TSP – Trisodium Phosphate: The Painter’s Degreasing Choice

The quality of a paint job depends on a perfectly clean surface. The surface may not need sanding and stripping, but it must be clean.

Using a powerful degreaser, like TSP Trisodium Phosphate, to clean and etch the surface is strongly recommended. For the last several decades, professional painters have used this product to remove dirt, grease, mildew, and soap scum from both interior and exterior surfaces.

  • This chemical deglosses shiny surfaces, providing “tooth” so the next layer of paint can stick.
  • It can also be used to clean and soften hardened paint brushes.

Safety First – Handling TSP Correctly

TSP Trisodium Phosphate is a strong cleaner. It can cause irritation and even burns if it is used incorrectly. The following recommendations will reduce your risk of injury.

  • Wear rubber gloves, safety goggles, and long sleeves when working with trisodium phosphate.
  • Avoid letting the chemical touch bare skin or eyes.
  • If skin contact occurs, wash thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Discontinue use if redness, prolonged irritation, blistering, or pain occurs.
  • If eye contact occurs, flush with clean water for at least 15 minutes. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • If ingested, DO NOT induce vomiting. Drink a glass of water or milk. Seek immediate medical attention.

Protect Surfaces You Aren’t Painting

It’s also important to protect household surfaces from TSP splashes. Painted surfaces, finished wood, and metals can be discolored or de-glossed by TSP. Be sure to mask off anything you don’t want to get damaged.

TSP Trisodium Phosphate Mixing Instructions

For most applications, a solution of 1/4 cup trisodium phosphate per gallon of very warm water is appropriate.

For very dirty or greasy surfaces (such as kitchen cabinets), increase the ratio to 1/2 cup TSP per gallon of water.

There are extra-strength or no-rinse formulas. If using one of these types of TSP, read the package directions. The proportions may be different from those given above.

Using the TSP Trisodium Phosphate to Prepare Paint Surfaces

Hand-Washing with TSP

To hand-wash the surface, use a sponge to apply the warm solution. Dip the sponge in the TSP Trisodium Phosphate solution. Wring it out until the sponge is damp.

Always wash the wall from the bottom up. It reduces streaking. Allow the solution to sit on the wall for two minutes to soften deposits, then scrub, also working from the bottom up.

Heavy buildup may require a nylon scrub pad. Avoid scrubbing the wall with anything that could damage the surface.

Rinse the surface thoroughly. Any residue could prevent the paint from adhering to the wall and waste your efforts to prepare the surface for painting.

Power Washing with TSP

Outside, TSP can be used to wash siding, fences, and masonry. Apply the TSP Trisodium Phosphate cleaning solution with a pressure washer or garden sprayer.

Standard TSP must be rinsed away with clean water. Depending on how dirty the surface is, several rinses may be necessary. As a general rule, if the water in the rinse bucket is dirty, it is worth your effort to rinse the wall again with clean water.

No-rinse TSP is fairly new invention. It isn’t as strong as the original TSP, but it is well-suited for lightly soiled surfaces and general-purpose cleaning. It requires no rinsing when mixed as directed.

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  1. Myra Behr
    Posted April 19, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Can I use TSP to clean my paint brushes?

    • Posted April 20, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      Yes, it should work fine. I would use the no-rinse TSP, liquid in a plastic bottle at your local hardware store. The powder is very caustic. Make sure to wear some chemical gloves. Plus, only use TSP on latex brushes not natural bristle (oil base) brushes.

  2. John
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    What is the half life of a TSP mixture? Does it degrade quickly or can I mix and just keep handy in a spray bottle?

    • Posted May 5, 2017 at 1:06 am | Permalink

      I don’t think there is any shelf life for TSP. It might settle out if kept in a spray bottle but a quick shake should take care of it. Non-rinse TSP liquid is a good alternative to the powder.

  3. jeanermouse
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I just want to clean my kitchen cabinets of 15 years of grease and grime WITHOUT painting. Our late 1990’s honey oak cabinets are something like Schrock or KraftMaid and have a satin type finish. Will “no rinse” TSP be a good degreaser?

    • Posted May 19, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, no rinse TSP will work but mix it weak. Too concentrated it can degloss surfaces. You might need to experiment a bit to get the right mix ratio to clean well without causing any damage.

  4. Susan Wigley
    Posted May 23, 2017 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Is TSP effective deglosser for vinyl wallpaper (old layer) before I apply new wallpapaer? I do not want to remove the old wallpaper.

    • Posted May 23, 2017 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      Could be, worth trying. A strong solution of TSP can degloss painted surfaces and cause discoloration on metals, aluminum. It probably would degloss wallpaper.

  5. Jillian
    Posted May 30, 2017 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    If I didn’t rinse the TSP off with enough water, would sanding after help remove any leftover TSP residue?

    • Posted May 30, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Sanding would remove some residue but you should just rinse with warm water then sand.

  6. Stacey
    Posted June 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Can I use TSP to just wash painted walls and not need to repaint them? We had lots of smoke in our house from leaving a pan with food and it smoked. We rewashed everything and the smell is still there. Will this help?

    • Posted June 13, 2017 at 12:59 am | Permalink

      It can help. Don’t use at high strength, to concentrated it will degloss or etch the surface. You will need to play with the mixed concentration to find one that cleans well without causing harm.

      • mike
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        What about renting an ozone machine to remove or neutralize odors?

        • Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:41 am | Permalink

          Could help but washing first will remove excessive compounds, smoke soot. Then use the ozone to finish the job.

  7. Jim
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Can I fill the holes in wall with spackle, sand then wash with tsp before painting.

    • Posted June 27, 2017 at 1:32 am | Permalink

      Washing could remove the applied spackle. Wash first then do the repairs.

  8. Susan Richards
    Posted July 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi I am prepping a 4by4 non sealed clay colored floor from the fifties
    Prior to applying primer and porch paint …
    Should I use TSP powder or liquid?

    • Posted July 1, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Good idea but rinsing will be critical. If the floor absorbs the TSP you need to make sure to remove as much as possible, a film of TSP could interfere with primer/paint adhesion.

  9. Nika
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Two questions: How do you recommend washing the TSP residue off the walls before painting? And should I spackle and sand before or after applying TSP? First time painter here. Thanks!

    • Posted July 4, 2017 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      Do repairs after the washing, spackling. Remove any TSP residue with fresh water. All your doing is rinsing the walls. A clean sponge mop could be used, if you have fairly smooth walls, otherwise a clean sponge or cloth and fresh water.

  10. Stan
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Once cleaning with TSP can you wait a couple of days to paint? Also, would rain affect the cleaned surface? Is it ok to paint once dry or should you reapply TSP?

    • Posted July 8, 2017 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      Waiting is fine and reapplying or additional cleaning isn’t needed. Rain shouldn’t affect the surface once cleaned.

  11. Todd Boyle
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Concrete floor in my converted garage has no real oil spots, but many years of mystery-stains (paint etc)

    I’ve got the Concrete Paint and the Concrete Floor Primer but I can’t use the recommended Concrete etch (muriatic acid, hydrocloric acid, etc. products) because it’s impossible to protect the building structure from that acid cutting the base of the walls and the anchor bolts.

    What should I use? I’m thinking ammonia. It will be VERY hard to rinse TSP from a 24 foot square area with sufficient water.

    • Posted August 1, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      You could use no-rinse TSP. It could be applied with a mop and scrubbed with a push broom to help get things clean. A little rinsing is still a good idea but the same mop can be used.

      There are also citrus acid based cleaners that do a good job with etching concrete and removing oily stains. These cleaners can also be applied and rinsed with a mop.

  12. Matt
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m considering using a TSP/bleach mixture to clean the exterior of my home with a pressure washer, however, I’ve read varying opinions as to whether the use of TSP is safe on a painted surface. In this case I have painted brick and trim. This is only for cleaning, no plans to re-paint. Is it ok to use the mixture in this manner? Thank you!

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 12:20 am | Permalink

      If the TSP mixture is too strong it will dull the paint surface, possible cause damage. Same with the bleach. You could use a “no-rinse” type (liquid) or go with a good house wash like Simple Green House Wash. These are injectable into a pressure washer.

  13. Gary
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I have touched up some areas on my wall with same color paint. Only problem is new paint is high gloss. Both old and new paints are oil based. Will TSP dull the sheen of oil paint? How should I apply it? Should I scrub or just let soak?

    • Posted August 11, 2017 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      I don’t think these spots can be perfectly blended by any means. TSP can dull some finishes but its primary function is cleaning. You could try a liquid deglosser, can be found at your local hardware or paint store. You could try rubbing some on with a clean rag and see what happens.

  14. Alannah
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Hi, we just bought a house from a previous smoker who smoked for 5 years in the house. I washed the first room with a TSP solution of 150ml mixed with 4 Litres of water. However when I went to rinse with fresh water I found it very difficult to rinse all of the solution off with a mop and sponge… i spent a lot of time trying to rinse it all off! Is there an easier solution? It was exhausting, also can using the TSP solution on walls cause any side effects? Lightheaded etc. Thank you so much!

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      This is a lot of work. You could try a ‘no-rinse’ TSP solution, it’s a liquid concentrate. Try a half strength solution to start and see how it goes.

      I’m not aware of any side effects except strong solutions can cause chemical burns on sensitive skin. Working really hard with lots of bending can definitely cause problems. Make sure your physically fit for this work and hire out if you notice anything.

      If you don’t want to do too much cleaning then you could prime with a good stain blocking primer then repaint. Shellac primer works the best but many oil based primers also do a good job. Water based primers will lift the nicotine off the wall and might need repriming to properly seal before painting.

      • Alannah
        Posted August 16, 2017 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        None of the stores where I live carry a no rinse solution otherwise I would be all over that! I tried lesser amount of solution and it made no difference. Do you happen to know if by chance if there was a little solution left on the walls that I could not fully wipe off, will this ruin my priming and painting job?

        • Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:13 am | Permalink

          Should be fine. A good way to find out is apply a little primer somewhere and do a scratch test with your fingernail. Use a quality acrylic bonding primer, a small part of a wall is fine, allow to dry overnight then test. All primers take a while to cure, 2 weeks or more, but a decent bond will occur in 24 hours.

  15. Richard Rhudy
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    I’m planning to use TSP and bleach on a portion of my asphalt shingle roof to remove streaking. Should the solution be sprayed on with a tank sprayer and left for a while before rinsing off? To your knowledge, will this discolor the roof?

    • Posted August 22, 2017 at 1:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, apply with a tank sprayer. I don’t think it will hurt the roof but sample on a small inconspicuous area first before committing to the entire roof.

  16. Christine Colgan
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    To remove nicotine stains would I wash ceiling first or walls first or does it matter?

    • Posted August 22, 2017 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      It doesn’t really matter but generally start at the top and work your way down. Example, ceiling first then walls.

  17. Kat
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Is TSP safe to use on ceramic tiled floors? I am trying to remove a greasy slippery residue from another cleaner.

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes it is safe. Could require extensive rinsing if to concentrated.

  18. Jane Pawasarat
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Help, I used “curveball” degreaser that has butyl as an ingredient, to wash a painted three season porch floor. I then painted the floor and it remains sticky after two weeks. I realize now that I did not rinse off the product enough before painting. This is my question: Would it help to use TSP to try to neutralize and remove the paint and curveball? I am at odds. This is a rental unit that I need to turnover. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      You might have to strip and repaint. Washing with TSP probably won’t do much but is worth a try. I would recommend trying a wood deck stripper applied with a brush and roller. Test these possibilities on a small section of floor before committing to the whole project.

  19. K
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Hello. I am trying to refinish a hardwood floor that was sealed in the 1950’s. After I have swabbed the TSP solution on, how long should I let it sit before removing it? Thanks!

    • Posted August 31, 2017 at 3:33 am | Permalink

      Just a few minutes should be enough time. Don’t over apply as the water can warp the wood. If you plan on doing extensive sanding then a major washing isn’t needed.

  20. Larry K
    Posted September 11, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    After I have washed the walls with TSP and rinsed the wall off, how long should I let the wall dry before I start painting? I live in a dry climate in Denver. Thank you

    • Posted September 12, 2017 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      A couple hours is fine. Make sure the corners are dry. If dry to the touch then you can paint.

  21. Mary Paschall
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Can I use TSP to clean decorative plaster moldings in a very old house?

    • Posted September 17, 2017 at 4:54 am | Permalink

      Yes, as long as the molding are painted or fully sealed. Test on a small area before committing to the entire project.

  22. Simeon C Jackson
    Posted September 14, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I am prepping trim on outside of house.. Is there a way not to degloss the siding ..without taping off?
    Or is there a product like soap that I could spray on siding first so the tsp doesn’t effect it?

    • Posted September 17, 2017 at 4:52 am | Permalink

      Instead of using TSP use a mild house wash. Simple Green house wash is a good choice. The goal is a clean surface, deglossing usually isn’t necessary with acrylic over acrylic paint.

  23. Arlene
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I used TSP to clean my front door before painting it. The front door turned out great although I didn’t realize it would remove the finish from my door handle. It there anything I can use to bring back the gloss or shine back to the way it was before? Thanks!

  24. Craig
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I used a 2nd coating of sealer stain on a newly sanded deck, should have only used one coating. It didn’t penetrate and is built up on the surface. I was told to use either mineral spirits and a towel or powdered TIDE, scrub with a brush, let it sit on top for 10-20 mins, then wash off w a hose. Since TSP is a degreaser, would it work? In what application?

    • Posted October 7, 2017 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry too much about the second coat. It is possible some areas could peel but most will be fine. It will fade over time like normal. It is doubtful you can fully remove the second coat without causing some damage to the first coat. If you want to remove the second layer of deck stain then TSP would help. Use a half cup to about 2-3 gallons of warm-hot water (mix well to dissolve), apply with a mop, scrubbing with a push broom will help. Let it sit for a few minutes then rinse well.

  25. G
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I am painting a door and used the powder tsp to clean it after stripping and sanding. I did not rinse it off though. Do I need to resend before applying the latex primer? The door is an art project and will eventually be painted with acrylic and sealed with a clear polyurethane.

    • Posted November 30, 2017 at 1:56 am | Permalink

      You should first rinse off the door with clean warm water before priming. It is possible the door has a residue of TSP. Allow the door to dry before applying primer.

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