fans fins and fat

Yesterday JP and I took a day off from decorating. Like that road to hell, we began with good intentions and were both dressed in our decorating gear from an early hour. The kitchen was to be the target and although it’s one of the smallest rooms in the flat, it’s the one with the most stuff to move out of the room before we even open a tin of paint. Before we even got to that stage, JP decided to dismantle the extractor fan and give it ‘a really good clean’.

I am ashamed to say that this task was something that I’ve been putting off for several weeks, nay, months. Every week or so, my eyes would be drawn magnetically upwards to the ever darkening and greasy square on the wall. Somehow, there always seemed to be something more urgent that I had to do but I knew that I was only delaying the inevitable. When we made our minds up to decorate this week, I knew that it was crunch time. Alternatively, couldn’t we just buy a new fan? All sparkly squeeky clean? Please?

Have you ever seen behind your kitchen extractor fan? I’m talking here about the actual pipe that all that greasy cooker stuff and tumble drier fluff gets sucked into. Take it from me, unless you have a grease fetish, you don’t want or need to see it. If you’re lucky enough to have an extractor fan that sits on an outside wall then you probably never get an accumulation of greasy dust. We, on the other hand, live in a block of flats and our fan vents through a wall into a pipe in a shaft within the building. The pipe travels almost immediately in an upward direction to the roof which is one place I’ve never had to go. I know that we have seagulls nesting there because I watch their flight paths and can hear them through the fan vent. I think they won’t move elsewhere as the hot vented air keeps them warm in winter. A veritable ‘des res’ for seagulls – a centrally heated flat roof.

I felt it only fair to offer JP a pair of washing-up gloves to wear while he scraped the greasy dust from the inside of the pipe. The gloves were a tight fit but he didn’t refuse them and smacked them on like a surgeon. Several minutes later, he handed me a dustpan half full of greasy debris, the job was done and we wondered how long it had taken for all that muck to accumulate. Had the pipe even been cleaned before this fan had been fitted five or so years ago? Who knew? Who cared! It was clean now – at least as far as JP’s hand/forearm was able to reach.

The main body of the fan has what looks like a miniature computer motherboard firmly fixed to it so I couldn’t dunk it all in hot soapy water and leave it to soak as I would have preferred to do. I could only use a slightly damp cloth to rub the grease off the fins. No easy task I can tell you. Just as well I don’t have fat fingers. If not as clean as it could be, it was as clean as almost an hour’s worth of cleaning was going to make it and that was good enough for me. The spinning fins are covered by a separate grille and are not visible from the front. The kitchen police can charge me if they like, but more cleaning just wasn’t worth a larger investment of my time.

JP was waiting to reconstruct and refit the fan and it should have been an easy task. I mean, it only took him three minutes to dismantle it all. At that point, a little gremlin in the shape of a slim circular black elastomer seal (rubber washer to the uninitiated like me until I checked out the internet for the correct terminology) decided that it wanted freedom. JP didn’t know what caused the seal to become unseated from its purpose-made groove in the first place. He only knew that each time he tried to re-seat it, it gently and slowly peeled itself out of position and JP was almost at the point of resorting to sellotaping it into place. I had a go. Success! I knew it needed a woman’s touch. I looked at JP and gave him the thumbs up but as I turned back, I watched the seal unpeel itself again. I had several more unsuccessful attempts and then wondered if a gentle wash in some warm soapy water might do the trick. Oh yes. It now no longer made any escape attempts and the main body piece was quickly attached before the seal could change its mind.

While I was cleaning the outer grill, JP thought it best to test that the fan was still working. Drat. It wasn’t. What had we damaged? Off came the body piece yet again. (The seal remained in place.) One of the wires had come adrift from its connection which appeared to be a sealed unit, and is what the little motherboard connects to.  We had no instruction sheet to refer to. Hmmm. I offered my twopence worth and figured out that the unit is a moulded box with a lid which clips shut, keeping the wires safely hidden. Once I worked out how to unclip it, it was easy to reconnect the wire. Except that it took three attempts to do so. When the fan was tested again and found to be working, JP remarked that although the electricty supply had been turned off before attempts 1 and 2, he and first son had realised that only the wall switch had been turned off so the wires might have been live during attempt number 3…

Let’s not go down that road. I am here to tell the tale so all is well. There was minimal risk and I take full responsibility for my actions. And we do have a clean working fan once more. By the time the job was done, a couple of hours had passed and it was now almost time for lunch, albeit an early one. We then decided that as we were ‘on holiday’, it being Easter bank holiday weekend, there was no rush to decorate and tomorrow would be just as good a day to start again.

Here’s a quick snap of the fan and I challenge you to see any greasy dirt through the grill!

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