Aluminum foil is more than just a handy way to wrap leftovers. The thin metal sheets are all-purpose powerhouses around the house, ready to help you with your cooking, cleaning, laundry, and even home decorating. There are plenty of unusual ways to put foil to use. You can use it as a ...
1. Dish scrubber
When the rough side of your sponge isn’t enough for set-in grease and food remains, use a balled-up piece of foil to wipe your baking dishes clean. Foil works just as well on a dirty grill.
2. Scissor sharpener
Fold a piece of aluminum foil several times. Cut a few straight lines through the foil with your dull scissors. This cleans and sharpens the blade, sort of like a razor strop.
3. Cupcake holder
Make an easy-to-carry disposable cupcake or muffin holder by lining a regular cupcake pan with a layer of foil. Make sure to push the foil all the way into the recesses of the pan, creating cupcake-shaped indents. Pop it out, and wrap the whole thing (cupcakes inside) again in foil.
4. Makeshift funnel
Twist a piece of foil into a cone shape, and stick it in whatever bottle (or flask—we're not judging) you’re transferring to. Just make sure to hold the foil in place, and don’t pour too much too fast, or your funnel will come apart.
5. Grilling tray
Keep malty or loose food from dripping and falling into your grill by turning your metal spatulas into miniature grilling trays. Fold around two feet of heavy-duty foil in half, put a griddle spatula in the middle, and fold the foil up around it to create a tray. See an example (pictured) in this grilled cheese tutorial by Alton Brown.
6. Vegetable crisper
To keep celery crisp, wrap it in aluminum foil before you put it in the fridge, so when it produces ethylene gas, it doesn’t get trapped in a plastic bag.
7. Silver polish
Silver becomes darker with age because of a chemical reaction with the sulfur in the air. Aluminum foil can help reverse the process by converting silver sulfide back into silver with the help of some baking soda and hot water. Coat the bottom of a pan with aluminum foil, and put whatever silver you’re looking to polish on top. Pour a mixture of boiling water and baking soda (one cup of baking soda for every gallon of water) into the pan, covering the silver, and wait until the tarnish disappears. If your silver is too big for a pan, use a bucket.
8. Dryer sheet
Throw a crumpled up foil ball or two into the dryer with your laundry instead of dryer sheets. While the trick doesn’t make your clothes quite as soft as a commercial softener, the foil will keep garments static-free.
9. Gift wrap
The best gifts come in shiny packages, and there is very little difference between silver wrapping paper and the aluminum foil you have lying around your kitchen.
10. Photography background
Crinkle up a large sheet of aluminum foil and tape it to the wall as a mod set piece for your photography.
11. Light reflector
Perk up the shadowy areas of your photos with a reflector made out of foil. Just tape foil to a large display board (like the kind you'd use for the science fair) and angle it to get the lighting conditions you want. Note that the two sides of aluminum foil aren’t the same—one is shinier. Make sure to keep the same side facing up throughout the board.
12. Hair curler
Wrap a piece of hair around two fingers and cover the resulting loop in foil. Clamp the packet of foil in a straight iron for a few seconds to heat up the hair, then let it cool. Instant waves.
13. Home decor
Use recycled aluminum foil to decorate your house. The project above turns foil from the tops of cans into handmade flowers using scissors, pliers, and a glue gun.
14. Millennium Falcon
Who says aluminum foil can't be a toy? Check out this Instructable for turning a basic coloring-book image of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon into a piece of foil-relief art. Essentially, you glue an image of the space ship onto a piece of cardboard and trace its lines with tacky glue. Wrap the whole thing in foil and rub the foil into the space around the glue to create a shiny Millennium Falcon that pops.
15. Anti-bug mulch
Reflective mulch can help keep invading insects away from your vegetable garden. Cover pieces of cardboard with aluminum foil. Cut 4-inch diameter holes and plant seeds inside, or simply lay the aluminum foil between planter beds and bury their edges in soil. One study associated aluminum foil mulch with a 96 percent reduction in aphids over a growing season.