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WD-40 Best Practices

Ever since Water-Displacement 40th Formula was made available to the public in 1958, a spritz of the stuff has been a go-to fix for things rusty, squeaky, or stuck. While this proprietary mix of oils and solvents is remarkably useful, it’s not necessarily the best choice in all cases


Loosen up…rusted tools, blades, and nuts and bolts; corroded aluminum; stuck zippers.

Remove…crayon marks; stuck-on gum and tar; sticker and tape residue; scuff marks on tile.

Add a nonstick coating to...metal snow-thrower chutes and snow-shovel blades; hoes and other digging tools used in sticky clay soil.


LUBE A LOCK. After WD-40’s solvents evaporate, the oils left behind can attract dust and become sticky as they oxidize, eventually gumming up a typical lock cylinder.
Instead: Locksmith Tom Lynch recommends a silicone-free, dry-film lubricant such as Poxylube CP-200 ($15 for a 4.5-oz. can; Taylor Security & Lock), which won’t leave an oily, dust-collecting residue. He suggests that before using it, you clean out the cylinder with a blast of electrical contact cleaner.

SILENCE A SQUEAKY HINGE. A hit of WD-40 may quiet a noisy hinge temporarily, but don’t be surprised when it starts complaining again.
Instead: Use a PTFE-enhanced silicone lubricant such as Super Lube Silicone Lubricating Grease with Syncolon ($12.45 for a 3-oz. tube; Home Depot), which banishes squeaks for much longer.

GREASE PLASTIC PARTS. Slippery plastics usually don’t need lubrication. If you want to spray them anyway, know that WD-40’s solvents can craze and crack polystyrenes (#6) and polycarbonates (#7).
Instead: If you can’t identify sensitive plastics by these recycling labels, use a plastic-safe silicone lubricant or a gel such as WD-40 Specialist Spray & Stay ($8.97 for a 10-oz. can; Home Depot).

Caution: The propellants in aerosol sprays are flammable. Use these sprays only in a well-ventilated area, and keep them away from flames, lighted cigarettes, and live electrical wires.

“WD-40, Vise-Grips, and some duct tape: Any man worth his salt can do half of the household chores with just those three things.”
Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino