What You Must Know Before Cleaning With TSP

TSP stands for trisodium phosphate and is an inorganic chemical found in various places. Like with any chemical cleaning agent, there are risks associated with using TSP. On the other hand, it works as a high-speed and powerful cleaning agent. Whether TSP is suitable for you to clean your home depends on your assessment of its pros and cons.

In the following article we’ve provided you with all the necessary information about TSP, so you know all the facts before deciding to clean with it. Starting from the essential details on TSP and its background story to its uses and advantages, we’ve got you covered regarding all TSP facts.

What is TSP?

We know TSP is used for cleaning, but what exactly is it? Trisodium phosphate is made by neutralizing phosphoric acid by using sodium hydroxide. Sometimes, sodium carbonate is also added, but carbonate only produces disodium phosphate. For the chemistry lovers, the chemical formula of TSP is NA3PO4, and the solid white substance has a granular or crystalline texture. It is mostly found in powder form. TSP is highly water soluble, and it produces an alkaline solution. Trisodium phosphate is used in many applications, including but not limited to, cleaning, building, food additives, and removing stains. 

Sometimes, trisodium phosphate is referred to as TSP bleach because of its extensive use as a cleaning agent. The history of TSP reveals that it was used much more commonly in the past than it is today. The primary reason for this is the risks that TSP poses.

Keep reading to find out how TSP came forth.

The Story of TSP

In the beginning, TSP was the best choice for demanding cleaning jobs. It used to be found as the main ingredient in standard household cleaning products such as dishwasher detergents or laundry soaps. Recently, however, the chemical has become less popular due to the increase in awareness.

In the 1970s, states in the US started to control the use of phosphates due to its harmful effects on the environment. When the chemicals ended up into rivers or lakes, they caused algae to multiply and harm other life in the ecosystem. In some places, the sale of products containing phosphates was banned. This resulted in manufacturers resorting to new products without any phosphates in them.

That’s why today phosphates aren’t a significant ingredient in most cleaning products, even though a small amount of TSP may be found in a limited number of cleaners. At this stage, it’s natural to wonder: if they’re not used in products anymore, should we still be using TSP compounds? Read about the “uses” of TSP to get a better idea of why people would still opt for the chemical.

Uses

Although the primary use for TSP is for cleaning, there is a wide range of other applications of this chemical. Its alkaline properties make it perfect for removing grease and oil from various surfaces. Trisodium phosphate is exceptionally potent, which allows it to also clean dirt, fingerprints, walls, bleach clothes, and a lot more. You can easily mix TSP with regular household bleach without worrying about a reaction. The following list explains the different uses of TSP:

Removing Mildew

You can effectively remove mildew from walls with TSP. It will also remove any stains due to the mildew. Just make sure not to use the chemical on any metal, wood, or glass that’s near the mildew. It may cause damage to these materials. After cleaning the mildew and mildew stains, you’ll have to rinse the surface with water and leave it to dry. Although TSP is handy in removing mildew, it isn’t entirely suitable for removing mold.

Chlorinated TSP

Chlorinated TSP is made from NAOCl by neutralizing the phosphoric acid. Chlorinated trisodium phosphate is commonly found in cleaning powders and is an excellent cleaning chemical as well. It is used as a bleach and disinfectant similar to sodium hypochlorite. Chlorinated trisodium phosphate is suitable for cleaning steel surfaces or products and a few types of plastics as well.

Cleaning Walls

TSP cleaner is commonly used to clean walls and other surfaces before painting. It should be mixed with water and used only on these surfaces, outside ones being best. Rinse everything thoroughly after using the TSP cleaner and then give ample drying time before painting. It can be a replacement for sandpaper as well since TSP cleaner will remove paint.

Cleaning Masonry

Masonry can also be cleaned using TSP cleaners. While cleaning masonry, it is crucial to make sure you aren’t dealing with significant mortar staining because these types of stains require an even stronger cleaning agent. It is also necessary to rule out efflorescence, which consists of salt deposits from the water. Extreme staining brought about by mortar or efflorescence needs to be removed by using muriatic acid, which is riskier to use than TSP, so make sure to research on the substance if you plan on using it.

Flux

Flux consists of a bunch of materials that are used to cover welds and protect them from atmospheric gases. TSP has been approved in the US for applications in hard soldering joints done for medical-grade copper plumbing. TSP is one of the ingredients used in fluxes that are created for deoxygenating nonferrous casting metals.

Cleaning Roofs

TSP can be used to clean roofs of all types. You’ll need to dilute the TSP first just like you would for any other application. Usually, TSP is diluted by adding a half cup of it to almost two gallons of warm water. When cleaning roofs with TSP, it is essential to be very careful of the surroundings. If TSP comes into contact with plants, it can damage or kill them. Phosphates are very strong and harmful to foliage, so make sure you cover nearby plants with water before working with TSP. Water on the foliage can reduce any damage if TSP does happen to reach it. If there are moss and dirt on your roof, chances are you will need to scrub hard to remove them. The result, however, will leave your roof extremely neat and clean.

Removing Grout

Trisodium phosphate is also used for eliminating dried grout. Although it can’t be used for cleaning grout, it is effective at removing old parts of it. While taking out old tiles, you may see some old grout that’s extremely difficult to remove, which is where TSP comes in. All you must do is leave some TSP cleaner to sit on the grout for a few minutes, and then remove it. The dried grout will come out much easier than it would’ve before.

Enhancing Wall Paint

TSP can be used to de-grease, de-gloss, and completely clean walls before painting them. TSP is effective in removing and breaking apart gloss from oil-based paints and opening pores of latex-based paint. Cleaning the walls with TSP is a useful step before painting because it’ll provide you with a surface that’s much better suited for applying paint layers.

Food Additive

In the EU, various sodium phosphates such as monosodium phosphate and trisodium phosphate are used as food additives. Their most common use is to act as acidity regulators. The US FDA also approves sodium phosphates safe for adding to foods.

Enhancing Exercise

Trisodium phosphate has become popular as a nutritional supplement that allows people to exercise better. This assumption is based on the fact that phosphate is useful for the Krebs cycle, which produced energy and is an integral part of the body’s aerobic metabolism.

These are just a few of the many different uses of TSP, which makes the chemical so versatile. You can use to clean just about any surface, or household item is given that it doesn’t get damaged by the chemical.

Mixing and Applying TSP

Mixing and applying TSP is a reasonably simple and straightforward process. The chemical is easy to use, although you’ll need to follow a lot of guidelines to ensure it doesn’t cause any harmful effects. To use TSP, the powder needs to be mixed with water. A half cup of TSP needs to be dissolved in two gallons of warm water. This is only for heavy-duty cleaning, though. For regular cleaning, you need to mix only a quarter cup of TSP with two gallons of hot water. For removing mildew from places such as a deck, you can add one cup of TSP into three quarts of water and then add one quart of chlorine bleach.

For applying TSP, you can use sponges, rags, or mops. You can also use a pressure washer for outdoor applications, especially sidings and decks. You can use sponges or cloths to clean walls and woodwork but be sure to squeeze out extra liquid from the material first, and then rinse with water. Mops or sponges are best for cleaning floors and scrubbing with a brush is useful for tough stain removals.

Pros of Using TSP

TSP is one of the best and most reliable cleaning agents to date, even after extreme dilution. Using TSP is a good choice for cleaning stains and residues that are nearly impossible to remove. Here are the main benefits of using TSP:

  1. It is an extremely strong and effective cleaner.
  2. Gets rid of stubborn stains, mildew, dirt, grease, etc.
  3. More effective for bleaching white clothes than all other bleaching agents.
  4. If you spray it on the sides of your home, it’ll provide protection from fungus.
  5. It can be easily applied using sponges, brushes, mops, etc.
  6. You can use a sprayer to apply TSP in hard to reach areas or for exteriors.
  7. Is suitable for different materials such as brick, stone, cement, or wood.
  8. TSP leaves surfaces extremely clean and neat.
  9. TSP solution is very easy to prepare.

Cons of Using TSP

With any powerful cleaning agent, there may be some cons. Trisodium phosphate is known to be a dangerous chemical, but if used with extreme care and precaution, you should not have any issues. Here are the major cons of TSP:

  1. It is harmful to humans and can irritate the eyes and cause damage to the skin.
  2. TSP is dangerous to plants if it comes in direct contact with them.
  3. TSP causes harmful side effects to the environment, especially if it washes into rivers or lakes.
  4. It might be harmful to the items you’re cleaning if misused.
  5. It might be banned for use in your area.

Substitutes

Since using TSP has significant harmful side effects, some people might want to opt for an alternative. Some frequent replacements of TSP are sodium bicarbonate or soda ash and zeolites. The other options are not as useful for cleaning as TSP, but they are definitely safer to use. In demanding applications, substitute compounds might not work correctly since they are not as strong as TSP.

Safety Precautions

Trisodium phosphate is an excellent cleaning agent, and it’s safe to use if you take the necessary precautions. Following are essential safety precautions:

  1. Wear protective gloves along with eye protection while using TSP.
  2. If it gets into or near your eyes, rinse them with clean water for more than 15 minutes.
  3. Avoid getting TSP anywhere on your body, because if it comes in contact with your skin, it can cause major irritation or even burns.
  4. If you get any on the skin, make sure to wash the area thoroughly with water and soap.
  5. Immediately seek medical attention is TSP irritates your skin or eyes too much.
  6. If you ingest any TSP by accident, don’t try to vomit, instead, drink water or milk and immediately seek medical attention.
  7. TSP is strong enough to damage some household surfaces and even wooden objects.
  8. TSP can damage painted surfaces and wear colors.
  9. Use masking tape to protect surfaces that you don’t wish to damage.
  10. Do not breathe in TSP dust.
  11. Protect any foliage before using TSP near it.

Apart from these precautions, you must make sure you don’t use TSP in a bathroom. There are a few important reasons which make TSP highly unsuitable for use in bathrooms. TSP can stain metals in the bathroom, such as plumbing fixtures or shower doors. TSP should not be left in contact with chromed drains or glazed ceramic tiles. It can do considerable damage and leave unsightly stains. Do not leave it near grout as it might attack it.

If you keep all these important points in mind, using TSP will be of great benefit to your home. It can clean the dirtiest surfaces or objects and improve the overall sanitary conditions of your home. TSP can be helpful for cleaning areas where other cleaning agents wouldn’t be successful.  

Takeaway

TSP is an extremely potent chemical compound that can clean even the toughest stains and buildups. It has been around for a while, but due to the environmental risks it poses, has been discontinued for various applications. TSP was used in many cleaning products before it was banned, and product manufacturers had to opt for alternatives. TSP is used in a lot of different applications, but since its invention, it has been most popular for cleaning the home.

If you’re looking for a quick and powerful way to keep your home in great shape, TSP is your go-to chemical cleanser. If you don’t know how to use it, however, it can considerably damage household objects, plants, and even cause burning and itching to your eyes or skin. To sum it up, make sure to take all necessary precautions before using TSP. These precautions generally include covering yourself up properly and protecting surfaces nearby that you wouldn’t want to damage from the chemical.

Now that you know the basic facts about TSP, what benefits it can provide, and what precautions you must take to eliminate the risks, you can make an informed decision. Whether you use TSP for cleaning purposes is up to you, but if you plan on using it, you must be very careful and strictly follow all precautions.

What You Must Know Before Cleaning With TSP

TSP stands for trisodium phosphate and is an inorganic chemical found in various places. Like with any chemical cleaning agent, there are risks associated...

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