Why is aluminum foiled so easily?


Before World War II, it wouldn’t have been unusual for someone at a cocktail party to uncover the canapés and remark, “Tin can’t resist being foiled.” Now we know that tin can. But back then, tin foil covered America from coast to coast.


After the war, aluminum rolled into town. Why, you may ask (just as my imagination does in its Dr. Watson–like voice inside my head). Elemental, I answer in my best Sherlock imitation. Ductility and malleability are aluminum’s middle names. It can be stretched and pressed within an inch of its life,  2.34 x 10-4 inches to be exact. Aluminum, nickname Al, is a one-eyed all-American element with the number 13 tattooed on its arm. If you don’t believe me (about the eye), try using the British spelling, aluminium, on my computer. If you’re like me you have my sympathy but if you are, you will be delighted that it now rhymes with potassium. Brace yourself, however, because you will also discover it rhymes with the odium of Miss Spellcheck, Microsoft’s unforgiving editor, who will scribble her furious red line at the very idea of aluminum as a two-eyed element.


All of this background information leads to the question: Why wouldn’t Aluminum Man make it in the top ten list of superheroes? Iron Man made it. Does he have more mettle, is he steamier, or is he just hotter?


Iron Man is denser than Aluminum Man, so maybe brute strength wins over brains, at least periodically. Aluminum Man resists corrosion better than Iron Man, but he tends to crumple under pressure. And although Aluminum Man is a good conductor (that’s his alterego), he’ll never play at Carnegie Hall.


When my imagination first started talking about Aluminum Man, I assumed that no such character existed. I looked forward to developing the character, gaining worldwide fame, and retiring some place warm and balmy. Sadly, he does exist. I know because I looked it up on the Internet.


And that, of course, leads to the question, Why is the Internet like a broken refrigerator? Because it spoils everything.

32 thoughts on “Why is aluminum foiled so easily?

      • k8edid

        She did!!!

        Although my stepdad always said “Spit it out!!!”

        Have you noticed how some words leave you still hungry (like Chinese food) while others leave you feeling completely satisfied?

  1. My dad always told me, ‘Exit, stage left!’ not in a nice way, when I got too wordy.

    I was having great fun last night melting alumInIum tea-light tins to slag in my roaring coal fire. So…maybe the European version of The Man is a bit soft?

  2. Amazing, I had completely forgotten about tin foil till you mentioned it. I think the chief advantage of aluminum is that it is so light… but as you say, it has a lot of advantages.

  3. Mary Jane Schaefer

    My mother always used to refer to aluminum foil as “tin foil.” Now I know why. She used to reuse and reuse one piece until, hard to believe, that initially shiny, flexible sheet became not only wrinkled but hard as a rock! Does anyone else remember this? Final note: Of course your ad came from a company in Syracuse! I would ask the biblical question: Can anything good come from Syracuse? Except, I came from Syracuse; so clearly it’s possible. On the other hand, as soon as it was legal, I also LEFT Syracuse. Has anyone ever been through a Syracuse winter? Six months of grayness, as if you’ve been shut up in a box with very little sense of air space. Respiratory diseases flourish. I won’t even mention the cold or the snow. The grayness is enough to make you want to get on your cast iron/copper/aluminum broom and fly far, far away!

    • My mom called it tin foil, too. The language remembers better than people do. Your mom sounds like a woman after my own heart. I like to reuse things, although I’ve never used a piece of foil more than twice.

      Would you say Syracuse has an aluminum gray about it. Wisconsin winter days are like that as well.

  4. My most clear recollection of aluminum is that I could not pronounce it correctly as a child. That and the word “animal” were quite challenging to me. So of course, I used “tin foil” as a substitute. It is so much more descriptive. I was forced to figure out how to say “animal”. as there are fewer easily pronounced substitutes for that word.
    This entire post made my teeth hurt.

  5. Ha! Now hubby and I are having a pseudo argument over who used to and still does say tinfoil – I say he got it from me, but he claims to have said it his whole life. I say he got it from me – I’m the child of a woman born in 1939, and poor as dirt, so her language habits are mine…

  6. Your post sent me scuttling to my kitchen cupboard (kitchen cupboards are possibly know as kitchen presses in the rest of the world) to discover if I had tin or aluminum foil only to find that the dastardly folk at Lidl (discount supermarket) have called it kitchen foil. Yours confused from Ireland

  7. I was just reading out your post to my husband, mainly for the bit about the internet as he is always looking for other people who are as underwhelmed as he is about it…but, as soon as I mentioned aluminium he reeled off lots of useful information and facts – can’t recall it now as am 50 – but suggested that the major company in the US who produced it after the war (Kaiser, apparently) should have invented Aluminum Man. How do they know these things?? I love tin foil, I’m particularly fond of wrapping a sandwich in it.

  8. Margie

    Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust, ranking only behind oxygen and silicon. Perhaps Aluminum Man is really a common man, and therefore doesn’t qualify for superhero status!

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