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Curiously Enough: WD-40Actually Was Rocket Science

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.

RTWT AT : WD-40 History | Learn the Stories Behind the WD-40 Brand | WD-40

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BillH November 12, 2019, 7:58 AM

    …and having used it since it hit the market, I can tell you it’s not a rust remover, not a lubricant and not a degreaser. I’ve found it’s mostly good for spraying on the business end of washed/dried shovels, spades, trowels hoes and rakes to keep them from rusting between uses. For years I sprayed it on the bottom of my now 50-year old wheelbarrow, but haven’t for a long time and guess what, it’s rusty.

  • Bill in Tennessee November 12, 2019, 9:59 AM

    For a shade-tree fixer upper, one COULD get by with only two things: WD-40 and duct tape.

  • James ONeil November 12, 2019, 11:42 AM

    Ain’t much WD-40 can’t do; Down around Kodiak, Alaska, they put it on bait when fishing for halibut, so the bait taste/odor, travels farther through the water attracting the fish.

  • ghostsniper November 12, 2019, 12:23 PM

    I always have a couple cans around and there’s a empty salsa jar on the window sill with about 50 of the little red tubes in it – ya never know. I bought a brand new can a couple years ago and it changed. Got a lot more expensive and they changed the top of the can. No longer does it have the little red squirter button like on a spray paint can, with an enlarged hole for inserting the little red tube that always falls out. Now it has a conversion nozzle that allows you to spray it the old fashioned way – shotgun style, or tilt the nozzle the other way and that end has the little red tube. It looses sticky stuff on glass, among other things. I also spray the underside of the mower deck each season – must work, I’ve had that rider since 2002 and it still runs and cuts great though it’s in parts right now as I rebuild the carburetor.

  • Fatmatt November 12, 2019, 3:20 PM

    It also works well for cleaning stainless steel objects. I used to use it for photography to make things sparkle.

  • KC November 13, 2019, 6:48 AM

    My best friend’s dad was one of the engineers at Convair on the Atlas missile project who knew someone at Rocket Chemical that showed him WD-40. He then showed it to his boss and the rest is history.

  • nonncom November 13, 2019, 9:14 AM

    It works great for cleaning the lime and scale off of bathroom tiles and shower doors….odor goes away after a while….’sides, I kinda’ like it anyway….”smells like…..victory”….

  • jrg November 13, 2019, 10:41 AM

    BillH, my Grandfather kept a metal pail, mostly filled with sand that had used motor oil spilled into it to form an oily scouring material. Digging the blades into the sand a few times and knocking off sand on edge, it kept the metal clean for the next use.

  • Snakepit Kansas November 15, 2019, 5:00 AM

    nonncom quoting Col. Killgore.

    WD40 is in every dood’s garage somewhere. For firearms and aromatherapy, I prefer Breakfree.