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Trisodium Orthophosphate vs. Sodium Phosphate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 27, 2024
Trisodium orthophosphate is a specific form of sodium phosphate with three sodium atoms, used as a food additive and cleaner, while sodium phosphate is a general term for phosphate salts of sodium.

Key Differences

Trisodium orthophosphate, also known as sodium phosphate tribasic, contains three sodium ions and one phosphate ion. Sodium phosphate is a broader term that refers to any sodium salt of phosphoric acid, which may contain one, two, or three sodium ions.
Trisodium orthophosphate is commonly used as a cleaning agent, water softener, and food additive. Sodium phosphate, in its various forms, finds applications in food processing, medicine, and cleaning products.
Trisodium orthophosphate appears as a white, granular or crystalline powder and is highly soluble in water. Sodium phosphates can vary in appearance and solubility depending on their specific sodium-to-phosphate ratio.
Trisodium orthophosphate is generally considered safe but can be irritating to skin and eyes. Sodium phosphates, depending on their concentration and form, can have varying degrees of health and environmental impacts.
Both trisodium orthophosphate and sodium phosphates are regulated by food safety authorities for their use in food products. However, their safety and environmental guidelines may differ due to their chemical composition.

Comparison Chart


Three sodium ions, one phosphate ion
Varying sodium-to-phosphate ratio

Common Uses

Cleaning, water softening, food additive
Food processing, medicine, cleaning

Physical Form

White, granular or crystalline, highly soluble
Varies in appearance and solubility

Health Impact

Generally safe, but can be irritating
Varies depending on form and concentration

Safety Regulation

Regulated for food and industrial use
Specific regulations based on the type of sodium phosphate

Trisodium Orthophosphate and Sodium Phosphate Definitions

Trisodium Orthophosphate

Can be used as a buffering agent in various solutions.
The lab utilized trisodium orthophosphate for pH control.

Sodium Phosphate

Employed in food processing as a stabilizer and preservative.
Sodium phosphate helped maintain the consistency of the processed cheese.

Trisodium Orthophosphate

Used as a food additive for its emulsifying properties.
The cereal box listed trisodium orthophosphate among its ingredients.

Sodium Phosphate

Used in detergents and cleaning agents for its effectiveness.
The cleaning solution's effectiveness is due to sodium phosphate.

Trisodium Orthophosphate

A compound with three sodium atoms and one phosphate ion.
Trisodium orthophosphate was used to soften the water in the industrial process.

Sodium Phosphate

In medicine, it's used for bowel cleansing before procedures.
The doctor prescribed a sodium phosphate-based solution for the colonoscopy prep.

Trisodium Orthophosphate

Acts as a powerful cleaning agent in detergents.
The stain was removed using a cleaner containing trisodium orthophosphate.

Sodium Phosphate

Varies in sodium content, from monosodium to trisodium forms.
The food label indicated the presence of various sodium phosphate compounds.

Trisodium Orthophosphate

Commonly used in water treatment processes.
Trisodium orthophosphate helps prevent corrosion in water pipes.

Sodium Phosphate

A general term for sodium salts of phosphoric acid.
Sodium phosphate is often used as a laxative in medical treatments.


Can sodium phosphate be used as a laxative?

Yes, certain forms of sodium phosphate are used medically as laxatives.

What is the primary use of trisodium orthophosphate in industry?

It's widely used as a cleaning agent and water softener.

What is trisodium orthophosphate?

It's a sodium phosphate compound with three sodium atoms, used in food and cleaning.

How does sodium phosphate differ?

Sodium phosphate is a broader category of sodium salts of phosphoric acid.

Are there health risks associated with trisodium orthophosphate?

In high concentrations, it can pose health risks.

Is trisodium orthophosphate safe in food?

Yes, when used in regulated amounts, it's considered safe.

Are all sodium phosphates soluble in water?

Solubility varies; trisodium orthophosphate is highly soluble, while other forms may differ.

Can trisodium orthophosphate cause skin irritation?

It can be irritating to skin and eyes upon direct contact.

Is trisodium orthophosphate environmentally friendly?

It can have environmental impacts, so proper handling and disposal are important.

How does sodium phosphate affect kidney health?

Overconsumption can affect kidneys, especially in sensitive individuals.

How are sodium phosphates regulated in food?

Food safety authorities regulate their use based on concentration and type.

How does sodium phosphate interact with other food ingredients?

It can interact to improve texture, taste, and shelf-life of foods.

What precautions should be taken when handling trisodium orthophosphate?

Use protective gear and follow safety guidelines.

Can trisodium orthophosphate be used in organic products?

Its use in organic products depends on specific regulatory standards.

Does sodium phosphate have medical applications?

Yes, especially in bowel preparation and as a laxative.

What are the side effects of sodium phosphate?

Side effects can include dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Is trisodium orthophosphate a natural compound?

It's synthetically produced for industrial and food use.

What role does sodium phosphate play in food processing?

It acts as a stabilizer, preservative, and emulsifier in various foods.

Can trisodium orthophosphate be used in homemade cleaners?

Yes, it's effective in DIY cleaning solutions.

Can sodium phosphate be used in vegan diets?

Yes, it's a synthetic compound suitable for vegan diets.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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