I have gotten the question more than once, “Is it okay to clean my gun with WD40?”. It’s a fair question and I’ve known people who have been using WD40 for 20+ years to clean their guns. Are they wrong for doing this? Let’s take a deeper look into what WD40 is and if it’s a good idea to use it to clean your guns.
If you want to read learn more tips on cleaning your gun, check out here.
What’s In WD-40?
Most of you probably own a bottle but do you know what it’s made of? Probably not because it’s a secret formula! For over 60 years the multi-use product has kept its formula a secret from the public.
Another fun fact is that Duct Tape has also kept its formula a secret, which is why the original duct tape is the best.
WD stands for Water Displacement
What we do know is that WD40 is a special blend of lubricants. It’s a terrific solvent for removing rust and getting stickers off but will it do the job for cleaning your gun?
The Old Way to Clean Your Gun
Before writing this article I sat down with a good friend that’s been cleaning ALL of his guns with WD40 for over 30 years before switching to Break-Free. He’s never had any of his guns rust and any other problems for that matter. Some people seem to be biased on the idea of using WD-40 and tell me that they would never use it but let me tell you what my friend said.
Back 30 years ago there weren’t many gun cleaning solvents out there, so people were forced to improvise. There especially weren’t any aerosol gun cleaning sprays, so most people starting using WD40 when it came out.
When I used it back in the day I found my rifles to be very sluggish in their operation, especially in the winter. This issue magically resolved when I started using Break Free lubricant mainly because WD40 is not designed to clean your guns.
WD40 is a solvent that leaves very little oil on the surface. This means that more dust and dirt will be attracted to the surface and eventually you’ll have a nice layer of gunk on your gun. In cold weather this can be very bad and VERY big pain in the ass to clean off.
WD40 is an amazing solvent with about 1 million different uses (along with duct tape). After using is many times to clean my guns I’ve decided not to completely trust it due to the rapid buildup of gunk on my guns.
What is WD-40 Made of?
As mentioned earlier, WD-40 is a mix of lubricants. It contains a mix of mineral oils like vaseline and baby oils, Decane, Nonane, Dimethyl Naphthalene, and Carbon Dioxide.
Decane is most commonly found in petroleum products like kerosene. Often used for industrial purposes, decane comes in the form of a colorless liquid. It’s a hydrocarbon of the alkane series with the formula C10H22. The reason Decane is used in WD-40 is because it helps keep the mix of lubricants liquid even at cold temperatures.
With the chemical formula C9H20, Nonane also appears as a clear, colorless liquid. The liquid is insoluble in water, making it water repellant. It’s also less dense than water, which means that its presence in WD-40 makes the lubricant stick to the surface of the gun and doesn’t let heavier water molecules through.
Dimethyl Naphthalene has the chemical formula of C12H12 and comes in multiple forms. However, in WD-40, it’s mainly used as a solvent.
WD-40 also contains some CO2. The carbon dioxide plays the part of a propellant.
Why is WD-40 Not Suitable for Guns?
To answer this question, let’s first take a look at what we use to clean a gun. Gun solvents play three important roles, namely cleaning, lubricating, and protecting the gun.
While WD-40 can be used as a lubricant, its other properties make it unfit for gun cleaning. The mix of lubricants acts mainly as a solvent. This will not technically remove the residue from your gun, but will dissolve it and transport it to some other part of the gun.
You can remove some of the contaminants on your gun if you use the solvent with a combination of a clean cloth or patch, but it will not be able to completely remove the impurities. This is why WD-40 leads to guns slowing down and jamming up in winter.
WD-40 evaporates very quickly. When you’re shooting or storing your gun, you cannot expect WD-40 to stick around and protect it. This will eventually lead to rust and other damage.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t have any other alternatives present in the house, cleaning your guns with WD-40 is not completely unacceptable. The mix of lubricants can do an okay job at removing dirt and moisture from your gun, but you should be wary of the residue that will build up when you use your gun later.
If you’re going for a deep cleaning, WD-40 can be alright. However, if you have the option, you should always go for a more specific alternative that’s made especially for gun cleaning. We hope that this article about cleaning your guns with WD-40 has helped you figure out the best way to clean your gun.
If you’re looking for budget universal gun cleaning kits and want to learn more about this topic, feel free to check out our other articles, reviews, and buying guides at Gun Cleaning HQ.
Thanks for the info bout WD-40 I don’t use it but have in the past done so but probably never will again thanks for the good read and important info
Frank Smith says
Years ago I used WD-40 to clean a pristine pre-64 Winchester because of was out of kerosene. Two days later I sat down to clean it properly and found the bluing had tiny pits all over the action and barrel. Never got them off the surface no matter what I tried.
Since that experience have never let WD-40 anywhere, I mean anywhere near a firearm since then.
DO NOT CLEAN FIREARMS WITH WD-40 !!
Funny how WD40 is recommended for cleaning guns on their own website with testimonials from people with tens of years of experience in the industry.
Yeah something I’d never recommend.
I have used wd40 on all my guns for over 45 years. Bolt action, lever action, auto, pump action, single shot. Long guns and handguns. I have 9 guns now. All but two for over 30 years. After i shoot a gun i clean and remove all oil. I wipe it down with wd40 on a clean rag and wipe off any excess with another. If i dont shoot a gun i wipe it down two times a year, inside and out. Before i shoot i reoil moving parts. After all these years i still have never ever seen any of the gunk, gum, waxy build up or anything others say. It never has rotted the stock, melted the barrel off, washed the blue off the metal. And none have ever burst into flames when shot. I have never had to replace any part from ware and never had any gun or part fail. And you will absolutely not find one speck of rust on any gun of mine. And that goes for my muzzleloader that i clean with soap and water. Wd40 on the same guns over and over again for over 45 years. All the bs about wd40 on guns is simply Not True. I can find nothing that even comes close to being as good as wd40. That comes from 45 years experience and not from hearsay.
Thanks so much for your honest opinion. I am a new gun owner and wanted to know if WD40 was the right choice. Thanks again, I will use WD40, it works wonders on everything else, so I know it will work on guns. Thanks again.
bill davis says
complete agreement,,,been in use on my guns for many years and never a foul up,
Gary hartness says
I am like the other guy, I have been cleaning guns since I was 15,
Hops to clean and scrub the barrel,s with, a good follow up ofWD40 on patch’s that get deep in the groves. Then a light buffing with WD40 and a good rub down on the whole gun. Then a good clean old tee shirt to polish it with. I am 65 now, that’s 50 years. I have never had a auto jam, never issues with sticky residue on any of my guns. I am a hunter, and retired police officer and army vet. I would never not have WD 40 to clean my gun up with, it has never failed me. I still have the first gun I purchased at 20 and it looks used and carried, but the barrel you can’t find a spot in her, and not a spot of rust anywhere. No to mention being able to spay a good steam of rust, and dirt, and water residue from in side guns were you can’t get to with a oiled rag.
To each there own, I have to use mine twice, and it’s never failed me. So still being alive speaks good enough me!!
Truth nugget says
If you think wd40 is good try using some ballistol and your mind might explode (i use it on all exterior surfaces including plastics). Then use some synthetic ptfe lube called super lube to grease your trigger and sear engagements.
Randy Vaughn says
Thank you for your service, and advice! I’ve used wd-40 for 35 years with no problems. It works great!
DD GODFREY says
WOW. I can’t imagine anyone else on Earth having the experience that you have to discuss this issue. The WD40 company and you need to meet. I don’t think anyone else could say it better than you just did. Thank you very much for sharing and i want you to know, me and mine love and respect our countries military and vets. Thank you so much for your service. Freedom is not free.
I have used wd40 off and on for decades to clean and wipe down guns. Never a single issue. I think wd40 cleans just about as good as Hoppes 9 solvent and it is a pretty dang good rust preventer. I have only ever used one lube that caused a problem. Remoil. I owned a Sig that could not shoot 37rds (3 12rd mags plus one in the chamber) which was what I carried on my belt, without failing to go into battery on the third mag. Only did this with remoil. Never had a malfunction otherwise. I find it funny with the easy internet access people come up with problems that never existed. People have cleaned/lubed guns for several generations with wd40, 3n1, mineral oil, kerosene, and motor oil without issue. All of the sudden my 1911 needs a specialty lube? LOL
Clint I wouldn’t necessarily disagree that it could be used as a lube but I still don’t believe in it as a cleaner.
Tom Butz says
Awesome add here for Break-Free lol
Seems like someone got paid to write an article about why its better to buy the endorsed brand than use wd40. Im new to the gun owning scene so its kind of annoying trying to dig through a bunch of mis information. I just started using wd40 and so far so good.
Heck yea WD-40 is Great. I’d use it overseas on my M-2 to clean off the motor oil and sand after patrols. Great stuff I use it on my ARs and my older 1980s 30-00 and 870. Never had an issue. It was originally designed to protect the ICBM ROCKETS from rust while sittting in their silos, Its great for protecting our gun finishes while they sit in their safes.
The problem is… products. Just like my gun is better than yours, (it probably is not). Cleaning products have changed over the years especially solvents however the inventor of WD40 got it right just like soap powder that implies it is a new improved version every 5 years or so when the only improvement is the packaging. Same with bottled water being better than tap water (not true). Products are designed to sell and yes some are better than others at getting the job done but it has all been seen before except by the young guns of today who can not make accurate comparisons. WD40 buy it, use it, and save lots of cash.
I started owning guns in 1981. I have owned quite a few of all types since. I have tried many kinds of solvents and lubricants to clean and protect them. Break Free CLP, Hoppe’s 9, gun oil, Frog lube and WD40 to name a few.
My opinion: WD40 is great for driving out residue because it dissolves, is very fluid and comes in a spray can. I use it on any assemblies when I am not taking them completely apart (like the lower receivers and slides on composite semi auto pistols and ARs). I spray the assembly several times and let it drip out with the loose residue. It won’t get everything but it gets more than anything other than a soak in a Hoppe’s 9 ultrasonic bath.
If I am taking everything apart I’ll soak the parts in Hoppe’s 9 and wipe them down with high quality gun oil.
I’ve never observed any ill effects from using the WD40
On the other hand Frog Lube is the worst gun cleaning product I have tried. Contrary to WD40 it leaves a significant residue that turns “gummy” within 3-4 weeks. It filled the firing pin cavity on my XDm 9mm with goo that slowed the mechanism to the point of causing 80% misfires. This with a pistol that had ZERO (and really mean ZERO) misfires in over 5,000 rounds. Frog Lube is a dangerous product that could cost lives if used by LEO or military. For me it only ruined one range session and taught me how to completely take down my XDm but I think it should be avoided.
Thanks Michael for the feedback.
Steven Firman says
I read an article by an old gunsmith who is also a metallurgist.
He said ” when you are cleaning a gun you are cleaning metal “.
He uses Mineral Spirits ( says name brand cleaners are mineral oil with colors and fragrance for marketing .) He also cuts old cotton T Shirts for patches as he won’t waste money on marketing gimmicks for the same basic product .
He sounded like he knows .
my 12yr old gun only used WD40 for cleaning and it still looks new, did 2000rnds on it and now gets a wipe down and light lube with 5w-20 motor oil 2x a year.