Barrier release agents prevent adhesion by the development of a physical film or barrier between the forming surface and the concrete.

Reactive release agents are chemically active and work by the process of a chemical reaction between the release agent and the free limes available in fresh concrete. A soapy film is created which prevents adhesion. Because it is a chemically reactive process, there is generally little to no residue or unreacted product left on the forming surface or concrete which provides for a cleaner process.

Water-based release agents are a result of more focus on health, environment and safety issues. This has resulted in development of new technologies largely focused on water-based formulations, with the movement being away from petroleum- or solvent-based products.

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How Safe (and Legal) is Your Form Release Agent?, Excerpt from Precast Inc. article

By Bob Waterloo

Become familiar with the safety standards and regulations to help protect your workers, plant and environment.

My grandfather used to show me a trick: He would strike a match and throw it into a pail of gasoline. (I do not suggest that anyone attempt this “trick.”) Because the oxygen supply was so quickly diminished, nothing happened except for the match going out. Does that mean gasoline is “safe”? Not by a long shot.

We can also make some comparisons with concrete release agents. Safety rules, both from an employee and environmental perspective, must be observed carefully to ensure we are not dealing with materials that are harmful, or potentially harmful, to our employees and environment.

Environmental safety
The vast majority of concrete form release agents use a petroleum solvent as the carrying agent. In reactive form release agents, the amount of reactive material added is relatively small – usually less than 10%. While the reactive portion is usually biodegradable (“environmentally friendly” or “readily biodegradable”), the carrying agents are normally less so.

The first assumption is to question why the material is being introduced to the environment instead of being applied to the concrete forms. Over-application of form release agents is very common in the precast industry and eventually some of this overspray ends up on the floor, ultimately washes off and contaminates the outside ground. Water run-off analyses will determine if you are contaminating the environment and perhaps ground and sub-surface water. While over-application is a waste of money and encourages bug holes and staining, we need to also educate our workers that “thinner is better” to help avoid ground contamination, reduce our costs (no matter how little) and have better-looking castings.

A second area of concern regarding the environment is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in form release agents. Federal Regulations for allowable levels of VOCs have been in effect since September 1999. Since then, individual states have enacted legislation reducing the allowable levels of VOCs from the federal level of 450 g/L to a maximum of 250 g/L.

As local, state and provincial regulations are sometimes more stringent than federal regulations, you should check with your local authorities as to what requirements are in place for your area.

Potable (drinking) water
If you are producing castings that will be exposed to potable (drinking) water, a form release should meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 61 requirements. The intent is to establish standards and certify that the end product exposures are acceptable for human consumption. Very few release agents are ANSI 61 approved due to stringent tests that are conducted on the product. The tests include plant and quality certification, along with tests on the form release. It is not an inexpensive procedure, and recertification is handled on an annual basis.

Bob Waterloo is technical sales manager, Hill and Griffith Co., based in Indianapolis. For additional information, contact him at or visit the Hill and Griffith website at 

Concrete Form Release

Biodegradable, NSF Release Agents Offer A Range Of Options For Concrete Applications

National Sanitation Foundation (NSF/ANSI 61) certified companies now have more options for the type of concrete release agents they use during their construction projects. The Hill and Griffith Company offers the concrete industry readily biodegradable release agents that are VOC- compliant and NSF-certified. Multiple reactive technologies create a metallic soap that reduces bonding/adhesion, while promoting quick, clean stripping at the same time deterring build-up on forms and pallets.

Hill and Griffith produces concrete form release agents that are classified as either “Readily Biodegradable” or “Inherently Biodegradable,” based on OECD 301-B. Since the release agents are readily or inherently biodegradable, the environmental impact is lessened. (Precasters should check local regulations for specifics pertaining to their operation). Contractors have noticed cleaner releases, better-looking castings as well as minimized employee safety concerns. GRIFCOTE® products are widely used on precast, prestressed and poured-in-place applications among others.
The Hill and Griffith Company, headquartered in Cincinnati, has created an entire family of specialized concrete form release agents and form seasoning agents with the knowledge of what customers need and an eye on the future. For nearly 115 years, The Hill and Griffith Company has been a trusted provider of raw materials and technical expertise to the metal casting, concrete and hydraulic fluids industries.

In 1896 when John Hill founded the Hill and Griffith Company, the concept of quality was adopted. He stated, “Hill and Griffith feels that the integrity of the company must be represented in the products and services bearing our names and labels.” Today, this tradition lives on. 

Concrete Form Release