How to Use TSP Cleaner Before Painting Cabinets

Cabinets need to undergo thorough cleaning before painting, or else the paint coat will not adhere to the surface. Even more, you will get a better result from a powerful cleaner like Trisodium Phosphate. So, here’s how to use TSP cleaner before painting cabinets,

Start by mixing the TSP cleaner with water in a recommended quantity of one water gallon for every ¼ cup of TSP. Next, prepare the area by removing items you do not want to stain, and then clean the cabinets. Finally, finish off by rinsing the cabinets and applying your preferred paint.

In this article, it is my aim to break down what a TSP cleaner is, how you use it to deliver a professional result, and what to consider during a cabinets cleaning project.

Stay with me for insightful details.

What Is a TSP Cleaner?

Image of Kitchen Cabinets, so should you Repaint or Replace Kitchen Cabinets?TSP stands for trisodium phosphate and is a heavy-duty cleaner that tackles tough stains and grime. You will find the product in white, dry powder, or crystallized form, delivering an odorless and powerful cleaning agent when mixed with water.

Further, the TSP comes to be by neutralizing phosphoric acid with sodium hydroxide, creating an alkaline cleaning formula with water. Therefore, it does not disappoint in stain removal projects.

The product is excellent at removing kitchen cabinets‘ grease build-up that hinders paint adhesion. Better still, it is easy to use as you only need to apply it to a sponge and rub stuck-on dirt, and similar cleaning tools to a sponge will deliver a satisfactory result.

On top of that, TSP effectively removes mold, mildew, grime, layers of deposited soot, and heavy smoke. However, it is advisable to mix the formula with some bleach for a better and instant outcome.

Pros and Cons of TSP Cleaner

Although trisodium phosphate has some downsides, and some states and countries ban its use, it remains one of the most effective cleaners for wax, grease, and other deep-seated stains.

So, let’s check out the pros and cons of the product to understand it better.


  • TSP Is Cheap and Features a Long Shelf Life

The cleaner is available in almost all local hardware stores, and better still, you can get it on online platforms like Home Depot, Amazon, Walmart, and Lowes. In addition, a pound of the product goes for about $3 to $6 and makes gallons of formula.

Another impressive aspect about TSP is that you can store it for a long duration, about three to four years, without getting it expired. All you need to do is keep it in an air-tight closed plastic can on a cool, dry shelf.

  • The Cleaner is Strong and Very Effective

Unlike many other cleaning formulas available today, trisodium phosphate is quite strong. It cuts through nearly any type of dirt, chalked paint, baked-on wax, grease, and tough stains without a problem. And even better, you can use it to strip paint.

TSP is also suitable for multiple materials, such as wall surfaces like concrete, brick, wood, and stone or kitchen cabinets. Further, the cleaner works well with a pressure washer for garage cleaning and outdoor projects. So, you can use it to prepare various projects for painting.

  • It Is Easy to Use

This cleaner is pretty simple to make and use, requiring only the powdered product and hot water. Also, it is an organic compound with no fragrance and does not leave a foul after cleaning.

Even better, you can apply TSP with a rag, brush, or sponge, just like any other cleaning solution. But it is advisable to use hot or cold water to rinse leftover formula on the surface. Otherwise, it may react adversely with the paint coat.

  • The Formula Is a Strong Stripping Agent

This quality makes TSP common in many homemade DIY paint strippers used for stripping old paint from wood, cement, or stone. In addition, it does a perfect job of removing smoke or cigarette smoke from walls.


  • Trisodium Phosphate Can Damage Some Surfaces

TSP in significant concentrations is harmful. And worse still, there is a chance that it may react with some surfaces and cause damage. Therefore, it is prudent to test it in a small area before application.

Further, this product does not work well for bathrooms as it can ruin the metal, ceramics, glass, or grout finish. Also, after cleaning, it can corrode metal fixtures and leave a film on the glass.

  • It is Not Environmentally-Friendly

Trisodium phosphate causes algae growth in streams and lakes, killing water plants and animals. Therefore, it would be best and considerate to avoid washing it away into the sewer system.

In addition, TSP’s key component is phosphate which increases its toxicity and danger to the ecosystem. Hence, the product is not allowed as a cleaning agent in certain areas.

  • TSP Is Toxic

Like any powerful cleaner, TSP is hazardous with improper handling. In addition, it is an irritant and causes skin problems when you use it in significantly high concentrations.

Fortunately, you can avoid the above issue by using proper safety equipment. So, get some eye protection, a respiratory mask, and rubber gloves. Even more, ensure that you work in a well-ventilated area; open up doors and windows, or turn on fans and central air.

How to Use TSP Cleaner Before Painting Cabinets

Despite the above drawbacks, Trisodium Phosphate is still a brilliant cleaner when you use it correctly and carefully. Therefore, check out the steps below on using the product to prep your cabinets for painting.

  • Prepare the Cleaner

This step requires mixing the recommended parts of TSP and hot water. The best ratio is ¼ cup of the formula with one gallon of water or two warm water gallons for every TSP half cup. But it is best to confirm with the manufacturer for the recommended proportion.

Also, you’ll need a second container of clean water to rinse the surface after cleaning. So, have it ready.

  • Prepare the Surrounding Area

Protect the areas surrounding the cabinets from any potential paint spills or mess. A plastic drop cloth or canvas will come in handy. Alternatively, simply remove any furniture or the cabinet doors from the working area.

In addition, the cabinets may take some time to dry to the touch before they are ready for painting. Therefore, give yourself as much time as possible to clean a much bigger area.

  • Wash the Cabinets

Ensure the area is well-ventilated, put on all the protective gear, and get the cleaning tools. Sponges tend to deliver the best outcome, but you can still utilize a towel, a brush, a rag, or any similar cleaning accessory.

Scrub all the corners and crevices. Also, remember that the idea behind a TSP cleaner is to remove the grime and baked-on grease that other cleaners cannot handle. Thus, take all the time needed to get full coverage.

In addition, it is advisable to wipe with the wood grain as opposed to working against it. You can also do a second pass to cover any missed spots. This way, you’ll avoid unnecessary scratches and deliver a spotless surface.

  • Rinse the Cabinets

This next step helps clear away the dirt you remove with the cleaner and any residual TSP. So, use a bucket of clean water to rinse the cleaned surface once you are sure it is free from dirt and grease.

On top of that, remember that leftover TSP is harmful to the surface and the paint coat. Therefore, rinse your work thoroughly. Also, do not dump the solution outside to avoid it getting into the sewer system, streams, and lakes. 

You can flush smaller TSP detergent quantities down the sink, toilet, or washtub drain. But ensure that you drain down plenty of water after pouring the cleaner.

Additionally, check out hazardous waste disposal agencies and local laws to learn how to clean up the product appropriately.

Lastly, although warm water is more than enough to rinse your surface, you need to avoid introducing too much moisture when cleaning the wood cabinet. Otherwise, it could damage the lumber.

  • Paint the Cabinets

Once you wash and rinse off the cabinets, wait for them to dry completely. Then, sand them down and proceed to paint. Also, ensure that you get the correct paint and apply it evenly with your preferred tool.

Here’s How to Clean Cabinet With TSP Before Painting:

TSP vs Deglosser, Which One Should You Use?

A TSP is more of a cleaning agent, not a deglosser. In addition, it does not come with the powerful deglossing attributes needed to deliver strong adhesion for glossy surfaces.

Besides, the solution can remove the gloss from painted surfaces and sensitive surfaces like decorative laminates. But although it can act as a deglosser, please avoid using it as one to avoid disappointments.

Nonetheless, if you still want to use Trisodium Phosphate as a deglosser, just wipe the glossy area with the solution. In addition, please wear your gloves and eye protection when applying the formula to keep safe.

Lastly, beware that TSP will darken some wood types like mahogany. Therefore, it would be prudent to assess whether the product is appropriate for your surface lest you damage it. Also, rinse the surface thoroughly and let it dry before painting.

The Non-Toxic Trisodium Phosphate Substitutes You Can Use

TSP stands out because of its impressive cleaning attributes. It also helps quickly clean outdoor spaces like siding and decks before painting. And even better, you will get a perfect result for any washable area around the home.

However, it is toxic to the users and harmful to the environment. Therefore, it is not recommended for indoor applications unless dealing with heavy grease on kitchen cabinets.

Fortunately, you’ll find TSP alternatives for your projects that will give you a similar result. In addition, they are easier to use, comparatively cheaper, and won’t need too many safety measures and precautions.

Check out the list below.

  • Acetone. This solution lifts grease and old paint quickly, making it an ideal substitute for Trisodium Phosphate. You can also use it in a spray container and spritz it on the cabinets. It removes a wide range of paints from auto paints to wood paints.
  • Bleach. It is okay to mix TSP with bleach when worried about its hardness. So, mix a gallon of the formula with a cup of bleach and apply it to the surface. Also, the blend is perfect for cleaning moderate infestations or grease on the cabinets.
  • Borax. The formula is ideal for porous materials like wood. In addition, it kills mold, mildew, and fungus and helps strip away grease and dirt quickly, giving you instant cleaning results,
  • Dirtex Powder. Although this powder works similarly to TSP cleaners, it does not need rinsing. Better still, the product is milder than TSP and does not cause any skin irritation or health hazards.
  • Vinegar. This natural and powerful cleaner quickly removes all the daily oil, dirt, and fingerprints from your cabinets. In addition, it is an excellent agent for stubborn adhesive stains on decals, stick-on hooks, and wallpaper paste and does not emit any harsh fume.

On top of the above TSP cleaner substitutes, you’ll find products such as sugar soap, powder brewery wash, calcium lime rust, and muriatic acid. They are more natural and deliver satisfactory cleaning results.

However, remember that these cleaners feature some chemical compounds, and it is advisable to handle them carefully. Also, they cause severe respiratory harm if you inhale them in significant concentrations.

What Happens If I Don’t Rinse TSP?

The topcoat won’t adhere properly to the surface if you don’t rinse the TSP from the surface. Therefore, consider rinsing the formula using a clean, damp sponge for an excellent paint job.

On top of that, it is prudent to avoid using too much water to rinse the surface. Otherwise, you may expose the material to excess moisture content, eventually damaging it. 

What Is the Best Degreaser for Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting?

Over time, kitchen cabinets gradually get grease and dirt coats, causing them to become sticky and difficult to clean. Even worse, the surface is hard to decorate, leaving you stuck with an ugly cabinet.

Fortunately, you can get effective degreasers that cut through grease and dirt layers, resulting in a surface ready for painting. So, check out the following products to use for your work.

  • Krud Kutter Prepaint Cleaner

Krud Kutter is among the few cleaners that reduce the sanding work required before painting. Moreover, users report that all you need to do is lightly sand after the first wash, clean the surface again, and paint it after ten minutes.

The cleaner is non-toxic and does not cause nose or skin irritation. Better still, it is water-based and is not harmful to the environment. But it is still a good idea to wear cleaning gloves.

You can use a spray bottle to apply the product evenly on the surface. Then, scrub it with a rough sponge. However, let it penetrate the dirt and grease for a few minutes to loosen the stains.

  • Dawn Dish Soap

Dish soap is perhaps a product you already have in your household but would not think of it as a cabinet degreaser. Well, dawn dish soap is more effective in cleaning stains than you think. More so, a few drops mixed with a gallon of water are sufficient to clean cabinet parts and metal hardware.

However, please avoid overdoing the formula, as a drop or two will complete the job. In addition, the grease will automatically disappear after soaking the surface in the soap overnight.

Lastly, rinse the cabinets with clean water after cleaning. The dish soap leaves residue on the material, causing painting problems.

  • ZEP Heavy-Duty Citrus Degreaser

ZEP sprays a lot of fluffy white foam to the surface that expands on contact, filling the small nooks and corners that need cleaning the most. Also, massaging the foam with a sponge will remove coated oil and even solidified muck, leaving a spotless surface.

The product is also a multi-purpose cleaner and degreaser featuring a pure lemon solution. Therefore, it cuts through heavy filth and grease. In addition, ZEP dissolves even the toughest stains and works best for workshops, offices, and houses.

You can combine the degreaser with a few drops of warm water and split the mixture in half to soak your soiled work clothing. But it would be best to use the correct proportion lest you diminish the formula’s potency.

Also, apply the product liberally and let it settle for a few minutes after scrubbing or rubbing, especially when you’ve got a lot of dirt or oil. Then, keep cleaning and wiping with a soft, damp cloth till no greasy leftover remains.

  1. Goo Gone Kitchen Degreaser

Goo Gone is a perfect degreaser for the stove and leaves your kitchen crystal clean, spotless, and shiny. In addition, it works very fast, and you do not have to worry about ruining your cabinets.

The degreaser has a strong form and dispels even the toughest stains from the surface. Also, it is safe to use in the kitchen as food cannot absorb it. So, you can use it for multiple food contact surfaces, such as pans, oven hoods, pots, countertops, kitchen appliances, stovetops, and food preparation areas.

Goo Gone is also suitable for sealed stone, glass, finished wood, plastics, ceramic, and porcelain. In addition, it will not harm the surface, thanks to its excellent biodegradable formula.

  • Klein-Strip GIDDS-881056

Klein keeps up with your cleaning needs and works on filth, fungus, food splatters, oil, and smoke stains on cabinets. It also removes dust from the surface, and you can use it with a vacuum fitted with a brush attachment.

You do not have to rinse the solution after cleaning, making it ideal for quick cleaning and preparation projects. In addition, Klein removes light and heavy polishes and grease in one go. Thus, you finish your project on time.

On top of that, the formula helps remove previous wallpaper glue and wax stains from wooden, plastic, metal, steel paper, and painted surfaces. It also has non-toxic phosphorus that destroys bacteria and leaves chromium, crystal, aluminum, and tile unaffected.

However, remember that the formula can corrode metal surfaces. Therefore, please remove all cabinet knobs and hinges before cleaning.

That said, it would be best to explore the critical features of deglossers to help you identify the most suitable cleaner for your surface.

  • Type. 

You’ll find three types of deglossers; concentrated powder, a pre-mixed spray, and a concentrated liquid. But they do not feature the same strength level, and thus, it would be best to pick the best for your cleaning project.

Concentrated solutions are easy to store as you do not need large liquid volumes. On the other hand, although pre-mixed solutions are the easiest to apply, they often do not give value for money as concentrated ones.

  • Ease of Application

Kitchen cabinets are tricky to clean when you do not first soak them in a cleaning solution. Hence, the cleaner should work straight away and effectively through the dirt and grease.

Fortunately, you can use a spray bottle and wipe excess formula with the other hand. This way, you achieve the desired coverage while rubbing the surface thoroughly.

  • Phosphate (TSP)

Phosphate causes eutrophication, leading to excessive algae growth in water bodies. In addition, it chokes up the water with large algae amounts, reducing oxygen levels and blocking sunlight. So, eventually, aquatic species die.

As a result, most states regulate phosphate amounts that get into the water or even ban TSP products. Therefore, it is advisable to check out your area’s laws and stipulations concerning phosphate products. 

  • Versatility 

Cabinet cleaners can help prepare surfaces for cleaning before painting. Moreover, they remove grime and dirt, enhancing paint adherence. Therefore, you are sure of a durable finish.

In addition, degreasers are helpful in many other places where grease accumulates. For instance, you can also use them with cooking dishes, equipment, tools, or automotive and machinery parts.

Finally, these products are perfect stain removers for clothing. However, it is always prudent to check their effect on the material. Some formulas are powerful and need some dilution before use.

  • Area

Please check whether the degreaser will cover the intended area. It is very frustrating to get halfway through the project only to discover that you do not have enough formula to complete it.

Concentrated products can go all the way and even leave you with a lot of formula after cleaning. Fortunately, they are suitable for other cleaning projects and thus won’t go to waste.

Conversely, cleaners applied with a spray bottle may not have the required coverage ability or longevity. Therefore, it is advisable to determine your project requirements to get enough formula for the job.

  • Speed of Use

It is impossible to allow the solution to soak into the grease for cabinets. Also, unlike other surfaces, they are near-vertical, and you can’t leave the formula for some time before scrubbing. Therefore, you need a solution that works straight away.

Luckily, quality degreasers start working immediately after application and make cleaning easy. However, they are pretty expensive, and you need to allocate more money to the project.

  • Safety

Although concentrated solutions are perfect for cleaning because of their effectiveness, they cause safety issues. Worse still, they can irritate your skin and cause other health issues with careless use.

Therefore, it is advisable to read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the best application strategy. In addition, wear gloves and other protective gear to provide added safety.

Can You Pour TSP Down the Drain?

Yes, you can pour Trisodium Phosphate down the drain. More so, the easiest way to dispose of the product is to flash it down the toilet for proper treatment. TSP is also safe in septic tanks as long as it is manageable.

However, there is a caveat. Avoid disposing of used degreasing rinsates into open water bodies, storm drains, or streams as they are toxic. The solution also leads to uncontrollable algae growth, resulting in reduced oxygen levels in the water that kills aquatic life.

Can You Paint Over TSP?

It is not advisable to paint over TSP. Moreover, you need to rinse the surface of any formula and let it dry to the touch before painting. Otherwise, the paint coat will not adhere tightly and soon lead to a failed project.

In addition, Trisodium Phosphate is only a cleaning agent, not a base coat or primer. It cleans and de-glosses surfaces to prepare them for painting.

In addition, the cleaner works on stubborn grease and dirt on surfaces to ensure perfect adhesion. Therefore, it is ideal during cleaning, but not just before painting.


There is a deceptive amount of cleaning work needed to deliver a professional look. More so, giving your cabinets a thorough deep clean is an essential step in preparing cabinets for painting. Therefore, it is prudent to check out the following guide:

How to Use TSP Cleaner Before Painting Cabinets

TSP is an effective and straightforward cleaner. All you need is the correct mixing proportions and application procedures. So, why not try using some TSP pre-paint cleaner for your next cabinet painting project.

Did you find this post helpful? Did you have your burning issues around the subject answered? I hope so, If you have a question that you would love to share with me please do so in the comment section below.