WD-40: What’s in a name? – On the House

WD-40: What’s in a name?

By on January 2, 2014

Ever wonder how a product is named, what it was created for, or how it came about? Today, you’ll learn why WD-40 is called “WD-40,” and what it was created to do. Many products start out as one thing and end up as another, like Post-it-Notes (an experimental new tape that didn’t stick too well). Lots of products also wind up with many uses — far from what they were originally intended for — like baking soda. Such is the case with WD-40. In 1953, Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, Calif., set out to create a rust inhibitor for aerospace use.

After 39 duds, they hit on a winner and dubbed it “Water Displacement Formula 40” — or “WD-40” for short. Aerospace workers soon discovered it worked for other things, too. It lubricated sticky parts, stopped squeaks, loosened rusted bolts, cleaned grease, tar and adhesives, and displaced moisture on metal surfaces (its original intended function). Today, it’s found in four of five homes, and a million cans a week of WD-40 are used.

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