Aluminum foil is a Penny Hoarder’s BFF when it comes to preserving leftovers. But if you’re just using that handy foil to wrap up day-old food, you’re totally missing out on so many other uses for this extraordinary kitchen standby.
The Many Uses of Aluminum Foil
You might be dating yourself if you are still calling the shiny workhorse “tin foil” though it’s not uncommon to hear that phrase used. Foil was made of tin until after World War II when the stronger and cheaper aluminum became widely used. Now you know. Read on for 10 clever money-saving ideas.
1. Sharpen Scissors
Don’t toss a pair of dull scissors or pay someone else to sharpen them. Sharpen scissors with aluminum foil, says Rachel Timmerman, a Virginia blogger with The Analytical Mommy. Fold a piece of 10-by-10-inch aluminum foil three times. Then, cut the foil about 20 times with the scissors to make them as sharp as the day you bought them.
2. Substitute for Dryer Sheets
Crumble a ball of foil and toss it into your dryer, says Gladys Connelly, technical writer for The HouseWire, a product review site. This works exactly the same as a dryer sheet would, Connelly says. “It eliminates static and fluffs up your clothing,” she says. Spray lavender oil or your favorite scent into the middle of the aluminum sheet before you crumple it to make the foil smell just as good as a dryer sheet, Connelly recommends.
3. Lower Your Heating Bill
If you have cast-iron radiators, you can DIY a heat reflector out of aluminum foil. Tape some heavy-duty aluminum foil to a piece of cardboard with the shiny side up. That’s literally it. Place the heat reflector behind your radiator or under the radiator’s top. The heat waves will naturally bounce from the foil into the room instead of going into the wall behind the radiator.
4. Cover Your Paint Tray
Don’t toss your plastic paint tray after each use. Keep the tray clean by wrapping it in aluminum foil. When you’re done, just pull off the foil and your paint tray will look as good as new, Connelly says.
5. Remove Gel Nail Polish
You can’t use acetone and a cotton pad to remove gel nail polish. Instead, you’re supposed to soak your nails in acetone. But it would be wasteful to use a bowl of acetone just to remove the polish. So Malaika Desrameaux, a Miami content creator with Self Care Sunday Love, figured out an aluminum foil method. 1. File the tops of your gel nails to get rid of the glossy layer. 2. Soak a cotton ball with acetone and put the cotton ball over your nail. 3. Wrap your nail (with the cotton on top) with a 3-by-5-inch piece of aluminum foil. 4. Repeat on all fingers, and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. 5. Remove cotton and aluminum foil, and peel off the gel nail polish.
6. Polish Silver
No need for a special polish or even any elbow grease to make Nanny’s heirloom silverware gleam again. Place a sheet of aluminum foil into a pan, add cold water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put silver into the pan, and leave it for two minutes. Rinse off with water and let it dry. The aluminum causes a molecular reaction, cleaning the silver for you.
7. Clean Jewelry
Similar to the process for polishing silver, you can use aluminum foil to clean jewelry by creating an ion exchange (a molecular reaction with the aluminum). Place aluminum foil in a bowl, and fill the bowl with hot water and 1 tablespoon of bleach-free powdered laundry detergent. Soak jewelry in the solution for one minute, rinse with water and air dry.
8. Battery Replacement
You’re desperate for a battery to fire up the flashlight. Try aluminum foil, says Melanie Musson, a home safety expert with US Insurance Agents. “If your flashlight requires two C batteries but you only have one, you can fill the empty space with compacted foil,” Musson says. It may not be at full strength, but you’ll have a little light to get you by.
9. Garden Buddy
Aluminum foil will miraculously improve your green thumb. Birds are afraid of the shiny foil because of the noise it makes. So tie foil strips around the branches of your fruit trees, you’ll keep the birds from nibbling at the bounty. Same goes for mice and rabbits. These creatures don’t like the feel of the aluminum foil, so placing bits of it on your shrubs serves as a natural deterrent. Bugs bugging you and eating your plants? Nestle foil with soil or stones at the base of plants. Or mix some strips of aluminum foil in with your mulch. In both cases, the foil will keep the moisture in your soil and prevent the weeds from growing while keeping the pests at bay.
10. Custom Cake Pan
Don’t run to the store every time your child wants a cake that looks like something other than a rectangle. Need a dog-shaped pan? A heart pan? Make the shape out of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and place your DIY foil creation into a baking pan big enough to accommodate the shape.
11. Grill Cleaner
Don’t bother purchasing pricey grill scrubbers when a rolled up ball of aluminum foil works perfectly well, Connelly says. The foil ball should be large enough – about 3 inches around – to hold comfortably with tongs (remember that the grill is hot). Grab the foil ball with the tongs and swipe back and forth across the grate before it has cooled. Food bits will be easier to remove when the grate is warm. If you already have stubborn burnt food on the grill, then put a piece of aluminum foil on the grate, and close the grill. Turn on the heat and let it run for a few minutes. Then, remove the foil, turn off the heat and try the original cleaning method. It should be easier now because the foil sheet trapped the heat to help loosen any stubborn debris.
Aluminum foil is a natural heat reflector. So if you place a piece of it under the cover of your ironing board, the aluminum foil will speed up your ironing time.
Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.