Vancouver Sun – August 16, 2013

When someone sends us an email, as Melissa McAfee recently did, with a subject line that reads “dirty little secrets,” what is one to do but read it, if only for the potentially comedic value of its contents? McAfee, it turns out, does the marketing for a B.C.-based company called Modern PURAIR®, which tests air quality in schools and offices (allergies are big business these days) and also dispatches workers to clean up our commercial and residential messes, specifically the detritus, dust and dirt – literally and figuratively, it turns out – that accumulates in nooks and crannies like air ducts and dryer vents.

Turns out we are partial to storing all manner of treasures and even unmentionables in the unassuming air circulation holes in our walls.

Like what? Like pornography and vintage comics.

Like old beer bottles and cola cans and stashes of cash. Like hockey cards and dog-eared, hard-covered books. And like the more titillating finds, such as the pink wig and pink fuzzy handcuffs discovered in a clean air duct in the Vancouver apartment of a single guy, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

McAfee, who works out of the firm’s Kelowna head office, appropriately called The Vent Box, says that when you operate 10 duct-cleaning franchises in Western Canada, you tend to accumulate some great stories.

Like the time one of the company’s workers went into a recently purchased home to clean out its ducts and found a pound of marijuana in a covered vent in what had been a teenager’s bedroom.

Then there was the “vintage porn,” as McAfee calls it, found in another teenager’s bedroom, this one in Kelowna, which goes to show you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors, which in this case was the pubescent perusal of an old-fashioned pamphlet titled Personal Hygiene, Questions and Answers.

One client was the happy recipient of $10,600 in cash that had been stuffed in one of his vents, perhaps by a previous owner. Another vent in a different home revealed a 1975 briefcase containing a coin collection. McAfee notes that everything found during a cleaning is returned to the client commissioning the job.

And, of course, there is no shortage of mummified creatures that navigate our behind-the-walls passages and unfortunately come to the end of the line when they hit the vent covers. Among the perfectly intact discoveries? Mice, raccoons and even cats.

As for the single guy with the fancy for pink, McAfee says he wasn’t admitting to anything when presented with the find. “Look, they’re not mine,” he insisted.

Yeah, we believe you.

Time to fess up. What treasures have you either hidden, or found, behind your walls and in the ducts and vents of your home, whether by accident through renovation or because you called in the pros for a little spring cleaning? We’d like to hear your stories, with photos if possible, and will publish some of the best. Send to [email protected], and use Dirty Secrets in the subject line. We’ll choose one entry in a random draw for a free vent cleaning or air quality test courtesy of Modern PURAIR®.