According to the internet, vent fans are NOT required in bathrooms as long as there is an openable window at least three square feet in size. This is crazy, right? I mean, maybe that makes sense in Arizona, but what are people who live in normal places supposed to do when it’s 10 degrees outside? We’re supposed to go to all the trouble of unplugging our TVs when we’re not using them and turning off lights when we leave a room and caulking around door frames and whatever and then just… leave a giant window open for a few hours every day?? My apartment is barely habitable in the winter even with everything sealed up super tight, so the advice to “just open up a window!” is a huge nonstarter. (Also, my neighborhood has a pretty intense spider situation in the summer that everybody but me refuses to acknowledge, so leaving a window open in an area where one is frequently nude and defenseless is also pretty unappealing.)
So this is my attempt at rigging up a replacement for a real vent fan. Shockingly, it actually works! I did some very sophisticated moisture tests that involved me touching the bathroom ceiling at various intervals after showers, and everything dries off WAY quicker with this thing running. Bonkers, right?
Here’s the build process for my hobo ventilation system:
- A small, powerful fan. I got this sinfully ugly one by Vornado, because my mom always used Vornado fans and she had insanely high standards for everything so I assume they’re the best. (Also, the pink one was really cheap and even though it says it ships out in 2-5 weeks, I got it in four days.)
- A cheap articulating monitor arm.
- 8″ white or clear zip ties
Then the rest of these things are “optional,” but not really
- Plastic spray paint. This stuff is amazing and as far as I can tell performs as well as Krylon Fusion for like a third of the price.
- A pretty power cord. Amazon has a really good selection of colors here (just cut the bulb socket off) , but if you need a shorter length without a thumb switch or want an INSANE selection of colors (glitter denim, anyone?), save a few bucks order from these guys on eBay.
- Some kind of very sharp craft knife, pliers, and a wire stripper
I gave it a go without the “optional” stuff, and, well…
Yeah, no thank you. (Shout out to my bud Hope, who provided moral support while I was dealing with the magnitude of the ugliness in this shot.) I’m happy I took this picture, though, because it reminded me that I started to paint this hallway and then apparently just gave up after 10 minutes? I have literally no memory of doing this, but I’m guessing it was at the same time that I painted the living room which was an entire YEAR ago and how is it possible I never noticed???
Disassemble the fan and remove the godawful pink stand. It boggles the mind that a group of people went through a design process that ended with this piece of hot pink translucent plastic hot garbage.
To get the front piece off, unscrew the 7 screws that are visible from the back. The seventh screw is kind of hidden in the upper right portion of the back grille. (If you don’t have an electric screwdriver, get this one and thank me later because your life is about to get 10,000x easier.) Then unscrew the four screws at the bottom (the ones you can see in this picture) and wiggle off the grey swivel-y thing and the rubber part it’s sitting on. The swivel-y thing stays attached to the cord, but that doesn’t matter because the cord is coming off next.
Step 2, aka the step where electricity is scary but that’s okay because you are a strong and empowered adult and you can totally do this
Unscrew the little piece of clear plastic holding the cord down in the lower left corner, then remove the white woven sleeve from where the wires join up.
This is so fun already, right? The caps are kind of smooshed shut, so if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to have to run out to get new wire nuts, use a pair of pliers to gently un-smoosh them and pull the wires out. Untwist the power cable from everything and throw it in the garbage because seriously, you are never going to use it for anything else.
Admire your beautiful new cord. Pull down the fabric from the end to expose the white sheathing, then cut off a section of that to expose the two individual wires. Get a little mad at your beautiful new cord, because it totally just complicated your plan. See, in wiring, you’re just supposed to match up the wire colors– the black/hot wires go together, and the white/neutral wires to together. Or at least that’s the American standard, but there are so many standards it makes me suspect that whoever comes up with them doesn’t have a really firm grasp on what the word “standard means.” So this fan has red and black wires, and the cord has brown and blue. Cool. I spent way too long pursuing this chart (did you know that black means hot in the UK, but only in stuff made after March 2004? And it has no meaning in Australia?) before I gave up and called my friend George. He verified that black goes with blue and red goes with brown (which seems obvious in retrospect) and assured me that the worst thing that would happen if I mixed it up is the fan would spin backwards (which I find ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING, and confirmed my belief that electricity is just straight-up magic.)
Twist the new wires together (red/brown and blue/black!) and congratulate yourself because you have just mastered electricity.
Take a sharp craft knife and slice down an inch or two of the white sheathing, then cut it all the way off so you have an inch or two of the wires hanging out of it. (You totally could have done this earlier, but maybe you were too nervous about electrocuting yourself with an unplugged electrical appliance so just back off, okay?) Then pop the plastic wire nuts back on and squish them down again with the pliers.
Then all there’s left to do is slipping the woven sleeve back over the wire nuts and securing the new cord to the back of the fan with that little clear plastic piece.
Step 3: PAINT ALL THE THINGS
I thought I could get away with not painting the grilles, but after having the fan up for a few days the shiny grey plastic started to drive me NUTS. So leave out the grilles at your own risk. I also ended up hitting the fan blades with a light coat of light pink spray paint, but that’s because I’m crazy and its probably not necessary.
VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT USE REGULAR SPRAY PAINT. It will peel off in a giant sheet as soon as you breathe on it. The Rustoleum I linked to up there is fabulous and costs the same as regular spray paint so it’s all I keep in the house now, just so I’m never tempted to screw up a project because I’m too impatient to wait for an Amazon shipment.
Also paint the monitor arm, obviously. It’ll look so much nicer. Give everything at least 24 hours to dry, because plastic is an asshole and takes foreverrrrrrr to cure and you don’t want to get fingerprints on everything. Then reassemble everything–it’ll be a little tricky because everything has to snap together just so, but it’ll happen eventually
Step 4: hang that shit up
The monitor arm came with instructions, which I obviously did not read. You’re supposed to mount it on a stud, and you’re absolutely NOT supposed to use the concrete anchors in drywall, but I didn’t find this out til too late so I did the opposite. (Seriously, what even are concrete anchors? And who is hanging computer monitors on concrete walls? Is this product made only for cool computer hackers who live in cool industrial lofts?) I figure that everything will be fine, because it’s only supporting a 1-pound piece of plastic and not a fancy piece of futuristic hardware.
Once the arm is up, use some zip ties to attach the fan. (I found it easiest to first thread the zip ties through the back of the grille with some long tweezers and a lot of patience, then bring the fan over to the arm and thread the zip ties onto the mounting plate while someone held the fan up for me. If you try to get the zip ties through the fan grille while it’s dangling in the air you’re going to have a bad time.)
I mean, just look at all that moisture about to exit the room! (Not to mention the less savory airflow patterns in bathrooms that I wouldn’t know anything about.)
And look! It folds up into a cute little package when you’re not using it!
Oh and if you were here mainly for my super top secret mold killing recipe, here it is:
1. Get a bunch of bleach
2. Pour it into a spray bottle
3. Spray that shit all over the mold
4. Don’t tell anyone on Pinterest, because it would destroy their entire business model
Seriously, bleach. Vinegar and lime juice and baking soda and infant sneezes and negatively-charged ions are all fine to waste your time with when you’re trying to get your mason jars to look more farmhouse, but black mold doesn’t give a fuck about your “toxin-free lifestyle. (Protip: black mold IS a toxin ffs.)
I wasted SO MUCH TIME trying out silly stuff that didn’t work. Then one night I gave up, doused everything in bleach, and when I walked into the bathroom five minutes later the mold had literally vanished. It was so crazy I had to call my roommate in to look because I knew otherwise nobody would believe me when I told them. I spent two seconds wiping the excess bleach off the walls and the ceiling and that was it. SCIENCE, YOU GUYS.