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Fix-it Favorites: Duct Tape and WD-40

 by Patricia Lynn Henley   Posted on September 30 2013

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My mother taught me that all home fixit-projects can be accomplished with either duct tape or WD-40. If something shouldn't move and it does, use duct tape. If something should move and it doesn't, use WD-40.

That's an over-simplification, but it contains a fair amount of truth. Over the years, consumers have found an amazing array of uses for these two items, employing them in ways that vary from being practical and money-saving, to being creative and outrageous.

Duct Tape Holds It Down

Developed to seal ammunition cases during World War II and used on construction sites after the war (holding metal air ducts together), duct tape is a cloth-backed, waterproof adhesive. Also called duck tape because of its water-repelling properties (and one company manufactures the Duck Tape brand), duct tape has been included on every space mission since the early Gemini flights.

In addition to being a key component for designing an emergency carbon dioxide filter replacement on the life-or-death Apollo 13 mission, duct tape was used to repair a damaged fender on an Apollo 17 lunar rover.

In more down-to-Earth applications, duct tape has been used to:

  • Patch leaky pipes
  • Remove clothing lint
  • Reseal bags of chips
  • Hide extra car keys under vehicles
  • Repair vacuum hoses
  • Make wallets, shoes, prom dresses or Halloween costumes
  • Hang Christmas lights and wrap presents
  • Fix damaged car taillights and hold broken car doors shut
  • As an emergency Band-Aid to patch wounds prevent runners' blisters

In addition to the standard silver or black, duct tape now comes in a wild variety of colors and prints, including zebra stripes, glow-in-the-dark hues and tape printed with college and sports team logos.

WD-40 Moves it Along

Created as a degreaser and rust preventative for a rocket company in the 1950s, WD-40 is a penetrating, water-displacing spray. Its name stands for "water displacement, 40th attempt." The company is secretive about exactly what is in WD-40, saying only that is a petroleum-based product that does not contain "silicone, kerosene, water, graphite, or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)."

Whatever it is made of, WD-40 is now a household staple for cleaning, lubricating and preserving an astonishing array of objects and materials. Americans love WD-40, and have used it to:

  • Lubricate hinges
  • Untangle silver jewelry
  • Make zippers slide smoothly
  • Ease a wedding ring off a swollen finger
  • Clean tools and prevent rust
  • Soften a new baseball glove
  • Erase crayon marks from carpet, walls, wallpaper and other surfaces
  • Clean piano keys and guitar strings
  • Remove unwanted paint, gum, rubber cement, grease and grime from just about anywhere.
  • Grease the roof of birdfeeders so unwanted squirrels slide off

Those are just a few of the more than 2,000 possible uses listed on the company's website.

However, there are a few cautions to remember. Don't use WD-40 on plastic products like iPads or paintball guns, because it can melt some of the parts or seals. Don't use WD-40 inside locks, because it can wear down the mechanism (use graphite instead). And WD-40 does attract dust and dirt, so don't use it on door hinges or bicycle chains.

They're a Complementary Duo

Duct tape and WD-40: If one doesn't fix something, the other one will. And the great thing is, both of these items are relatively low cost. Duct tape can be $3-$12 a roll, depending on length and whether it's a special color or print. WD-40 is about $3-$5 for a 12-ounce aerosol can with a red plastic straw that lets the user direct the spray into cracks and crevices.

For many people, duct tape and WD-40 are already household staples, and no home tool kit is complete without both of them.

How many ways have you used these versatile products?
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