6 Surprising Ways to Reuse Aluminum Foil

We love it when people repurpose old things to solve new problems. Aluminum foil is the most recent one, following a long string of creative repurposing, from oatmeal to vodka and pantyhose.

This time, we asked our resident Green Cheapskate, Jeff Yeager, to tackle aluminum foil. And boy did he ever. Who knew the shiny stuff could be so handy, beyond cooking or protecting your skulls from prying mind control beams?

Jeff wonders if the mandatory switch to digital TV has hurt sales of aluminum foil, since people no longer need to rig up their rabbit ears. Still, he notes that over 1.3 billion pounds of aluminum foil is produced every year in the U.S., and although it is highly recyclable, many curbside programs won't accept it for sanitary reasons (check with your local recycling program for their foil policy). That's a shame, because recycling aluminum uses only about 5% of the energy that it takes to produce aluminum from raw materials.

Here are some of Jeff's suggestions to get more bang out of your foil:

* Sharpen scissors and garden shears: Fold used foil so that it's six to eight layers thick, then cut thru it a few times with dull scissors to instantly sharpen them.

* Paint and plaster texture: Use crumpled up foil to add interesting texture to painting and plastering projects. Also when you're painting, old foil is handy for masking doorknobs and other fixtures you don't want painted, and wrapping your paintbrushes and rollers in during a lunch break.

* Deter pets and other animals: For no apparent reason, our cat started using our fireplace instead of her liter box. We put a couple of sheets of used aluminum foil on the floor of the fireplace -- which cats, dogs, and other animals can't stand -- to break her of that bad habit. Hang strips of used foil on strings around the garden to deter birds, deer and other unwanted pests, too.

* Protect young plants: Make a collar out of used foil to fit loosely around the stems of young tomato plants and other plant starts in order to keep cutworms and other insects at bay.

* Make metals shine: Scrub rust off of steel and chrome with a wad of aluminum foil instead of using steel wool -- it works even better. You can also use aluminum foil and simple household products like baking soda and salt to clean silver and gold, with the proper know-how.

* Repair stripped threads: People often say that I have a screw loose. When I do have a nut, bolt or screw with stripped threads, I wrap a little aluminum foil around the bolt or screw and try gently tightening it again. A quick temporary fix.

Now, if I could just find some creative ways to repurpose my old rabbit ears...

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