, 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 obviously got it right, because the original secret formula for WD-40 - which stands for Water Displacement and which was perfected on the 40th try - is still in use today!
Centre, 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 after 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 just 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 US Gulf coast. WD-40 was used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles and equipment.
Then, in 1969
the company was renamed after its only product, WD-40. 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, 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 a bus driver in Asia who used WD-40 to remove a python snake that had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus, and the police officers who used WD-40 to remove a naked burglar who was trapped in an air conditioning vent. 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.
Since those early days of the space race and workers sneaking WD-40 out of the shop, WD-40 Company has grown to more than 200 employees worldwide. The Corporate Brand Support Sentry and manufacturing site has expanded to include two strategic account offices in the United States, and wholly-owned subsidiaries in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as offices in Europe and Asia. WD-40 Company products are now sold in more than 187 countries around the world.