Tri Sodium Phosphate: A Professional Window Cleaner’s Best Friend

If you are seriously considering cleaning windows for a living or just want to clean some windows in your own house properly, then you will want to use a squeegee. If you’ve used a bottle of window cleaner and a cloth before, you may be wondering what professional window cleaners use. Hint, it’s not a little blue spray bottle.

In fact, professional window cleaners rarely use a spray bottle unless they are merely touching up an area. What they use is a bucket of warm water with a few drops of concentrated solution, an absorbent scrubbing sleeve, and of course, a squeegee.

“But what is in that bucket?”, you may ask. Well, that depends on the window cleaner. For the majority of them it is just water and a squirt of dish soap (Dawn, Joy and Palmolive are favorites). Many add a 1/2 cup to a cup of ammonia to help cut grease and prevent streaks.

However, what I like to use is an old-school secret… T.S.P. “What is TSP?”, you may ask. Well, it stands for Tri Sodium Phosphate, and it is one of the greatest window cleaning secrets. You see, back in the day using TSP was considered the industry standard for window cleaners. It cleaned amazingly, it had plenty of glide, and it didn’t get foamy like many dish detergents.

Well than why isn’t anyone using it anymore? That’s a good question. It has to do with the environmental problems associated with phosphates. You see back a few years ago, they put phosphates in all kinds of cleaners. This worked great for cleaning, but had an unanticipated effect on the ecosystem. You see, phosphate is an excellent fertilizer. So good, that it caused an explosion of phosphate loving algae which upset the ecological balance.

When the scientist and the government realized all the problems with releasing vast quantities of phosphates, they clamped down on the use of phosphates in cleaners – which is a good thing. However, people mistakenly began thinking that phosphate type cleaners such as TSP were dangerous and toxic, which is not true. TSP, in fact, is non-toxic. I personally, believe that using a couple of teaspoons to clean some windows is not dangerous at all for the environment, it is the wanton use of it to clean everything that is.

Have you ever been cleaning a window with just dish soap and have been frustrated with the squeegee dragging and skipping across the glass and exclaimed “I simply need more glide!”? But then when you add enough dish soap to get that fantastic glide, you also end up with a bunch of unruly foam. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out.

Next time try this. Fill up a five gallon bucket with 4 gallons of water. Then add 4 teaspoons of TSP and 3 teaspoons of your favorite dish soap. You will have days of glide without all the foam you’ve come to resent.

A few precautions, never mix TSP with ammonia. Be aware that it may dry your hands out considerably. Be careful when climbing a ladder, TSP can make your hands very slippery. You may get so good at cleaning windows that all your friends resent you.

Michael Ortiz

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