doesn’t have safety & environmental issues.

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