Barrier releases are oils, reactive releases are soaps.
Barrier form release oils, use high specific gravity oils diluted in lighter ones such as kerosene. The lighter oil evaporates, leaving a film of the heavier oil. The oil acts as a barrier, much the same as butter on a cookie sheet, which prevents concrete from sticking to the form.
A chemically reactive concrete form release agent contains an ingredient that combines with the lime in fresh concrete to form a metallic, waterproof soap which prevents concrete adhering to the form.
If you would like to learn more about barrier versus reactive concrete from releases, read our Director of Distribution, Bob Waterloo's article in PRECAST INC, "Proper Application of Release Agents."
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