The other day I picked up a can of WD-40, and I got to thinking. I know WD stands for “water displacement,” but what does the 40 stand for? This started to play on my mind so I had to find out. Thanks to this new-fangled thing, call the internet and Google it was not long before I had my answer.
In 1953, a small company called the Rocket Chemical Company was trying to come up with a rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. After 39 failed attempts the hit pay dirt on the 40th attempt. WD-40 was used by Convair on the outer skin of the Atlas Missiles to protect them from rust and corrosion.
A few years later in 1958 company founder Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40 into spray cans, thinking that consumers might find a use for the product at home as some of the employees had. The product made its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego. In 1969, the company was renamed after its one and only product. What started out as the Rocket Chemical Company is now known as WD-40 Company, Inc. With about 1 million cans of WD-40 are sold each week I think it is safe to say WD-40 will be around for years to come.