Often, we take our jewelry off before using a sink or tub. It is not unusual for a piece of jewelry to fall into the drain. A ring can slip off in the kitchen sink in soapy water, disappearing down the drain. You may suddenly discover that you are missing a ring, or another piece of jewelry and you remember wearing it just a few hours ago. You think back to the last time you remember noticing it and recall you were using the kitchen or bathroom sink. Could it have gone down the drain?
The Anatomy of a Drain
Every drain in your house has a U-shaped bend in the pipe shortly after it bends toward the wall. It’s called a P-trap, and its whole purpose is to maintain a water barrier between the drain at the bottom of your sink or shower and the sewer line that leads out to the municipal sewer system on your street. Sewers create gases and other odors and without that water barrier provided by the P-trap, backed up air from the sewer could create unpleasant-smelling and toxic air in your home.
Sometimes when a sewer line roof vent clogs it can create more suction in the sewer line and that suction pulls the P-trap water out of the pipe. If that happens, you may smell sewage odors in the room. The solution is simple. Immediately run water down the drain to refill the trap and call us to check your rooftop vents for clogs. If you have a clog, we can fix it fast. You may need a drain cleaning or minor plumbing repair but fixing it now can save you big headaches later.
The other thing to know about a P-trap is that when your fixture is in use and sending water down through the drainpipe, the water in the trap is continually being replaced with fresh water. This creates a pull in the trap that eventually lifts solid matter up and out of the trap. Fortunately, jewelry is heavier and often lodges in the trap. But act fast, you can’t count on that being the case.
Recovery From A Bathroom or Kitchen Sink
A kitchen sink has a drain that goes straight down and connects to a curved P-trap. The other side of the trap is connected to a straight waste pipe that will carry the wastewater into the main sewer line.
Here are some tips on how to recover jewelry. Before starting this process, if you are not sure where you lost your ring or another piece of jewelry, tell everyone in the house to not use the water until you are done.
- Does your jewelry have any metal that will attract a magnet? Pure gold or silver isn’t magnetic, but many other jewelry materials contain alloys that may be ferromagnetic. Some metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt and their alloys are magnetic as are some forms of steel. Get a small but strong magnet at a hardware store and run it down the drain attached to a string. Be sure to get it down into the P-trap. Then slowly draw it back up. Maybe you will get lucky!
- Your next step is to take apart the P-trap, a fairly simple job, but not for everyone! Get a bucket to catch the water. Look under the sink and inspect the trap. At the very bottom of the bend, see if there is a drain plug. If there is, put the bucket under the plug and remove it. This will allow the water in the trap to be released. If your item is in there and can fit through the drain, it might come out as well.
- The P-trap is connected to both pipes with an easily unthreaded collar at both ends. Keep the bucket under the trap and use a pipe wrench to loosen and remove the trap. If you hadn’t previously drained the trap via the plug, it will be holding quite a bit of water. Pour off the water into the bucket and your jewelry should be there. If it isn’t, it may be stuck in the trap, so gently probe all the way through with a flexible plastic rod.
Recovery from a Garbage Disposal
- What if your piece of jewelry fell into the kitchen garbage disposal? The first thing to do is to turn the power off to the disposal at the circuit breaker box. Hopefully, the disposal wasn’t in use when you dropped your ring into it!
- The part of the disposal you can see directly is a disc that spins when switched on. The spin acts centrifugally to drive food waste solids to the outside walls, which are lined with grinding slots that chew up the food so it can move through the sewer line without causing clogs or blockages.
- Using the long handle of a wooden spoon and a strong flashlight, locate your lost item and pull it up with tongs, two wooden spoons or perhaps a thin wire with a hook at one end. Never put your hand down a garbage disposal.
Recovery From a Shower or Tub Drain
- Remove the drain cover. It either unscrews or pries off, or both. The trap is not directly removable because it is beneath the tub or shower flooring. In some cases, a downstairs shower/tub trap can be accessed from the exposed basement ceiling directly below it.
- Use a flexible retrieving tool found at hardware stores to probe around in the trap. It will have a grabbing claw controlled at the handle.
- You can also use a powerful wet vac to suction the contents of the trap. If you don’t have one, they are rentable at hardware stores or construction supply rentals.
If your lost jewelry is irreplaceable and you are sure it went down the drain, and the above suggestions didn’t work, give Benjamin Franklin Bay Area Plumbing a call. We have sometimes retrieved items from the same place our customers have looked. We may be able to power flush your line into a filter to catch the jewelry if it hasn’t already washed out to the main sewer line.