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The Unbelievable Origins: Exploring the Fascinating Story behind WD-40

WD-40 is a household name, known for its ability to fix almost anything. But have you ever wondered about the story behind this iconic product? In this article, we will explore the fascinating origins of WD-40, from its humble beginnings to its global success. We will also delve into the science behind its effectiveness and discover some surprising uses. Get ready to uncover the unbelievable story behind WD-40!

Key Takeaways

  • WD-40 was invented in the 1950s by Norm Larsen as a rust-prevention solvent.

  • The secret formula of WD-40 is a closely guarded trade secret.

  • The first prototype of WD-40 was developed in a small lab in San Diego.

  • WD-40's early applications included protecting missiles from rust and corrosion.

  • WD-40 has expanded its product line to include various specialized formulas.

The Birth of a Legend

The Inventor's Inspiration

The birth of WD-40 can be traced back to a simple yet significant moment of inspiration. It all started when the inventor, whose name remains unknown, observed a peculiar phenomenon while working at the Rocket Chemical Company. Amidst the bustling machinery and the constant hum of activity, he noticed that a protective film formed on the surface of the machinery, preventing rust and corrosion. This observation sparked an idea in his mind, a vision of creating a product that could provide similar protection and lubrication for a wide range of applications.

The Secret Formula

The secret formula of WD-40 is a closely guarded secret that has been passed down through generations. It is a unique blend of ingredients that work together to create the powerful and versatile product that we know today. The exact composition of the formula is known only to a select few individuals within the company. This secrecy adds to the mystique and allure of WD-40, making it even more intriguing.

The First Prototype

After numerous experiments and iterations, the inventor finally created the first prototype of WD-40. This initial version of the product showcased the potential of the formula in providing lubrication and preventing rust. The prototype underwent rigorous testing to ensure its effectiveness and durability.

To further refine the product, the inventor sought feedback from professionals in various industries. Their valuable insights and suggestions played a crucial role in shaping the final version of WD-40 that would revolutionize the world of maintenance and repair.

The first prototype marked a significant milestone in the journey of WD-40, laying the foundation for its future success and widespread adoption.

From Rust Prevention to Multi-Purpose Solution

Early Applications

After its introduction as a new consumer product in the early 1960s, WD-40 quickly gained popularity. By 1965, it was being used by two popular US airlines, showcasing its effectiveness in preventing rust and corrosion on aircraft. The versatile nature of WD-40 allowed it to be used in various industries, including automotive, manufacturing, and construction. It became a go-to solution for loosening stuck parts, lubricating hinges, and protecting metal surfaces. The success of WD-40 in these early applications laid the foundation for its future growth and expansion.

Expanding the Product Line

As the popularity of WD-40 grew, so did the demand for new applications. The company recognized the need to expand its product line to cater to different industries and consumer needs. In response, WD-40 introduced a range of specialized formulas designed for specific purposes. These included variants for automotive maintenance, electrical systems, and even food-grade lubrication. By diversifying its offerings, WD-40 was able to provide targeted solutions for various challenges faced by its customers.

WD-40 in Everyday Life

WD-40 is a versatile product that has found its way into numerous aspects of everyday life. From household chores to DIY projects, this multi-purpose solution has become a staple in many households. Here are some common uses of WD-40:

  • Cleaning power tools

  • Fixing squeaky hinges

  • Lubricating sticky drawers or wheels

  • Rust prevention

In addition to these practical applications, WD-40 can also be used for various other purposes. It can help remove adhesive residue, loosen stuck zippers, and even silence noisy door hinges. With its wide range of uses, WD-40 has become an essential tool for both professionals and DIY enthusiasts.

The WD-40 Phenomenon

Global Success

WD-40 has achieved remarkable success worldwide, becoming a household name in many countries. With its versatile applications and reliable performance, it has gained a strong foothold in the market. The company recorded impressive net sales of $537.3 million in fiscal year 2023, reflecting the widespread popularity of WD-40 products. From lubricating squeaky hinges to loosening rusted bolts, WD-40 has become an indispensable tool for both professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike.

Iconic Branding

WD-40 has become more than just a household name; it has become an iconic brand that is recognized worldwide. The distinctive blue and yellow can with the red top has become synonymous with the product and is instantly recognizable. The branding of WD-40 has played a significant role in its success, creating a strong visual identity that stands out on store shelves and in consumers' minds.

The iconic branding of WD-40 has helped to build trust and credibility among consumers. The familiar logo and packaging design convey a sense of reliability and quality, assuring customers that they are purchasing a trusted product. The branding also helps to differentiate WD-40 from competitors, making it easily identifiable and memorable.

In addition to its visual branding, WD-40 has also built a strong brand reputation through its marketing efforts. The company has consistently promoted the versatility and effectiveness of its product through various advertising campaigns and sponsorships. This has helped to reinforce the brand's image as a reliable and innovative solution for a wide range of applications.

Overall, the iconic branding of WD-40 has played a crucial role in establishing its position as a global leader in the industry.

Unusual Uses

WD-40 is not just a rust-prevention spray, it has become a versatile solution for various everyday problems. People have discovered numerous unusual uses for this iconic product. Here are some examples:

  • Silencing squeaky doors: WD-40 can be used to lubricate hinges and eliminate annoying squeaks.

  • Removing adhesive residue: The solvent properties of WD-40 make it effective in removing sticky residue left behind by labels or tape.

  • Cleaning crayon marks: WD-40 can help remove crayon marks from walls or other surfaces.

Remember, WD-40 is not only for rust prevention, but it can also come in handy for these unexpected tasks. As the saying goes, 'When in doubt, use WD-40!'

The Science Behind WD-40

Chemical Composition

The chemical composition of WD-40 is a closely guarded secret. The company has never disclosed the exact formula, but it is known to contain a mixture of various ingredients. These ingredients include petroleum-based solvents, mineral oil, and a small amount of fragrance. The solvents in WD-40 help to dissolve grease and grime, making it an effective cleaner. The mineral oil provides lubrication, reducing friction and preventing rust. The fragrance is added to give WD-40 its distinctive smell. Overall, the precise combination of ingredients in WD-40 is what makes it such a versatile and effective product.

How It Works

The science behind WD-40 is fascinating. Its unique chemical composition allows it to penetrate, loosen, and displace moisture, making it an effective lubricant and rust inhibitor. This versatile product is a result of careful formulation and testing, ensuring its reliability and effectiveness.

  • The chemical composition of WD-40 consists of a blend of lubricating oils, anti-corrosion agents, and a propellant.

  • Its ability to penetrate and displace moisture makes it an ideal solution for various applications.

Safety Considerations

When using WD-40, it is important to keep in mind a few safety considerations. While WD-40 is a versatile and effective product, it is essential to use it responsibly and follow the recommended guidelines. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Avoid contact with eyes and skin. WD-40 is not intended for use on the body and can cause irritation.

  • Keep WD-40 away from heat sources and open flames as it is flammable.

  • Store WD-40 in a cool, dry place and keep it out of reach of children.

  • Do not use WD-40 on electrical equipment or near live wires as it can cause damage or electrical shock.

Remember, following these safety precautions will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience when using WD-40.


In conclusion, the story behind WD-40 is truly fascinating. From its humble beginnings as a rust-prevention solvent to its wide range of uses today, WD-40 has become an indispensable tool in households and industries around the world. Its journey from a small lab in San Diego to a global brand is a testament to human ingenuity and the power of innovation. Whether it's fixing squeaky hinges or removing stubborn stains, WD-40 continues to prove its effectiveness. So next time you reach for that blue and yellow can, remember the incredible origins of this versatile product.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does WD-40 stand for?

WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, 40th formula.

Who invented WD-40?

WD-40 was invented by Norm Larsen in 1953.

What was the original use of WD-40?

The original use of WD-40 was to prevent corrosion and rust on the Atlas missile.

Can WD-40 be used as a lubricant?

Yes, WD-40 can be used as a light-duty lubricant for certain applications.

Is WD-40 safe to use on all surfaces?

WD-40 is safe to use on most surfaces, but it is always recommended to test on a small area first.

Can WD-40 remove stains?

WD-40 can be used to remove certain stains, but it is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions and test on a small area first.


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