In 1953, in a small lab in San Diego, California, the fledgling 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.
WD-40 Company Timeline
Rocket Chemical Company is founded September 23, 1953, by Norman B. Larsen, Gordon Dawson and John B. Gregory.
Cy Irving assumes role of president of Rocket Chemical Company.
WD-40 makes its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego, California.
The company nearly doubles in size, growing to seven people who sell an average of 45 cases per day from the trunks of their cars to hardware and sporting goods stores throughout the San Diego area.
The first full truckload order for WD-40 is filled to meet the disaster needs of the victims of Hurricane Carla along the U.S. Gulf coast. It is used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles and equipment.
John S. Barry is appointed president and chief executive officer of WD-40 Company and renames the company after its only product, WD-40.
WD-40 Company goes public and is listed Over-The-Counter. Stock price increases by 61% on the first day of listing.
Sales reach $50.2 million. Many companies attempt to introduce imitation products, even going so far as to copy the distinctive blue and yellow can with the little red top. Tribe Members: 38
Gerald Schlief is appointed president and chief operating officer of WD-40 Company. He is later appointed to chief executive officer.
WD-40 Company celebrates its 40th anniversary by breaking the $100 million sales mark. The company is also listed among the Top Ten Most Profitable companies on the NASDAQ exchange.
WD-40 Multi-Use Product is found to be in 4 out of 5 American households and is used by 81 percent of trade professionals at work. More than one million cans are sold each week in the United States alone.
WD-40 Company acquires the 3-IN-ONE® Oil brand from Reckitt & Coleman. 3-IN-ONE, with its precise applicator spout, is a wonderful addition to the Company’s portfolio of products. 3-IN-ONE was developed in 1894 by George W. Cole of New Jersey. Tribe Members: 148
Garry O. Ridge is appointed president and chief executive officer of WD-40 Company.
WD-40 Company acquires Lava® from Block Drug Company. Lava is the most famous brand of heavy-duty hand cleaner in the United States. More importantly, people who use Lava are many of the same consumer and industrial users as WD-40 Company’s other multi-purpose products. Lava was first developed in 1893, in St. Louis, Missouri, making it the oldest brand in the Company’s portfolio. The Telescoping Spout is added to the 3-IN-ONE product line. Reminiscent of an old-time oil can, the plastic bottle comes with a five-inch extendable spout designed to get at hard-to-reach places. The 3-IN-ONE Telescoping Spout has won numerous awards since its launch.
WD-40 Company acquires Solvol®, the leading heavy-duty hand cleaner brand in Australia. Solvol was developed in Australia in 1915.
WD-40 Company adds Global Household Brands to its portfolio of brands. The addition of X-14®, 2000 Flushes® and Carpet Fresh® makes WD-40 Company a leader in household cleaning and maintenance products. Tribe Members: 227
Before Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, there was the WD-40 Fan Club. In 2001, our homegrown online destination is created for WD-40 lovers around the world to share oddball uses they discover for the product.
WD-40 Company acquires Heartland Corporation, complementing its line of household products with Spot Shot® Instant Carpet Stain Remover. Spot Shot’s proprietary formulation has a high level of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Later that year, WD-40 Company launches no vac® to its portfolio in Australia. No vac is a foam carpet deodorizer developed by WD-40 Company to solve everyday house and car odors.
The 3-IN-ONE Professional line is launched. The WD-40 Big Blast® can is introduced in the USA, featuring a wide-area spray nozzle that delivers WD-40 Multi-Use Product quickly and efficiently over large areas.
WD-40 Company acquires 1001®, the leading brand of carpet cleaning products in the United Kingdom. It also expands its 3-IN-ONE Professional line with the introduction of a heavy-duty cleaner degreaser, an engine starter and a high-performance lubricant.
WD-40 Company introduces the WD-40 Smart Straw®, which features a permanently attached straw. This new Smart Straw Sprays 2 Ways™: as a wide spray with the straw down and a stream with the straw up. The Smart Straw also solves the number one complaint about WD-40 products: losing the little red straw. The 3-IN-ONE Professional line expands with the introduction of a dry lube to help lubricate and protect all types of surfaces without leaving an oily residue behind. Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover is released in a convenient trigger spray bottle.
WD-40 Company introduces the WD-40 No-Mess Pen® to provide millions of WD-40 users a portable, precision-application delivery system of the famous multi-purpose problem solver. The WD-40 Fan Club reaches an astonishing 100,000 members, a tribute to WD-40’s fanatical fan base around the globe. Tribe Members: 244
X-14 positions itself as The Bathroom Expert® by redesigning its entire line of bathroom cleaning products to meet consumers’ quick-cleaning and deep-cleaning needs. 3-IN-ONE Professional line expands with the addition of a garage door lube, specifically designed for the maintenance of both residential and commercial garage door systems.
WD-40 Company converts its most popular-sized WD-40 Multi-Use Product cans to the Smart Straw delivery system. The official list of 2,000 uses for WD-40 Multi-Use Product appears for the first time, thanks to the help of WD-40 Fan Club members. Spot Shot introduces two new trigger products: Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain and Odor Eliminator and Spot Shot Pet.
WD-40 Company introduces WD-40 Trigger Pro®, a non-aerosol product with the same WD-40 formula for industrial consumers. WD-40 Company launches the BLUE WORKS® brand. BLUE WORKS is a line of specialty maintenance products designed exclusively for industrial users, with formulas that surpass industry standard testing.
Capitalising on insights from the BLUE WORKS brand launch, WD-40 Company introduces WD-40® Specialist®, a line of best-in-class specialty products under the WD-40 brand geared toward trade professionals. The initial product line includes a Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant, Protective White Lithium Grease, and Rust Release Penetrant Spray, containing Blu Torch™ Technology, a proprietary blend of synthetic additives. Tribe Members: 334
WD-40 Company founds WD-40 BIKE Company, a brand focused exclusively on cycling-specific maintenance products. The WD-40® BIKE high-performance maintenance product line offers a range of products including wet and dry chain lubricants, a heavy-duty degreaser, a foaming bike wash, and a frame protectant.
The WD-40 Company celebrates its 60th Anniversary. The WD-40 Specialist product line has grown to eight products. Five additional products have been added, including Rust Remover Soak, Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor, Dirt & Dust Resistant Dry Lube, Machine & Engine Degreaser, and Electrical Contact Cleaner Spray. With the success of WD-40 Specialist, WD-40 Company decides to discontinue production of the BLUE WORKS brand, taking advantage of key learnings and applying them.
WD-40 Company acquires GT85, a multi-purpose bike maintenance product sold primarily in the United Kingdom.
WD-40 Company introduces WD-40 EZ-REACH Flexible Straw™ in the USA. With an attached 8” flexible straw that bends and keeps its shape, it can reach the unreachable: tight plumbing spaces, behind engine blocks, hard-to-reach hinges, rollers and more.
In 2016, WD-40 Company sticks it to gravity with WD-40® Specialist® Spray & Stay Gel Lubricant. With a no-drip formula that stays where it’s sprayed, it provides 12x longer-lasting lubrication on vertical surfaces and moving parts. Tribe Members: 445
Later in 2016, four new high-performance greases join the WD-40 Specialist family. Their advanced, industrial-strength technology handles specific high-temperature, pressure and moisture challenges, while allowing them to be interchanged on the job without consequences from cross-contamination.