What happens in your home when you’re not looking? Did you hear the scamper of little plastic feet as they sneak by, or is that just your imagination? Maybe the toys in your child’s playroom spend their days as toys and their nights secretly getting into mischief. Maybe you’ve just never lost your sense of wonder. Whether you’re a collector of pristine, mint-in-box figurines or still have your favorite childhood stuffed animal, the Toy Story movies and their idea of toys coming to life feel like it could be real.
The Lost Toys
If you are a parent, it can seem like toys magically appear, especially in places they don’t belong! So what can you do when you need to retrieve a wayward toy that’s gotten into a tricky situation? Although you’re more likely to find a missing toy at the bottom of a toy box or the edge of the yard, things can go missing down air conditioning vents and into the ductwork of a home! Maybe you accidentally lost something down through a vent cover and thought it was lost forever. Let’s pop out of our packaging and see how to make sure missing toys, jewelry, and other tiny treasures can be retrieved when they fall into floor vents.
Tactical Toy Traversal
HVAC ducts are the perfect way for toys to travel where they cannot be seen. The ducts are out of sight and made of opaque aluminum so they make a network of paths that can be accessed so long as the toys can pry open a vent duct and gain access. Fragile toys made of thin plastic probably have to avoid ducts in the winter, when hot air can threaten to melt them. Otherwise, it is one of the safest ways to travel if you are a toy that needs to get somewhere fast.
In Toy Story 2, the ducts of the apartment building where greedy, unscrupulous toy collector Al McWhiggin lives play a key role in the rescue attempt of Woody. Although the layout shows that the contractor might have made some unusual choices (the toys are able to gain access to the elevator shaft through the ductwork, which seems inefficient for air flow), it shows just how tricky it could be to retrieve something that fell through a vent.
Usually the item will be small enough to fit through a vent: rings, jewelry, small toys and accessories, electronics, and coins are a few things that might find their way through. Throw kids into the mix and you may find yourself trying to find a wider variety of items depending on how curious a child was in trying to determine the maximum size of what could fit through those narrow vent slots.
No Toy Left Behind
When the worst happens and you hear that telltale “thunk” that something has fallen through a vent and is now waiting for rescue, don’t panic! Think like one of the clever little toys in Toy Story 2. Follow these tips to get your missing item (or missing friend, if one of your toy companions has been stolen by a mean man who is going to ship them overseas) back where they should be.
- Remove the vent and take a look. If you’re lucky, the item will be within reach, or you can at least assess how hard you’ll need to work to get to it.
- Grab a pair of gloves. There could be sharp points in the interior sides of the duct that can snag or cause injury. Put on a pair of gardening gloves and maybe even long sleeves. This will also protect you from any spiderwebs you might encounter.
- Try a wire hanger. If you can see your item, try using a wire hanger from the dry cleaners. Cut the hanger with wire snips and unbend it to give yourself a long handle, then use it like Bo Peep’s shepherd’s crook to pull your missing item back to you.
- Try tape! If the wire hanger won’t work, try wrapping tape sticky side out on the end of something like a broom handle. Press the item between the tape-covered part of the broom handle and the walls of the duct to try and get good adherence before you start trying to pull it out of the duct.
- Vacuum power! Using the longest attachment on your vacuum cleaner makes it easier to suck up small items. If you don’t want to have to search through your vacuum’s bag or canister, try putting something like pantyhose over the nozzle of the vacuum attachment to keep it from being sucked into the hose.
The Best Laid Plans of Micromachines and Men
What do you do when your best efforts just can’t reach your missing item? Don’t be afraid to call in the professionals! Your local, licensed HVAC service provider has the tools to get the job done. There is no problem too small; if your lost item is important to you, it will be important to them and they will give their best effort to retrieve it.
You should also consider fully servicing and cleaning your home’s HVAC system. While air filters do an excellent job of removing dust and other unwanted particles before they can get into ductwork, things like hair, pet dander, bugs, pests, and other items can build up inside ducts. Over time, moisture can lead to mold and mildew build ups. This can cause foul odors and may contribute to health issues. A proper cleaning keeps your air conditioning working at peak performance and removes possible health hazards.
Remember, if the plucky cast of the Toy Story movies can find their way into the ducts, pests like vermin and bugs can as well. Spiders do not have the good manners to stop moving when you look at them. While cleaning your ductwork a technician can inspect the system as a whole and make sure that your ducts are in good working order. Your missing item will be retrieved, your HVAC system will be clean, and your home’s toys will be more prepared during their night midnight snack run.