Trisodium phosphate, or TSP, is an exceptional cleaner for an array of uses including removing grease and paint from concrete and brick, prepping walls for painting and preparing walls for wallpapering.
What’s the issue with trisodium phosphate?
Despite TSP’s cleaning power, it is not without its issues. For starters, TSP is both an eye and skin irritant and is therefore classified as a hazard by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). When using trisodium phosphate, proper eye protection and wearing gloves and long sleeves is recommended. Aside from health concerns there are also environmental concerns. One of the reasons that TSP cleans so well is the phosphate molecule is an excellent detergent. However, phosphate is also a fertilizer and is added to farm fields to increase yields.
The phosphate from fields and detergents can run off or leach into waterways and increase algae blooms. This can lead to fish kills and decreased ecological health. For this reason, phosphate detergents have been banned in 16 states. New York state has banned TSP outright.
With these concerns in mind, many people do not want to use TSP in and around their homes. So, are the trisodium phosphate substitutes on the market as good as the real thing? In short, yes and no. Phosphate is an exceptional grease and grime cutter. However, there are comparable cleaners that can do nearly as good a job as TSP while having less impact on the environment.
Phosphate-free TSP is oddly named. The main ingredient in TSP is phosphate, but this product contains no phosphate. It has sodium sesquicarbonate, similar to baking soda, as the main ingredient (sodium sesquicarbonate makes up about 20% of actual TSP). This phosphate-free product doesn’t cut grease as well as traditional TSP, but it doesn’t have the same negative environmental impact either.
Simple Green is an environmentally safe alternative for TSP that is also not an irritant. It is a liquid cleaner that can clean an array of surfaces and material. It cleans and cuts grease well and there are a variety of formulations for different applications. It can be a bit too ‘sudsy’ and may need a second wipe down with water to remove residue, but it can be diluted with water to reduce this effect.
Klean Strip TSP alternative is another biodegradable cleaner that functions well as a substitute for TSP. Because it lacks phosphate, it isn’t as effective for cutting grease as TSP. Although the formulation is biodegradable, it is still an irritant and proper eye and skin protection should be used.
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