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July 26, 2023

What metal is kitchen foil (‘tin foil’) ACTUALLY made from?

A question from LOGO – The Best of Kids

LOGO – The Best of Kids doesn’t just feature questions about ‘kids’ stuff’.

Of course, there are questions about children’s TV. And books, and toys and games, and favourite characters, and…

But at heart, it’s a family game that gives kids the chance to shine. Which means – like all LOGO games – questions about the world around us, things we didn’t know we knew, and all sorts of odd stuff that it’s interesting to find out about!

Above all, it’s a prompt for family conversation – a great learning tool for curious kids.

So, we often call it ‘tin foil’. But what metal IS kitchen foil actually made from?

The answer is aluminium. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Kitchen foil WAS originally made from tin. Hence the term ‘tin foil’, which many of us still use today.

The process of pressing and rolling the metal into ultra-thin sheets was a nineteenth-century innovation that revolutionised food storage, and tin-based foil remained in use for several decades.

So, your great-grandfather might have found it used in his lunchbox. But occasionally he’d have discovered – like many people – that his carefully-wrapped cheese sandwich tasted ever-so-slightly of metal.

(Smell your hand after holding a few coins for a bit and you’ll get the idea. Yuk.)

A Swiss company called Neher & Sons industrialised a process for using aluminium for foil, back in the early twentieth century. Aluminium was slightly easier to wrap around things than tin was, and – vitally – it didn’t make people's cheese sandwiches go all horribly metallic.

But, of course, being Swiss, they first used it for chocolate. Priorities, and all that!

So, when people refer to ‘tin foil’, they’re not wrong, as such. The world’s just moved on a bit. And at least tin is still used in tin cans… oh, no, hang on… tin cans are generally made from… steel.

But that’s another story.

Loads more questions like this in LOGO – The Best of Kids, available from all good toy and game retailers.

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