How to Retrieve an Item Dropped Down the Sink Drain

This project explains how to take apart the drain P-trap to recover an item accidentally dropped down the sink drain, such a piece of jewelry.


How to Retrieve an Item Dropped Down the Sink Drain

Small and sometimes expensive items are easily washed down the sink drain. Metallic items like jewelry will sink and can usually be retrieved from the plumbing drain trap under the sink. Be sure to turn off the water immediately to minimize any chance of the item getting flushed into the main sewer line. Taking apart the P-trap to recover a lost item is simple and can often be done without tools. This job took less than 15 minutes when my daughter lost an earring in the bathroom sink.

Earring lost in the Sink Drain

Earring lost in the Sink Drain

The steps shown here also apply to unclogging a sink.

Bathroom Sink Plumbing: P-Trap and J-Bend

A lost item will normally sink to the bottom of the J-bend in the P-trap. The purpose of the the P-trap is to maintain a water seal to prevent sewer gases from wafting out of the sink drain. It’s called a P-trap because it looks like the letter P.

Bathroom Sink Plumbing: P-Trap and J-Bend

Bathroom Sink Plumbing: P-Trap and J-Bend

Take Apart the J-Bend

Place a bucket under the J-Bend to catch the water.

Lost Item in Bathroom Sink Drain: Bucket under the P-Trap

Lost Item in Bathroom Sink Drain: Bucket under the P-Trap

Unscrew the slip nut at the J-Bend. Remember, lefty-loosey righty-tighty. No tools are required.

Bathroom Sink Drain: Unscrew the Slip Nut at the J-Bend

Bathroom Sink Drain: Unscrew the Slip Nut at the J-Bend

A nylon washer is under the slip nut. Let the slip nut rest loosely when fully unscrewed.

Retrieve Lost Item in Bathroom Sink Drain: P-Trap Slip Nut and Washer

Retrieve Lost Item in Bathroom Sink Drain: P-Trap Slip Nut and Washer

Unscrew the slip nut at the other side of the J-Bend.

Lost Item in Bathroom Sink Drain: Loosen the J-Bend Slip Nut

Lost Item in Bathroom Sink Drain: Loosen the J-Bend Slip Nut

Slide the slip nut up and out of the way on to the horizontal section of the P-trap as shown. I’m supporting the J-Bend with my hand here as it’s ready to drop down.

Retrieve Lost Item from Bathroom Sink Drain: Remove the J-Bend

Retrieve Lost Item from Bathroom Sink Drain: Remove the J-Bend

Well – what do you know? The earring didn’t sink to the bottom of the sink trap because it got tangled in a bunch of hair first (yuck!).

Retrieve Lost Item from Sink Drain: Trap J-Bend and lost Earring

Retrieve Lost Item from Sink Drain: Trap J-Bend and lost Earring

Lost earring retrieved from the sink drain.

Retrieve Lost Item in Sink Drain: Earring Retrieved from the P-Trap

Retrieve Lost Item in Sink Drain: Earring Retrieved from the P-Trap

This repair is continued in Part 2.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

Copyright © 2014 HandymanHowTo.com   Reproduction strictly prohibited.

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24 Responses to How to Retrieve an Item Dropped Down the Sink Drain

  1. tim October 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm #

    you are a god!!! keep up the good work

    • Esther September 24, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

      I am ecstatic right now. I just retrieved my emerald earring from the drain and I’ve never felt this happy in my life. You da real MVP

  2. Anneurock@msn.com February 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Hi,I dropped a exoensive earing down the sink,not knowing it,the water drains slow even when sink has water in it,what are the chances the earing is still in the elbow??Thanks Anne

    • Bob Jackson February 11, 2011 at 12:15 am #

      The odds the earring are in the U-bend are excellent. It only takes a few minutes to disassemble the trap, so why wait?

  3. Rose February 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Thank you so much! I have never worked with plumbing and I was able to retrieve my earring without problem. The photos are excellent. Well done.

  4. Nicole Z. May 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Thank you so much for this awesome tutorial! I was just able to retrieve my diamond earring from the j-bend. Thank you! Thank you! The photos were excellent…btw.

  5. Marcia M. May 16, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Thank you so much! The instructions and photos were very easy to follow and I retrieved my earring! Thanks again!

  6. Kelly January 2, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    thank you, this worked like a charm and I have never done any plumbing work before, thank you!

  7. Kalene February 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    I dropped a string of amber beads down the sink (lightweight). I could see them sitting in the J-Bend from above, but had to come back later to get them out. During the wait, the water was turned on once. Using your directions, I looked in the J-Bend and they are no there, nor past the P-stop as far as I can see. Is it a goner? :[ Thanks for the easy directions though.

    • Bob Jackson February 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

      Yes – the lightweight string of beads is a goner, having been flushed past the P-trap into the main sewer line. Sorry.

  8. Robbie Wilkes April 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Thanks! Just recovered my wife’s necklace and, unexpectedly, the diamond off her ring, that we didn’t even know was there. LOL!

    So simple

    • Bob Jackson April 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

      I appreciate the feedback. Maybe you’ll find diamonds in the other sink traps?! :-)

  9. Rebecca December 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I have tried following your directions but can’t get the first slip nut to loosen with my bare hands. I don’t have tools per se but is there something I can use to loosen it?

  10. Rebecca December 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Ok looks like it is glued shut! :(

  11. Michelle January 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    That maybe took me 2min to retrieve my earring which I thought was lost. Thanks so much!

  12. tom October 19, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    You are a life saver!!!

  13. LKelly November 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Thank you so much for the awesome tutorial! I was resigned to calling a plumber, but thought I would try your instructions and retrieved my earring! I did need a wrench to loosen the connection, but otherwise everything went smoothly.
    Thanks again for sharing your expertise.

  14. Annelize November 24, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Thank you for the elaborate instructions with pictures. You saved me money and I retrieved my mom’s earring! I used a rubber cloth I use to open jelly jars. I have three instead of tho washers and I needed to unscrew the ones closests to eachother. You have to try real hard to get it unscrewed but it works. Thank you!!

  15. Jeremy S April 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Retrieved my daughter’s favorite earrings today. Thanks for helping me be the hero!

  16. SIRISHA June 27, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    Hey! Thanks so much… I can’t tell u how much useful this was for me to retrieve my lost thing…

  17. Bill November 4, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    My sink does not seem to have the 2nd J-bend slip nut. I do not know how remove the J-Bend

    • Bob Jackson November 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      You can email photos to bob [at] handymanhowto.com and I might be able to figure it out.

  18. Sandi November 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    This is what makes the Web so great! I didn’t have to call a plumber and my husband and I were able to easily get the earring. Thanks so much Bob for such great info and pics! You’re awesome!

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