What Are Tin Cans Made Of

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In today’s life, tin cans have become a ubiquitous and inseparable part of our lives. You can see them everywhere, such as New Year gift tin boxes, cookie tins, tobacco and alcohol tin boxes, mint tins, lip balm tins, and some high-end cosmetics, food, and daily necessities tin cans. Almost every one of us has been using these tin cans or already used these tin cans. Some even reuse these tin cans for other purposes, such as storing our household things.

Tin cans are an idea to store things, from big things to small things, from foods to needles. It means they have big usage for storing everything inside. In today’s world, tin boxes are one of the most popular packaging used thanks to the fact that they are affordable, durable, and sustainable.

But are you curious about What Are Tin Cans Made Of?

What is a Tin Can?

A tin can, also known as a tin container or tin box, is a type of packaging made primarily from tin-plated steel. It is commonly used for preserving and storing food and other perishable items. Tin cans have been in use for centuries and have played a significant role in the evolution of food preservation and distribution.

The term “tin can” is somewhat misleading, as modern cans are typically made from steel coated with a thin layer of tin. This tin layer helps prevent corrosion and ensures the contents remain safe and fresh. The can is typically cylindrical in shape, with a removable lid or a pull-tab for easy access to the contents. They can also come in rectangular and square shapes with a lid or slipcover.

History of tin cans

  • 1795 Napoleon offered a reward of 12,000 francs to anyone who could find a way to preserve food for the army.
  • 1809 Confectioner Nicholas Appel came up with the idea of preserving food, such as wine, in glass bottles. After years of research, he invented a method of preserving food through sterilization and received a 12,000 franc prize from the French government.
  • In 1810, King George III granted Peter Durand a patent for preserving food in glass bottles, clay pots or metal jars.
  • In 1812, British immigrant Thomas Kensett established a small factory in New York to produce sealed cans of oysters, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
  • In 1825, Kensett obtained the first patent for tinplate cans in the United States.
  • 1849 Henry Evans patents a swing press capable of producing can lids in a single run. Production capacity thus increased from a small amount to 50 cans per hour.
  • In 1866 E.M. Long received a patent for can sealing by making or welding lids.
  • In 1870, France began to print colorful patterns on tinplate.
  • In 1872, the Englishman Baber introduced tinplate printing technology to Britain.
  • In 1875, Arthur A. Libby and William J. Wilson invented the trapezoidal jar to preserve corned beef in Chicago.
  • In 1877, a simple can sealing machine appeared.
  • In 1880, a semi-automatic can making machine appeared for the first time. 1898 George W. Cobb Preservation Company perfects the three-piece can.
  • In 1903, the inner wall coating of cans appeared.
  • In 1905, the canned food production technology was introduced to my country, and Shanghai Taifeng Company began to produce food cans.
  • In 1917, tinplate printing technology was introduced to my country, and the Commercial Press began to produce a small amount of iron-printed products.
  • In 1953, the Swiss Soudronic trial produced the first A resistance welding machine.
  • In 1957, aluminum material was introduced into the metal can industry.
  • In 1960, the can was produced. In 1963, the world’s first two-piece steel can was born in the United States.
  • In 1965, the first tin-free sheet was developed.
  • In 2005, the first China Tinplate Printing Network was established.

What Are Tin Cans Made Of?

Although empty cans are often referred to as “tin cans”, few modern tin cans are produced entirely from tin cans. The main reason why people call these empty cans “cans” dates back to the late 20th century. At that time, cans were made of tinned steel in order to combine the strength and endurance of steel with the corrosion resistance of tin.

Nowadays, generally speaking, empty tin cans are made of any thin metal. These range from aluminum to steel or iron. Although not always the case, these small tin cans are often tin-plated. Modern tin cans are predominantly made of steel, with a thin layer of tin or another protective coating on the interior. This steel base provides strength and rigidity to the container. Ensuring it can withstand pressure and prevent damage. The manufacturing process involves shaping flat steel sheets into cylindrical shapes, followed by sealing the ends with a double seam. The interior coating, often made of food-grade lacquer, prevents corrosion and maintains product quality.

The reason you can’t make empty cans entirely out of tin is that, in fact, tin is a very rare material. Although it is considered a “common metal” rather than a “precious metal” like gold or platinum, it is still less available than you might think. In fact, tin is probably one of the least “common” metals out there, too. It is true that there are only a limited number of tin-producing mines in the world. Scientists even predict that it is entirely possible that we will completely run out of tin in the future.

Since the 1960s, aluminum has by far been the number one choice for producing small tin cans. The reason behind this is that it is cheaper and easier to form. As a result, the manufacturing process becomes cheaper and less time-consuming than before. Aluminum is known to have better corrosion resistance, making it an ideal replacement. Meanwhile aluminum is highly recyclable than tinplate material. it is the best recyclable material in the world till now.

For the reasons stated above, making anything from pure tin would be very expensive and difficult. This is especially true for everyday items such as packaging materials. As of today (2023), the price of tin is $29.8 per kilogram, while the price of aluminum is only $2.8 per kilogram and tinplate steel is only $1.2 per kilogram(2023.) As you can imagine, this major price difference leads to the fact that manufacturers would rather use different metals to produce tin cans. Most empty cans produced today are made from aluminum or tinplate steel.

Traditional tin can

The only product produced by pure tin is tin foil. This material is often used in science experiences, but can also be used to wrap other objects, such as chocolate bars. Because tin can be squashed in very thin sheets, it allows us to create large amounts of “plating” with only a small amount of tin. In addition to being used to make tin foil, this coating is often used in traditional containers. It is estimated that one pound of pure tin can produce up to 12.08 square meters of tin foil or tin plating(2018). Nowadays, we are always using 5.6g/㎡ tin layer. For this reason, tin has become very popular for electroplating and is often applied to pure metal cans.

Besides the fact that tin can be flattened easily, there is another reason to use it as a plating material. Tin does not interact with oxygen – therefore, it will not rust or tarnish and is highly resistant to corrosion. So they are widely used as a plating material to prevent metal, steel, and copper from touching with oxygen.

Today we use most of the world’s tin to produce tinplate cans. These empty cans are primarily made of steel or iron that has been tinned. Therefore, all can only be composed of 1% or 2% tin. This creates a coating on the metal to protect it from the elements. Due to its protective properties, this coating can be used on a large number of commercial items such as packaging such as tin cans.

Tin cans are mainly used for the storage of canned food, cosmetics, medicines and to preserve candles in the form of candle jars. Ordinary metals usually react with the acids present in these substances and then they begin to corrode. When this happens, the can releases molecules that can contaminate the contents of the packaging, while damaging the can itself. In the past, this has led to problems with lead packaging in particular. These jars are known to leach harmful toxins into them. However, since tin-plated metal cans are acid-resistant, they can preserve food, cosmetics, and medicines for a longer period of time, which is completely safe. The only disadvantage of traditional tin-plated cans is that they are much heavier than aluminum cans.

Modern tin can

Generally speaking, tinned cans are considered the “traditional” way of producing cans. In today’s world, the vast majority of small or large tin cans sold are made from aluminum or stainless steel. Any material is suitable as long as it is easy to form and resistant to rust and corrosion.

Aluminum tins are made of 99.7% aluminum steel plate, while stainless steel is made of steel which contains nickel, chrome, and other metal components. Both aluminum and stainless steel are good and resistant to rust and corrosion. Meanwhile, they are food-safe and recyclable. Aluminum tins are always lighter than traditional tin cans and stainless steel tin cans. Stainless steel tin cans are the most durable tin cans. Each type of tin can have its own advantages.

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Benefits of using tin cans


You may have noticed that the packaging industry is embracing green packaging, which is good for the environment and the people of the world. Tin cans are good for the environment because of their reusable design. They’re great for reducing waste and providing multiple uses for your packaging, benefiting you overall. When a metal box container is no longer useful, it can be easily recycled and turned into another tin can or can be produced into something else. They are a great investment for any heavy-duty storage needs and often sell quickly.


Tin cans are highly recyclable compared with plastic raw material containers. It is proved that tin cans can be 80% recycled while aluminum tins are almost 100% recycled.


Tin cans have durability and strength over plastic and other material containers. Tinplate cans are usually made of steel and have high strength to protect items from external pressure and impact. Their reinforced construction provides a safe and secure storage option for a variety of heavy-weight inventory.


The durability of metal box containers also makes them a safer option than plastic containers. This is why you will find many packaging industries purchasing metal box containers for their packaging needs. They are usually made of strong tinplate, which uses its strength to avoid breakage of the contents.

Shapes and sizes

Tin cans are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes to suit all your packaging requirements. Tin cans are available in large and medium sizes, offering a high degree of versatility for small to large industries that need to store a variety of items in an efficient and secure manner.


Cost-effective: In large-scale production, the production cost of tin cans is relatively low. Not only are they cheap, they’re also quick to make.


Tin cans are good for storing food, teas, and plenty of other things inside. They are widely used in our daily lives. Basically, Traditional tin cans are made of tinplate raw materials. Modern tin cans are mainly made of aluminum materials. Both tinplate and aluminum are sustainable raw materials that are environmentally friendly. They are more highly recyclable than plastic or glass. Tin cans will be green packaging in the future to reduce white pollution in the world.

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