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Don't Trust Aluminum Foil

(For Holding Water)

By John D. McCann


I was talking to a lady about cooking and she asked me if I had found that aluminum foil was not as good as it used to be. I asked what she meant and she indicated that when she uses aluminum foil over a baking dish in the oven, the foil delaminates and sticks to the food. She said this even happens with heavy duty aluminum foil.

This got me to thinking (not always a good thing). I wondered if aluminum foil had changed (been made cheaper), and would it still hold water. Years ago I would use it to make a cup to boil water and still include it in my kits for that purpose, as well as other purposes. A little testing was in order.

I first tried to make a cup out of regular aluminum foil over the kitchen sink, and then filled it with water. Before I could even think about placing it on the stove, it began to leak. Well I never carry regular aluminum foil anyway, so on to heavy duty foil. Denise and I were heading out for a hike anyway, so we figured we would use the heavy duty foil that was in my pack.

During our hike we came upon a stream and felt it would be a good place to test the aluminum foil for it's ability to hold water. If it did, we could then attempt to boil it on a small stove. Denise fashioned a cup next to the stream using a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Making Aluminum Foil Cup

Denise starts to fashion a cup from two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Making Aluminum Foil Cup

Denise molds the aluminum foil into the shape of a cup .

Aluminum Foil Cup with Water

Water was added to the aluminum foil cup.

The water was added to the aluminum foil cup using a canteen cup to ensure that the outside of the aluminum foil cup did not get wet. This would make it easier for us to see if it leaked.

Water Dripping

As soon as water was added, the cup began to drip.

Water dripping close up

The cup started leaking wherever there was a wrinkle or fold.

Of course, this could be considered a less than scientific approach. However, the aluminum foil did not hold water in the most basic of tests. If it can't hold water, it would be rather difficult to boil water in it.

Since this initial test, Denise and I have tried every heavy duty aluminum foil we can find in stores. Name brands, off brands, etc. We even tried the heavy duty aluminum foil provided in the Adventure Medical Kits "Pocket Survival Pak" (the package indicates the heavy duty aluminum foil can be used to form a container to boil water). None of them held water. We even tried making a cup by folding so the aluminum foil would not be wrinkled. It leaked at all the folds. Not being a metallurgist, I can't explain why aluminum foil used to hold water, but no longer does. I can only assume that, as with most things, in order to manufacture it more cheaply, it becomes cheaper (and I don't mean costs less). If anybody can find an aluminum foil that will hold water, especially long enough to fashion a cup or container to boil water, please email me. I will test it out!

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