I use aluminum foil regularly in my kitchen. One day, I noticed that many used pieces of aluminum foil wraps had piled up in my kitchen.
Being environmentally conscious, I feel it is my responsibility to try and find eco-friendly ways to deal with the foil.
I decided to find out if I could wash and reuse it or recycle/discard it safely in the dustbin.
Can You Wash and Reuse Aluminum Foil?
I was surprised to find out that you can actually wash and reuse aluminum foils.
You can wash aluminum foil with warm water and soap. You can also wash it in the dishwasher.
Once done with the washing, allow it to dry up naturally before reusing again.
Aluminum foil is made up of 98% pure aluminum, and the rest is iron and silicon.
Although aluminum cans are easily recycled, the foils go into waste fills as they are labeled as dirty due to food contamination.
Making aluminum foil requires miming bauxite ore. The whole process of manufacturing aluminum foil is very energy intensive. Reusing is a great way to own up the responsibility for the environment.
There are many ways of reusing aluminum foil.
It can be used for cooking, storing, decorating, sharpening scissors, cleaning, and more. I will be sharing with you some wonderful ways of reusing aluminum foil.
Let me cover the washing of aluminum foil and reusing it separately to make it easier for you to follow.
How to Clean the Aluminum Foil?
I am going to suggest to you different options depending on how dirty your foil is.
There is No Grease and Just a Few Crumbs
Wipe the crumbs off and make it flat again on the table with your hands.
You can now fold it up, store it, reuse it for baking or wrapping, etc.
It is Clean But Wet
If it is wet, open it up and let it lay flat on the countertop.
Allow it to air dry. Once dried, fold and store.
It is Lightly Soiled with Dirt
If there is some stuck-on food residue on the foil, give it a good rinse under the faucet.
You may apply a mild detergent before rinsing, depending on how dirty the foil is.
It is Dirty and Greasy
Use warm water and mild detergent on a soft sponge to remove the grease and dirt. The top rack of the dishwasher also works well.
Place the dirty side upside down and place a utensil on top. Allow the dishwasher to run through a cycle.
The Foil is Dirty Only on One Side
You can skip the cleaning part.
Just fold up the dirty part inside and use the clean size for cooking, storing, and more!
The Foil is Torn (or has Burnt Marks)
Scrunch it up into a ball. Use the balls for art, as a plant filler, as a stand inside a pot to keep the plate above water, cleaning pots, removing tarnishing, etc.
Allow it to air dry after washing. You can also turn it into a flat surface again. Keep the cleaned foil on the iron board below a cotton cloth and run an iron over the cloth.
Although not brand new, a lot of creases can be undone by doing this.
Make sure the iron isn’t too hot. You don’t want the foil sticking to the cotton cloth.
How to Reuse the Aluminum Foil
There are many ways to reuse aluminum foil.
After reusing it 3-4 times in the kitchen for food, I would advise you to use it for other purposes outside the kitchen.
Allow me to begin with food ideas and then take them to other useful applications of aluminum foil at home.
Wrap and Freeze
The most common method of reusing involves wrapping cooked/uncooked food and storing it in the fridge/freezer.
The aluminum foil prevents freezer burn and retains moisture of the food wrapped inside. If stored tightly, you can store uncooked food easily in the foil for six to 12 months.
Cooked food has a less shelf life as it has already been exposed to heat and has less moisture. You can store cooked food for 4-5 days.
Line and Bake
Aluminum foil work as a great non-stick liner in the oven. You can reuse them by lining the baking tin for cakes, cookies, and pizza.
The aluminum foil catches Liquid marinades, oil, and grease and prevents them from falling to the base of the oven.
If the pan sheet is too large, you can roll the sheets and use it to line half of the sheet.
You can also line the base of the oven, so you don’t have to clean up after baking, grilling, roasting, etc
Wrap and Heat
Aluminum foils are very useful for portable lunches in the office or school.
Food can safely be reheated inside the aluminum foil in the oven/microwave.
You can use it for wrapping sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, snacks, salads, etc. When hungry, simply toss the food and the foil in the oven/microwave.
Sharpen Your Scissor
When you have used the aluminum foil more than 3 to 4 times, it is time to cut it up and sharpen your dull scissors.
Make layers or cut a single layer multiple times with the scissor. It will sharpen the blades of your scissor.
Remove Tarnish from Cookware/Jewelry
When placed in a hot environment with metal, aluminum foil reacts with steel and cleans the tarnished layer.
You can scrunch the used aluminum into balls and place them in the dishwasher along with tarnished pots/pans/spoons.
They will all come out shining and clean.
For jewelry, heat water and add salt or baking soda. Add an aluminum ball and add your jewelry.
After a few minutes, your silver/metallic jewelry will be as good as new.
Reduce Static Cling in Clothes Dryer
Crumple and make some aluminum foil balls and put them in your clothes dryer.
This hack has been proven to reduce static cling in the clothes, which happens when the clothes rub against each other a lot in the dryer.
Scrub the Dirt Away from Cookware and Cooktop
Balls of used aluminum foil can be used as a metallic scrooge. Use it to clean metallic pots, pans, racks, and cooktops.
Clean the soaked oven racks with aluminum foil balls and make them shine like new.
Use them to clean all metallic surfaces in your kitchen. Some examples are pots, pans, cooktops, etc.
A Filler for Plants and Pests
Many insects and pests cannot chew past aluminum foil. You can use them to fill cracks and gaps in your house.
Aluminum foil is a great filler at the base of plant pots. You can also cover plant pots with aluminum foil to protect them from insects.
You can also cover the base of the stem with aluminum to prevent the insects from crawling up.
Smoothen the Wrinkles in Clothes
This is easy. All you need to do is place the aluminum foil sheet and put the cloth on top. Run your iron over the cloth.
You will no longer find any wrinkles. A smooth ironed cloth is what you will get.
Ensure the iron is not too hot, and do not repeat ironing for a long time. The foil may end up sticking to the cloth.
Painting and Art
When painting the walls, use aluminum foil to protect the handles and knobs of doors and windows.
Wrap the handles and knobs with layers of aluminum foil to protect them from paint.
You can also use aluminum foil in art. To add shine to your artwork, place aluminum foil over your art paper.
Place butter paper over the foil. Place a cloth over the butter paper and run an iron on the cloth a couple of times.
Use the foil to decorate your Christmas tree. It is a great light reflector for toys. Aluminum foil is lightweight and can be shaped into any shape for craftwork.
For a detailed visual treat regarding all the above ideas of reusing aluminum foil, I would suggest you watch the video below.
When Not to Reuse Aluminum Foil
Let me also tell you about a few exceptions to not reusing aluminum foil.
- If the foil cannot be cleaned and looks worn out, you should not use it in the kitchen for cooking/ lining/wrapping the food. Keep it away from your food.
- When using high temperatures for cooking acetic foods, skip the aluminum foil. This is because, at high temperatures, aluminum can react with acetic acid and produce salt.
- If you have weak immunity due to any disorder or disease, it is best to avoid aluminum foil in your food. Although the amount of aluminum released by the foil is very tiny (according to the National library of medicine), if you have a disorder that impacts your health, even a small amount may turn toxic.
Also read: How To Avoid Microplastics In Food?
How to Recycle the Aluminum Foil
Decomposing aluminum foil takes more than 300 years! It is best to recycle your aluminum foil after you have reused it enough.
Aluminum foil is usually recycled within 60 days. The process of recycling it for making a roll takes less energy than producing a new roll from the beginning.
Here is a checklist you need to follow if you plan to recycle your aluminum foil
Step 1 – Clean the Foil
The foil should have no food contamination. Wash it well either by hand or in the dishwasher.
If the foil is heavily soiled and cannot be cleaned, it will not be accepted for recycling. You will have to throw it in the trash, where it will go to landfills.
Step 2 – Separate it from other materials
If the aluminum is stuck to cardboard or plastic, remove it.
Separating it helps in sorting the material for the recycling process.
If it cannot be separated, it will go to a landfill.
Step 3 – Crumple and Place in Recycling Container (Blue)
As aluminum foil is lightweight, flat sheets can get tangled with other trash.
To avoid this, you must crumble it up and throw it in the blue recycle container. If you are aware of recycling centers, you can also take them there directly.
I hope reusing and recycling the aluminum foil is now clear to you.
I can’t tell you how happy and proud I feel right now for telling you all the details. As it takes hundreds of years for aluminum to decompose, you should reuse it as much as you can, after which you need to recycle it.
We need to begin with small, eco-friendly steps for a sustainable green earth. Cheers!
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