The slippery equivalent of duct tape. An aerosol lubricant in a fetching blue and yellow can that, in the words of its label:

Stops sqeaks * Protects Metal * Loosens Rusted Parts *Frees Sticky Mechanisms *

Listen up, kids. If you have nothing else in your nifty tool kit, you'll pack WD-40. After nearly reducing my co-workers to writhing, gibbering idiots with a squeaky desk chair, a hastily purchased can was the only thing that stood between me and an inter-office cannibal massacre. As a young and chronically foolish children, my brother and I also found it made an excellent flame-thrower. (NOTE: this is in no way an endorsement of self-destructive or pyromaniacal behaviour. Use at own risk!)

Also from the label:
DO NOT use in the presence of open flame or spark. Keep can away from electrical current or battery terminals. Disconnect electrical tools and applications before spraying.
DO NOT place in hot water or near radiators, stoves or other sources of heat.
DO NOT puncture or incinerate container or store at temperatures over 50 degrees Celcius. DO NOT puncture, crush or incinerate (burn) can, even when empty. VENTILATION: Use under well ventilated conditions.
FIRST AID TREATMENT: Contains petroleum distillates. If swallowed, call physician or poison control centre immediately. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN

Last week I learned that WD-40 got its name from the number of tries that it took the inventor to produce the correct solution. Although I'm not sure what the WD means. It could be his initials or something
I know that this may sound like an urban legend, but it was the correct answer on one of those millionaire shows on TV, so it must be true.

Update: From the WD-40 website.

What does WD-40 stand for?
WD-40 literally stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt. That's the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who developed WD-40 back in 1953. The chemist, Norm Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion - a task which is done by displacing water. Norm's persistence paid off when he perfected the formula on his 40th try.

Aside from the intended use of fixing squeaky and rusty items, it's also a pretty damn good insecticide. I use it like Raid on wasps and other flying insects, with or without flame added.

Although, I must admit that it's a hell of a lot of fun to hold a lighter in front of the can and crisp bugs with it, especially wasp nests. Addictive even...the soft whoosh, the yellow tongue of flame...oh yes.

I'll stop now.

WD-40 can be useful, but I've found several problems with it that make me hesitate before I grab the can and spray.

  • Attracts dust- I once used it on an office chair to stop squeaking. Worked great, but a month later the mechanism of my chair was furrier than a maine coon kitty on Rogaine. Not only that, but...
  • Doesn't work for very long - The aforementioned squeaking chair started to squeak again a month later. Maybe it was because of all the dust? I don't know, but machine oil was effective for much longer; it was just more difficult to apply.
  • Makes a mess - Anyone who's used WD-40 can attest to this. It drips all over the place, goes exactly where you don't want it to go, and so on. It also...
  • Smells real bad - Ugh! It's the most nasty smell in the Universe! And it lingers for days!

WD-40 may be useful, but keep these disadvantages in mind before laying it on thick.

WD-40 is also the greatest artificial fishbiat in the world.

You think i'm kidding.

At boy scout camp that was THE way to accomplish fishing merit badge. I'm suprised none of you have tried it. Grab a worm, a couple of quick sprays and you will have fish fighting over it. Fish have a teriffic sense of smell, and they are very attracted by this astoundingly useful chemical.

I don't know about eating the fish aftewards, but as far as catching them, this is the trick. Now, total disclaimer on this one applies: I'm not responsible for you killing yourself, other people, or the environment with this, but it's fun to do, not to mention it's an ego boost for those of us like me who are terrible fishermen.
Here is one great use for WD-40 for you mountain bikers out there who ride in the muddy slop:

Spray the WD-40 on the down tube of your bicycle to keep the mud and guk from sticking (permanently) to your frame. Washing the bicycle off later on will be an easier job. This is also useful to keep the salt (in the winter time) off your frame. (But please, don't spray it everywhere if you don't want the smell.)

WD-40 Use Warning!

If you have an object needing re-lubrication, check to see what sort it presently has before using WD-40. The reason? If the joint or metal part in question is presently lubricated with grease of any sort (white lithium, axle, copper, etc.) then you may be shooting yourself in the foot by using WD-40 because the latter cuts grease. This is why it can be used to clean up bicycle frames. :-) So spraying a greased joint with WD-40 may make things worse very quickly as the remaining design lubricant is cut away by the spray.

To those giggling by this point, you all have sick minds.

Another interesting fact about WD-40:

It will remove the sticky residue from most brands of duct tape. Most types of non-drying adhesives can be removed with a squirt of WD-40 and some elbow grease. The WD-40 breaks up the adhesive bonds and prevents re-adhesion to the same surface.

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