EXTRAORDINARY USES FOR ORDINARY THINGS
Learn how to use what’s in your cupboard for every day uses
IN THE KITCHEN
Bake a perfect piecrust: To keep the edges of your homemade pies from burning, all you have to do is cover them with strips of aluminum foil. The foil prevents the edges from getting overdone while the rest of your pie gets perfectly browned.
Create special-shaped cake tins: You can make a teddy bear birthday cake, a Valentine’s Day heart cake, a Christmas tree cake or whatever shaped cake the occasion may call for. All you have to do is form a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil into the shape you want, and then sit the cake tin inside a larger cake tin.
Soften up brown sugar: To restore your hardened brown sugar to its former powdery glory, chip off a piece, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake it in the oven at 150 degrees C for 5 minutes.
Decorate a cake: No pastry bag handy? Just form a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil into a tube shape and fill it with free-flowing cake icing. And the real bonus is that there’s no pastry bag to clean – simply toss out the foil when you’re done.
Make an extra-large salad bowl: If you’ve invited a large group of friends over for dinner, but don’t have a bowl big enough to toss that much salad, don’t panic. Just line the kitchen sink with aluminum foil and toss away!
Keep rolls and breads warm: Want to lock in the oven-fresh warmth of your homemade rolls or breads for a dinner party or picnic! Before you load up your basket, wrap the freshly baked goods in a serviette and place a layer of aluminum foil underneath. The foil will reflect the heat and keep your bread warm for quite some time.
Catch ice-cream-cone drips: Keep children from making a mess of their clothes on your house by wrapping the bottom of an ice-cream cone (on a wedge of watermelon) with a piece of aluminum foil before handing it to them.
Silverware care: If your silverware is looking a bit dull, try cleaning it using an ion exchange- a molecular reaction in which aluminum acts as a catalyst. Simply line a dish with a sheet of aluminum foil, fill it with cold water and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Drop your tarnished silverware into the solution, let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then rinse off and dry.
Keep silverware untarnished: Store freshly cleaned silverware on top of a sheet of aluminum foil to deter tarnishing. For long-term storage of silverware, first tightly over each piece in cellophane wrap-made sure you squeeze out as much air as possible – then wrap the bundle in aluminum foil and seal the ends.
Keep the oven clean: When you’re baking a bubbly lasagna or casserole, keep messy drips off the bottom of the oven by laying a sheet of aluminum foil over the rack below. However, do not line the bottom of the oven with foil, as it could cause a fire.
Toast your own cheese sandwich: Next time you’re packing for a trip, include a couple of cheese sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. That way, if you book into a hotel after the kitchen has closed, you won’t have to resort to the cold, overpriced snacks in the mini-bar. Instead, use the hotel-room iron to press both sides of the wrapped sandwich and you’ll have an instant, tasty, hot snack.
Preserve steel-wool pads: It’s maddening. You use a steel-wool pad once, put it in a dish by the sink and the next day you find a rusty mess fit only for the garbage bin. To prevent rust and to get your money’s worth from a pad, wrap it in foil and put it into the freezer. You can also lengthen the life of your steel-wool soap pads by crumpling up a sheet of aluminum foil and placing it under the steel wool in its dish or container. (Don’t forget to periodically drain off the water that collects at the bottom).
Scrub your pots: If you don’t have a scrubbing pad handy at washing-up time, just crumple up a handful of aluminum foil and use it to scrub your pots.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Protect a child’s mattress: As any parent of a toilet-trained small child knows, accidents happen. When they happen in bed, however, you can spare the mattress- even if you don’t have a plastic protector available. Firstly, lay several sheets of aluminum foil across the width of the mattress. Then, cover them with a good-sized beach towel. Finally, attach the mattress pad and bottom sheet.
Keep pets off furniture: Can’t keep your pampered pet off your brand-new couch? Place a piece of aluminum foil on the seat cushions, and after one try at setting down on the noisy surface, your pet will no longer consider it a comfy place to snooze.
Sharpen your scissors: What can you do with those clean pieces of leftover foil you have hanging around? Use them to sharpen up your dull scissors! Smooth them out if necessary and then fold the strips into several layers and start cutting. Seven or eight passes should do the trick. Pretty simple, huh?
Clean jewelry: To clean your jewelry, simply line a small bowl with aluminum foil. Fill the bowl with hot water and mix in 1 tablespoon of bleach-free powdered laundry detergent (not liquid), such as Omo. Put the jewelry into the solution and let it soak for a minute. Rinse well and air-dry. This procedure makes use of the chemical process known as ion exchange, which can also be used to clean silverware.
Move furniture with ease: To slide big pieces of furniture over a smooth floor, place small pieces of aluminum foil under the legs of the furniture. Have the dull side of the foil facing downwards, as the dull side is actually more slippery than the shiny side.
Clean out your fireplace: An easy way to clean the ash out of your fireplace (braai) is to place a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil across the bottom of the fireplace or under the wood gate. The next day – or once you’re sure all the ashes have cooled – simply fold it up and throw it away.
IN THE LAUNDRY
Speed your ironing: When you iron clothing, a lot of the iron’s heat is sucked up by the board itself – requiring you to make several passes with the iron to remove wrinkles. To speed things up, put a piece of aluminum foil under your ironing board cover. The foil will reflect the heat back through the clothing, smoothing the wrinkles more quickly.
Clean your iron: Is starch building up on your clothes iron and causing it to stick? To get rid of it, run your hot iron over a piece of aluminum foil.
IN THE GARDEN
Create a sun box for plants: a sunny window is a great place for keeping plants that love a lot of light. However, since the light always comes from the same direction, plants tend to bend towards it. To bathe your plants in light from all sides, make a sun box. Remove the top and one side from a cardboard box and line the other three sides and bottom with aluminum foil, shiny side out, taping or gluing it in place. Place the plants in the box and put it near a window.
Build a seed incubator: To give plants grown from seed a healthy head start, line an old shoe box with aluminum foil, shiny side up, allowing about 5 centimeters of foil to extend out over the sides. Poke several drainage holes into the bottom – penetrating the foil – then fill the box slightly more than halfway with potting mix and plant the seeds. The aluminum foil inside the box will absorb heat to keep the seeds warm as they germinate, while the foil outside the box will reflect light unto the young sprouts. Place the box near a sunny window, keep the soil moist, then watch’em grow!
IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Clean your barbecue grate: After the last steak has been brought in, and while the coals are still red-hot, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the barbecue grate to burn off any remaining foodstuffs. The next time you use your barbecue, crumple up the foil and use it to easily scrub off the burned food before you start cooking.
Improve outdoor lighting
Brighten up the electrical lighting in your backyard or camp site by making a foil reflector to put behind the light. Attach the reflector to the fixture with a few strips of electrical tape or gaffer tape – do not apply tape directly to the bulb.
Make an impromptu picnic platter: When you need a convenient disposable platter for picnics or school fundraisers, just cover a piece of cardboard with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Keep your sleeping bag dry: Place a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil under your sleeping bag to insulate against moisture.
Shine your chrome: For sparkling chrome on a variety of appliances, strollers, gold-club shafts and older car bumper bars, crumple up a handful of aluminum foil with the shiny side out and apply some elbow grease. If you rub really hard, the foil will even remove rust spots. But be warned that most “chrome” on new cars is actually plastic – don’t rub it with aluminum foil.