What does WD 40 stand for?

WD 40 stands for Water Displacement – 40th Attempt. It is the trademark name for water displacing spray that is widely available in a variety of retail outlets. WD 40 was created by Norm Larsen founder of the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953 in California. In 1969 the company’s name was changed to WD – 40 Company because the company was not in the business of making rockets, according to then president John S. Barry.

Originally WD 40 was developed to keep away water and avert corrosion; later the spray was found to have many household uses. The expression 40th Attempt came about when Byatt was trying to create a formula that would prevent corrosion by displacing the standing water that promotes it; it was on Byatt’s 40th attempt that he arrived at a successful formula. WD 40 is chiefly made up of a variety of hydrocarbons.

Convair, a United States aerospace manufacturing and development complex of the 1940s, was the first to use WD 40 to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile from corrosion and rust. In 1958 the product made its way to store shelves in San Diego.

The active ingredient is long term and non – volatile. It is a type of thick and gluey oil that stays on the surface and provides a two- fold protection from moisture, lubrication and protection. The oil is diluted with a volatile hydrocarbon which when evaporated leaves the oil behind. A propellant activates gas pressure in the can and it forces the liquid through the spray nozzle after which it diffuses away. The propellant used was initially a low – molecular weight hydrocarbon, currently the propellant is carbon dioxide.

The properties that the WD 40 has provide many uses within the home and commercial fields. These uses include:

  • Removing residue and dirt
  • Loosening and lubricating hinges and joints
  • Preventing rust
  • Removing bolts and screws that are stuck
  • Removing moisture

The product has no exclusive rights as the makers want to avoid disclosing the ingredients of the formula which is trade secret. Some believe that the main ingredient in WD 40 is fish oil but this is far from the truth. The website for the product states that WD 40 is a petroleum based product. The United States Material Safety Data Sheet lists the main ingredients for WD 40 as follows:

  • 50% – mineral spirits principally hexane
  • 25% – Liquefied petroleum gas
  • 15+% Mineral Oil
  • 10-% Inert ingredients

If one is repeatedly exposed to WD 40 it is recommended that nitrile rubber gloves and safety goggles should be used to reduce the effects on the human skin as well as the product’s flammability and the effects to the human skin.

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