Why I don't always love WD40 and why YOU shouldn't either.
Since it was invented in the 1950s, people have dreamed up all sorts of uses for WD-40. I’ve heard of fishermen using it to ‘enhance’ bait and there are even rumours of using it as an arthritis-relieving skin lotion but please, it has its limitations.
When it comes to quieting a squeak, there’s nothing like a squirt of WD-40, but unfortunately, that’s not always an adequate solution. Here’s why:
1. It's oily but not really oil
WD-40 was designed in the 1950s to keep rust off the delicate skin of Atlas nuclear-bomb carrying missiles. The WD stands for ‘water dispersant’ meaning it sheds water. It worked well on missiles, kinda like a tanning oil; it’s slippery, but not for long.
2. It's virtue is its vice
It is thin which is great for getting into tight spaces like a rusty bike chain, but that means it evaporates. Penetrating oils like WD-40 can also blacken moving parts like hinge pins and over time will help accumulate dust and grit, exactly the opposite of what you want.
3. It can ruin just as well as fix
Because it is petroleum-based, it will stain porous material like timber and leather, and will melt plastics like polycarbonate and polystyrene. It has destroyed many a musical instrument and wrecked countless Rubik’s cubes. And please don’t use it on your toaster unless you want your kitchen to smell like a 19th-century refinery.
You just need the right lubricant. Locksmiths use dry lubricants like graphite or teflon sprays in locks. Those sprays also work on rubber and plastic parts. Bike mechanics have a wide range of specialty lubes for their various wheels, bearings, chains and sprockets but they are mostly variations on thin sewing-machine oils like 3-in-One. Big heavy parts like overhead roller doors need grease because it stays put.
A large part of my job is to keep moving things moving smoothly and a squeak is usually the first indication that something needs attention. Door hinges are often the most noticeable because they are inside, but gates often have the hardest duty because they’re exposed to the rain and sun. A gate that only gets occasional use may even seize and forcing the gate may rip the hinge right off necessitating an even more expensive repair.
So keep some oil on hand next to that can of WD-40. And while a quick spray will often work, it’s important to apply the right lube afterwards. If you’re not sure what to use, feel free to give me a ring and I’ll talk you through it.
Helping Hands Handyman