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Photo: WD-40

On July 3, John S. Barry, the man who made the water displacing solvent WD-40 as popular as it is today, died at the age of 84 due to pulmonary fibrosis, the New York Times reported.

Although he did not invent the substance, Barry made it a household product when he dreamed up the nickname “WD-40,” which stands for water displacement and the 40th formula attempt that made the solution successful.

The real inventors are Norm Larsen and the people of his Rocket Chemical Company, who, in 1953, were looking to develop a solution that would prevent corrosion. WD-40 was first used by Convair, a company that manufactured military aircraft, to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion, and apparently it worked so well that Convair employees snuck some of the solution out of the plant to take home.

By 1969, Barry had become the Rocket Chemical Company’s president and CEO and renamed the company after its only product then. Barry spearheaded the marketing strategies of the solvent that protects your kids’ bike chains from rust or performs one of the other 2,000+ everyday uses listed by WD-40.

A survey from 1993 found that WD-40 was a part of every 4 out of 5 household and 81 percent of professionals use WD-40 at work. The familiar blue and yellow aerosol can still graces many household garage shelves and cleaning supply closets today.

ENR would like to know, what are some of your WD-40 stories? Submit them by leaving a comment on this post or tweeting them @ENRmagazine.