14 So-Helpful Aluminum Foil Hacks from a Midwestern Mom

Moms just seem to know the secrets to make life easier. Here are all the ways one Midwestern mom uses a kitchen staple: aluminum foil.

Moms know everything. Whether it’s simple fixes for when you’re in a pinch or secret hacks to make things better, they just know.

Growing up in Minnesota, aluminum foil (not tin foil!) was a constant fixture in my childhood home that my mother built. My mom is a problem solver: From leaky dishwashers to painting ceilings, she never lets an obstacle remain in her path, and with quick creative thinking, she always has a solution. 

Two sheets of aluminum foil on blue overlay

Blaine Moats | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

Which is why the aluminum is always fully stocked in her house.

Like duct tape, WD40, and vinegar, aluminum foil can be used in so many ways beyond covering a casserole (which I firmly believe should be called hotdish). Aluminum foil has a wide range of uses, from brightening silver to replacing dryer sheets. Here are 14 ways I’ve learned to use aluminum foil to make life and household chores easier from my Midwestern mother. 

1. Brighten Your Silver Jewelry 

This scientifically proven hack is known to brighten your dull or tarnished silver jewelry. All you need is aluminum foil, salt, baking soda, hot water, and a dish of some kind. Start by wrapping a bowl or plate in the foil. (Make sure the entire surface is covered.) Add enough hot water that the jewelry will be completely submerged when you add it. Mix equal parts of salt and baking soda into the water, starting with a tablespoon of each. Add the jewelry and let it soak for at least five minutes (you can definitely go longer—sometimes overnight!). After enough time has passed, take the jewelry out of the mixture, rinse, and wipe off. If the results aren’t to your liking, repeat the process with more salt and baking soda. 

This works because aluminum is more reactive than silver, and when combined with salt and baking soda, it pulls tarnish (sulfur) off of the silver. You’ll probably smell a sulfury scent while you’re trying this trick, but by the end, your jewelry will sparkle and shine like new. 

As you’re picking your dish, know that plates work best for necklaces, and bowls work well for rings and earrings.

2. Shine Your Silverware 

A quick way to make your silverware shine is to add some aluminum foil to your wash cycle. Crumple up one or two balls of aluminum foil and place them in the dishwasher in the silverware caddy. Wash as normal. If you’re washing your silverware by hand, let your forks, spoons, and knives soak in the sink with some foil and baking soda.

3. Clean Your Grill 

Grilling is arguably one of the tastiest ways to cook food, but grill grates can collect a ton of charred grease and food. It’s always best to clean your grill after using it, but if you forgot to clean the grates after the last time you cooked, no worries! This method works before and after whipping up a yummy meal.

If you forgot to scrape down the grates after flipping burgers last week (no one’s perfect), turn on your grill and shut the lid. This will loosen the cooked-on debris. Crumple up a wad of aluminum foil and use it the same way you would a grill brush. If you’re worried about burning your hands, hold the ball of foil with a pair of tongs. After a little elbow grease, your grill will be ready for whatever you’ll cook up next.

If you’re cleaning post-cooking and you’ve just pulled something off the grates, turn off your grill and shut the lid. Allow your grill to cool down a little, so you’re not blasted with 500-degree heat. While the meat rests, ball up the foil and get to scraping. This will give you a clean cooking space the next time you lift the lid. 

4. Replace Steel Wool 

One of the perks of stainless steel items is that you can really scrub them. With aluminum foil, you can tackle burn marks on the bottom of a pan, brighten tire rims, or polish metal items—no steel wool required. Start by crumpling up a ball of foil. Use your preferred soap or vinegar and water (no rinsing!) with a little elbow grease to remove stains or grime.

Double-check that whatever you’re scrubbing is stainless steel or chrome. Other materials will become damaged if scrubbed too harshly. For instance, your car rims might look like they’re chrome, but they could just be plated, and you’ll find a streaky, damaged mess if you try scrubbing them with aluminum foil.

5. Add Iron-On Patches Without a Problem

When ironing a patch over a hole on a piece of clothing, it’s easy to accidentally iron the patch onto the opposite side of the article of clothing. To avoid this, cut a piece of aluminum foil and place it inside the garment. Make sure that the inside of the hole is completely covered in aluminum foil. Now, when you iron on the patch, it will attach only to the intended spot. Once the garment has cooled, remove the aluminum foil from the inside: The aluminum foil will peel right off the backside of the patch. 

6. Line Your Paint Tray 

If you’re undertaking large painting projects, costs can add up, especially if you're going through tons of materials. Reuse your painting trays or skip using a tray liner by using aluminum foil to cover the metal or plastic tray instead. Cover the tray in aluminum foil, then pour the paint into the tray and use your brush or roller as normal. When wrapping the tray in foil, make sure there’s extra on the sides. When you’re finished painting, peel up the additional foil and create a makeshift funnel. This will allow you to save unused paint by pouring it back into the container. Dispose of the paint-covered foil, leaving a mess-free tray or liner. 

7. Keep Deer and Birds out of Your Fruit Trees

Growing fruit can be a labor of love. It can take years before a sapling is ready to be harvested, and the last things any gardener wants to see are nibbled leaves or pecked fruit. After waiting and working hard, it can be heartbreaking. Repel these garden pests by hanging strips of aluminum foil from the branches. Cut two- to three-inch-wide strips. Vary the length of the strips depending on your tree and how much foliage it has. Wrap one end of foil around the branch and let the other end hang. The metallic finish will reflect light and make noises in the wind, thus deterring garden pests.

8. Easily Clean Up Grease

After cooking ground beef or searing bacon, there is a ton of grease. It can be tricky to dispose of cooking fats, but you can make clean-up a breeze by using aluminum foil. Wrap the inside of a bowl with the oil. Make sure the bowl is completely covered, and the foil is free of any tears or empty spots. Pour the liquid oil fats into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Once the fat solidifies, fold the top of the aluminum foil over the solidified fat and throw it away. Wash the bowl and pan as you normally would. 

Grease can become rancid: Take out your garbage before anything gets too smelly.

9. Replace Your Dryer Sheets

Freshly cleaned laundry is a small luxury, but static can ruin it. If you’re out of dryer sheets or looking for a more affordable option, this hack will change your life. Prevent clinging fabric by balling up some aluminum foil and tossing it into the dryer. While this may seem odd, the foil serves as a conductor for the electrons, catching all the unwanted static building up in your dryer. The downside: There’s no added fresh scent for your laundry, but aluminum is still a good dryer sheet alternative.

10. Keep Celery Firm in the Fridge

Celery can be a fickle guest in the refrigerator. It can be so frustrating to have celery that’s perfectly fine but turned to rubber—no one enjoys limp celery. To prevent this, toss the plastic sleeve your celery comes in and swap it for aluminum foil. The plastic actually traps in ethylene gas, the ripening agent most fruits and veggies produce. The key is to wrap—not seal—your celery in aluminum foil. This helps keep moisture locked in (i.e. no soggy stalks), but lets the ethylene escape, making your celery last longer. 

11. Protect Your Pie 

The edges of a pie always darken faster than the middle. To keep your pie a tasty golden brown, cut out a circle of aluminum foil the same size as the pie tin. Cut out the center of the circle to make a foil ring. Place the ring around the edges of the pie. For best results, remove the foil during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking. 

12. Improve Your Scissors 

After continuous wear and tear, kitchen scissors can start to dull, making the simplest cuts way more difficult than they need to be. Depending on the severity of the dullness of your scissors, this hack might not work for you, but aluminum foil works to improve the cutting performance of slightly dull scissors.

To use aluminum foil to help scissors work better, fold aluminum foil over itself several times, so it’s several layers thick. Use the scissors to cut the folded foil into strips, doing your best to use the full length of the scissor blades for each cut. This will remove any tarnish from the scissors and improve how they cut, but if your pair is extremely worn down, you might want to consider getting a sharpener or a new set of scissors. 

13. Add to Your Ironing Board

Ironing clothes is a tedious task. Speed up the process by placing aluminum foil over your ironing board. This serves as a conductor of heat. Make sure the shiny side of the foil is facing you (compared to the duller metallic side). When you glide your iron over the article of clothing, it’ll receive heat from both sides. This will speed up the wrinkle-removal process. Pay attention and don'’t leave the iron sitting on the fabric too long—you don't want to scorch your shirts.

14. Prevent Leaking During Water Baths

So many creamy, delicious desserts (think cheesecake, crème brûlée, and flan) require a water bath to ensure proper cooking. While this technique provides much-needed moisture to avoid cracking, it can be risky. If water enters the baking pan, you’ll end up with a soggy mess. To prevent this, double-layer aluminum foil around springform pans and baking dishes to add protection during a water bath. You’ll end up with a perfectly cooked (and dry) dessert when the oven timer goes off.

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