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15 Amazing Things Aluminum Foil Can Do

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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 

Image Credit: Screenshot via YouTube

Keep melty 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 like in the video above. 

8. Dryer sheet

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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

How to Photograph Products With Great Background Using One Light. Part One from Andrey Mikhaylov on Vimeo.

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 

Image Credit: via Instructables.com

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 [PDF] associated aluminum foil mulch with a 96 percent reduction in aphids over a growing season. 

BONUS: Anti-alien helmet 

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Never forget the most tried-and-true uses for foil: to keep aliens out of your head. Instructions: Wrap foil into a skullcap. Place on head. Wear until the threat of alien invasion passes. (Or you could just accept the inevitable: These caps probably wouldn't actually stop aliens.)

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How to Rescue a Wet Book
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Water and books don't usually go together. If you're one of the many sorting through waterlogged possessions right now—or if you're just the type to drop a book in the bath—the preservation experts at Syracuse University Libraries have a video for you, as spotted by The Kid Should See This. Their handy (if labor-intensive) technique to rescue a damp book features paper towels, a fan, some boards, and a bit of time. Plus, they offer a quick trick if you don't have the chance to repair the book right away.

The Kid Should See This also notes that literary magazine Empty Mirror has further tips on salvaging books and papers damaged by water, including how to clean them if the water was dirty (rinse the book in a bucket of cold water, or lay flat and spray with water) and what to do if there's a musty smell at the end of the drying process (place the propped-open book in a box with some baking soda, but make sure the soda doesn't touch the book).

Of course, prevention is the best policy—so store your tomes high up on bookcases, and be careful when reading in the bath or in the rain. (That, or you could buy a waterproof book.)

[h/t: The Kid Should See This]

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15 Common Stains and Easy Ways to Get Them Out
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There's a stain solution to nearly anything you've spilled, smeared, squirted, or slopped.

1. GRASS

Four people sitting on a bench with the photo cropped from the waist down. All of their denim-clad knees are covered in grass stains.
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Everyone loves a lush, green lawn—except when it’s smeared on your clothes. The next time you’ve got a Kentucky Bluegrass mess, just apply some pre-wash stain remover and let it sit for 15 minutes. You can also go the natural route and mix up a solution consisting of one part vinegar to two parts water. Then, use a old toothbrush or other small brush to work it in. Finally, launder as usual.

2. BLOOD

When it comes to bloodstains, look to the experts: ER nurses. According to them, the first step is to rinse the spot with cold water ASAP and blot it until you’ve gotten as much blood up as possible. Then, dab a bit of hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain and watch it magically rinse away.

If the problem is upholstery or carpet, you’ll also want to use the cold-water-and-blotting method, but this time, add a tablespoon of dish detergent to two cups of cold water. Carpet cleaner intended for pet stains may also work well.

3. KETCHUP

A blob of spilled ketchup on a white background.
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The next time you find yourself with this condiment running down your shirt, don’t despair. First, flush the spot with water, starting with the back side of your shirt. Pretreat the spot with a liquid laundry detergent and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse well. Repeat this step until you’ve removed as much of the condiment as possible, then treat with a pre-wash stain remover and launder as usual.

4. TOOTHPASTE

Dribbling Crest on your shirt before heading out the door to work is certainly annoying, but it’s definitely not the end of your apparel as long as you act quickly. Remove the excess goop first, then get a cloth wet with warm water and blot the area. Next, add a few drops of laundry detergent to the warm water and continue blotting. Blot with clean, warm water to rinse and allow the spot to air dry.

5. RED WINE

A glass of red wine tipped on its side. Some liquid remains in the glass, while the rest has been spilled out onto a white napkin and tablecloth.
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This solution almost feels like a science experiment: Find the affected area and stretch the fabric over the opening of a bowl, securing it in place with a rubber band. Generously sprinkle salt on top of the fabric, then pour hot water through the fabric into the bowl and watch the stain disappear. Finally, toss it in the washer as normal.

6. GREASE

Got a grease stain? There’s a good chance that the antidote is sitting next to your kitchen sink. Any petroleum-based dish detergent, like Dawn or Sunlight, is designed to cut grease. While you probably use it to get your pots and pans sparkling, it has a similar effect on clothes. Just saturate the grease spot with the soap, let it soak in for a few minutes, then toss in the washer.

7. COFFEE

A yellow coffee cup tipped sideways, sitting on top of a blue dress shirt. The coffee has spilled all over the blue shirt.

If it’s a really fresh stain, you might be in luck (and also scalded). Running the stain under cold water from the back of the stain just might do the trick. If that doesn’t work, rub liquid laundry detergent on it and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes. For old stains, soak the garment in cold water after you treat with detergent, then rub the fabric every 5 minutes to loosen up the stain. If it’s still stubbornly hanging on after about 30 minutes, soak it in warm water for another 5-15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, try a gel stain remover, which does a good job at getting into the fibers of the fabric.

8. DEODORANT

Even if you’re extremely careful, putting on your shirt after you’ve already put deodorant on can be a tricky affair. But you don’t have to find a new shirt after those telltale white stripes show up on your shirt. Rub the smudges with pantyhose, knee highs, foam rubber from a padded hanger, or a dryer sheet. If you don’t have any of those things available, you can even rub the fabric of your shirt against the stain to loosen the residue.

9. MAKEUP

Various circular and square pans containing liquid and powder makeup, with brushes dipping into some of them.

If it’s concealer, eyeliner, blush, eyeshadow, or mascara, just use a little prewash stain treatment and wash as usual. Lipstick or lip balm may be a little more stubborn. If stain stick followed by laundering doesn’t work, try sponging the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent and washing again.

10. SPIT-UP

When the baby douses your shoulder with the remains of her lunch, you’re better off if she's breast-fed. Simply wash your clothes in normal detergent, then hang to dry in the sun. The sun’s bleaching properties should do the trick if the detergent didn’t.

Because of formula’s chemical makeup, formula stains are another matter entirely. After scrubbing at the stain with a stiff brush to remove as much of it as possible, sprinkle the entire stain generously with baking soda. Then pour club soda over the stain and let it soak until the mixture stops fizzing. Then, launder as usual, air dry, and cross your fingers.

11. MUD

The ankles of a pair of mud-splattered blue jeans hanging in front of a washing machine.

First, resist the urge to work on the stain while the mud is still wet. Most of the time, it pays to work on a stain while it’s fresh, but wiping at mud is only going to smear it around and make the stain bigger. Once it’s dry, shake off the dirt or vacuum it up. Then rub liquid detergent into the stain and let it soak for about 15 minutes. Rub the stained area with your fingers every few minutes to loosen the dirt. If the stain remains after 15 minutes, apply some stain stick, gel, or spray, and let it sit for five minutes. Wash with detergent as usual.

12. PAINT

Remove as much of the paint as possible with a paper towel, or, if the paint is dry, scrape it off with a dull knife or spoon. If the paint is water-based, all you have to do is rinse the stain in warm water until the color has run out, then wash as usual. If it’s oil-based, you’ll need to treat the mark with turpentine first, then rinse and launder.

13. INK

A pen in the pocket of a white dress shirt, with a blue ink stain starting to form in the bottom of the pocket.

The ink removal method will depend on what type of fabric you’ve marked with ink, but in many cases, rubbing alcohol or a solution of vinegar and dishwashing detergent will take care of it. Better Homes and Gardens has a quite comprehensive list of fabrics, from cotton to velvet, including detailed instructions for each. Your ink stain doesn’t stand a chance.

14. MARKER

Just because it’s permanent marker doesn’t mean you’ve got a permanent problem. Get the stain damp first, then spritz it with a non-oily hairspray. Blot at the marker stain with a paper towel until you see the color transfer from the fabric to the paper towel. You can also try the same method with rubbing alcohol, putting paper towels underneath the stain to absorb the color.

If you’re up for a bit of an experiment, soak the affected area in a bowl of milk and watch the marker ink change the milk colors. Repeat with a fresh bowl of milk until the stain is gone.

15. FRUIT JUICE

A clear glass tipped sideways on an off-white colored carpet, spilling red juice out onto the rug.

Contrary to most of the other advice for stain removal, you don’t want to get liquid detergent anywhere near a fruit juice stain—it will only set it. Instead, use white vinegar to blot the stain, then rinse with cool water. If the stain persists, try a digestant enzyme paste (unless your fabric is silk or wool) and let it dry for 30 minutes, then rinse.

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