Aluminum foil (often erroneously referred to as tin foil) is possibly the most versatile item in your kitchen. I could probably list 100 different uses for aluminum foil, but for this post I’m going to focus on uses that might interest preppers and homesteaders.
If you don’t have any aluminum foil yet, be sure to get some. I also recommend getting a small roll for your bug out bag. Note: In places where I mention reflecting light or heat, be sure to use the shiny side (yes, one side is shinier than the other). Now on to the list.
1. Help Seedlings. Line a box with foil, poke drainage holes in the bottom, fill halfway with soil, plant your seeds, and place it on a windowsill. The sunlight reflecting off the surfaces will help the plant grow.
2. Grow Plants. In the same way, you can use foil to reflect more sunlight onto your plants so they grow better. Lay foil beneath your plants, or tape foil to a surface and place it next to your plants.
3. Keep Pests Away. If you have a garden, hang strips of foil around it to deter birds and small animals. The shiny surfaces and metallic sounds will make them wary and keep some of them from eating your plants.
4. Keep Birds Away. In the same way, foil can be used to keep birds away from fruit trees. Just use some fishing line to hang strips from the branches. The light reflecting off the surfaces will scare birds away.
5. Protect Trees. During the winter, bugs and rodents often munch on tree bark. To protect your trees, wrap a couple layers of foil around the trunk. This can make a significant difference. Remove the foil in the spring.
6. Catch Fish. When fishing, wrap a small square of tin foil around the hook or weights. The light reflecting off the foil will lure more fish.
7. Start a Fire. You can use a strip of foil, some cotton, and a battery to make a flame. Watch this video to learn how. It also makes a good surface for starting a fire with petroleum jelly and cotton.
8. Protect Your Hands. If you’re holding a candle, you don’t want hot wax dripping on you. Tear a hole in the center of a thick layer of foil, push the candle through, and shape the foil into a bowl to catch the wax.
9. Make Char Cloth. Char cloth ignites with just a single spark, so it’s very useful for starting fires. Watch this video to learn how to make char cloth using aluminum foil.
10. Keep Things Dry. Wrap matches, tinder, food, or anything small that needs to be kept dry in tin foil. As long as you wrap it multiple times, it should work.
11. Fry Some Food. Find a branch that forks, stretch some foil across it, and wrap the foil around the branches to make a pan. As long as the food is not too heavy, you can hold this makeshift pan over a fire.
12. Cook Some Food. Another method is to wrap thinly sliced meat, veggies, and some spices in several sheets of foil and place it on some hot coals. After a little while you’ll have a nice, hot meal.
13. Block Wind. Protect flames from wind using a wall of aluminum foil. If you have a small fire or burner stove, this could be very useful.
14. Clean Your Grill. After using your grill, completely cover the grate with heavy-duty foil. The heat will be unable to escape, and it will work like a self-cleaning oven. Then ball up the foil and scrub the grate with it.
15. Clean Up Ashes. Place two layers of heavy-duty foil on the bottom of your grill or fireplace before you start a fire. Once you’re done with it and the ashes have cooled off, simply wrap them in the foil and throw them away.
16. Make a Solar Oven. With aluminum foil, cardboard, and a few other supplies, you can make a solar oven. This article explains how to construct and use one.
17. Catch Drippings. Place foil along the bottom of your oven before baking something. It will catch anything that boils over and spills, keeping your oven clean. Remove the foil each time.
18. Collect Rainwater. Aluminum foil can also be fashioned into a large pan to collect rain water. The larger the surface area, the more water you’ll collect.
19. Boil Water. Dig a hole in the ground, shape the foil to fit the hole, and fill with water. Put some rocks in a fire, then use tongs to transfer the rocks to the water. It will start boiling right away.
20. Make a Funnel. Push a stick through several layers of foil, then shape the foil into a funnel. Remove the stick, and use the hole you made as the spout.
21. Make Plateware. You can make more than just bowls and funnels. You could also shape the foil into plates, cups, and utensils if you don’t have any real plateware.
22. Scrub Pots and Pans. Make a ball of foil and use it to scrub dirty pots and pans. This can be as effective as regular scrubbing pads, but don’t use foil on non-stick surfaces as it can damage them.
23. Remove Rust. Crumpled some aluminum foil into a ball and use it to scrub rust off of metal. It works even better if you dip it in Coca-Cola first.
24. Protect Soap. Put a layer of foil beneath a bar of soap to keep the bottom from turning into mush. If you do this, your soap will last a long longer.
25. Fix Loose Batteries. Sometimes the springs in old flashlights and radios can get too loose to hold batteries in place. To fix this, fold up a small piece of foil and place it between the battery and the spring.
26. Protect Electronics. It is possible to make a Faraday cage using aluminum foil. A Faraday cage can protect your electronics from an EMP (electromagnetic pulse). Read this article for more information.
27. Enhance Antennas. If you have an old radio or TV with a traditional antenna, you can wrap a ball of foil around the ends to improve the reception. It will only help a little, but it might be enough.
28. Signal for Help. If you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, you could use the reflective surface to signal a plane or vehicle in the distance for help.
29. Sharpen Scissors. Smooth out a sheet of foil and fold it in half several times, then start cutting. After a short while, your scissors will be nice and sharp.
30. Reflect Heat. In the summer you can put foil on windows to reflect heat from the sun. In the winter you can put foil on the wall behind the radiator to reflect heat back into the room.
31. Find Your Way At Night. Hang foil from trees at eye level along a trail that you plan on following at night. The foil will reflect light from your flashlight and make it easier to stay on the path.
32. Stay Dry While You Sleep. Put a layer of foil beneath your sleeping bag to prevent moisture from getting in while you’re sleeping.
33. Make a Tin Foil Hat. Okay, I know this one is kind of silly, but there is a scientific basis for it.
What to read next: 42 Prepper Uses for Ponchos