House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

What Is WD-40? Advantages, Disadvantages, Uses, & FAQ


WD-40 is a penetrating oil with a long history. It works well and has many uses around the house, but many people wonder what exactly it is. While the ingredients of WD-40 are a trade secret, we can tell you about the history, different varieties, advantages, and disadvantages of this product to help you understand it better.

divider 1

A Quick Reference Guide

When to Use WD-40 When Not to Use WD-40
Removing rusty bolts Bike chains
Cleaning grease and grime Plastic
Removing stickers and tape Arthritis
Lubricating a car antenna Smartphones

divider 4

How Does It Work?

The Rocket Chemical Company invented WD-40 in 1953 (the company later changed its name to WD-40 Company). It originally used WD-40 to protect the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion, particularly the outer wall and the thin balloon fuel tanks. After a short time, people discovered that it had many other uses, and the company began marketing it to the public

The WD in WD-40 stands for water displacement, and the 40 stands for it being the 40th — and successful — version of the formula. Water displacement is moving fluid from one place to another, which helps protect metals and other surfaces from moisture that can cause rust and corrosion. WD-40 is also a penetrating oil, so it can cut through grease and grime to help loosen bolts and clean surfaces, while the light lubrication can help stop squeaks.

WD40 300035

What Are the Different Types of WD-40?

The original WD-40 was only available as an aerosol spray, and you can still purchase it that way today, but the WD-40 company has added several products to accompany it.

Other products available include:
  • WD-40 Specialist Gel Lube has a no-drip formula for long-lasting lubrication that can withstand extreme temperatures.
  • WD-40 Specialist Penetrant is fast-acting and works to penetrate deep into crevices to free rusted and stuck components.
  • WD-40 Specialist Silicone Lubricant is a multi-surface lubricant for cables, pullies, hinges, and more.
  • WD-40 Specialist Cleaner & Degreaser is a water-based, non-flammable that uses a bio-solvent formula to break up tough grease and grime quickly.

Where Is It Used?

The uses for WD-40 are nearly endless, which is why it is still so popular after more than 60 years.

Here are just a few of the things that it can be used for:
  • Starting a wet engine
  • Stopping the squeaks on door hinges, car doors, and clutch pedals
  • Lubricating the car antenna, hood latch, and gas cap cover hinge
  • Removing bumper stickers, stickers, and decals
  • Keeping asphalt from sticking to a truck bed
  • Shining car tires
  • Displacing moisture from electrical conduits
  • Dissolving grease
  • Keeping drill bits cool
  • Removing glue
  • Loosening stuck bolts
  • Removing duct tape

Advantages of WD-40

The advantages of WD-40 are extensive. First, it creates a protective barrier over metal that keeps moisture from causing rust and corrosion. The ingredients also help dissolve grease, grime, and dirt, making it an effective cleaner. You can use it to produce a shiny surface and remove rust and other materials from bolts and other stuck components so you can remove them.

WD 40 in Can
WD 40 in Can (Photo Credit By SElephant, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Disadvantages of WD-40

  • The primary disadvantage of WD-40 is its ability to remove grease. Since many people use it as a lubrication to stop squeaky hinges, they think that they can use it on other objects that require lubrication, like a bike chain. However, the WD-40 will quickly remove all oil from the chain, which will cause it to heat up and break when you start to ride it. Therefore, you should never use WD-40 in place of real lubrication.
  • WD-40 can also damage objects that contain polystyrene, a #4 plastic that includes Styrofoam and polycarbonate, a #7 plastic.
  • Neither doctors nor the WD-40 Company recommends using WD-40 to help relieve arthritis pain.
  • Many people like to spray WD-40 on their cell phones to help get the home button working, but it can damage the plastic, and Apple recommends that you avoid using any sprays or solvents.

divider 1 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is WD-40 a degreaser?

WD-40 is an industrial-strength cleaner and penetrating oil. While it works well for dissolving grease and is safer and gentler on surfaces than the harsh chemicals in many commercial brands, it is not technically a degreaser.

Is WD-40 a silicon spray?

While the WD-40 Company does currently offer a water-based silicone spray, the original formula is not a silicone spray.


Can WD-40 clean rims?

Yes. WD-409 is a safe and effective wheel cleaner that will help you get your rims shiny and the tires clean.

divider 4 Conclusion

WD-40 is a powerful water displacer and penetrating oil, but it is ingredients are a trade secret that WD-40 Company has kept for over 60 years. While its main purpose was to protect missiles, it has many great uses around the home. Many people use it to stop squeaky hinges, but it is also great for cleaning caked-on dirt and grime and loosening old, rusty bolts and other components so you can remove and repair them. Never use WD-40 on a bike chain or other item that requires lubrication, though, and avoid spraying it on plastic or your body.

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Featured Image Credit: Benedek Alpar, Shutterstock


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools