WD-40 Ingredients and Uses

June 11, 2010 at 12:24 am 4 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

WD-40 was created in 1953 by Norm Larsen. It was originally designed to prevent corrosion caused by water — the WD stands for “water displacement.” Norm’s 40th formula was successful and that’s where the “40” comes from.

The formula is so secretive, they decided not to patent it. This may sound counter intuitive, but filing for a patent would require disclosing the ingredients.

That strategy was good for a while, but many years later, the Hazardous Communication regulation required that ingredients of potentially hazardous products be made available to emergency responders.

I did some digging and found the material safety data sheet for WD-40 (PDF).

The main ingredient is Stoddard solvent, which is also known by its own brand name, Varsol. CO2 is used as a propellant and mineral oil is another main ingredient.

It was first used to protect the Atlas missile from corrosion and it became available to consumers in 1958. Since then, consumers have found over 2000 uses that the WD-40 Company endorses (and many more it doesn’t).

There is a popular email circulating that you may have seen. It states WD-40 is primarily fish oil, but that’s not true. The email also lists a number of uses, although the WD-40 company only recommends about half of those. Some of the 2000 recommended uses include:

  • Stop squeaks (doors, bike chains)
  • Remove and prevent rust (lawn mower blades during off season, cookie tins/sheets)
  • Remove gum, glue, ink and lipstick from fabrics and other items
  • Lubricate metal parts (zippers, tools, machines)
  • Loosen nuts and screws
  • Cleaning (shower doors, tools, lime stains in toilet bowls)

Check out the full list of 2000 uses (PDF).

PS – The WD-40 company has an affinity for product names with numbers. They also make 2000 flushes, X-14, 3-in-one-oil and a few other products.

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Sources: Official WD-40 Uses (PDF), MSDS (PDF), Snopes

Entry filed under: Around The House, Automotive, Be Frugal, Hacks. Tags: , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kim  |  June 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    I had my car spray painted by some vandals. My Brother-in law told me to use WD-40. It took the paint off without ruining the finish of the original paint job. Better than paying for a new paint job or insurance claim!

    Reply
  • 2. Brian H  |  July 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Interesting uses, but the official safety data sheet says the main ingredients are varsol and mineral oil. FAIL on the “fish oil” fish story.

    Reply
  • 3. Brian H  |  July 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Here’s the link, if you want to check:

    wd40company.com/files/pdf/msds-wd494716385.pdf

    Reply
    • 4. Chad Upton  |  July 26, 2010 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks for the link Brian. That’s the document that I used for this post (actually, I linked to that pdf a couple times in the article).

      Reply

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