In 1953, in a small lab in San Diego, California, the fledgeling 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.
It took them 40 attempts to get their water displacing formula to work, but on the 40th attempt, they got it right in a big way. WD-40 was born. WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, 40th formula. That’s the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who developed the product.
The first company to use WD-40 commercially was Convair, an aerospace contractor, to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion. The product worked so well that several employees snuck cans of WD-40 out of the plant in their lunchboxes to use at home.
A few years later, Rocket Chemical Company founder and president Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40 into aerosol cans, reasoning consumers might also find a use for the product in their home workshops and garages.