Aluminium foil is one of the most useful materials on the face of the planet. We all know that. When it comes to packed lunches, it’s got them all wrapped up. But that’s just the beginning.
What aluminium foil has done for the world of packaging since it was first used industrially back in 1910 is quite stupendous. What’s more, cooking just wouldn’t be the same without the possibilities that foil delivers.
But beyond these conventional uses, there are some really quite surprising areas that aluminium foil can help with. Let’s see what it can do for you, your dryer and your washing. You could be in for a surprise.
We’ll start by outlining the problem, then see how aluminium foil can help. We’ll also look at what else can perform useful little turns in the dryer, before seeing what other unexpected jobs foil turns out to be rather good at.
What Causes Dryer Static?
Anyone with a tumble dryer will be familiar with this. When a bunch of washing merrily jiggling around in the dryer starts to stick together, you have the problem we’re talking about. Static cling.
It’s super common, especially with synthetic fibres, and quite annoying when you’re pushed for time, and all your socks want to do is hold onto each other for dear life.
What causes it? It’s a phenomenon with a nice snappy title: The triboelectric effect. It’s a name that sticks in the mind a lot less readily than those socks to each other. In any case, that’s what it’s called, so let’s move on.
It’s fairly simple to explain the effect. It’s what happens when materials with differing abilities to hold on to their electrons come into contact with each other. Electrons will move to the more attractive material, which will leave the electron-light material positively charged and the electron-heavy material negatively charged.
That’s what causes your washing to stick together. Now let’s see what aluminium foil can bring to the situation.
How Can Aluminium Foil Help Reduce Static?
Yes, static cling can be alleviated significantly by aluminium foil.
All you need to do is crumple up two or three aluminium balls and chuck them in the dryer with your laundry.
How big should the balls be? Take a 50 cm length of foil and scrunch it up into a ball about 7 or 8 cm in diameter. Make sure no odd bits of foil stick out, as they could snag on clothes and cause the foil ball to become unravelled.
Now let them do their thing. But how on earth do they work? Well, without going too technical, those foil fellas simply reduce the amount of electron traffic going on in the tumble dryer, so that your dried clothes no longer grab one another as if their lives depended on it.
It’s not that they no longer love each other. They’ve just agreed to move on with their separate lives in a mutually respectful fashion. Which I think is a very mature decision for them to have made.
Static’s just one of the laundry-related issues aluminium can foil. You can use it as an alternative to fabric softener. It can make clothes feel softer, as it manipulates their fibres and breaks up any bunching.
There must be a drawback to this foil stuff, right? Yes, kind of, but let’s deal with the plusses first.
Advantages of Using Foil in the Dryer
1. It’s cheap and easy to get hold of
To make one of those balls, you’re talking about 10p worth of foil. And as household products go, it’s enormously widespread, simply because it’s so useful. You show me a kitchen that doesn’t have any foil in it, and I’ll show you a kitchen that needs some foil.
2. The balls last a long time
It’s not just a one trip ticket with these balls. No way. You can carry on using them for months in there. You’ll notice when they start to look like they could do with replacing.
Look out for discolouration and an overall tattiness that most of us would probably show after what those little tumblers have been through.
3. Foil can be recycled
Foil is readily and very cheaply recycled. It costs about 5% of the initial manufacturing cost to give that foil a shiny new lease of life. Not that you have to worry about that. All you need to know is that recycling centres will gladly take it off your hands.
Disadvantages of Using Foil in the Dryer
1. It doesn’t freshen clothes like dryer sheets
If you use dryer sheets, they not only reduce static cling but also pimp your clothes with a nice fresh smell.
Aluminium foil won’t do that. It’s also the case that at extremely high temperatures, foil can release fumes. However, unless you’ve got a seriously powerful, military grade tumble dryer, you’re not going to be in danger of this happening.
Not a huge issue this, but if you’re the kind of person who likes silence to be the order of the day, you’re going to be disappointed with the noise of the balls softly doing a Keith Moon against the dryer drum.
It’s not like a samba band marching through your kitchen, but it might be the case that an overnight drying session can wake you up if you’re a very light sleeper.
On other hand, you may sleep more soundly knowing that there’ll be no static cling antics to face in the morning. Swings and roundabouts.
3. Fire risk
This one’s extremely unlikely, but is included only in the interests of completeness. Aluminium foil is very unlikely to catch fire in your dryer.
What might happen is that the foil will get really hot, so much so that it might set light to any significant lint build-ups in the machine. This could happen if you’re doing several lots of drying consecutively.
So, you know what you have to do. That’s right, keep that lint level low. It’s bad for the machine and clogs up the drain filter in any case, so it’s good sense to lose the lint.
What Else Is Good to Try in Your Dryer?
Tennis balls can help with uneven drying. That’s right—if you have bulky items that won’t dry evenly, say like curtains or a bedspread, you can serve up a tennis ball which will push that heavy fabric around and stop it folding up in the machine. Game, set and match to you.
Sounds a bit beyond the blooming obvious, but a towel can help with drying. Seriously. If you’re in a hurry and you need a particular item dry, put it in the dryer with a dry towel.
The towel will absorb the moisture from the wet garment and things will be speeded up nicely. Oh, before we’re done with the obvious stuff, a quick word about that towel. It needs to be dry.
Want your clothes not just dry but smelling amazing when you take them out? Keep a couple of little sponges in a cupful of fabric softener in an airtight plastic tub. When it’s showtime, squeeze out the excess softener back into the tub, then throw those sponges in with your laundry. Your nose will think it’s its birthday.
Can Aluminium Foil Do Anything Else for You?
Sharpening your scissors
Used foil can sharpen up your scissor blades. Smooth out the creases, then fold your foil over to give a thickness of several layers. Then just cut, with those scissors of yours. After a few cuts, your scissors will be super-sharp. It’s a snip!
Speeding up your ironing
Pop a sheet of aluminium foil under your ironing board cover, and see how much more quickly you get the ironing done. It’s because with normal ironing, a lot of that precious heat gets absorbed by the board.
A foil sheet in there will reflect the heat back into the garment and creases come out so much easier. Hey presto! The job’s done.
Shine up your silver
When your silverware’s looking a little dull, give it a treat. Line a pan with foil, fill it with cold water and two teaspoons of salt and give those silver items a dip for a couple of minutes.
They’ll come up like new, courtesy of an effect called ion exchange. No, no idea what that’s all about, but it works, so that’s good enough for us.
It’s a Wrap
Yes, foil’s great for keeping your leftovers fresh and for packaging up your lunch. But there are plenty of other jobs that that foil can help you with around the house, and what it can do in tandem with your tumbler is just the start of it.
Foil is so handy that it might be worth investing in one of those Land of the Giants catering rolls to make sure you never run out just when you most need it. That way, you’ll be ready for action when you urgently need to turbo up your tumbler, or if a robot pops by for a skin graft.
The truth is, from cleaning to drying to sharpening to goodness knows what else, there are numerous ways this metal can show its mettle.
Martin’s life revolves around films, dogs and food, but rarely all at the same time. At least two out of these three like to give clothes and furniture a hard time, and Martin enjoys discovering and writing about new ways to stop them doing their worst.