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Trisodium phosphate (TSP)


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TSP, a powerful degreasing detergent, once had many more uses throughout the home until it was superseded by more modern formulations. Today it remains useful as a cleaner that prepares surfaces for painting, such as walls and concrete floors. While TSP removes mold, borax powder is also effective as well as safer for the environment, since borax lacks phosphates. Powdered TSP is sold by home centers and hardware stores.


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While they are highly effective in cleaning, the use of phosphates has been dramatically scaled back in recent decades over concerns about their effects in environmental water. These inorganic chemicals do not break down easily and tend to build up in freshwater ponds and lakes, where they promote the growth of algae. Excessive algae blooms deplete the oxygen in water, harming plankton and the fish that feed on them.

For those interested in green cleaning, some manufacturers sell “phosphate-free” TSP powder, available in many of the same retail outlets, as a substitute for trisodium phosphate. The phosphate-free formulation contains sodium metasilicates.

Both TSP and sodium metasilicate are highly alkaline. Dust from these powders can irritate the nose, eyes and lungs. When mixed with water to form a cleaning solution, prolonged exposure to both chemicals can cause skin irritation. Wear protective gloves, eye protection and long sleeved shirts and pants while using these products. Wear a dust mask while mixing these powders with water if dust irritates nasal passages.

Store these chemicals in original containers in a dry location. Both compounds are highly toxic when ingested. Store them out of the reach of children or pets.


Trisodium phosphate (TSP):  Created on November 3rd, 2009.  Last Modified on November 3rd, 2009


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