One of the most useful items in your house is probably hiding underutilized in a kitchen drawer. Sure, you use it to line a roasting pan or to cover a casserole. You may even use it to catch drips under your stovetop burners. But did you know that there are dozens of other uses for that roll of aluminum foil?
Before we get into a list of our favorite ways to use and/or reuse aluminum foul, let’s consider what it is and why recycling it is important. Standard household aluminum foil is typically 0.016 mm thick, and heavy duty household foil is typically 0.024 mm thick.
Do your parents or grandparents call the product “tin foil?” That’s because foil made from a thin leaf of tin was marketed commercially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before it began to be replaced by aluminum in 1910. Less malleable than aluminum, tin foil also left behind a slight taste to the food it wrapped. The name “tin foil” has been passed down and is still used interchangeably for aluminum foil in many parts of the country.
Foil was first used to wrap Life Savers candy and chocolate bars in the United States. The Reynolds Company – today called Reynolds Consumer Products – was responsible for the marketing push that made aluminum foil a household staple. In 1947, the company touted its Reynolds Wrap as “the pure aluminum foil for 1,001 kitchen miracles.”
Most supermarkets today sell a couple of choices of aluminum foil brands. The product comes in a variety of widths and thicknesses and can withstand both high heat and extreme cold. It also is very durable. Unfortunately, the average American tosses away about three pounds of aluminum foil each year. Since scientists believe it will take about 400 years for aluminum to break down naturally in landfills, this waste is adding up.
However, aluminum is 100 percent recyclable and can be reworked indefinitely without loss of quality. To find out where you can take your used aluminum foil for recycling in your community, contact your municipal recycling program or enter your zip code at the Earth911.org website. Another way to recycle aluminum foil is to repurpose it yourself. Try washing used sheets with hot water and soap and then letting them air dry for re-use.
Now here are some of our favorite uses – and re-uses — for the tough, shiny stuff:
1. Reduce static cling. Roll aluminum foil into a tight, two-inch ball and toss it into your dryer with your wet clothes. It will help get rid of annoying static cling.
2. Soften brown sugar. Wrap hardened brown sugar in foil and place in a 300-degree oven for five to 10 minutes to soften the clumps.
3. Deter pests. Try hanging strips of aluminum foil around your garden. The sight and sound of the shiny sheets will help keep birds and some animals from eating your plants. Another idea is to place strips or balls of aluminum foil in cracks where insects or rodents could enter your home or outbuildings. Mice do not like crawling near aluminum foil’s sharp edges.
5. Glue down loose vinyl. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over a loose or bulging self-stick vinyl tile and run a hot iron over it several times to melt the glue. Then place heavy books or other weights on the tile so the adhesive can reset.
6. Fix a battery connection. The springs that hold the batteries in place in your remote controllers or flashlights can loosen over time. Try folding a small piece of aluminum foil to make a pad between the battery and the spring to hold the battery in place, completing the circuit.
7. Clean jewelry and silverware. Place gold and silver jewelry or silverware in a bowl lined with aluminum foil. Add hot water and about a tablespoon of bleach-free, powdered laundry detergent or baking soda and mix well. After about a minute, take your now shiny valuables out and let them air dry.
8. Improve efficiency of room radiators. Do you have cast iron room radiators in your home? You can increase their efficiency by making a heat reflector to place behind them. Simply tape heavy-duty aluminum foil (shiny side out) to a large piece of nonflammable material and then place it behind the radiator. The radiant heat will reflect off the foil into the room.
9. Clean out fireplace or grill ashes. Place a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil under the wood grate of your fireplace or under charcoals in your outdoor grill. When ashes have completely cooled, simply wrap them in the foil and dispose. You also can fashion your own barbecue drip pan out of aluminum foil to catch meat drippings.
10. Scrub pots and pans. Use a ball of aluminum foil to scrub grimy kitchen pots and pans or stove-top messes. Note: Avoid using on non-stick surfaces.
11. Remove wrinkles in clothing. To iron clothes more efficiently, place aluminum foil under your ironing board cover. The foil will act as a reflector, helping to heat the clothing and to remove wrinkles more quickly. Another idea is to place aluminum foil under the hole you are patching in jeans or workpants. It keeps the iron-on patch from sticking to the ironing board.
12. Protect fixtures from paint. Use aluminum foil as you would use tape to protect door knobs and fixtures from drips when you are painting a room. You can also use crumpled aluminum foil to add texture to walls when you paint or plaster.
13. Help TV/radio reception. Do you have an old TV or radio that has an antenna? Resurrect a time-honored tradition of wrapping a little ball of foil and wrap it around the antenna ends for clearer reception.
14. Protect young trees. Rodents and other animals often eat the bark of trees during the winter months. An effective way to protect your young trees is to wrap their trunks with two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil in October or November. Remove the foil in spring.
Now that we’ve given you some food for thought, you will probably come up with additional ideas for using aluminum foil in your own household. And by the way, it still works great as a way to keep the crust from burning while you are browning a pie or the cheese from getting too crispy when you are baking your favorite lasagna.
Do you know of other uses for aluminum foil? Tell us in the section below: