Why WD-40 Is Called WD-40

More
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.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.


Join the Discussion

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

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In