Why a little squirt of WD-40 can help hide an illicit affair: It can remove lipstick from collars
When WD-40 changed banks in 2018, it had to move a particularly valuable corporate asset from one vault to another.
A security company was duly hired and the company’s President and CEO, Garry Ridge, put the valuable item in a briefcase, handcuffed it to his wrist and then, escorted by two security guards, is mounted in an armored vehicle to make the short trip to a nearby branch. of Bank of America in the Californian city of San Diego.
You could be forgiven for thinking it was carrying expensive corporate artwork or a diamond-encrusted corporate heirloom, but it was actually a notepad that contained something infinitely more valuable: the formula of the company’s best-selling WD-40 penetrating oil. ‘.
I’m referring, of course, to that “multi-purpose product” — as shown on the blue and yellow spray can, with its distinctive red cap — that usually finds its way into basement closets, garden and tool boxes throughout the grounds.
For fear of its ingredients being made public, the formula was never patented. Indeed, aside from its journey from vault to vault four years ago, it has only seen the light of day on one other occasion: the time Ridge celebrated the company’s 50th anniversary by browsing Times Square in New York on horseback, dressed in a suit of armor, the formula in hand.
When WD-40 changed banks in 2018, it had to move a particularly valuable corporate asset from one vault to another
Now Ridge, 66, is stepping down as CEO, after 25 years in the perfectly lubricated hot seat. He will be replaced by Steve Brass, an Englishman from Yorkshire, who until a few years ago worked in the company’s Milton Keynes office.
So, could Ridge be tempted to kiss and tell in retirement?
What an absurd thought. It’s like suggesting that the bosses of Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken would one day identify the “11 herbs and spices” that make their chicken wings “Finger Lickin’ Good.”
Ridge’s loyalty to the brand seems assured. “We are in the business of memories. We create positive and lasting memories by fixing things around the world,” he says. “My heart and soul are always with this wonderful tribe that I have been privileged to be with for so many years. If you cut me, I’ll probably bleed WD-40.
Which is a scary idea, but should mean his limbs won’t crack as they approach old age.
WD-40 is the ultimate DIY panacea. We may not know what it contains, but its uses know no bounds. On the can, it is written, simply, that it: “Stops squeaks, expels humidity, cleans and protects, loosens rusty parts, releases sticky mechanisms”.
But dig a little deeper and a whole host of claims come to the surface effortlessly.
Indeed, WD-40 lists no less than 2,000 uses on its website. Some are a little rudimentary, like “removes grime from motors” and “prevents corrosion and rust on pipes”, others more imaginative, such as “prevents snow from sticking to satellite dishes” and “removes doggie from tennis shoes “.
Not officially listed by the company, but trumpeted on various websites dedicated to the glories of WD-40, it is claimed to work like magic on tangled manes and ponytails; repels pigeons from balconies and ledges of buildings; and prevents mirrors and windows from fogging up (although, presumably, the fogging is replaced by oily spots). It has also been used in rather imaginative ways.
Colorado police used it to extricate a naked burglar who got stuck in an air conditioning unit. And in Hong Kong, WD-40 once helped dislodge a python, which had wrapped itself around the chassis of a bus.
The company is quick to dispel any notion that a squirt here or there will cure arthritis, as has been emphatically reported, and insists that consumers who claim to have caught some of the biggest fish of all time after spraying it on their hooks say nonsense.
“We think this legend comes from people who assume the product must contain fish oil because it seems to attract fish.” Sorry, Charlie, that’s just not the case,” he said.
20 weird uses for miracle oil
1. Spray on windowsills to repel spiders.
2. Remove chewing gum from hair.
3. Removes the sting of ant bites.
4. Eliminates static electricity on volume control buttons.
5. Gets rid of candle wax.
6. Removes revealing lipstick from men’s necklaces.
7. Peel off the piano keys.
8. Polishes silver jewelry.
9. Remove the pencil from the walls.
10. Remove hair dye stains from towels.
11. Relieves a tight ring from a swollen finger.
12. Prevents the bathroom mirror from fogging up.
13. Removes fingerprints from book covers.
14. Shine the diamonds.
15. Lubricates vinyl records.
16. Prevents paint from sticking to brushes.
17. Remove bird droppings from outside the car.
18. Makes the leaves of artificial plants shine.
19. Restores color and shine to plastic furniture.
20. Keeps wooden handles splinter-free.
Last year, WD-40’s worldwide revenues were £400m in nearly 200 countries, with sales in Europe of over £200m.
This is in contrast to its beginnings in 1953, when a young company called Rocket Chemical Company included three people who set out to create a line of rust remover solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry.
This decision was prompted in part by a naval commander, who was desperate for something to help the US Navy prevent ocean salt corrosion affecting the gears of its ships.
One of those responsible for this task was Chicago-born Norm Larsen, who is considered the founder of WD-40 – although some people believe he was confused with a man called Iver Norman Lawson, also a native engineer from Chicago.
Working in a small lab in San Diego, it took the three Rocket pioneers 40 attempts to perfect what is known as “a water displacement formula”; hence the not-so-catchy name of WD-40.
An aerospace contractor named Convair first used the product to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile (the first intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the United States), which had “balloon” steel fuel tanks that were so thin and delicate that they had to remain under pressure. even when empty to prevent them from collapsing.
Over time, Convair employees began to take the product home for their own use, and by 1958 the product was commercially available. Norm, rather than Norman, left the Rocket Chemical Company in 1958 after a verbal agreement between Rocket and a distributor failed.
Norm duly set up Corrosion Reaction Consultants in Philadelphia, but his version of WD-40 also lacked a catchy name, CRC Corrosion Inhibitor. Six decades later, it has clearly failed to match the success of the product that inspired it.
Over the years, various attempts have been made to determine exactly what WD-40 is. In 2009, Wired magazine sent samples of the lubricant to a lab for analysis.
Fish oil, petroleum jelly and “the mud inside homemade lava lamps” were the verdict – barely forensic.
“The concentrate remains, and always will remain, a secret,” said a spokeswoman in San Diego. “This is the concentrate that we ship around the world and then various solutions and solvents are mixed into it.”
Nothing much has changed about WD-40 in the past 70 years, making it a marketing dream, except now you can buy a can with a straw, or what the company calls a “smart straw”.
And it doesn’t matter what the formula is. The proof is in the squirting. “Just give him some WD-40,” is the refrain of anyone tasked with a tricky DIY project around the house. And it works normally.