Dropped it Down the Drain… Now What?
Ever dropped something down your bathroom or kitchen drain? Talk about a sinking feeling. Most objects just aren’t worth the stress. Many objects are also caught within the sink’s trap, specially designed for these instances, and can be quickly retrieved. However, there are those instances where an irreplaceable item makes its way deep into your pipes. No matter your situation, here are the steps to take if you’ve dropped something down the drain.
Check the trap under the sink
You’ve just dropped something important down the drain. Take a deep breath. Not all hope is lost. Typically lost items are found in the first place you should check – the trap beneath your sink. The best thing is that you can check this area yourself by following just a few simple steps.
- Shut off the valve – This will ensure that if somebody forgets that your sink is not connected to your plumbing system and accidentally runs the faucet, that you and your cabinet won’t get soaked.
- Loosen and unscrew the nut holding together your trap – Your trap was designed for this very purpose. This means that sinks with traps are made to be taken apart and reassembled simply. Just a nut should be all you have to remove in order to disassemble the trap to search for your lost item. Make sure to place a bucket beneath the trap before you remove it to keep water from damaging your under-sink cabinetry.
- Empty the traps contents into a bucket – Collecting what is stuck in your trap will prevent water damage and messes beneath your sink. Best case scenario will be to find the item in the bucket, without having to conduct a more in-depth search or contact a plumber.
- Reassemble your trap – By repeating the steps taken to loosen and remove the trap, you can reassemble your piping to ensure your sink drains properly. You may be able to tighten the nut by hand, but you will likely want to utilize a wrench or set of pliers to create a reliable seal.
- Run your faucet – Always make sure that your trap has been properly reconnected by running the faucet and looking under the sink. If you notice any water droplets, shut off the water and tighten the trap. You may want to use a wrench or pliers to achieve a tighter seal.
Utilize available plumbing tools
If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to do it yourself by using one or more of the various retrieval tools that are out there. Each one has its benefits and limitations. You can rent or purchase these tools at your local hardware store.
Plumbing snake – A plumbing, or drain snake, is a flexible metal cable that is narrow enough to fit through pipes. It’s unclogging mechanism is a spiraled auger at the end that cuts through and grabs ahold of clogs. A snake that a homeowner may find at a local hardware store is likely going to be manually powered and plenty long to reach most clogs.
To use a snake to reclaim a lost item down the sink, you will feed the snake through the drain. Keep going slowly until you reach an obstruction. Once you hit the obstruction, twist the snake to cut through it and begin to pull back. The item will likely not have passed through a clog in the pipes, so search through the clogged items and ideally your item will be among them.
Drain vacuum – Another great tool is a vacuum, ideally a vacuum designed specifically for drains. A drainvac is the right size and power to suck up any clog or miscellaneous items that could be caught in your pipes. It is also equipped with a plunger tip pull out tough clogs. A vacuum may not have the 50ft reach that a snake will have, but it’s a quick and effective way to retrieve lost items.
Simply place the plunger tip over the sink’s drain and turn the vacuum on. Listen for objects entering the receptacle and periodically check the inside of the vacuum for the fallen item.
Drain magnet – Similar to the drain snake, a drain magnet is a flexible cable that can be fed through a drain. This is a great solution for one of the most common precious items that fall down the drain – wedding/engagement rings. However, for non-metallic items, a magnet will not be helpful.
Locate the item using a drain camera
If you haven’t already, this is the step when you’ll want to call a plumber. If a plumbing snake, vacuum or magnet tool are unable to retrieve your item, it’s likely caught deep within your pipes. There’s really no way of knowing where it could be without simply getting into the pipes and finding it. A drain camera allows a plumber to do exactly that.
The drain camera can be fed directly through your sink and throughout your plumbing system. With high definition imaging, the plumber will slowly work through your pipes until the item is identified. From there, he or she will be able to locate the item based on how deep the camera went and which directions it followed while inside your pipes.
Most sinks are built to prevent heavier items from ever getting into the pipes. However, a small gem or diamond could work its way deep into your plumbing system if it goes unnoticed for multiple uses of the sink.
When is it time to call a plumber?
It’s easy to say that if the expenses of the plumbing work are projected to surpass the monetary value of the item that was lost, then it’s not worth going through the trouble to have a plumber come and dig out the item. However, certain items (wedding rings, other jewelry, etc.) will have a sentimental value that motivates the homeowner to retrieve it regardless of the cost. Ultimately, this decision takes some forethought before you call a plumber and communication with the plumber to receive a reliable quote.
Have a budget set forth before contacting a plumber to make your decision easier once you receive your initial quote. This will prevent you from getting in too deep and finding out after the plumber has torn up your drywall, dug up your yard or removed panels from your ceiling, that it’s not worth it to move forward. The last thing you want is to lose the item and all your savings because you didn’t set a clear and reasonable budget early on.