Borax vs TSP: Use, Safety, Effectiveness, and Our Review

Although Borax and TSP have been used as homemade cleaning agents since ancient times, newer commercial alternatives have replaced them. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re less effective cleaners. In fact, they come in handy if you’re on a tight budget. This article will compare Borax vs. TSP based on use, safety, and effectiveness to help you make an informed decision when choosing between the two.

What is Borax?

Borax–commonly known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate–is a white powdery chemical. It is frequently utilized as a household cleaner and laundry detergent booster. It combines chemicals such as boron, sodium, water, and oxygen.

What is TSP?

Trisodium phosphate, abbreviated as TSP, is a powdered cleaning agent designed for a thorough cleaning before painting. TSP works well on woodwork, walls, and floors to clean and remove thick buildups of smoke, filth, soot stains, grease, and chalked paint.

Common Uses

Below are the various uses of Borax and TSP.

Uses of Borax

1) Cleaning Agent

Borax is an all-purpose cleaning agent for removing spills and dirt from the fridge, countertops, wood floors, tiles, fabric surfaces, plastics, and other surfaces. Dissolve two teaspoons of Borax in 4 cups of hot water, then add one teaspoon of dish soap and four tablespoons of vinegar to make an all-purpose spray.

2) Boosting Detergent Cleaner

You can use it to boost detergent cleaning due to its softening power ability. Due to the high levels of calcium and magnesium in hard water, mineral deposits are likely to form and prevent soap or detergent from dissolving in water. Because of this, the soap’s cleaning power reduces. Borax removes calcium and magnesium from the water by binding with them when added, helping with the cleaning. To boost a detergent cleaner, add one-half cup of Borax to the washing drum before adding dirty laundry to increase the cleaning capacity of your regular laundry detergent.

3) Stain Remover

The alkaline nature of Borax makes it a suitable stain remover because it enables it to break down acidic stains such as tomato sauce. To use it as a stain remover, add 1/2 cup of Borax for each gallon of water in the washer or a sizable plastic tub; before washing, add the stained clothes and soak them in the borax solution for around 30 minutes. Before washing as usual, drain the laundry solution.

4) Toilet Cleaner

Borax aids in lifting any stains or materials in the toilet bowl, reducing the amount of time it takes to scrub the surface. To use Borax as a toilet cleaner, Simply dispense 1/2 cup of Borax into the bowl. Once an hour has passed, scrub with a toilet brush and flush.If your toilet bowl has hard water stains, leave the Borax on for the night to treat stains, then brush and wash to get a clean stainless surface.

5) Pesticide and Mildew Growth Inhibitor

Borax helps eliminate bugs such as ants, bed bugs, and insects. This is by targeting their nervous system and stomachs. You can also use it to get rid of mildew on surfaces.

6) Rust Remover

When water or other acidic substances come into contact with metal, rust develops. You can remove the rust with alkaline Borax, a product that penetrates and removes the rust patches. The Borax removes rust from worn exercise equipment,  stainless steel pans,and other rusty items around your house.

Uses of TSP

1) Cleaning Solution

Before its restriction due to harmful effects on the aquatic environment, Trisodium phosphate was helpful as a cleaning solution. Hot water is combined with trisodium phosphate, which is water soluble, to make a powerful cleaning solution. The remedy can remove grimy messes like grease, dirt, and soot. You can also use it to clean surfaces before painting.

Even though it’s a good cleaner in other areas, TSP is not useful in cleaning bathroom surfaces such as faucets, drains, pipes, and tab/shower enclosures. This is because TSP can etch the glazing on ceramic tile if in touch with it for an extended period. It can also discolor metals like shower doors, chromed drains, and plumbing fixtures. It’s an ingredient in solutions that remove dried grout off tile surfaces in new installations, and therefore when you clean the bathroom’s tiled surface can damage the grout.

2) Degreaser

This is thanks to its alkane nature, which allows it to saponify oils and fat–convert oil and fats into soap. This allows it to remove grease from surfaces. To create the degreasing solution, combine two liters of warm water and half a cup of TSP to create a somewhat hazy, odorless solution. You can use a firm scrub brush or sponge to apply the mixture from the mixing bucket or funnel it into a spray bottle for spraying.

3) Prepping for a Paint Job

TSP is also popular among painters since it’s helpful to clean and etch a surface before applying paint. It removes soap scum, dirt, and grease from exterior and interior surfaces. It’s useful in deglossing shiny painted surfaces to create a rough surface for the next layer of paint to bind on. You can also use TSP to soften and clean hardened paint brushes.

4) Mildew and Stain Remover

TSP serves well as a stain remover and kills mildew. To make a strong batch of the mildew killer and stain remover, mix one cup of TSP with three quarts of warm water and add one quart of bleach solution like chlorine bleach. Add some elbow grease if you have a case of severe mildew or stains.

Safety Concerns

Since we’re now familiar with the uses of Borax and TSP, let’s look at the safety concerns of each.

Safety Concerns of Borax

Even though Borax is considered natural, it’s only safe for use if you use it correctly since it’s classified as a pesticide, poison, and fungicide. A toddler consuming even 5 grams of Borax can be dangerous and even lethal. However, it’s safe as a cleaning agent and requires large amounts to become toxic.

Hazardous Properties of Borax

After ingestion, borates typically cause diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, delayed skin redness, vomiting, and a rash. Inhalation can lead to irritation of the respiratory tract. Its potential long-term health effects include eye discomfort, coughing, and skin rash– which occurs after intake.

Safety Tips When Handling Borax

  • Wear gloves while using it to clean.
  • Ensure you wash your hands after handling Borax.
  • Keep it out of reach of children or pets.
  • Don’t use it while trying to conceive or during pregnancy.
  • Before drying and using borax-washed clothing, ensure you thoroughly rinse it.
  • Avoid getting Borax in your eyes, nose, or mouth during cleaning to reduce exposure or dangers.
  • When using a borax solution, cover any open sores on your hands. Borax can enter the body through open skin wounds.

Safety Concerns of TSP

TSP is considered a safe cleaner if appropriately used. However, an issue arises if it’s incorrectly used and not properly disposed of. Trisodium Phosphate can harm human beings, aquatic organisms, and vegetation.

Hazardous Properties of TSP

  • Consuming it may cause severe burns, nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal tract irritation.
  • It affects the eyes by being very irritating to the eyes and can damage the cornea.
  • Inhaling TSP may irritate the respiratory system, resulting in shortness of breath, coughing, pulmonary edema, and wheezing. You may also feel a burning discomfort in the nose and throat.
  • Prolonged exposure to the skin can lead to burns and severe irritancy.

Safety Tips When Handling TSP

  • Don’t make yourself vomit after consuming TSP. Instead, take a glass of milk or water.
  • Seek medical help right away after ingesting it.
  • While cleaning or handling it, keep the chemical away from your eyes and naked skin. If it comes into contact with the skin, properly wash the area with soap and water, and when it spills into your eye, rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Wear rubber gloves, long sleeves, and safety goggles when handling trisodium phosphate.
  • If you encounter persistent irritation, redness, pain, or blisters, when using the product, stop it.


How Effective is Borax?

Borax is an effective all-purpose cleaner that can clean various types of surfaces. It also does well in other functions such as stain removal, detergent cleaner booster, toilet cleaning, pest control, mildew inhibitor, removal of rust, deodorizing and removal of odor from fabrics, carpets, and other surfaces, toilet cleaning, unclogging of drains, drying, and preserving of cut flowers. Killing weeds, cleaning up the dishwasher, cleaning and polishing chrome bathroom fixtures, and removing odor from smelly shoes are also uses of the chemical.

How Effective is TSP?

TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner that can clean surfaces that are heavily soiled. This makes it versatile in removing dirt, smoke, and grease from surfaces. However, its downside is that you cannot use it to clean chromed bathroom features and tiled surfaces since it can discolor them or attack the grout between the tiles. TSP is also highly effective in removing stains and paint residues on a surface in preparation for painting the surface.

Our Review

Both Borax and TSP are effective cleaning chemicals. However, they have different uses, safety issues, and cleaning capacities. While TSP is superior at heavy-duty cleaning, such as accumulated grime behind a kitchen appliance, stain, and paint removal, and surface preparation before painting, Borax is an excellent option for regular household cleaning, deodorizing, and stain removal.

Borax also has a slight edge over TSP in that you can clean chromed bathroom surfaces and metallic parts without staining them. Both products need adherence to the suggested safety precautions while using either product to ensure correct handling and prevent any possible harmful effects and dangers. Finally, being aware of the distinctive qualities of Borax and TSP enables you to choose the best cleaner for your particular cleaning requirements.