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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111 Comments

  1. Myra Behr

    Can I use TSP to clean my paint brushes?

    • 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

    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?

    • 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

    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?

    • 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

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

    • 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

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

  6. Stacey

    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?

  7. Jim

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

  8. Susan Richards

    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?

    • 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

    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!

    • 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

    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?

  11. Todd Boyle

    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.

    • 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

    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!

    • 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

    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?
    Thanx!

    • 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

    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!

    • 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

        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?

        • 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

    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?

    • 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

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

  17. Kat

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

  18. Jane Pawasarat

    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.

    • 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

    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!

    • 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

    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

  21. Mary Paschall

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

  22. Simeon C Jackson

    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?

    • 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

    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

    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?

    • 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

    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.

    • 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.

  26. alicia

    What will TSP do to acrylic/plexiglass sheeting?

  27. Alex

    Can you use if pregnant? Also if we have already spackled the walls will that matter?

  28. Sharon

    How long should u wait to paint after I cleaned fireplace in my house with tsp? I was thinking a few hours

  29. Katie Branner

    I have a brand new aluminum awning which is painted glossy white. I need to paint to match trim on house. Would TSP degloss enough to allow primer/paint to stick?

    • It will help. Go ahead and wash then when dry prime with a good acrylic bonding primer. Check with your local paint store for available suitable primers.

  30. Mimi

    I washed painted walls with TSP to prepare for painting. I ran out of time to rinse and it has now been over 24 hours since washing so has dried by now. Does that make a difference in rinsing? How will I know if it is fully rinsed? Thank you!

    • You can rinse at any time. Use warm water and a clean cloth, you might have to rinse twice. Depending on the strength of the TSP/Water mix you should notice the wall surface is very slick when wet, you can feel the soapiness.

  31. Pam Untch

    My walls are painted with a slightly glossy paint it’s too shiny for me if I use this on it will it dull the gloss, which is how I want it, or ruin it ??

    • TSP might dull the sheen but it won’t be consistent. Better to purchase and apply a new coat of paint with the correct or desired sheen, like a satin or matt.

  32. Shannon

    My husband used TSP cleaner with water to clean our vanity. He then used two coats of primer and two coats of paint. He did not rinse it before applying the primer / paint. I don’t care if it comes off at this point. We can always redo it but I am concerned that it could cause harm since it was never rinsed. I have two small children so I’m a little worried about this. Is this dangerous? Will the layers of paint protect from the cleaner? Help!

    • The TSP has caustic properties when added to water so no worries at this point. The only problem is the soap film could interfere with the paints ability to stick causing peeling.

  33. Jeri

    We want to paint our light oak kitchen cabinets white. Is sanding enough prep work, or should we also wash with TSP. The paint we are going to use is a 2 step process. Thank you.

    • Washing is always the best start, removes contamination before it can be ground into the surface through sanding. Wash – Sand – Prime – then apply the paint.

  34. Lori Brooks-Smith

    We just moved into an apartment that has extremely nicotine stained walls and ceilings, also in the bathroom there is mold above the shower. We are going to use TSP to clean every painted surface. I have 2 questions… What is the best way to apply the TSP mixture to the walls and ceilings? Also, in the bathroom is it safe to add bleach or vinegar to the mixture to kill the mold?

  35. Jen

    I am about to clean my concrete floor with tsp, how long do I have to wait for it before I can lay tile?

  36. Susan

    You always recommend warm water to rinse. If tsp is used to clean exterior wood siding (mixed with warm water and applied with a scrub pad), can it be rinsed off with a garden hose with a pressure nozzle (cold water)? Also: if tsp is not rinsed off properly when would peeling start to occur with new coat of paint? Thank you–very informative posts!

    • The powdered TSP has to be mixed with very warm or hot water to dissolve but once applied any water can be used to rinse off the residue. So, a garden hose is fine.

      You could also use use the liquid ‘No-Rise’ solutions on the market. Although not as strong as regular TSP they still do a good job cleaning. Plus they can be injected into a pressure washer. Same for most house washed on the market.

      It is important to rise off any soap residue prior to painting. This could interfere with paint adhesion. Possible peeling could take a few months. Best to do a good rinsing and not deal with this possibility.

  37. Jessica

    We recently peeled off the old wallpaper in a basement bedroom only to discover that the previous owners had applied it directly to the drywall. It doesn’t look like they plastered or even primed the walls at all. We used a DIY remover of fabric softener and hot water to get the paper off. Is TSP the best option to get the residual paper, softener, and glue off? It’s safe to apply to drywall? There is some damage to areas of the drywall, where some of the drywall paper started coming up as well. I assume I need to avoid those spots. After it’s clean, just rinse well and then prime? Most likely we will be applying plaster after we finally get the walls prepped.

    • A mild cleaner would work better. Simple Green or similar would be fine. Rinse as well as possible without causing additional damage. Allow to dry then prime to seal it up before repairing.

  38. Melanie

    I am cleaning up a condo that had a tenant that smoked and the upstairs resident smokes. I am renting an ozone machine for the weekend. Am hoping to paint, and wondered if I should sand walls before ozone? Or can I use TSP instead of sanding?

    • A good cleaning is all that is needed. You can use either powdered TSP (the strongest) or “no rinse” TSP. Both should work well for you.

  39. Elrathia

    What should the tsp be mixed in? Would a plastic bottle be OK? And how thick of gloves do I need to handle a regular or slightly weaker solution? I’m washing walls prior to painting.

  40. Sally

    Is there an alternate to tsp to use? I plan to paint four rooms on the lower level of a house with heavy woodstove use. The paneling is thin and not glossy. 1970 cheap paneling. Can i use pine-sol or vinegar instead or just oil based primer followed by latex flat paint?

    • Any cleaner/soap will work but will require rinsing, maybe extensive depending on what is used. Instead of standard TSP (powder) use the no-rinse liquid TSP instead, available at your local hardware. Use according to directions and no extensive rinsing required.

      Priming is still needed over most types of paneling.

  41. Vanessa

    Will it clean bath/shower ceramic tile and grout? This is a 60 year old house. The tile is originally a light green, but has yellowed from smoke etc. that is hard to clean. Should I use TSP or some other cleaner. I don’t want to damage the ceramic tile.

  42. Kim

    Im a first time painter and I was told to washed down my dresser set I plan to paint with TSP. So I did so, Then reading the prep directions on the oil-based primer it says specifically not to use TSP for cleaning the surface before applying this product. Now I’m trying to find out how to completely remove the TSP off of the dressers?? I have looked everywhere trying to find out what to do and I can’t find anything explaining how to reverse the TSP solution or completely clean the surface??? Please help!!

  43. GC

    I used powdered tsp in warm water to wash my walls which were nicotine stained. I didn’t rinse with clean water after and don’t plan to paint the walls. After reading comments here about rinsing I’m concerned about residual toxicity. I used a 20-1 ratio. Should I be concerned? Also, I have a glossy vinyl door frame. Can I use tsp to clean it?

  44. Kailash

    I am thinking of buying a house but the cabinets and walls have heavy urine splash by a cat. Do you think that TSP non rinse can get rid the odor and stain? Please advise best instructions to use ?
    Thank you

  45. Sisann

    I am in the prepping stages of painting an older double wide mobile home. Since I am trying to tackle this myself, small sections at a time could be doable. However my question is , how long of a time between cleaning with the TSP and actually painting would be allowable? My first thought would be to clean the entire home first, or on second thought , maybe I should clean just one side first then paint, and then move on to the next side? Because of physical and time constraints this could take me awhile! Lol. Also do you start on the bottom and work up and rinse?

    • You can wait 2-3 weeks to paint after a good cleaning. Plus, if your home isn’t overly dirty you could use a commercial house wash, like Simple Green house wash. They do a good job and easier to use.

      If needed you can wash a side at a time then paint. And always wash from the top down. If you can, use an injectable pressure washer for best results. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure so a small unit if fine.

  46. Laurie

    I washed wood paneling at church so that we could paint it. I didn’t realize the TSP needed to be rinsed. I did this several days ago. Is it too late to go back and rinse before we paint the paneling or do you think the solution soaked in to the paneling and now we need to sand it?

  47. Melanie

    We want to paint the interior of our garage. It is bare wallboard that has never been painted. The garage is almost 5 years old. Should we wash it with liquid tsp before painting? Can we use a pressure washer on a low setting? Thanks!

    • No need to wash with any soap. At most a damp rag or sponge mop to remove dust. Primer will be needed to seal up the surface and stop any stains from coming through the paint. Use an oil base stain blocking primer, like Kilz or Cover Stain, for very “dirty” stained surfaces or use an acrylic stain blocking primer if the walls and ceiling aren’t bad.

      Do not pressure wash the unpainted walls. Very bad things will happen.

  48. Karen Rex

    Can TSP be used on painted exterior block walls to remove effervescence? Will it harm the lantana planted in the immediate area?

  49. Gene

    I am going to clean my gutters, down spouts, and soffit with tsp before painting. Will any run off cause streaking on my brick?

  50. Ron

    All instructions refer to using TSP on walls. Any suggestions or recommendations if using TSP to prep a ceiling? Any concerns about streaking or patchiness?

    • Basically the same just more physically demanding. Use a sponge mop with a roller pole other long pole to make this easier. Using a no-rince TSP would be good as well.

      Streaking is always a concern if you don’t plan on repainting the ceiling. Additional rincing might be needed to reduce streaking.

  51. Philip

    I see from the comments and answers that rinsing is a very important part of the process. However I don’t get much of an idea of how serious a rinsing is needed, as in, dripping splashing water all over vs. passing a dampish mop or sponge. Obviously when doing this in a house it becomes a big chore if I have to don my “scaphander” bell suit before proceeding. Could you elaborate on this?
    Thank you.

    • Depends on the strength of the mix used, how much TSP powder per gallon warm/hot water. The idea is to get any residual soap scum off the surface. General cleaning, mild mix, 1 good rinse should do it.

      No need to be sloppy with the rinse water. Use old towels at the base of walls to catch any water.

      An alternative to using the powder is to use a liquid TSP instead, aka No-Rince TSP. For general “mild” cleaning rinsing not required. Jasco Tsp No Rinse Substitute Cleaner is the one we use for most cleaning these days.

  52. Brianne

    I’m a first time user of TSP and going to use it on my indoor brick fireplace to prep it before priming and painting. I bought powder and no-rinse but not sure which one I should go with. I know brick is porous. Can I still use? And if I choose to go with the powder, how do you rinse it inside?

    • Use the no rinse type and do a little rinsing anyway to help pull some cleaner out of the pores. If you use the powder you will need to rinse using a hand sprayer with fresh water. A real pain so use the no rinse type.

  53. Jo DIY

    I am about to prep some 1970s aluminum siding to be painted. The current condition of the paint is very chalky, so I was going to scrub it with a TSP/bleach/water solution before painting. For environmental reasons (and because I don’t have a power washer), I would prefer to use a no-rinse TSP substitute. Will a TSP substitute work as well as regular TSP for paint adhesion? Or at least, will it work well enough? Also, do you dispose of your left over TSP solution in a special way to keep excess phosphates out of the environment?

    • Yes, the no-rinse TSP will work well. You can also one of the dedicated house wash products on the market, Simple Green make a good one. Unfortunately, there is no way to dispose of TSP that doesn’t effect the environment. It’s best to try a more environmentally friendly product first before going with such a strong cleanser.

  54. JoAnne Davis

    Can anyone help me with the removal of tsp residue from windows please.

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