Also referred to as calcium salt of formic acid, calcium formate is used commercially as a food and livestock feeds preservative. In food industry, it is called food addictive E228. It is manufactured commercially by reacting calcium hydroxide (calcium oxide) with formic acid.
Calcium formate is actually a soluble salt of methanoic acid (formic acid) and has numerous similarities with other formats. It is sold in its pure form (99% purity), though you may find some small traces of other related salts. Primarily, it is used in food production as a preservative against microorganisms and antibacterial solution in livestock feeds.
It is also used for spraying fresh hay or any other silage so as to slow down the decay processes. When added to silage, it suppresses the formation of products like propionic acid that hastens the decaying processes. Actually, adding calcium formate to silage promotes the formation of lactic acid in the anaerobic fermentation. As a result, the feeds’ nutritional value is preserved and for as long as possible. Calcium formate is widely used in the preservation of winter feeds for livestock. Sometimes, it is added to poultry feeds to help eradicate salmonella bacteria.
Outside the food industry, calcium formate is often used to accelerate the concrete’s setting time, especially in winter. Apart from the decreased concrete’s setting time, calcium formate also enhances the concrete’s hardness. For calcium formate to give you better results, it has to be applied under low temperature conditions. Calcium formate is very effective when it come to the prevention of corrosion in metal substrates and in the prevention of efflorescence. Additionally, it is used as a fire retardant, for instance, in gypsum board.
Apart from the aforementioned uses, it is also used as the fuel component in explosives that are designed to have deflagration behavior. These types of explosives are designed to be used in hazardous environment, for instance, in coal mines. A mixture calcium formate and urea is usually used for melting large blocks of ice. Furthermore, there is less corrosion on cement or steel surfaces when this type of a de-icer is utilized.
When calcium formate is mixed with perchlorate, superoxide, ammonium nitrate, chlorate, or with permanganate of an alkali metal and is ignited, large volume of gases are released. Normally, these gases are non-poisonous, non-irritating and cool thus are used in safety airbags in cars or for similar applications.
Calcium formate is sold in 25 to 50kg multi-wall paper bags or 500lb mini sacks. It can also be bought in 1000kg super sacks. And because it is non-hygroscopic, it can safely be stored in any dry area. Its shelf life is approximately 3 years after production,
All in all, calcium formate is low in toxicity; however, it is should be handled with care as it is quite irritating to the skin and the eyes. As such, avoid repeated or prolonged exposure to it, especially on the naked skin or the eyes. In case it gets into your eyes, flush them immediately with clean water for fifteen minutes.