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In Praise of WD-40

Renee-Lucie BenoitWD-40 is common on a ranch or farm. Everyone has it. Everyone uses it. But does anyone really know what it is? I sure as heck didn’t so I did a little research. I found out that WD-40 was – or is – the trademark name of a spray developed in 1953 by a guy named Norm Larsen who was the founder of the Rocket Chemical Co. in San Diego, California. It was originally designed to repel water and prevent corrosion for nuclear missiles. But just like any magnificent discovery (penicillin comes to mind), it turned out to have more uses than the original intended purpose. Where did the name come from, you may ask? I bet you wouldn’t guess this: "Water Displacement – 40th Attempt.” This is science at work. Not Mad Men. But, hey, don’t you think it works? Dub-ya Dee Forty! Just rolls off the tongue like it was meant to be.

WD40 | courtesy www.MiniTruckinWeb.com

Photo: courtesy www.MiniTruckinWeb.com

I had always had used it for one thing: fixing squeaky hinges. Recently I was in a local tractor supply establishment looking for a product to help de-tangle the impossible tornadoes that had made their way into my horse’s manes and tails. The product that looked the best to me had a ridiculously high price tag on it so I hunted up a clerk for some advice. She told me her dad told her to use WD-40. Applied liberally.

So I went home and tried it. What a disaster! It was way too oily and it didn’t get a single tangle out. My hands just got saturated with chemical product. It was terrible, but it got me to thinking what people out there might be using WD-40 for other than its intended use. So I started looking into it and here is what I found.

WD40 | courtesy www.Inspire21.com

Photo: courtesy www.Inspire21.com

House cleaner Sharon uses it for removing crayon and old cellophane tape. She also uses it for removing stains from clothes and carpets, and mildew from refrigerator gaskets. Mel the plumber uses it to spray on air-conditioning filters. He says it filters dust out. Tony, our mechanic, uses it for cleaning the grill and bumper of his car plus removing oil spots from concrete. My cousin Sandy uses it for untangling jewelry chains and freeing stuck zippers. My husband used it on the fence to keep ants from climbing up the fence and into the dog food. My friend Roberta used it once to remove a ring stuck on her finger. I suppose it would work for a toe stuck in the bathtub faucet or a finger stuck in soda bottle.

WD40 | courtesy www.MetalDetectingWorld.com

Photo: courtesy www.MetalDetectingWorld.com

Here are a few uses I have heard of but would not recommend:

  • Cure mange. According to "USA Today," spraying a dog with WD-40 gets rid of parasitic mites. Maybe the dog, too.

  • Prevent dead insects from sticking to your car. Spray WD-40 on the hood and grill so you can wipe bugs off easily.

  • Make hangers glide over a clothes rod.

  • Thread electrical wire through conduits.

  • Remove baked-on food from a cookie pan. Spray on cookie pan and wipe clean.

  • Keep dogs, maggots and flies out of trash cans. Coat the trash cans with a thin layer of WD-40.

  • Free a tongue stuck to frozen metal. Spray on the metal around the tongue.

What do you use it for?