The History of WD-40

In Products History on September 30, 2008 at 6:02 pm

The complete family of WD-40

Norman Larsen, president and head chemist at the Rocket Chemical Company, developed a water displacement formula to prevent corrosion. His persistence paid off when he succeeded in formulating the formula on his fortieth try, naming it WD-40. WD-40 literally stands for water displacement 40th attempt. That’s the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who helped develop WD-40 back in 1953.

The aerospace industry needed a product to eliminate moisture from electrical circuitry and to prevent corrosion on airplanes and Atlas Missile nose-cones. The newly developed WD-40 worked so well, engineers working at the Rocket Chemical Company began sneaking it out of the plant for home use on squeaky doors and stuck locks.

WD-40 was first used to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion. Norm Larsen repackaged WD-40 into aerosol cans for consumer use and the product was sold to the general public in 1958. In 1969, the Rocket Chemical Company was renamed after its only product WD-40.

WD-40 became available to the public in 1958, and in 1961, a sweet fragrance was added to overcome the smell of the petroleum distillates. In 1969, the Rocket Chemical Company was renamed the WD-40 Company, after its only product. The WD-40 Company makes the “secret sauce,” then sends it to packagers who add the solvent and propellant.

In 1964, John Glenn circled the earth in Friendship VII, which was covered with WD-40 from top to bottom.

The WD-40 Company went public on the NASDAQ exchange in 1973. The initial 300,000 shares, available at $16.50, closed that same day at $26.50.

WD-40 makes over a million gallons of the “secret sauce” every year.

WD-40 can be found in four out of five American homes.

  1. the articles on history of crayolas and wd 40 were fantastic. i luv knowing the history of common products. Thanks so much.

  2. You’re welcome Mr.Garner, such things have also fascinated me. More products history shall be posted.

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