How to Choose Your Material: 6 Things You Need to Know About WD-40

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WD-40, aspirin, bleach. What do these things have in common?

They are multi-purpose; everyone uses them; and most importantly, people often misunderstand their original intended purposes, thus misuse them.

Panadol does not cure infection, bleach does not get rid of dirt, and WD-40 is not a lubricant.

The name WD-40 is short for ‘water displacement, 40th attempt’. In 1953, chemist Iver Norman Larsen, at the 40th attempt, invented the formula of WD-40. As the name suggests, WD-40 is a moisture remover, which is intended to remove and prevent rust. WD-40 is not intended to be a lubricant.


What does WD-40 contain?

The formula of WD-40 remains a trade secret, but you can be assured that it does not contain silicon, paraffin, water, wax, graphite, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or any other know carcinogens.

Nonetheless, professionals advise users to wear gloves and safety goggles when using this product.


Is WD-40 really multi-purpose?

Look up ‘WD-40’ on Youtube and you will see how creatively people are when it comes to using WD-40. But ‘multi-purpose’ is not synonymous with all-purpose.

In fact, there are circumstances of maintenance and repair where WD-40 is not the best material to use. Mistaking WD-40’s intended purpose might undesirable outcomes, and quite frankly, it’s not the product’s fault!


The true purpose of WD-40

WD-40’s strength lies in removing rust and cleaning. Technically, it’s not a lubricant.

(If you’re looking for a good lubricant, check out our next article on the WD-40 specialist series.)

How to Choose Your Material: 6 Things You Need to Know About WD-40


WD-40 isn’t a lubricant, but why does it perform like one?

The lubricating effect of WD-40 does not come from the formula itself; rather, it is a side effect of rust and dirt removal.


After applying WD-40, the rust and dirt are removed from the door hinges, which makes opening and closing the door easier than before. However, WD-40’s  ‘lubricating’ effect is not long-lasting like specialised lubricants.


Is WD-40 suitable for all metal surfaces?

For soldiers who had no access to other professional tools, WD-40 was naturally employed as an upkeeping tool for guns.

Because of its multi-purpose character, WD-40 has long been an excellent ‘make-do’ material for repair and maintenance work.

Professionals experienced in gun upkeeping will tell you that using WD-40 solely to lubricate gun parts is not ideal. This is because WD-40’s water-absorbing function also renders the solution prone to attracting dirt. If specialised lubricants are not used after the application of WD-40, the gun might actually begin to rust quickly.


Tips: Do not use WD-40 on bike chains!

While WD-40 can effectively clean bike chains, at the same time, it damages the chains since WD-40 will remove the lubricants on the bike chain along with dirt.

Use a specialised bike chain lubricant instead!

How to Choose Your Material: 6 Things You Need to Know About WD-40

Best uses of WD-40

  1. Cleaning glue left by stickers and decals.
  2. Removing grime and markings on walls, cupboards and sofas.
  3. Removing chewing gum and other stains composed of polymers
  4. Removing stubborn stains on kitchen ventilation systems.

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