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.
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, 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.