As a new homeowner, I'm learning all kinds of interesting things, and most of them make me wince. For example, the home security system I need costs twice what I expected. And apparently aggressive snaking of a clogged drain can damage pipes and stain ceilings. Who knew?

But there have been bright spots, too. I even found a new friend: WD-40. Of course, I'd heard of the stuff, but I assumed it was just for loosening things. Wrong! Margaret, the all-knowing contractor who's helping me get my house in order, straightened me out. Now I even use it to clean bathroom tiles stained with decades of water residue. I'm almost tempted to try it as an ice cream topping.

I bet there are some things you don't know about this chemical wonder.

For starters, did you know that WD-40 isn't one of the 20,000 products manufactured by giants Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Clorox (NYSE:CLX)? Nope, it's the flagship of a company called.that's right, WD-40 Co. (NASDAQ:WDFC). Here's how the company describes itself on its website:

WD-40 Company is a global consumer products company dedicated to building brand equities that are first or second choice in their respective categories. The Company will leverage and build the brand fortress of WD-40 Company by developing and acquiring brands that deliver a unique high value to end users and that can be distributed across multiple trade channels in one or more areas of the world. WD-40 Company produces multi-purpose lubricants, WD-40 and 3-IN-ONE, the Lava and Solvol brands of heavy-duty hand cleaners, and household products X-14, 2000 Flushes, Carpet Fresh and Spot Shot. WD-40 Company markets its products in more than 160 countries worldwide. WD-40 Company recorded worldwide sales of $216.8 million in fiscal year 2002.

Here are some other interesting tidbits:

  • WD-40, the lubricant, turns 50 years old this year. It was born in 1953 to some clever folks trying to stop rockets from rusting. The name WD-40 is derived from the words water displacement and the fact that the magic formula was perfected on the 40th attempt.

  • WD-40 (again, the lubricant) has a fan club - how many household products can claim that? For all its uses, not even Arm & Hammer baking soda has a fan club (let the angry emails begin). By the way, Arm & Hammer is made by Church & Dwight (NYSE:CHD), which my colleague Bill Mann has written about glowingly and which Mathew Emmert recently recommended for his mom's portfolio.

  • Some 2000-plus uses for WD-40 have been documented (so far). (I had to register, for free, with the WD-40 fan club to view them all -- you'll likely need to do so, too. Sorry. Perhaps this is how the fan club got so many members.) Some you expect, such as "Loosens rusty parts on lawnmowers." But how about "Spray on balcony to keep pigeons away" and "Removes residue left by double-backed toupee tape" and "Removes algae from canoes"? Pretty impressive! Even fish like WD-40. A news story from the United Kingdom reports that bait enhanced with WD-40 attracted more fish.

  • WD-40 is no stranger to Fooldom. TMF Cheeze recommended it for his dad way back in 1997, and in 2000 TMF Buster sang its praises. Last year, Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner interviewed WD-40's CEO Gary Ridge on The Motley Fool Radio Show -- here, read the transcript. One highlight: Ridge noted that WD-40 is found in some 80% of American homes and is used more often than dental floss. He also mentioned that the company generates more than $1 million per employee in revenues, annually.

To some, the company's financials matter more than the fact that WD-40 was used to extricate a naked burglar from an air-conditioning vent. So, let's review the numbers, shall we?

  • Gross profit margins are around 50% and net profit margins are a healthy 12%.

  • Return on equity is a quite-respectable 30%.

  • Return on assets, at roughly 12%, is also respectable.

  • Over the past one and three years, revenue grew about 4% and 14% annually, respectively.

  • Earnings per share have grown about 7% and 17% annually, respectively, over the past one and three years.

  • Between 2001 and 2002, as the company increased its global distribution reach, sales increased some 35% in Canada, 9% in Australia, 29% in Korea, and 10% in Europe.

  • The company pays out a dividend that currently offers a 2.6% yield.

If I've got you revved up, hold on. This is not an investing perfect storm. Many of the facts and figures look good, but not all.

I am concerned that some key numbers are trending downward. These tables at MSN reveal that profit margins, return on equity, and return on assets have all been considerably higher in years past -- and debt has been lower. Is this a big red flag? Well, it does merit further investigation. I'm not yet a WD-40 expert, but it looks like these numbers may partly reflect the company's new strategy of acquiring and developing new brands and products. Lava, Solvol, X-14, 2000 Flushes, and Carpet Fresh were all added within the past five years. (Read more in the company's history.)

Nor is the stock's valuation exactly where I'd like it to be. The price-to-earning (P/E) ratio, at roughly 19, is near the high end of its 52-week range of 12 to 24. The company is experiencing solid growth, but it's not growing that fast. The price-to-cash flow multiple is also far from irresistible, at 18. Instead of loading up on any shares now, I'm inclined to wait for a more attractive entry point. I'd also like to see some of the numbers I listed above improving.

Until then, WD-40 gets a berth on my watch list, not in my current portfolio.

You can learn more via these company presentations and from financial statements filed with the SEC.

Got any thoughts about WD-40? Drop by our WD-40 discussion board and share them -- or just see what others have said. (We offer a painless, no-credit-card-required free trial of our acclaimed discussion board Community -- give it a shot. Perhaps just to read what others are saying about all kinds of investing and non-investing topics.)

If you're interested in finding other small hidden gems to invest in -- ones that may hold even more promise than WD-40 -- then check out Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter.

Selena Maranjian is smarter than a speed ing bullet and faster than a tall build ing . For more about her, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.