Whether you are just getting into guns or are simply a curious gunowner, there’s a chance you’ve asked yourself “Can I use WD-40 to clean my guns?”
After all, WD-40 is one of the most common maintenance agents around.
Generally, we think of WD-40 when someone mentions a squeaky door or chain that needs greasing.
In this regard, it’s safe to say that WD-40 is well-known.
But what is WD-40, exactly? Few of us know the true nature of this common, every day product.
Let’s take a look at some of the most basic facts and uses associated with WD-40 to find out if it’s truly the best option to clean your guns.
Additionally, let’s review some other options for gun cleaning that may prove useful to you in the future.
Paying attention to the advice in this piece will help you understand not only WD-40 and its various uses, but also the best and safest ways to clean your gun—the right way.
What You Will Read Here:
And What Does WD-40 Stand For?
The name WD-40 has origins that are actually quite interesting.
As the story goes, chemist Norm Larsen was having quite a tough time working on the chemical formula for his new product.
This product, Larsen said, was meant to prevent corrosion by displacing water that rested on top of items and surfaces.
Quite literally, then, the WD in WD-40 stands for “water displacement.”
The more you know, right?
So what about the 40? Is it some kind of special code or perhaps an abbreviation of the product’s chemical structure?
40, it seems, was Larsen’s magic number. Apparently, the passionate chemist was more than simply dedicated.
It took him exactly 40 tries to perfect his chemical formula. He was so thrilled upon completion that he simply added this number to “WD.”
In totality, the technical name of WD-40 is “Water Displacement, 40th formula.”
Not what we’d have named it, maybe, but it works.
Officially, no one outside of the WD-40 company knows the true formula of the product. That’s because the formula is officially considered a trade secret.
While it’s not likely that you and I could make our own WD-40 at home (assuming of course, that you also don’t have a lab in your garage), the company is very careful to protect its formula from potential competition.
When WD-40 was invented in 1953, it was never even patented. To this day, the product exists without a patent. That’s a pretty intense way of making sure your product isn’t stolen.
To better understand what WD-40 is made of, let’s take a look at its safety data sheet. By doing so, we will be able to see many of the ingredients that are included in the product and even the quantity at which these ingredients exist.
By far the largest ingredient, aliphatic hydrocarbons make up approximately 50% of WD-40’s formula. While this may not mean much to you and me, these hydrocarbons are a major force behind WD-40’s magic.
Less than 25% of the product is petroleum base oil. Though we don’t know the exact oil, it is largely believed that it is mineral or light lubricating oil.
Between 12-18% of the product is low vapor pressure aliphatic hydrocarbons. This allows the product to be housed in the aerosol cans we are all familiar with.
The rest of the product is composed of various other ingredients in differing amounts.
Though most of us know WD-40 as a common household product (that’s seemingly used for everything), it was originally designed as a water displacement formula for aircraft and missiles.
I know—that’s actually pretty cool. I must admit that it’s pretty sweet knowing the stuff I loosen my hinges with is good enough to be used by the US military.
Officially, WD-40 was designed for the specific purpose of preventing rust and corrosion on aerospace products.
Reportedly developed by chemist Norm Larsen, the head of a small company known as the Rocket Chemical Company, the product was first used officially by Convair.
Convair was an aerospace contractor who was looking for a quality product to prevent rust and corrosion on the outer shell of their Atlas Missile.
Needless to say, it worked.
WD-40 was so successful at displacing water and preventing rust that several employees are said to have sneaked some of the product home.
Learning this, Larsen set out to find a way that the product could be put safely in aerosol cans. It is said by some historians that Larsen, who is largely credited with inventing the product, actually only developed the aerosol canning method for WD-40.
The actual formula, they say, was invented by Iver Norman Lawson, who sold the formula to the company in 1953.
Either way, WD-40’s impact is undeniable. The company realized this, marketing WD-40 for the first time to the public in 1958.
Since that time, the product has been used for a variety of lubrication and rust prevention needs.
Today, WD-40 is one of the most widely known and readily available household maintenance products on the market, which begs the question: What can you use it for?
WD-40 is your safe, go-to product for rusted or corroded products that need a quick fix. Let’s say you find a used bicycle that you think would be perfect to ride around town.
Unfortunately, it’s a little rusted.
You’re not sure if the chain will move properly. Spray it with WD-40.
Doing so can help lubricate the product (though WD-40 is technically a solvent) and will remove some of the rust and corrosion that has set in over the chain.
Though the bike certainly won’t be new, it will definitely work.
WD-40 is used in a variety of similar instances. For example, many use it to fix squeaky door hinges or loosen bolts. It’s also a good choice to protect your nuclear warhead from potential corrosion.
Okay, we’re kidding on that one, but it’s not a far-fetched idea. WD-40 is still used by the military to protect its products from wear and tear.
Seriously, though, WD-40 is a perfect choice for oiling small toys for your kids, it can also be used to clean your garden tools and piano keys.
The list goes on. It seems the uses of WD-40 are virtually endless, with some ideas being better than others.
Unconventional uses of WD-40 involve using the product as a bug spray and as a way to get gum out of your hair.
We’d recommend neither of those options, but it’s clear that WD-40 serves as a do-it-all product for many consumers.
It’s only natural, then, that some would begin to wonder if their cans of WD-40 are appropriate for gun cleaning.
Knowing all this, let’s get to the big question, the one we’ve all been dying to hear.
Is it safe to clean your guns with WD-40?
Unfortunately, no. As it turns out, there are a number of reasons why cleaning your gun with WD-40 is a bad idea.
To begin with, though WD-40 is used to loosen up bolts and chains, it is not a lubricant. Technically, it’s a solvent that can and will evaporate after use.
This means that you can’t count on WD-40 to stick around once the job is “done.” Rather, the product will simply disappear after a while and leave your gun exposed to the elements.
Obviously, you do not want this. Individuals who clean their guns with WD-40 are often surprised to see their firearms begin to rust.
This is because they are unaware of the fact that WD-40 evaporates, unlike other oils that are specifically designed to clean your guns.
This isn’t the only reason to avoid using WD-40 to clean your firearms, however. Additionally, WD-40 does little to actually get your guns clean.
Though we are used to spraying WD-40 on surfaces and thinking they are clean, the truth is that they are not.
This is especially the case for your gun. If you simply spray your firearm with an aerosol can of WD-40, all you are doing is moving dissolved fouling and other mess into the corners of your gun.
Yikes. That’s not what I’d call clean.
Sure, this may make the dirt a little less visible, but it hardly makes your gun clean.
Even if you use some type of cloth to wipe away all the exposed dirt, you are better off using a product that is specifically designed to clean firearms like yours.
You must remember that WD-40 is technically meant for water displacement. Therefore, it’s not the product you want to use when you are displacing all manner of gunk and grime from your firearm.
Though it may seem like the easy way out, you are simply setting your gun up for extended dirtiness and potential rust.
Luckily, there are many options to choose from when it comes to finding a product that is safe and reliable to clean your guns.
Recommended practice is to purchase a quality gun cleaning kit. Gun cleaning kits are available from a variety of manufacturers. It’s up to you to find out which kit is best for your particular firearm.
Generally, the price of the kit depends on its intended use and on the quality of the material used to clean.
The more expensive the kit, the higher quality clean your gun will receive. These kits work to clean your gun because they use oils that don’t evaporate.
They also provide all necessary materials to completely remove all gunk and grime from the surface of your firearm.
In short, this means that your gun will get the quality clean it deserves.
For those interested, the GloryFire Universal Gun Cleaning Kit is a great universal gun cleaning kit that comes with high-quality brass and nylon tools for all your gun cleaning needs.
With top-notch tools that won’t break off while cleaning, this kit can be used to clean any type of firearm.
The best part? The GloryFire Kit is reasonably priced so that you don’t have to worry about shelling out big bucks to give your firearm the quality clean it deserves.
Compared with WD-40, this kit (and others like it) offers your firearm a safe and reliable clean. Unlike WD-40, this cleaning kit will clean even the nooks and crannies of your firearm and prevent against rust.
Obviously, this is a much better option for those looking to safely clean their guns.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is pretty simple: don’t use WD-40 to clean your guns. Though it may seem like a quick, easy, and cheap way to get your guns looking new again, this is the one case where WD-40 just won’t do the trick.
As weird as that is to say, you shouldn’t panic. There are several better options available for all your gun cleaning needs.
✔ Remember: when you are using or handling a firearm in any way, it’s best to follow given instructions and manuals.
This obviously includes how to clean your firearm as well. If you are unsure of what product or kit is best for cleaning your firearm, talk with a local expert to see what will work for you.
While the jury’s still out on that question, one thing is for sure: using WD-40 to clean your gun will only get you into a world of trouble.
First, you won’t be able to get your gun clean, which really defeats the purpose. You’ll also be making it much easier for your gun to rust or corrode (which may seem ironic if you don’t know that WD-40 is a solvent and not a lubricant).
So what’s our final verdict on the question “Is it safe to clean your guns with WD-40?”
WD-40 is great for a variety of purposes, but there are better options for cleaning your gun like a professional grade ultrasonic gun cleaner machine.
Marc is passionate about shooting and hunting. Besides camping and writing online he loves spending time with her cute little daughter. He also spend good deal of time on weekends to clean and maintain his firearm collection.