Unusual Uses for WD-40

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Introduction: Unusual Uses for WD-40

About: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!

WD-40 is a low viscosity solvent with an added lubricant, and probably the item found in almost every tool box and workshop around the world. The story goes that development of a corrosion prevention solution took 40 tries to create a water displacing formula, the name water displacement 40 stuck. The ubiquitous and most recognized brand of solvent/lubricant brings with it a lot of myths, and ire, regarding its efficacy.

This product is used in all kinds of ways, but there's something very important to consider before reaching for the blue can

WD-40 is primarily a petroleum-based volatile solvent that evaporates leaving behind a non-volatile lubricant

Meaning that the solvent penetrates and does its job removing grime and then evaporates and leaves behind a thin film of oil. It's important to know just what WD-40 is, and what it isn't.

For certain applications there's room for a product like WD-40, but most other times it's better to use a dedicated solvent first followed by a dedicated lubricant after. Just like a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner isn't the best at being a shampoo or conditioner, neither is WD-40.


An important distinction with WD-40:

Not all WD-40 is the same. Though the cans below look similar, they are very different. The MSDS for WD-40 shows that it's mostly a penetrating solvent with some oil once the solvent is gone. There are other varieties of WD-40 on the market that do different things, specifically a version that is a lubricant that has no solvent (see can on the right in the picture below).

If you're looking for just a lubricant then standard WD-40 is not the right tool for the job, which is where some confusion and myths arise about this product. In this Instructable we'll focus on the ubiquitous blue can of WD-40 (solvent with some oil aftermath) and explore actual unusual uses.

Whatever your feelings on this sometimes slippery substance, you're sure to find some unusual uses for WD-40 below.

Step 1: De-grease Your Hands

Since WD-40 is mostly a solvent, why not use it on more than just stuck nuts and bolts? Applying a spray of solvent to your greasy hands can help cut into the grime and clean your hands before applying a soap lather.

Spray your hands over a trash bin or other contained area and then rub your hands together, working the solvent into your greasy hands with your fingers to remove any grease buildup.

After your hands have been degreased, head over to your wash basin and wash your hands with plenty of soap to remove the remaining lubricant the WD-40 left.

Step 2: Remove Stickers / Decals

Removing stickers is one of my least favorite tasks. No matter how careful I am I always manage to rip the sticker, making removal so much more difficult. WD-40 to the rescue!

Blast your sticker with this slippery lubricant and let sit for about 5 minutes. I find that saturating a paper towel and leaving that on top of the sticker works great at keeping the lubricant on the sticker and contained.

After a few minutes you should see a notable change in the sticker as it's absorbed the WD-40, and should peel right off.

Step 3: Crayon + Marker Removal

When regular cleaner just won't do, WD-40 steps in to make cleanup easier. Wax crayons naturally repel moisture, but WD-40 can tackle this challenge.

Spray crayon marked area and let sit for a few minutes (saturating a square of paper towel to stick to vertical surfaces can help), then rub area with a lint free cloth to remove the crayon. (Thanks for the pictures, Troy)

After cleaning you may see some coloration from the crayon, if so repeat the process. After the crayon has been removed, clean the wall with regular household cleaner to and a cloth remove the WD-40 residue.

As with all stain removal solutions, test in an inconspicuous area first to ensure you won't damage your walls.

Step 4: Remove Permanent Marker From Walls, and Other Non-porous Surfaces (Sometimes)

The solvent in WD-40 is strong enough to penetrate and remove permanent marker, but the surface that the marker is on make a huge difference. If the marked surface has a glossy paint coating, like the walls in kitchens and washrooms, you're likely to get the marker off. Ditto with tile. However, if your wall has a matte finish you probably won't get all the marker off using WD-40.

Soak a paper towel or rag with WD-40 and apply it directly onto the permanent marker on the wall. Allow the solvent to make contact with the wall for about 30 seconds, then gently rub the area in small circular motions. If you apply too much pressure right away you risk smearing the marker around the wall, so go slow and apply more pressure to the rubbing motion once most of the marker has been removed.

If you have a matte or porous finish then the image above is likely as good as the cleanup is going to get. If you're determined to remove the marker using this method then apply more WD-40 and keep scrubbing.

Repeat the process of soaking a rag in WD-40 and applying it directly to the affected area, letting it sit for a few seconds before buffing and removing the marker. I was able to remove the marker here on a semi-gloss wall with under 5-minutes of work.

Step 5: Keep Shovel Snow Free

Since WD-40 has lubricating properties, use it to keep things you want clean nice and slippery. Spraying some WD-40 on your snow shovel face can clean the shovel face and prevent snow from sticking to whatever was scooped up previously, and the light oil finish after the solvent has evaporated keeps the shovel nice and slippery. (nice boots there, Jessy!)

Spray a light coating over the shovel face and wipe off to remove any substances that might be on the shovel. Then apply a second light coat and let stand for about a minute to let the solvent evaporate. Then, you're ready to go! Depending on how much shoveling you're doing you may need to reapply, so keep the spray can handy.

Step 6: Remove Stuck Ring

Injured knuckles can swell, so timely removal of rings on fingers becomes critical. Since many banged knuckles come from a workshop, WD-40 is a handy remedy that can quickly slip a tight ring off a fat finger.

Spray your ring with a liberal dose of WD-40 and then work the ring around your finger, allowing the low viscosity oil to run in between your ring and skin. The oil will lube up your finger and (hopefully) let your finger slip out from the constricting ring.

Step 7: Clean Stainless Steel Sinks

Though stainless steel is a robust material for the kitchen, it can get watermarks and fingerprint stains. Blast your sink with WD-40 and scrub with a souring pad to remove the most stubborn stains. Not only will it remove stains, the remaining oil from WD-40 also helps protect the surface from getting new marks in the future.

Since WD-40 is a petroleum-based product, make sure you clean anything it is used on in the kitchen thoroughly afterwards.

Step 8: De Rust Cast Iron Tools

Probably the most practical application for WD-40 outside of being a lubricant is it's use to clean cast iron.

Thoroughly coat the rusted area with WD-40 and let sit for about 5 minutes. Use a 100-120 grit sandpaper to gently scrub in small circles over the entire affected area. use a rag to wipe off the loose rust and debris, then apply more WD-40 and repeat until all large portions of rust are removed.

For stubborn areas saturate again with WD-40 and use some 00 steel wool, rubbing in small circles over the entire area.

The steel wool is great for getting into the small crevices of the cast iron, and providing a protective oil sheen to the cast iron. (That's a good looking spindle sander, Troy).

Step 9: Lubricate Vinyl Records

This is probably the most contentious application for WD-40 on the Internet. Period. But, before you vinyl music purists put my head on a spike, hear me out!

There is some merit to using WD-40 on vinyl records. Since WD-40 has solvents it's great for dissolving waxy grime from your records, and evaporates quickly leaving a thin oil behind to lubricate the record stylus. However, it's those same solvents that give people pause when using WD-40 on a plastic like vinyl. The reason to even consider using WD-40 in an application like this is the one-two punch of solvent (to remove grease) and lubricant (smooth vinyl).

I can only speak from my own personal experience, and I have yet to see any deleterious results. However, if you're unsure you can always use two separate applications of a vinyl-safe cleaning solvent and then a lubricant.

Step 10: Bonus: Where NOT to Use WD-40

As a bonus, it's important to know where not to use WD-40. In the intro I mentioned that WD-40 is a solvent first, with a light oil remaining after the solvent evaporates. You'd be surprised how people use WD-40 primarily as a lubricant, which is only going to make things worse. Though there's loads of good applications for WD-40, there's plenty of places that you shouldn't use it. Here's a few:

  • Electronics: This might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised at where electronics are hiding. An often overlooked area could be the buttons on your smartphone or music player, all the way to something less obvious like the lens for your digital camera. The solvents in WD-40 can break down some plastics, and the low viscosity of WD-40 makes sure the solution penetrates deep.
    Solution: If possible open the device and clean by hand using very little silicone spray.
  • Bike chains, door hinges: The lubrication will work as intended for all these applications, but the residue left over can also attract dirt and dust thereby negating the oil benefits after the initial application.
    Solution: Clean bike chain with an old toothbrush to remove debris. Use bike chain oil and wipe clean with a rag.
  • Door locks: If your door lock is stuck, the solvent in WD-40 might help is get loose, but there's not enough lubricant left over to help the tumblers move freely over the long term.
    Solution: Use a graphite powder, designed to stay slippery and made especially for locks.
  • Rubik's Cube: WD-40 is not a lubricant, it's a solvent. Using WD-40 on some plastics can cause them to break down or melt.
    Solution: Use a silicone spray.

Do you have your own unusual use for WD-40?I want to see it!

Share a picture of your unusual use in the comments below and get a free Pro Membership to Instructables!

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288 Comments

TIN MAN:
Well, IDK about cancer, livers or kidneys, but I do know about RA (rheumatoid arthritis). I also know of an old wives tale instructing to spray WD-40 onto sore joints & rub into skin for pain relief. I also know it works! Too many nights I’ve woke up in pain from RA in my hands & arthritis in my knees and hip that I couldn’t sleep, I keep a can in my bathroom & go in and spray my joints .... just like the tin man. Plenty of blood work hasn’t shown any problems *DISCLAIMER*. If you don’t feel comfortable spraying WD40 on your skin, YOU DON’T HAVE TO.

1 reply

I'm glad I am not the only one that uses it for arthritis it works

use it for getting bugs off of windscreen

Nice one Mike.

Hope the WD-40 wasnt responsible for giving you a sauraus (sore arse).

Another great use for WD-40 is to spray on old silicone to make it easy to remove and also takes mould with it (eg shower tiles.) Be sure to fully remove any excess before caulking with new silicone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7x1AlAC-OE

Cannot wait to try all of these!

If you use it on firearms, don't expect it to be a lubricant for them. After applying use a good gun oil, or light transmission oil on the moving parts. Is WD-40 is left alone on the gun arts, it will stiffen them and gum up the works.

Found out the hard way.

As others have already said, WD40 will dry
out and the clear plastic will "fog" again. Problem is new plastic
has a protective coating but hardens when exposed to UV light. Mechanically
removing the oxidation may temporarily restore clarity, but also removes
protective layer so there is no protective coating anymore. So if you do go the
"buff off the oxidation" route, you definitely need to apply either a
clearcoat spray or monthly application of protectant. Lots of info on the net
but the one I'm currently trying (on clear plastic auto headlight lenses) is
monthly cleaning with Original Windex to remove bug guts and then coating with 303 UV
Protectant. If I could have found it I would have tried the Meguiar's Headlight
Protectant. Others have also recommended carnuba (not synthetic) auto wax and a
couple products available from www.autogeek.net
(Wolfgang plastic surface sealant and Diamondite Clear Plastic Liquid
Armor).

Another where NOT to use WD-40: for cleaning off old caulk around a bath or shower. It will work, but it will leave traces that will dissolve the new caulk you put on. Use alcohol instead.

I prefer to use a spray vegetable oil on my snow shovel to keep snow from sticking. It works, and no worries about throwing the snow on lawn or flower beds.

Margarine is better for cleaning ingrained grease on hands. Rub in the margarine. Then rub in washing-up liquid. Then rinse under water.

Margarine works well because it is full of emulsifiers and fats. As a bonus, the fats help stop your skin drying out.

5 replies

I thought that you shouldn't use anything on your hands that you wouldn't eat!

Margarine, one molecule away from being plastic.

Just like water is one molecule away from being hydrogen peroxide...

http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/butter.asp

That's why flies won't land on or eat it.

The original GOJO is the best for cleaning greasy hands (or tools or clothes are just about anything) and it's better for your hands too because it is pure lanolin.

First, excellent 'ible with good photos. Second, do you really call those hands dirty? I'd eat with hands that clean :-). Third: Here's an odd, off-lable use not mentioned: removing spray paint overspray. I'm a contractor and frequently have to use Kilz and other oil based primers as well as acryllic spray paints. Invariably theres some spot the masking tape didn't cover and you end up with chrome spray paint on a porcelin sink or, worse, Kilz on a laminate counter. As long as you catch it within the first hour or two after application WD-40, liberally applied will allow you to wipe it off with a paper towel.
Now, I'm going to add some fuel to the fire...applying WD-40 to clean your hands is no worse than the orange degreasers since many of them use a combination of citric acid and citriline oil to decompose oils. Neither of those two is particularly good for your skin. Also, keep in mind that WD-40 is much better for your health than what your using it to remove. For those that wish to err in the side of caution petroleum jelly (a.k.a. vaseline) works almost as well. Somewhere there's a chemist whi can explain the petroleum hierarchy of solvents.

3 replies

For all concerned,

I am not a chemist, but I got some relevant information from one. During the period from 1978 to 1990 I worked, and became best friends, with an outstanding Forensic Chemist. Here is what I recall from our discussion:

Although we normally can’t see it, our skin surface is covered with a layer of DEAD skin cells! Those cells are “loaded” with our natural body oil, contributing to its color
and flexible texture. Anything which will remove oils and fats from
your skin surface can remove body oil from within your skin!

In chemistry there is a term called “defatting” which means, to remove fats/oils from some material.

I
once IMPROPERLY cleaned some carburetor parts with Barrynan Chem-tool
[a very powerful (petroleum based?) DE-GREASER], WITHOUT using
protective gloves on my hands!!!!

Shortly thereafter, the skin involved developed an incredibly painful BURNING sensation, and when I looked, the areas which had been “wetted” with the Chem-tool were as white as fresh, clean SNOW!!! The texture was STIFF [very restricted flexibility].

I immediately called my chemist buddy for help in ascertaining whether or not I needed to go to an Emergency Room!!! He told me not to worry, that an Emergency Room was not necessary. He then explained WHAT happened, and HOW to remedy the situation.

The very powerful de-greaser had removed [defatted] ALL of the natural body oil from my skin, and having penetrated to living tissue, was causing the burning sensation.The pure white is the color of my dead, defatted skin cells, and the stiffness resulted from lack of lubrication between the skin cells.

He instructed me to wash and dry the affected areas with DAWN Dish-washing Liquid [the same safe stuff they used to remove the crude oil from living wildlife during the Valdez, Alaska tanker oil-spill disaster!!!]. In my case, it was to
remove all traces of the Chem-tool, and thus relieve the burning sensation,
which it did!

Next was to work well into the affected skin, ordinary COOKING OIL [I had CORN OIL, which he approved].

After that procedure, and wiping the excess oil from my hands, I was back to normal, like it never happened; including return of natural color and flexible texture!!!

Do NOT use any chemicals without also using PROPER protective equipment!!!

I say again, do NOT use any chemicals without also using PROPER protective equipment!!!

Spot on! I always use vegetable (sunflower rape seed corn oil) oil to clean my hands if they have ingrained petroleum products from wrenching etc. The skin can absorb chemicals through contact and as a rule of thumb if you are not prepared to eat whatever you are using to clean your hands best not touch it.