7 surprising uses for aluminum foil

aluminum foil on wooden surface
aluminum foil on wooden surface (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aluminum foil is one of those kitchen items most people have laying around. It’s great for lining trays and covering food, plus it’s recyclable which is an added bonus. But when it comes to using it outside of the usual ways, it often gets overlooked.

As a very thin metal sheet, aluminum foil has a unique set of properties that mean it’s foldable, scrunchable and can be molded into virtually any shape. Yet, it's easy to cut and tear whilst also being rigid enough to hold its shape. It’s an inexpensive material with potentially hundreds of uses, but still, we shove it in a kitchen drawer and only get it out when we want to stop something browning too much in the oven.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of seven uses you may not have thought of. But in actual fact, there are many ways to use aluminum foil if you start thinking outside of the general day-to-day kitchen uses. You’ll be using it all around the house before you know it, here’s how…

Be sure to also check out 7 things you never knew you could do with Coca-Cola and 7 surprising ways you can reuse old coffee grounds.

1. Sharpen scissors 

A hand holding up a pair of scissors on a blue background

A hand holding up a pair of scissors on a blue background (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Over time, just like your kitchen knives, scissor blades dull and and don’t cut quite so well. Some scissor manufacturers offer a sharpening service, or you can buy a scissor sharpening tool. But if you don’t have these and need to extend the life of your scissors, try this trick.

Take a large sheet of foil and fold it into a piece that’s six layers thick, but still longer than the blade of your scissors. Then cut into the six layer foil using the full blade of the scissors. You’ll need to cut into the foil around 10 times, so make sure you account for this when folding the foil. You can test the sharpness of the scissors and do it a few more times if needed.

Okay, strictly speaking, the scissors don’t get sharpened by the aluminum foil. But, when you cut into the foil, the blades are honed and cleaned. And afterwards they perform better and feel sharper, it’s a temporary but effective fix.

You can’t use aluminum foil for knives, if you need to sharpen your knives, read these simple steps

2. Use to scrub stubborn dirt 

Burnt pot

Burnt pot (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you don’t have any scrub pads or steel scourers, you can create an effective scrubbing tool using aluminum foil. But, even if you do have a scrubber, this is a great option for super dirty jobs that would ruin your dish washing scrubber and destine it to the trash.

All you need to do is simply scrunch a sheet of foil into a ball and get scrubbing. Use it for tasks like removing the grime from your greasy barbecue grill. It can also work on the racks in your oven. You can use this method to remove caked or burnt-on food from stainless steel pots or cast iron skillets, but it’s too harsh for non-stick coatings, so avoid using it on these.

However, it can feel quite wasteful to scrunch up brand new foil to use for cleaning. So, why not keep a stash of lightly used foil, like foil that was used to wrap some food or cover a pie, but is only lightly soiled. Give it a quick wipe and store it in your cleaning cupboard for when you need to make an emergency scrubber.

3. Improvise an unusual shape cake pan 

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Birthday cake (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you’ve ever made a fun shaped cake for a child's birthday, you’ll know baking a huge rectangular cake to cut into the desired cartoon character, number, or sports emblem, can be incredibly wasteful. Likewise, buying a cake pan in a specific shape, that you’re unlikely to ever use again, is also a waste.

But did you know you can use foil to create the shape you need within a larger cake tin, on a tray, or in a flat roasting tin. It’s a great way to bake a cake in whatever shape you like, without investing in a new cake pan, or cutting out a larger cake and wasting loads.

To do this, double up some heavy duty aluminum foil and fold into a long rectangle that’s about the depth of a cake pan - the length you need will depend on the size and shape of the cake. Then fashion it into the shape you want the cake to be - you can use a stapler to join the two ends together if needed.

This will act as the sides of your cake pan, you can sit it on a flat tray to make it easy to move in and out of the oven. But you’ll also need to line it with a further piece of foil to make a bottom and stop the cake batter pouring out underneath before it’s cooked.

Top tip: If you need rigid, straight sides, like when creating a star shape, you can wrap the foil around some Graham crackers to help create a stable shape.  

4. Polish silver 

Polishing silverware

Polishing silverware (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The easy way to remove the tarnish from silver is to line a dish with aluminum foil - shiny side up. Add enough boiling water to cover your silver jewelry. Then for every 1 cup of water, add 1 tbsp baking soda. Leave to soak for around 30 minutes and then buff away the dirt and tarnish with a clean, lint free cloth.

Note: avoid using this method on silver jewelry that contains stones or pearls as it could damage them

5. Make a funnel 

aluminum foil on wooden surface

aluminum foil on wooden surface (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Even if you own funnels, it’s common to find yourself needing a bigger or smaller funnel for a specific task. But you can make an improvised funnel by rolling a couple of layers of aluminum foil into a cone shape that's the exact size you need.

Furthermore, this is a great option if you’re using the funnel for a particularly greasy or messy product, since you can just toss the foil funnel in the trash once you’re done.

6. Use it when decorating 

Tins of paint

Tins of paint (Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are a few helpful ways to use aluminum foil when you’re decorating your home. If you’re tackling the painting yourself, don’t fork out for expensive disposable plastic liners for your roller tray, line it with foil instead.

You can also wrap wet paint brushes in foil if you’re stopping for a coffee break. And some people like to wrap some foil around the top of a paint can when tipping the paint out. This helps keep the can clean and you can fashion a little lip to catch any drips. 

Lastly, foil can be used to protect areas you don’t want to get paint on. The beauty in using foil around things like door knobs is that it can be molded to cover and protect these awkwardly shaped parts.

7. Scare away birds 

A goldfinch on a branch

A goldfinch on a branch (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Some people find that strips of aluminum foil hung on a tree or next to a veggie patch can help to scare away birds. The effectiveness will depend on how bold the birds are in your garden, and how badly they want to munch on your crops or fruit trees. 

But if you’re having problems with birds eating all your home-grown goodies, this harmless method of scaring them away is worth a shot.

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Helen McCue

Helen started reviewing home and kitchen appliances in 2007 at the Good Housekeeping Institute and has never looked back. She’s now freelance and reviews all sorts of appliances from her home in a pretty village in the UK. Despite having reviewed hundreds of coffee machines in her time, she’s only recently developed a love for coffee and a daily coffee habit, which makes tasting all those coffees much more enjoyable!