It’s in every garage, tool shed and project room. Every grandfather keeps it handy when the old chainsaw or snow blower needs to be cleaned. It’s been around for over 50 years, has over 2000 uses and over 100,000 members in its own fan club.
WD-40. Chemically, it is a mixture of aliphatic petroleum distillates and petroleum base oil in aerosol. It is a highly flammable material, but that may be the worst determined feature of this veritable wonder product. It should not be breathed in or consumed, but it generally causes no serious exposure side effects. It might dry your skin or cause redness or discomfort in the eyes if exposed.
It will help remove a stuck bolt or lug nut, take tomato stains out of clothing, remove tar from a truck chassis, stop a whole host of squeaks and noises, remove stickers and tape from many places and lubricate almost everything.
Best of all, and this is what really floored the PR guy, it is 100% non carcinogenic. None of WD-40’s ingredients have been determined to cause cancer. According to its Material Safety Data Sheet:
The components in this mixture have been found to be noncarcinogenic (sic) by NTP, IARC and OSHA
Diet Coke has ingredients that could be cancer causing. WD-40, an industrial solvent, doesn’t.
I had a chance to talk with Bill Trumpfheller, the president of Nuffer Smith Tucker Public Relations which handles PR for the WD-40 company. He pointed me to the history of WD (which stands for Water Displacement, by the way) 40.
In 1953, a group of chemists, under the name “Rocket Chemical Company” wanted to create a rust-preventing solvent for industrial use. After 39 failed attempts, they came up with a winner. And what a winner it was, because the original formula used in the 1953 remains unchanged 53 years later.
Currently, WD-40 is promoting their new No-Mess Pen, portable WD-40 that goes anywhere and is marketed with over 300 uses including removal of crayon marks on household surfaces, lubrication of ski bindings and padlocks and prevention of caught zippers.
So, why bring all this up now? Besides being a complete feel-good story, your PR guy was working on a small home improvement project this week.
Looking at the picture to the right, you can surely imagine what this table originally looked like: brown, grainy wood with an elaborate but tarnished bronze drawer handle; very rustic; very old. The table was in really bad condition, and one of the wings had broken off. Instead of throwing it out, I decided I could use an end table and I refinished it with two coats of paint and three coats of lacquer. I also took off the old drawer handle and replaced it with something a little more modern.
But when all was said, done and lacquered, the drawer wouldn’t slide back into the slot. The metal was already rusty and some paint and lacquer had slipped on there making the problem worse.
Not being one for simple fixes usually, I had toyed with building a new frame or slide for the drawer and even removing the drawer feature and putting the cover back on for decoration; both stupid and needless ideas.
Then common sense flashed before my eyes: spray some WD-40 and see if that does the job.