Another 36 Uses for Tin Foil

by Nora Dunn on 4 October 2011 8 comments
Photo: catgoesmurp

A while back, Jeff wrote a great post on surprising ways to reuse foil, such as sharpening scissors and knives, reducing static cling, and repairing stripped threads. Here are 36 more ways to use the shiny stuff!

Note — make sure you reuse, rewash, and recycle your foil whenever possible. This helps your money go further and reduces unnecessary waste. Also, instead of ripping off a sheet larger than you need, cut your foil to suit your exact size requirements (this has the added benefit of sharpening your scissors too).

Kitchen

Foil is usually kept in the kitchen, so let’s start there. It’s good for so much more than you might think!

1. Storing Food

The reason foil is good for food storage is because it creates a total barrier against light, oxygen, odors, flavors, moisture, and bacteria. Fats — for example — won’t oxidize and become rancid. (See also: Simple Strategies for Using Your Leftover Food)

2. Cooking

Along the premise of foil being a barrier against moisture, it also holds it in. Wrap food in foil (especially handy before chucking it on the barbecue), and get creative by making little foil packets with combinations of veggies and spices. You can also use foil to finish cooking something (like meat) that has been mostly cooked and is still hot, but needs a little bit longer to tenderize. (This works well for timing a meal if the other components aren't ready yet).

3. Funnel

Roll a double-thickness of foil (ideally the heavy duty kind) into a cone shape and snip off the end.

4. Pastry/Piping Bag

Start with the funnel (make sure the hole at the end is small). Fill the cone with icing and twist or fold the top closed so it doesn’t seep out. Use heavy-duty foil and get creative cutting designs or patterns into the end to shape how the icing comes out. (This might take a trial run or three).

5. Novelty Cake Shapes

As long as you’re icing a cake with foil as an aid, why not bake one with it? Don’t buy a heart-shaped cake pan — make one! Use several thicknesses of foil to create whatever shape of a cake pan you desire, and place it inside a regular cake pan or on a baking sheet. Every cake can be a work of creative genius, without having to spend money on specialty cake pans.

6. Oven Rack Spill Catcher

Although pizzas may cook best when placed directly on the rack, I have no interest in watching cheese drip over the edges and turn into a blackened mess on the oven bottom. Cover your oven rack with foil, and you have a spill-catcher and pretty much the same cooking conditions as if it were on the rack itself.

7. Oven Liner

As long as you’re worried about spillage, you can line the whole bottom of your oven with foil as well. However, as pointed out in this article on oven efficiency, don't make a habit of leaving foil on the rack or the bottom of the oven, as it reduces air flow.

8. Burner Catchers

Use foil to line the bowl-shaped catchers underneath each stove element, and you’ll save quite a bit of scrubbing. Replace as necessary.

9. Oven-Cleaning Aid

If you can’t remove the elements from your oven before spraying cleaner, just cover them in foil to protect them from the spray.

10. Soften Brown Sugar

Wrap your unwitting brick of brown sugar in foil and bake for five minutes at 300°F to soften it. Leave it in the foil and store in an air-tight plastic bag to keep it soft.

11. Bake Pies With Perfect Crusts

I’ve burned many a pie crust waiting for the filling to finish cooking. Save yourself the agony by covering the edge of the crust with foil once it’s golden brown to prevent it from burning.

12. Make a Solar Cooker

This takes a little more than foil alone, but if you’ve got sunshine, you may as well make full use of it with a solar cooker and save money on energy costs.

13. Keep Rolls Hot

Want to serve perfectly warmed dinner rolls even if guests are slow to the table? Line a bread basket with foil, put your warm rolls in, and cover them with a napkin.

Camping

Foil is a light and easily portable tool that has many handy uses when camping.

14. Keep Things Dry

As a barrier against moisture, foil is a great way to keep things dry. For example, if you have a cooler full of ice, you can wrap sandwiches in foil to keep them cool and prevent sogginess. Or if you’re headed off the trails, wrapping your lunch in foil could protect it from being destroyed during that wonky river crossing.

15. Cooking

As stated in the kitchen section, making creative packets of goodies and cooking them can be fun for the whole family. This is especially handy if you’re cooking over a campfire.

Craving a grilled cheese sandwich? Wrap your bread and cheese in foil and cook it over the fire. (And if you’re “camped out” at a hotel, you can even make these sandwiches by using an iron to grill your sandwich. Yup. An iron).

Beauty

I couldn't find too many beauty uses for tin foil — not like you can for other unlikely suspects like powdered milk, toothpaste, or even banana peels. But below is one I tested when I performed in a musical requiring curly locks — it really works.

16. Curl Your Hair

While your hair is still damp, wrap sections lengthwise in foil, and roll the foil around your fingers as tight or loose as you choose. Sleep well, and awake to super-curly locks!

Household

Oh, there are so many household uses for foil! Where to begin?

17. Rust Remover

Got rust? Use a crumpled piece of foil to rub it off. Rumor has it if you dip the foil in cola first, it works even better.

18. Polish Steel

Using the principle of oxidization, dip a piece of foil in water and use it to remove rust from and polish your steel.

19. Polish Silver

See this article on how to clean silver naturally for more on this nifty and easy technique.

20. Soap Saver

By putting a piece of foil on the bottom of a bar of soap, it won't sit in a puddle of water, and will last longer.

21. Plant Rescue

Cut the side out of a cardboard box and line the inside with foil. Put your sun-starved plant inside the box, and place it in a window with the open side facing the window/sun. The sun reflecting off the foil will give your plant a boost of light and will help it to grow straighter too.

22. Line Fireplaces and Grills

To protect your fireplace or grill from soot damage, you can line the bottom with foil.

23. Furniture Protector

Shampooing your carpets? Protect furniture legs by covering them in foil to keep the shampoo off and save you (and your back) from playing Tetris with heavy furniture.

24. Sculptures

When struck with a bout of creativity, foil can be loads of fun for making sculptures and other crafty items.

25. Improve TV Reception

No, I'm not talking about creating foil rabbit ears (though this helps too). If your DVD player lives atop your TV, the picture might be fuzzy. Put a sheet of foil between the two to reduce interference.

26. Iron Both Sides at Once

Putting foil underneath your ironing board cover doubles the effectiveness of your iron by reflecting the heat back up and helping you to iron both sides at once.

27. Steam Delicate Garments

Don't put that iron away yet! Put a piece of foil under your garment and hold the iron a few inches above the garment while holding down the steam button. Voila — you've de-wrinkled your delicates without using direct heat.

28. Wrapping Paper

In a pinch, foil does the trick as wrapping paper, especially for those awkwardly shaped gifts. You can also cut out custom pictures and shapes and incorporate a creative sculpture or two!

29. Heat Your Home

Placing foil on the wall behind your radiator will direct heat back into the room, making it more efficient. (Here are six other ways to reduce your heating expenses and stay warm.)

30. Keep It Cold

Conversely, on a really hot day you can keep your drinks cold for longer by wrapping your cup or glass in foil.

31. Makeshift Washer

Jeff mentions how foil can be used to repair stripped threads on screws; you can also twist a small strip of foil around a bolt as a makeshift washer. Tighten the nut down and the foil works its way into uneven spots between metal surfaces.

32. Paint Brush Preserver

Painting a room or three? Instead of laboriously washing your brushes each night, just wrap them in foil and refrigerate. They'll remain soft and ready for further use for up to four days.

33. Cat Toy

Roll some foil into a small ball and teach your cats to play fetch (good luck with that, by the way). Attach the ball to a string and hang it from a door handle, and your kitty has hours of self-directed entertainment.

34. Rim Cleaner

If your car rims are full of brake dust, use foil and a little dish soap to remove the gunk and shine those puppies up.

35. Keep Batteries in Place

If the battery compartment is a little loose and the battery isn't always in proper contact with the connectors, pad out the spring side with some foil. The batteries will stay in place and keep a solid connection.

36. Photography Reflector

Fancy a photo shoot? Covering a piece of cardboard with foil gives you an excellent reflector to give your subject the perfect lighting.

What uses do you have for this shiny stuff?

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Guest's picture
Guest

Foil is also great to remove nail polish that's hard to get off (especially glitter nail polish). Put a dab of nail polish remover on a cotton ball, wrap it onto your finger with a piece of foil, and pull it off after 5 minutes. Way easier to remove than scrubbing and scrubbing!

Guest's picture
Andrea

I lined the bottom of my oven with foil once, and the foil caught fire. Just FYI. I've heard that the same thing can happen with foil-lined burners, but I haven't personally experienced that one.

Guest's picture
Justin

The first thought that came into my mind while reading the title was use foil to clean your grill. That is of course after you used the foil for cooking purposes.

Meg Favreau's picture

I used to do that too, when I had a grill. The foil worked better than the brush we had bought especially for that purpose.

Guest's picture
Richard

I figured out a new one recently: the fob for my car IS the key, but it will not allow me to leave it inside the car (it won't lock). It also has a removable, non-electronic key that will get me into one door. I removed that key and wrapped the fob completely in foil, thus blocking the signal from the fob to the car, allowing me to lock it inside my car while I went rafting.

Guest's picture
Guest

That poor cat looks really bitter. Foil as torture device?

Guest's picture

This is a great list, and I love your idea on using it to save plants! It's like a little tanning booth for your ficus! The great thing is, foil is inexpensive, will last you about a year, and clearly is pretty versatile. Thank you for the creative post, Wisebread!

Guest's picture
Nick

Oh no, please, please, PLEASE DO NOT USE ALUMINUM FOIL TO CLEAN YOUR CAR'S WHEELS! I am a professional automotive detailer who specializes in high-end automobiles (from BMW and MB to Ferrari, Bentley, etc), but I also work on "regular" cars too.
This is the worst idea I've ever heard!