Toolsday: WD40

WD40 is a misunderstood treasure. It’s not what you think, and you’re probably using it for things that it was never meant to do, and likely making things worse in the long run. Lord knows I did for many years….

Probably everyone has a can of WD-40. It’s very useful stuff. But it’s not a lubricant. Not really.

What it is is a light oil intended to penetrate, loosen stuck parts, and force out water; that’s the “WD”: Water Displacing. It can clean parts, free stuck bolts, break up light rust, and force water out of joints.

But it evaporates very quickly, leaving parts completely dry and oil-free. So if you used it to clean the old lubricant that was full of grit out of a bearing, it worked. Now the bearing is clean. But you need to use something else to lubricate it now. Quickly, before it rusts solid. Maybe some 3-in-1 or spray silicone, or if you’re looking to actually grease something, white lithium grease.

So if you don’t have some, you should probably buy some. Because it really is amazingly useful for getting things moving. But don’t count on it to keep things moving, because it won’t.


A guy in his early 50s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

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