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.
Working 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 consumers might find a use for the product at home as some of the employees had. 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 equipment.
In 1968 goodwill kits containing WD-40® were sent to soliders in Vietnam to prevent moisture damage on firearms and help keep them in good working condition.
In 1973, WD-40 Company, Inc., went public and was listed Over-The-Counter. The stock price increased by 61% on the first day of listing.
Since that time, WD-40 has grown by leaps and bounds, and is now virtually a household name, used in numerous consumer and industrial markets such as automotive, manufacturing, sporting goods, aviation, hardware and home improvement, construction, and farming.
In 1993, WD-40 was found to be in 4 out of 5 American households (it seems everyone has a can or two) and was used by 81 percent of professionals at work. Sales had grown to more than one million cans each week.
In 2003, the new WD-40 Big Blast® can was introduced, featuring a wide-area spray nozzle that delivers WD-40 quickly and efficiently over large areas.
In 2005, as a commitment to offering consumers the easiest, most convenient way to get the job done, WD-40 Company introduced the WD-40 Smart Straw, which features a permanently attached straw. The Smart Straw® can solved the number one complaint about WD-40 products: losing the little red straw.
In 2006, WD-40 Company introduced the WD-40 No-Mess Pen® to provide millions of WD-40 users a portable, precision-application delivery system of the famous multi-purpose problem solver. The WD-40 Fan Club reached an astonishing 100,000 members & a tribute to WD-40’s fanatical fan base around the globe.
In 2008, WD-40 Company listened to its consumers and converted its most popular-size WD-40 cans to WD-40 Smart Straw cans. The official list of 2000+ Uses for WD-40 grew for the first time, thanks to the help of WD-40 Fan Club members.
In 2009, WD-40 Company introduced WD-40 Trigger Pro® – a non-aerosol product with the same WD-40 formula – to better meet the needs of its industrial consumers.
In 2011, WD-40 Company introduced WD-40® Specialist® – a new line of best-in-class specialty products under the WD-40 brand geared toward trade professionals.
In 2011, The WD-40®/SEMA Cares Mustang rolled off the auction block at the 40th annual Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Show and Auction on Jan. 22 in Scottsdale, Ariz., raising more than $200,000 to benefit Childhelp® and The Victory Junction Gang® Camp children’s charities.
In 2011, WD-40 Company designed four limited edition cans that honor the men and women who serve or have served in uniform, and donated 10 cents of each can purchased to charities. A total of $300,000 was donated to Armed Services YMCA, Veterans Medical Research Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project.
In 2012, Designed by legendary hot rod designer, Chip Foose, The WD-40®/SEMA Cares Challenger sold for $115,000 at the annual Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Show and Auction on Jan. 20 in Scottsdale, Ariz., with all proceeds providing life-changing services for children in need at Childhelp® and The Victory Junction Gang® Camp children’s charities.
By mid-2013, the WD-40 Company celebrated its 60th Anniversary and the WD-40 Specialist®product line had grown to eight products.