WD-40 has gone far in 50 years since its start in rocket program

Rust-inhibiting lubricant's maker celebrates birth

December 21, 2003|By Gary Dymski | Gary Dymski,NEWSDAY

When it comes to household situations that rub homeowners the wrong way, using a couple of squirts of WD-40 is a common solution.

Cleaning metal parts, removing squeaks from door hinges and dissolving rust: These are ways to use a multipurpose household lubricant.

WD-40 has been celebrating 50 years as a cleaner, rust inhibitor, solvent and lubricant with offbeat tales and rather hokey promotions.

A few years ago, the people at WD-40 launched a search to find the top 2,000 uses for their product. About 300,000 submissions later, the list was pared and posted on the company Web site (www.WD-40.com).

A half-century ago, the then-fledgling Rocket Chemical Co. of San Diego set out to create rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. One of its earliest assignments was to make a water inhibitor for the outer skin of the Atlas missile. It took 40 tries - thus deriving its name from "water displacement perfected on the 40th try" - before three workers got something going.

Employees soon began smuggling the concoction from the building for use at home. Then the company began selling it out of the back of cars.

In 1958, WD-40 first appeared on store shelves. Since then, homeowners across the nation have used tons of it for many purposes.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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