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An Ode to WD-40

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Kleenex, Google, Coke. There are a handful of brands in the world so ubiquitous they become the stand- in for the product category they represent. Just a handful of goods invented have ever reached this hallowed status, and WD-40, a legendary product known for its ability to do everything, is among them. 

You could probably walk into nine out of ten garages in America and spot the iconic yellow and blue can nestled on a shelf somewhere. The reason for its popularity is simple: it’s a utilitarian product – like pliers or a pickup truck– which comes in handy in about a dozen situations. Join us as we explore the history of WD-40 and look at a handful of ways we know to use it.

Beginnings

WD-40 was created by the Rocket Chemical Company, a small team of chemists based in San Diego, California, in 1953. The team, led by Norman Larsen, aimed to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. WD-40, which stands for “Water Displacement, 40th formula,” was successfully formulated after 39 failed attempts. Larsen was aiming to create a formula that could prevent corrosion in missiles and other equipment by displacing water. The product quickly gained popularity and found its way into non-aerospace applications, becoming a household name for various uses, such as loosening stuck parts, preventing rust, and lubricating moving components. Since its inception, WD-40 has grown in reputation and utility, becoming an essential product in both industrial applications and households worldwide.

WD-40 became immensely popular due to its multi-functionality and effectiveness. Initially created for the aerospace industry, its potential for various other applications was quickly recognized. People found that it worked not only as a protective agent against rust but also as a lubricant and cleaning agent in numerous scenarios, ranging from households to automotive and industrial applications. Word of mouth played a significant role in its growing popularity, as users discovered and shared new ways the product could be used. 

WD-40’s makers also contributed to its ubiquity by actively marketing it as a multi-use product, ensuring that it was widely available in stores and that potential uses were well communicated to customers. The distinct packaging, with its recognizable blue and yellow can with the red cap, also contributed to its standout presence in the market. Over time, the brand became synonymous with problem-solving, always ready to provide a solution in sticky, squeaky, and rusty situations, making it a must-have in tool boxes across the globe. Its global success is a testament to its versatility, practicality, and the value it adds to various maintenance and repair tasks across multiple domains.

What Is WD-40 Used For?

WD-40 is every mechanic’s secret sauce for a reason. A can of this lubricant can go a long way when it comes to preventing or delaying wear, protecting surfaces, lubricating stuck parts, and cleaning other components. 

WD-40 is versatile and commonly used in automotive applications for various purposes. It’s frequently used as a lubricant on parts such as hinges, locks, and latches, preventing them from squeaking and sticking. As a corrosion inhibitor, it helps protect battery terminals and other metal parts from rust and corrosion. It’s also widely applied to loosen rusted or stuck bolts and nuts, making them easier to remove or adjust. Additionally, WD-40 aids in removing dirt, grease, and grime from various parts of a vehicle, including wheels and engines, contributing to the vehicle’s maintenance and cleanliness. It’s also used to displace moisture, and help dry out electrical systems such as spark plugs and ignition systems, making it particularly useful in damp conditions. In these ways, WD-40 proves to be a multi-use product, essential for maintaining and protecting various aspects of a vehicle.

CAR PROTECTION

You can extend the lifespan of the following components with a generous amount of WD-40.

CHROME

A layer of chrome can help various parts resist normal wear and tear caused by the elements. It helps mitigate rust formation and strengthens base materials. But as durable as it is, chrome is still susceptible to corrosion. You might notice spots of rust forming on your daily driver’s hood or panels even when they’re covered in chrome. Luckily, you can get rid of these blemishes with a generous amount of WD-40. Simply let the formula soak on the affected area for about 10 minutes before gently scrubbing the spots.

WEATHERSTRIP SEALS

Weatherstrip seals are protective barriers that prevent debris, rain, snow, and the elements from entering your cabin. They also prevent wind noise and the upholstery from wearing out faster than normal. These seals can get brittle as your vehicle racks up mileage, which is totally normal. But if you want to extend their lifespan, spraying some WD-40 on these seals can help them last longer, especially during cold weather.

LUBRICATION

WD-40 does a good job of lubricating stubborn parts.

HINGE PINS AND POINTS

Stuck hinge pins and points due to rust buildup can make it difficult to open doors, trunks, and other compartments. Regularly spraying WD-40 on these parts can keep them functioning without any issues.

DIRT AND GREASE

WD-40 is safe to use on car paint and acts as an effective cleaning solution for dirt and grease.

HOOD LATCHES

No driver wants to hear groaning and creaking noises every time they pop the hood open. Fortunately, WD-40 is a quick yet effective solution for this kind of problem.

NUTS AND BOLTS

Soaking nuts and bolts in WD-40 solution makes them easier to remove.

STRUT MOUNTS

Squeaky struts don’t always mean they’re damaged. Sometimes, all it takes is some WD-40 to get them back to normal.

SPARK PLUGS

WD-40 helps remove carbon residue from spark plugs. Carbon fouling is one of the most common problems found in spark plugs that can lead to engine performance issues. Excessive idling, a defective thermostat, a rich air-fuel mixture, and a weak ignition system output can lead to carbon fouling. If there’s too much carbon in your vehicle’s spark plugs, you can try turning off the engine and spraying the spark plugs and distributor cap with WD-40.

CLEANING

WD-40 is more than a super lube. It also has cleaning properties that can make any old component look brand new.

FLOODED ENGINES

The “WD” in WD-40 stands for “water displacement,” making it the perfect product for displacing excess moisture in flooded engines. If you’re planning to use this solution, make sure the engine is turned off before spraying the carburetor with WD-40. This should help you start your car without any issues.

LICENSE PLATE

The license plate might be the last thing on your mind when it comes to cleaning your car, but it wouldn’t hurt to spray some WD-40 on it to make it look brand new. Simply leave the solution for 30 seconds before wiping it off with a rag. Then, proceed with rinsing the plate with soap and water.

PAINT RUB

WD-40 can help you remove scuffs of paint on your vehicle. However, it might not work on large areas.

OIL

Tinkering with your engine is a messy task, and one of the most time-consuming chores after you’re done is washing your hands to remove the grease. Regular soap isn’t the best option for the job, but spraying your hands with WD-40 might do the trick. WD-40 is also great at removing oil stains on your driveway.

What Should You Not Use WD-40 On?

It’s no secret that WD-40 has several uses that go beyond fixing automotive-related issues.

While this might be the case, DIYers should be careful when using this multi-purpose product because there are some instances where WD-40 might do more harm than good. Here are a few things that WD-40 could damage or erode.

WD-40 shouldn’t be used on certain surfaces such as polycarbonate and clear polystyrene plastic because it can cause damage or discoloration. It is also not ideal for door locks as it can attract dirt and dust, leading to jamming. While it can be used to loosen residue or clean parts, it should not be applied as a permanent lubricant on bike chains or other items requiring lasting lubrication, as WD-40 is more of a cleaner and water displacer than a heavy-duty lubricant. Additionally, it shouldn’t be used on electronic devices, as it could penetrate and damage the internal components. WD-40 should also be avoided on surfaces that will be painted, as it leaves a residue that can prevent the paint from adhering properly. Using WD-40 on some electronics can damage the wiring and might even void their warranty. WD-40 can soften the wax coating on some pieces of furniture, which might require you to refinish them. WD-40 should be applied carefully. Considering the specific needs of each application is essential to achieve desired results and avoid potential damage.

What Else Can WD-40 Be Used For?

Aside from your garage, the cabinet under the kitchen sink also makes a great space for storing cans of WD-40 because you can use it on several things around the house.

PLASTIC FURNITURE

A thin layer of WD-40 can make any piece of old plastic furniture look brand new.

CARPETS

WD-40 can also be used to remove carpet stains. Simply let the solution soak for a few minutes before using your regular carpet cleaner.

WOODEN TOOL HANDLES

A thin coat of WD-40 on wooden tool handles can help them stay splinter-free.

SHOES AND BOOTS

You can spray your shoes and boots with a generous amount of WD-40 for waterproofing purposes.

So, there you have it. A list of the things WD-40 comes in handy for in the garage or around the house.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a video with tips from @JoyHomeRemedies, a YouTuber who shares 16 uses that go beyond just automotive topics for your viewing enjoyment.