You see the infamous blue and yellow can when you’re walking down the aisle of your hardware store or even at your local Walmart. Maybe you see it in your garage, under your sink, or you’ve just heard about what it does. You’re probably wondering what is WD-40, and where did it come from? Read ahead to learn about the history of WD-40 and how the brand presently lives.
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, 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 1969 the company was renamed after its only product, WD-40 Company, Inc.
In 1973, WD-40 Company, Inc., went public and was listed Over-The-Counter. The stock price increased by 61% on the first day of listing.
Since that time, WD-40 has grown by leaps and bounds, and is now virtually a household name, used in numerous consumer and industrial markets such as automotive, manufacturing, sporting goods, aviation, hardware and home improvement, construction, and farming.
In 1993, WD-40 was found to be in 4 out of 5 American households (it seems everyone has a can or two) and was used by 81 percent of professionals at work. Sales had grown to more than one million cans each week.
WD-40® has now launched almost 60 different products including their main Multi-Use-Purpose line, Specialist line, Bike line, 3-IN-ONE, 2000 Flushes, and Spot Shot. The most interesting piece of WD-40’s history is the uses for the product, now numbering in the thousands. Over the years, thousands of WD-40® users have written testimonial letters to the company sharing their often unique, if sometimes just plain weird, uses for the product.
The uses include everything from silencing squeaky hinges and removing road tar from automobiles to protecting tools from rust and removing adhesive labels. But they get a lot crazier than that. Some of the more interesting stories include the bus driver in Asia who used WD-40 to remove a python snake, which had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus, or when police officers used WD-40® to remove a naked burglar trapped in an air conditioning vent.
Think those are crazy? Check out the Official List of 2,000+ Uses here!
© 2021 WD-40 Company