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In 1953, a fledgling company called 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, in a small lab in San Diego, California.
It took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. But they must have been really good, because the original secret formula for WD-40—which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try—is still in use today.
Convair, an aerospace contractor, first used WD-40 to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion. The product actually worked so well that several employees snuck some WD-40 cans out of the plant to use at home.
A few years following WD-40s first industrial use, Rocket Chemical Company founder Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40 into aerosol cans, reasoning that consumers might find a use for the product at home as some of the employees had. The product made its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego in 1958.
In 1960 the company nearly doubled in size, growing to seven people, who sold an average of 45 cases per day from the trunk of their cars to hardware and sporting goods stores in the San Diego area.
In 1961 the first full truckload order for WD-40 was filled when employees came in on a Saturday to produce additional concentrate to meet the disaster needs of the victims of hurricane Carla along the U.S. Gulf coast. WD-40 was used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles and equipment.
In 1969 the company was renamed after its only product, WD-40. WD-40 Company, Inc., went public in 1973 and was listed Over-The-Counter. The stock price increased by 61% on the first day of listing.
Since that time, WD-40 has grown by leaps and bounds, and is now virtually a household name, used in numerous consumer and industrial markets such as automotive, manufacturing, sporting goods, aviation, hardware and home improvement, construction, and farming.
In 1983, WD-40 Company sales reached $50.2 million. Many companies attempted to introduce imitation products, going so far as to copy the distinctive blue, yellow and red colors of the WD-40 can.
In 1993, WD-40 Company celebrated its 40th anniversary by breaking the $100 million sales mark. That year the company was also listed among the Top Ten Most Profitable companies on the NASDAQ exchange. Not bad for a company with only one product!
WD-40 was found to be in 4 out of 5 American households (it seems everyone has a can or two) and was used by 81 percent of professionals at work. Sales had grown to more than one million cans each week.
The most interesting piece of WD-40s history is the uses for the product, now numbering in the thousands. The uses include everything from silencing squeaky hinges and removing road tar from automobiles to protecting tools from rust and removing adhesive labels.
WD-40 Over the Years
3-IN-ONE Telescoping Spout
Carpet Fresh
3IN1 Pro White Lithium Grease
Lava Pro
Very few brands will ever match the popularity of WD-40. In fact, the variety and uniqueness of uses for WD-40 proved so popular that The WD-40 Book featuring many user testimonials and the wacky humor of the Duct Tape Guys, was published in 1997.
However, WD-40 was starting to get a bit lonely as the only product, so in 1995, WD-40 Company acquired the 100-year-old brand 3-IN-ONE Oil from Reckitt & Coleman. 3-IN-ONE, with its precise applicator spout, made a wonderful match for WD-40.
In 1999, WD-40 Company added to its fortress of brands when it acquired Lava, from Block Drug Company. Lava is the most famous brand of heavy-duty hand cleaner in the U.S. More important however is that people who use Lava are many of the same consumer and industrial users as WD-40 Companys other multi-purpose products. There are many more who will now have an opportunity to try Lava.
Also in 1999, WD-40 Company added to its 3-IN-ONE product line a new delivery system, the Telescoping Spout. Reminiscent of an old-time oilcan, 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.
In 2000, WD-40 acquired Solvol, the leading heavy-duty hand cleaner brand in Australia.
In 2001, WD-40 Company added Global Household Brands to our fortress of brands. The addition of X-14, 2000 Flushes, and Carpet Fresh to our line-up, makes WD-40 Company a leader in household cleaning and maintenance products.
In 2002, WD-40 Company acquired Heartland Corporation, complementing its line of household products with Spot Shot carpet stain remover. Spot Shot proprietary formulation has rendered into a high level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
In 2003, the 3-IN-ONE Professional line was born, with 4 great, hard-working products that cover every job's lubrication needs. Also in 2003, the new WD-40 Big Blast can was introduced, featuring a wide-area spray nozzle that delivers WD-40 quickly and efficiently over large areas.
In 2004, the 2000 Flushes line expanded with the introduction of new Spring Meadow Clip-On and Spring Meadow Clip-On with Bleach, the only clip-ons that last up to 4 months. The 3-IN-ONE Professional line also expanded with the introduction of a heavy-duty cleaner degreaser, an engine starter, and a high-performance lubricant with PTFE.
In 2005, we created another convenient delivery format for our leading carpet stain remover. The Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover was released in a convenient trigger spray bottle. It's yet another way we keep serving the loyal customers who rely on the WD-40 family of trusted household brands.
Since those early days of the space race and workers sneaking WD-40 out of the shop, WD-40 Company has grown to more than 220 employees worldwide with annual sales of more than $286.9 million.
The Corporate Brand Support Centre and manufacturing site has expanded to include two strategic account offices in the United States, and wholly-owned subsidiaries in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as offices in Europe and Asia. Believe it or not, WD-40 Company products are now sold in more than 160 countries around the world.
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