It should come as no surprise that DIYers have been using a chemical called trisodium phosphate, or TSP cleaner, to get rid of problematic stains off of walls and floors for as long as anyone can remember. While TSP has been the way to go for years, its become a worrisome household cleaner for anyone who is conscious about our environmental problems or for anyone who may have skin or respiratory issues. There are a few different ways to get the same benefits of trisodium phosphate without having to deal with the negative environmental and health effects caused by this harsh chemical. If you’re one of those people who have used this chemical for years, then it may be time to make a change. Keep reading to discover some great tips for making your own household cleaners without causing damage to your health or the environment.
What Exactly is TSP Cleaner?
For many years, TSP has been considered the number one choice for all of the truly tough cleaning jobs. Trisodium phosphate is capable of removing all of the most difficult stains on a variety of surfaces with almost no effort from the person doing the job. From wood to stone, it goes without saying that trisodium phosphate was the way to go when it came to tough cleaners.
Usually, TSP is used before painting to quickly clean grime, layers of soot, caked-on dirt, and puddles of grease from decks, siding, and other outdoor areas. The chemical formula was made to be used on a variety of washable surfaces around the home. The formula was also created to control the dust left behind from lead-based paint. Because trisodium phosphate can be used for a variety of different purposes, it has been the number one cleaner for so many years.
The strength of TSP can strip paint and zap away caked-on dirt and grime, but it can also stain wood, damage the finished look of metal fixtures, and leave a film on glass. As of today, TSP has taken a back seat to safer chemicals that have the same exact benefits. Luckily, these new methods are much better for the environment, as well as, people’s health.
What are the Dangers of Using TSP?
The phosphate in trisodium phosphate is one of the biggest problems for the people who use it, as well as, the environment that it’s being used in. The environmental movement in the 1970s limited the use of phosphates to protect lakes, rivers, and streams. When people would use TSP, the phosphates would run off of the outdoor surfaces that had been cleaned with the chemicals. This run-off would eventually make its way into waterways, feeding phosphate-loving algae like red tide and blue-green algae. Sadly, this causes an incredible amount of marine life and plants to die. When it comes to humans, TSP can cause irritation and redness to those with sensitive skin, as well as, respiratory issues for those with asthma. Trisodium phosphate can also be corrosive to a few different materials like metal, ceramic tile, grout, and glass, so it’s important to be careful at all times when using this chemical. At the end of the day, the main issue surrounding TSP is the damage it causes to the environment.
Substitutes for TSP
Luckily, there are a few different substitutes for TSP available on the market today. These cleaners work extremely well in place of trisodium phosphate, but many contain other chemicals just like TSP. If you are looking for a more natural substitute for TSP, borax could be your solution. Borax doesn’t require all of the safety measures that trisodium phosphate does, it’s relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and it won’t hurt the environment. It can also kill fungus and strip away dirt and grime on porous surfaces like wood and cement.
At-Home Recipe for TSP Cleaner Substitute
The good news is that you don’t always need to use a harsh chemical cleaner to clean the walls before painting. In fact, a homemade cleaner can and will work just as well, if not better. If you decide to use borax, you can dissolve one tablespoon of borax into a gallon of water. Using a nonreactive pole, such as a yardstick or a paint stirrer, mix the water and borax together and complete the job as you see fit. Another great substitute for TSP could be acetone. When using acetone as a cleaner, put it into a spray bottle and spritz it directly onto the painted wood surface. It will cause the paint on the wood or metal to bubble, allowing it to lift away from the surface.
Trisodium phosphate cleaner requires a variety of safety precautions when it comes to using it properly. This is one of the main reasons why tons of people turn to these substitutes rather than using TSP. If you are sensitive to strong aromas, you have chemical allergies, or you care about the environment, you may want to look into using one of these TSP substitutes instead.