Valuable items can vanish down the drain in the blink of an eye. That beautiful engagement ring you took off to do the dishes? An earring that slipped down the bathroom sink? You might think that they are lost forever, but with a little luck, you can retrieve them with no harm done. All it takes is a bit of DIY skill and some basic knowledge of your drain plumbing. Read on to learn how to retrieve items that wash down the drain.
The Saving Grace of a P-trap
The first thing you need to do as soon as you see an item slide into the drain is to turn the faucet off immediately. That will decrease the chance of whatever it was from getting carried all the way to the drain stack, at which point it will drop into the sewer line and you will never see it again. If you stop the water in time, however, the item will likely remain in the trap under the sink.
In fact, jewelry, probably the most frequent valuable item to get washed into the drain plumbing, is actually one of the easiest things to retrieve. Metal and gemstones sink in water, which increases the chance that they will sink to the bottom of the plumbing trap. Take note, however, that you should try to retrieve any solid object that goes down the drain, even if it’s of little or no value. If the object gets stuck in the trap, it will start to accumulate hair and debris and may eventually cause a clog in your drain plumbing.
A Successful Retrieval
The trap under your sink is actually designed to keep nasty sewer odors from backing up into your sink, but it doubles as a handy way to catch lost items. To get your valuables back, you need to open up the trap. The exact procedure will vary depending on your specific drain plumbing, but some general principles apply, and the process shouldn't be too difficult even for a relatively modest DIYer.
First, set a bucket under the trap to catch any water that spills out. Next, use a wrench or pliers to remove the “J” part of the trap from the rest of the drain plumbing. In some systems that use plastic pipes, you can just unscrew the slip nuts by hand. Once the nuts are loose, you can pull the trap off the pipes and shake out your lost item. This is also a good opportunity to clean the trap – they often get filled with gunk over time, which can potentially harbor harmful biofilm.
Putting it All Back Together
Once you have your item back, all you need to do is put the drain plumbing back together the same way it came apart. If you don't succeed on your own and need help retrieving a valuable item that washed down the drain, contact an expert plumber without delay.