13 Surprising Uses for Aluminum Foil Beyond Food Storage
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.
13 Uses for Aluminum Foil
You might be dating yourself if you are still calling the kitchen workhorse “tin foil” though it’s not uncommon to hear that phrase. Foil was made of tin until just after World War II when the stronger and cheaper aluminum became widely used.
Read on for 13 clever and money-saving uses for aluminum foil.
- Scissor sharpener
- Dryer sheet substitute
- Lower your heating bill
- Paint tray cover
- Gel nail polish remover
- Polishing silver
- Clean jewelry
- Battery replacement
- Garden buddy
- Custom cake pan
- Grill cleaner
- Shining silverware in the dishwasher
1. Scissor Sharpener
Don’t toss dull scissors! 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 sharp.
2. Dryer Sheet Substitute
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 dryer sheets do. “It eliminates static and fluffs up your clothing,” Connelly 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. Paint Tray Cover
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 cover will look as good as new, Connelly says.
You can even wrap wet paint brushes in foil in between coats to avoid washing out your brush.
5. Gel Nail Polish Remover
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. Here’s how:
- File the tops of your gel nails to get rid of the glossy layer.
- Soak a cotton ball with acetone and put the cotton ball over your nail.
- Wrap your nail (with the cotton on top) with a 3-by-5-inch piece of aluminum foil.
- Repeat on all fingers, and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove cotton and aluminum foil, and peel off the gel nail polish.
6. Polishing Silver
No need for a special polish or even any elbow grease to polish Nanny’s heirloom silverware. 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 a few 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 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 grates 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.
13. Shining Silverware in the Dishwasher
Did you know that you can put aluminum foil in the dishwasher? Even if you can, why would you? Shiny silverware, that’s why. Carolina Mccauley, who shares home hacks with 2.7 million followers on TikTok, recommends putting a ball of foil in the silverware basket if you have tarnished silverware.
Like it does with silver and jewelry, adding the foil causes an ion exchange with the detergent that removes tarnish.
@carolina.mccauley This dishwasher hack will blow your mind ?? #cleansmarternotharder #cleaningtips #homehackswithcarolina #homehacks #cleaninghacks ♬ original sound – Carolina Mccauley – Home Hacks
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Aluminum Foil
Yes, you can absolutely use aluminum foil in an air fryer. In fact, you may want to just to make cleaning up a breeze. You can wrap food in aluminum foil or line the basket like you would a baking sheet. You do want to make sure the foil is weighed down to keep it from flying into the coil though.
There is little evidence that aluminum foil is harmful to our health even though a bit of the material can leach into food. Aluminum is in other items we use in the kitchen including utensils and baking powder, plus some over-the-counter medications. It is considered safe by the Food & Drug Administration. Fun fact: Some foods have aluminum in them naturally, like citrus.
It actually doesn’t matter. The shiny and matte sides are determined by the machinery that makes aluminum foil. It does matter, however, if you are using non-stick foil. Thankfully, there’s a message embossed on the foil to tell the user which side is non-stick. If not, it’s the dull side.
According to Healthline, foil is made of paper-thin sheets of aluminum metal. Heavy machinery rolls and presses thicker sheets of aluminum until they are 0.2 mm thick. A sheet of paper is about twice as thick as that.
Aluminum foil has many uses and the most prized is in the kitchen for both storage and cooking. It’s non-porous surface helps keep food moist. It is often used to line baking sheets and other pans to make clean up easier. It has other uses around the house including as scissor sharpener and jewelry cleaner. Bits of foil tied to a wire or rope may keep birds from nibbling on fruit growing in your backyard.
Foil is perfectly safe in the oven when it is used as a baking pan or sheet liner or if it’s covering food to slow browning and lock in moisture. We are thinking specifically about lasagna whose cheesy top can burn if it’s left uncovered for the entire cooking time. It’s not a good idea to use foil to line the bottom of your oven to keep it clean because it can stick and cause an even bigger mess. Also, don't cover racks with foil or you will impede cooking by blocking heat.
Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.