In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry, in a small lab in San Diego, California.
It took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. But they must have been really good, because the original secret formula for
WD-40 – which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try – is still in use today.
Convair, an aerospace contractor, first used WD-40 to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion. The product actually worked so well that several employees snuck some WD-40 cans out of the plant to use at home.
A few years following WD-40's first industrial use, Rocket Chemical Company founder Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40 into aerosol cans, reasoning that as some employees had found uses for the product at home, consumers may as well. The product made its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego in 1958.
In 1960 the company nearly doubled in size, growing to seven people, who sold an average of 45 cases per day from the trunk of their cars to hardware and sporting goods stores in the San Diego area.
In 1961 the first full truckload order for WD-40 was filled when employees came in on a Saturday to produce additional concentrate to meet the disaster needs of the victims of Hurricane Carla along the U.S. Gulf coast. WD-40 was used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles and hasn’t stopped growing since.
In 1962 WD-40 became available in Australia.
In 1969 the company was renamed after its only product, WD-40.
WD-40 Company, Inc., went public in 1973 and was listed Over-The-Counter. The stock price increased by 61% on the first day of listing.
In 1988, WD-40 Company established a corporate office in Sydney, Australia.
In 2000, WD-40 Company acquired Solvol, the leading heavy-duty hand cleaner brand in Australia.
In 2005 we celebrated Solvol’s 90th birthday, and the introduction of new Solvol with natural citrus oil.
WD-40 Company has since added other products to our fortress of brands. Just like WD-40, no vac foam carpet deodoriser is another innovative product that has been developed to solve everyday house and car problems.
In 2003, the 3-IN-ONE Professional line was born, with five great, hard-working products that cover specialist maintenance needs.
In 2004, Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover was launched in Australia.
From humble beginnings, WD-40 has grown in leaps and bounds, and is now a common household name, used in numerous consumer and industrial markets such as automotive, manufacturing, sporting goods, aviation, hardware and home improvement, construction and farming.
Over the years, thousands of WD-40 users have written testimonial letters to the company sharing their often unique, if sometimes just plain weird, uses for the product. Some of the most interesting stories include the bus driver in Asia who used WD-40 to remove a python snake which had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus. Or when police officers used WD-40 to remove a naked burglar trapped in an air conditioning vent.
Very few brands will ever match the popularity of WD-40. In fact, the variety and uniqueness of uses for WD-40 proved so popular that The WD-40 Book, (Bad Dog Press) featuring many user testimonials and the wacky humour of the Duct Tape Guys, was published in 1997. But WD-40's literary legend doesn't end there. The familiar blue and yellow can has been featured in other books ranging from The Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness (General Publishing 1997), Polish Your Furniture With Panty Hose (Hyperion 1995), WD-40 for the Soul: The Guide to Fixing Everything (TV Books 1999), and Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean (Pocket Books, 1998) to college textbooks.