We’ve already seen that something as simple as a tennis ball can be put to lots of uses other than just playing a friendly game, but not everyone has a ton of tennis balls just lying around. What about common household items? Aluminum foil is found in nearly every kitchen, and it’s surprisingly useful - but not only for its traditional purpose. From the cookbooks of grandmothers and the journals of contemporary internet homemakers, here are 30 new uses for that most unassuming of all shiny flexible metals: aluminum foil.
1. Frosting a cake but you’ve run out of pastry bags? Just grab a double thickness of aluminum foil and roll it into a cone shape, leaving a small opening at the point. Fill with frosting of spreading consistency. Twist the top to close the cone and use the device to make pretty frosting designs on your cake. Admittedly, this whole process is easier with a plastic zip-close bag with a corner snipped off, but when aluminum foil is all you’ve got it can be a lifesaver!
2. Sharpen your scissors. In between professional sharpenings (or for those 99 cent pairs of scissors that you don’t want to pay to have sharpened), use aluminum foil to keep your scissors in top form. Cutting through 6-8 layers of aluminum foil will improve the cutting surface of most scissors.
4. Shine up rusty chrome. With a bit of water on a wadded-up piece of aluminum foil, you can rub most rust spots off of chrome car parts.
5. Keep your oven clean. Tired of scraping burned-on food out of the bottom of your oven? Line it with aluminum foil before making something particularly messy. Don’t leave it in there permanently, however, because it can lead to oven damage over time.
6. Protect the heating element in your electric oven. For those times when you have to scrub burned-on crud out of your oven, cover the heating element with long strips of aluminum foil before spraying the inside of the oven with oven cleaner.
7. Make your soap last longer. Put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of your bar of soap to keep it from sitting in a puddle of water and wearing away quickly.
8. Make interesting cakes. Novelty cake pans in odd shapes are expensive. Get the same effect by using a regular cake pan but making a shaped liner for the inside. Make sure the liner is at least as tall as the edges of the pan and several thicknesses so it will hold its shape. This makes it easy to make that snowman or heart-shaped cake without spending a lot of money on a new pan.
9. Make a sun box for seedlings. If your plants are growing crooked or looking less than healthy, cut off the top and one side of a cardboard box, then line the bottom and remaining sides with aluminum foil. Place your plant inside and put the entire operation in the window with the open side facing the window. The sun will reflect off of the foil and cause your plant to grow up straight.
10. Make a portrait reflector. Forget those super-expensive professional photography reflectors. Just cover a sturdy piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and you’ll have an excellent light reflector for portraits and still lifes.
11. Keep birds out of your fruit trees. Hang twisted strips of aluminum foil all over your fruit trees using fishing line. The light reflections and the sound will keep birds away from your fruit.
12. Protect saplings. Rodents and other animals sometimes chew on young trees in the winter. Protect your saplings by covering their bases with aluminum foil. Remember to change the covering periodically as the tree grows.
13. Re-soften hard brown sugar. Many people put hard brown sugar in the microwave to soften it up, but this can actually backfire and make the sugar harden even more. Instead, wrap the block of hardened sugar in some aluminum foil and bake in a 300° (Fahrenheit) oven for 5 minutes.
14. Keep the bottom of your fireplace or charcoal grill from becoming encrusted with soot. Line the bottom of your fireplace or grill with aluminum foil before starting a fire, then dispose of the foil after the fire is out and the coals are completely cooled.
15. Protect your furniture. Pets can’t stand the feeling or the sound of crinkling aluminum foil. If you want them to stay off of your furniture, cover the seats with clean aluminum foil whenever you’re not using the furniture. Your pets will learn within a couple of days to avoid sitting up there. You can also prevent them from scratching or biting furniture legs by covering them in aluminum foil.
16. Avoid moving the heavy furniture. When you want to quickly shampoo your carpets but don’t want to lug all of the furniture out of the room, simply cover the legs with aluminum foil to avoid getting shampoo on them.
17. Although we haven’t tested this tip (and it seems a bit dubious), it’s said that you can put a wadded-up ball of aluminum foil in your dryer with a load of clothes to reduce static cling.
20. If your TV and DVD player are stacked one on top of the other, you may find the picture is a bit fuzzy. This often happens when the electromagnetic fields from both devices interfere with each other. Place a sheet of aluminum foil between them to cut down on the interference.
21. When ironing, put a piece of aluminum foil under the ironing board cover. The foil will reflect the heat from the iron so you can essentially iron both sides at once.
22. Steam your silk or wool garments by placing a piece of aluminum foil on top of the ironing board and under the garment. Pass the iron over the garment from a few inches above the fabric while holding down the steam button. The steam will remove wrinkles without harming the cloth with direct heat.
23. Use it as wrapping paper in a pinch. You can glue or tape interesting cut-out pictures onto the aluminum foil to make it even more personal.
25. Reflect heat into your house. Put a layer of aluminum foil behind your radiator when it is off and completely cool. When the radiator is turned on, more of the heat will be directed into the living area and less will be absorbed into the wall behind the radiator.
26. Keep pie crusts from burning. This may be one of the oldest aluminum foil tricks in the book, but it’s a good one. When baking a pie, cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil at the very end of the baking time to keep it from browning too much.
28. Make a solar cooker. You’ll cut down on energy costs and experience a traditional way of cooking.
29. Use strips of aluminum foil to wrap your hair, then coil them up to make impromptu curlers.
30. Cover doorknobs and hinges with aluminum foil to avoid having to take them off while painting.
Bonus Tip: In many locations, aluminum foil can be recycled along with all of the other household recycling. When you’ve used it for cooking and all of the other interesting projects listed here, just throw it into the bin along with all of your other recyclable materials to keep it out of the waste stream.