WD-40: Discover the History, Formulation & Myths Behind the Brand

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 12, 2022
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Have you ever wondered what that blue can of magic is on every tool bench? It’s wd-40, of course!

WD-40 stands for “Water Displacement- 40th Attempt” and is a trademark of the company WD-40 Company.

It’s a versatile lubricant that can be used for many things around the house. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about wd-40 and why it’s so useful.

WD-40 logo

The Fascinating History of WD-40: From Aerospace to Home Use

In 1953, a group of employees at the Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California, worked on developing solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. One chemist, Norm Larsen, experimented with creating a compound that would protect Atlas missile outer skins from rust and corrosion. After 40 attempts, he finally perfected the formula, which he named WD-40, meaning “Water Displacement, 40th Attempt.”

The Early Years: Displacing Solvents and Experimenting with Cans

WD-40 was first sold in 1961 as an industrial product in gallon cans. However, the founder of the company, Norm Larsen, had a different idea. He saw the potential for WD-40 as an alternative to messy oil cans and wanted to produce it in an aerosol can. His reasoning was that consumers could use it at home and it would have a cleaner appearance on store shelves. The first aerosol cans of WD-40 were released in 1958, and the product quickly became popular among industrial customers.

WD-40 Goes Mainstream: Growing Popularity and New Uses

As the years went by, WD-40’s popularity grew. Customers found new uses for the product beyond rust prevention, such as removing adhesives and cleaning tools. In response to this growing demand, WD-40 Company released a whole line of products, including degreasers and rust removal products. Today, WD-40 is available in nearly every shop and home, and the company has nearly doubled in size over the past seven years, with an average of 4,000 cases of WD-40 sold every day.

The WD-40 Myth: Snuck into the Plant and Perfected the Formula

One of the most popular myths about WD-40 is that the formula was created by a disgruntled employee who snuck into the lab and perfected the formula. While this story is entertaining, it’s not true. The formula for WD-40 was created by Norm Larsen and his staff, and it was perfected over the course of 40 attempts.

The Many Uses of WD-40: From Industrial to Home Use

WD-40 is a versatile product that can be used for a variety of purposes. Some examples include:

  • Removing adhesives and stickers
  • Lubricating door hinges and locks
  • Cleaning tools and machinery
  • Removing rust and corrosion
  • Protecting metal surfaces from moisture and humidity

Where to Find WD-40 and How It Can Help You

WD-40 is available at most hardware stores and online retailers. It’s an affordable product, with a price range of $3-$10 depending on the size of the can. Whether you’re a professional mechanic or a DIY enthusiast, WD-40 can help you with a variety of tasks around the house or in the workshop.

The Fascinating Formulation of WD-40: Ingredients, Uses, and Fun Facts

WD-40 is a popular lubricant, rust removal, and degreaser product that has been around for over 60 years. Its signature blue and yellow can is a staple in garages and homes across the world. But what is it made of? Here are the ingredients that make up WD-40:

  • 50-60% naphtha (petroleum), hydrotreated heavy
  • Less than 25% petroleum base oils
  • Less than 10% naphtha (petroleum), hydrodesulfurized heavy (contains: 1,2,4-trimethyl benzene, 1,3,5-trimethyl benzene, xylene, mixed isomers)
  • 2-4% carbon dioxide

What are the Different Types of WD-40?

WD-40 comes in different types, each formulated for a specific use. Here are some of the most popular types of WD-40:

  • WD-40 Multi-Use Product: The standard formulation that can be used for lubrication, rust removal, and degreasing.
  • WD-40 Specialist: A line of products that are formulated for specific uses such as automotive, bicycle, and heavy-duty.
  • WD-40 EZ-REACH: A longer straw that enables you to reach tight spaces.
  • WD-40 Smart Straw: A can with a built-in straw that flips up for precision application.
  • WD-40 Specialist Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor: A product that helps extend the life of metal parts.

What are Some Fun Facts About WD-40?

WD-40 has a fascinating history and some interesting facts that you might not know. Here are some fun facts about WD-40:

  • WD-40 was originally created to prevent rust on missiles in the 1950s.
  • The name WD-40 stands for “Water Displacement, 40th formula.”
  • WD-40 was first sold in aerosol cans in 1958.
  • WD-40 was used by NASA to protect the legs of the Mars rovers from rusting.
  • WD-40 can help remove ink from printers and extend the life of printer cartridges.
  • WD-40 can be used to remove scuff marks from floors.
  • WD-40 is not a lubricant, but it can help lubricants work more efficiently.

Pro Tips for Using WD-40

Here are some insider tips for using WD-40 effectively:

  • Always test WD-40 on a small, inconspicuous area before using it on a larger surface.
  • WD-40 can be used to remove stickers and price tags, but it’s important to wipe off any residue with soap and water.
  • WD-40 can be used to remove crayon marks from walls.
  • WD-40 can help remove rust from bike chains, but be sure to wipe off any excess and re-lubricate the chain afterwards.
  • WD-40 can be used to remove gum from hair.

WD-40 is a frugal, efficient, and green solution for a wide range of problems. Whether you’re working on your bike, car, or computer, WD-40 can help you get the job done.

WD-40 Myths & Fun Facts | Facts About WD-40 Products

WD-40 is a versatile product that can be used for a variety of needs. It contains a special blend of lubricants, anti-corrosion agents, and ingredients for penetration, water displacement, and soil removal. Here are some interesting facts about WD-40:

  • The “W-D” in WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, but it’s actually a lubricant.
  • The product was created in 1953 by a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical in San Diego, California.
  • The staff at Rocket Chemical experimented with nearly 40 attempts at displacing water before they perfected the formula.
  • The original formula was created to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion.
  • The reasoning behind the name “WD-40” is that it was the 40th formula that worked.
  • The product was first sold in aerosol cans in 1958.
  • In the following years, the company continued to produce additional solvents, degreasers, and rust removal products under the WD-40 brand.
  • The product’s appearance on store shelves nearly doubled in the seven years following its introduction, and it has been growing in popularity ever since.
  • In some cases, consumers have even snuck WD-40 cans into their trunks to take home from hardware and home goods stores.
  • The company has also created a line of WD-40 products specifically for industrial and automotive needs.

WD-40: The Company Behind the Product

WD-40 is not just a product, it’s a brand. Here are some interesting facts about the company behind the product:

  • The founder of Rocket Chemical, Norm Larsen, set out to create a product that could help prevent rust and damage caused by water.
  • The company’s employees still work in the same lab in San Diego where the original formula was perfected.
  • The company has sent WD-40 into space with NASA’s Space Shuttle program to prevent corrosion on the shuttle’s metal parts.
  • The company has also helped protect the aerospace industry by creating a special formula called WD-40 Specialist Aerospace.
  • In January 2021, the company’s stock price hit an all-time high.
  • In July 2021, the company announced that it had filled a truckload of WD-40 cans every 2.3 seconds for the previous year.

WD-40: The Fun Facts

WD-40 is more than just a product and a company, it’s a cultural phenomenon. Here are some fun facts about WD-40:

  • The product has been used to remove chewing gum from hair.
  • It can help remove crayon marks from walls.
  • It can help remove stickers and adhesive residue from surfaces.
  • Some people have used it to help remove a ring that’s stuck on a finger.
  • The product has been used to help remove tar from cars.
  • WD-40 has been used to help prevent wasps from building nests.
  • The product has been used to help remove scuff marks from floors.
  • WD-40 can help prevent snow from sticking to shovels and snowblowers.


So there you have it- the history of wd-40, and why it’s so popular. It’s a multi-purpose lubricant and cleaner that’s been around for over 60 years, and it’s used in almost every home and shop. Who knew it was originally developed for the aerospace industry? Now you do!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.