As you probably already know, WD-40 is a pretty slick invention. But have you ever wondered where this wonder solvent came from?
In 1953, a trio of researchers were laboring away in a small lab in San Diego. Their ambitions were both simple and lofty: They wanted to create a solvent that would prevent rust and act as a de-greaser for the aerospace industry. The company was aptly named Rocket Chemicals.
Commercial aviation was just taking wing, and airplanes had proven crucial in World War II. With the United States engaged in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, developing the best aircraft and shooting for the stars via the emerging space race were national priorities.
Enter Rocket Chemicals, which was working on a “Water Displacement” (WD) solvent to penetrate and displace moisture. The researchers toiled away, but most of their formulas fell short. Then, on the 40th try, they struck gold, and the Water Displacement-40th Formula was born. That name was too much of a mouthful, and it was shortened to WD-40.
The solvent was initially designed to coat the outside of missiles to protect them from corrosion and rust. Yet interestingly enough, aerospace employees started stealing WD-40 cans to use at home. Rather than fight the swelling solvent tide, Rocket Company embraced the flow and released its product to the general public.
Going public with WD-40 was the right move. These days, more than a million cans of WD-40 are sold per week, and for fiscal year 2022, the WD-40 company reported revenues north of $500 million. Whether you pop into a garage or an airplane hangar, there’s a good chance that you’ll spot a can of WD-40.