Why WD-40 Is Called WD-40

history-50s.jpg

We celebrate the big inventions all the time, but what about the little ones that make getting along in the tech-heavy world a little easier? Take WD-40. Its manufacturer claims you can use it for 2,000 tasks from repelling pigeons to untangling jewelry chains. I would also note (but not recommend) that paired with a long-handled lighter, it makes a hell of a DIY flamethrower. A product like WD-40 is basically a flexible app for the material world and it makes everything else run a little better.

The product's origin story is fantastic, too. WD-40 was created by three engineers at a fledgling aerospace outfit in San Diego with the awesome name, "Rocket Chemical Company." It took them 40 attempts to perfect the formula, the current head of innovation at WD-40 noted last week, and that's why the product is called WD-40. Water Displacement, number 40.

The first use for the product was sealing Atlas Missile's outer skin from rust and corrosion. It was only after employees snuck out some of the stuff to use at home that they thought about commercializing the formula.

Presented by

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Technology

Just In