Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is a water-soluble powder that can be added to detergents and cleaners to boost their performance. It’s been used as a stain-removing cleansing agent, food additive, exercise performance enhancer and as a powerful degreaser in major products such as laundry detergent and dishwashing powder. However, recent eco-activism has limited it’s use in most household detergents thru changes in a minority of state statutes. This has led to an industry-wide removal of trisodium phosphate from many household products. However, the effectiveness of this product has forced local and state governments to continue to allow its use in commercial detergents. Hotels, restaurants and other retail establishments can continue to buy products with TSP.
Trisodium Phosphate as a Cleaner
Tri-sodium phosphate was (and in many areas across the globe “is”) the prime ingredient in cleaning agents–dishwashing detergents, laundry detergents, bathroom cleaners, etc. It has a low pH factor when combined in a solution (usually 1 part per 100) which makes it a good degreasing agent. Trisodium phosphate is also known as trisodium orthphosphate or sodium phosphate.
Trisodium phosphate can be mixed with both mineral spirits to remove oils or with chlorine bleach as an effective bathroom / tile cleaner. It does not create a hazardous chemical reaction when combined with these products. Although it’s often used as an ingredient in toilet bowel cleaners, it can stain metals and should not be used on fixtures.
Trisodium Phosphate as a Nutritional Supplement
TSP has been shown to increase the VO2 max of athletes and remove or reduce lactic acids in muscles. Trisodium phosphate is a relatively new nutritional supplement but is similar to other phosphate sources. The downside of TSP as a nutritional supplement is its harshness to the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract. It should be used for a few days prior to an athletic competition and can be combined with buffering agents which limits its stomach discomfort.
Other Uses of TSP
Tri-sodium phosphate has a few other uses including used as a paint additive and even a food additive in certain cases–however, don’t add it to your food at home.
Ecological Damage and Tri-Sodium Phosphate
In the 1970s, seventeen states in the United States decided that the use of TSP in household detergents was causing algae blooms and other hazardous effects in their lakes and waterways. There are very few published studies to backup these findings and the link may be to excessive use of phosphate-based fertilizers as opposed to detergents with phosphates. In 2010, under pressure from environmental groups and the Obama administration’s EPA, a minority of states banned the use of phosphates in household detergents effectively forcing US manufactures to change their product mix and eliminate TSP as an active ingredient.
Numerous consumer complaints were issued against the manufacturers; however, their hands were tied by the new regulatory environment. Most consumers complained of spots and a white film on their dishes–a good percentage resorting to completely replacing their dishwashers only to find out that this did not solve the problem of their dirty dishes.
Now, TSP has become a popular additive with consumers buying it on their own to add to the dishwashing detergent or laundry. Consumers can also find detergent with phosphates in commercial-only products which can be purchased online at Amazon.com
or other retailers.