In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. Working in a small lab in San Diego, California, it took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. But they must have been really good, because the original secret formula for WD-40® -which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try—is still in use today.
Convair, an aerospace contractor, first used WD-40® to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion. The product actually worked so well that several employees snuck some WD-40® cans out of the plant to use at home.
A few years following WD-40®’s first industrial use, Rocket Chemical Company founder Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40® into aerosol cans, reasoning that consumers might find a use for the product at home as some of the employees had. The product made its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego in 1958.
In 1960 the company nearly doubled in size, growing to seven people, who sold an average of 45 cases per day from the trunk of their cars to hardware and sporting goods stores in the San Diego area.
In 1961 the first full truckload order for WD-40® was filled when employees came in on a Saturday to produce additional concentrate to meet the disaster needs of the victims of Hurricane Carla along the U.S. Gulf Coast. WD-40® was used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles and equipment.
In 1968 goodwill kits containing WD-40® were sent to soldiers in Vietnam to prevent moisture damage on firearms and help keep them in good working condition.
In 1969 the company was renamed after its only product,
WD-40 Company, Inc.