The surprising secret to WD-40’s success

With 176 countries selling it, over 2,000 documented uses for it, and over a billion dollars in revenue from it, it seems like there’s no stopping WD-40. The popularity of the primary-colored can continues to grow all over the world, and consumers keep discovering more ingenious uses for it. In fact, here are 46 great ways to use it (and that’s only scratching the surface).

But it wasn’t always that way. Back in the 1950s, a trio of chemists working in the aerospace industry was trying to develop a formula that would prevent aircraft and missiles from rusting. The first attempt was a failure, as were the second and third attempts—but the scientists kept right on trying. After 39 unsuccessful attempts, their determination finally paid off. The 40th time proved to be the charm, and WD-40 was born. In fact, that’s where the product gets its name—it’s the 40th iteration of a Water Displacement formula.

5 times you should never use WD-40
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5 times you should never use WD-40
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Arthritis relief

Some people suffering from arthritis claim that using WD-40 on their stiff joints is helpful. But this is not recommended by doctors, and the company doesn’t recommend using the product for any medical purposes. It is advised to wash your body with soap and water if your skin does come into contact with the product. There are other oils, creams, and other remedies you can use instead.



There are many different types of plastic, but there are two kinds that you should avoid using WD-40 on—polycarbonate and clear polystyrene plastic. Polycarbonate is a transparent plastic that is commonly used in greenhouses, and polystyrene is typically used for styrofoam and soft drink lids among other items. Don’t miss these 40 home repairs anyone can do.




Specifically, you should avoid using WD-40 to fix your iPad or iPhone home button. It could further damage the device since some iPhones consist of plastic parts. Plus, it doesn’t help that WD-40 is a liquid and spraying it closely to electronics is a hazard. Apple recommends not using any sprays, solvents, or abrasives on their devices.


Bike chains

WD-40 is for immediate lubrication, so it’s not ideal for things requiring longer-term lubrication—like a bike chain. That said, the company does sell an alternative product called WD-40 BIKE specifically for this use. Now, check out the things you can use WD-40 on.



Surely those scientists would be amazed to see the billion-dollar corporation that WD-40 has become. Today, the multiuse concoction is available in 176 countries, and its sales, particularly overseas, keep on growing. The formula, which is top-secret, remains the same as it was all those years ago.

While it’s no longer a three-person operation, the WD-40 Company still has a smaller number of employees than its massive success might suggest. The company employs a total of 427 people worldwide, and only about 100 of those employees are based in the United States. So how has this company, with its relatively small workforce and humble origins, become such a global powerhouse?

Of course, the employees themselves are a major part of it. The CEO of the WD-40 Company, Garry Ridge, praises the laser-focus that its team of employees displays every day. “Profit is the applause of doing good work and having engaged employees,” he told the LA Times. But the primary key to the company’s success, Ridge says, is its simple, yet unique, marketing strategy. That strategy? Marketing WD-40 as what it is: A “multiuse product.”

At first, such a vague description of the product might sound like an uninventive marketing campaign, but Ridge swears that it’s actually been critical to WD-40’s success. “We don’t position ourselves as a lubricant or a de-penetrant or as a water displacer or as a rust-preventive product,” he said. Rather than pigeonholing the product into a single type of use, this method emphasizes its versatility. “In any particular sales channel, it’s not that big,” Ridge admitted. “[Positioning] ourselves as a multiuse product… means we can go anywhere we want. You can buy WD-40 in an automotive store, a hardware store, a grocery store, a drugstore.”

Ridge is definitely onto something. A product that boasts a certain type of use, however useful, will get a devoted, but limited, niche of people buying it. But a “multiuse product” can be sold anywhere, and it can reach everyone. And that’s just what WD-40 has done.

As amazingly useful as it is, there are a few situations where it’s not the answer. Learn the 5 times you shouldn’t use WD-40.

The post The Surprising Secret to WD-40’s Success appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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