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The Real Uses for WD-40: Lubricant, Degreaser or Neither?

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Jessica
08.20.12

Do you use WD-40 on your bike chain?

Do you keep a can of WD-40 around the house? Did you know that you’re using it wrong?

Chances are you’ve used it at one point or another to loosen a bolt or fix a squeaky door hinge, but that’s actually not what it’s meant to do! The “WD” stands for water displacement, and WD-40’s intended uses are water repulsion and rust prevention. In fact, WD-40 was originally invented to prevent corrosion on nuclear missiles!

Since its de-rusting properties also loosen metal parts like bolts and screws, WD-40 has become a Jack of all trades around the house. However, even though there are hundreds of common household uses for WD-40, it’s not a universal fix-all. Since this spray isn’t designed to be a lubricant or a degreaser, there are certain jobs where WD-40 shouldn’t be used.

Here are three WD-40 danger zones:

1. Door hinges and locks. This is probably the most common WD-40 faux pas. While the spray will blast off any rust that’s making your hinge or lock stick, it also leaves an oily coating behind that attracts extra dirt and dust. To clean your doors and hinges, it’s important to use an evaporative spray that won’t collect extra grime. For more details, read: Maintain Your Locks.

2. Gears. It may be tempting to spritz some ole’ WD on the gears of your garage door opener, but WD-40 doesn’t have the lubricating prowess to handle that kind of motion. If you need to lubricate gears, only use a product specifically designed for the job. Usually, there will even be a lubricant specifically designed for the type of gears you’re working on (i.e. fan motor, AC unit).

3. Bike chains. To the casual cyclist, WD-40 may seem like a logical choice to lubricate a chain. Don’t do it! After a few minutes of use, WD-40 won’t be lubricating your chain anymore, but it will be collecting all kinds of dirt and road-grease while you cruise around. Just like doors and gears, you should use a lubricant specifically designed for bike chains to keep your bike in great condition. If your bike is already beyond repair, read 5 of Our Favorite Bicycle Hacks for ideas on how to upcycle your dearly departed Huffy.

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