How to Retrieve an Item Dropped Down the Sink Drain

By |Last updated on |Bathroom, Bathroom Sink|71 Comments

This project explains how to take apart the drain P-trap to recover an item accidentally dropped down the sink drain. Lost jewelry is a common occurence.

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 How to Retrieve an Item Dropped Down the Sink Drain -Part 2.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

Copyright © 2019   Reproduction strictly prohibited.


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

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

    • Esther September 24, 2014 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      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

      • Adrianna October 8, 2015 at 12:16 pm - Reply

        This was very helpful. Thank you so much. You averted a crisis.

        • Lynne January 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm - Reply

          I can’t unscrew either slip nut – they are too tight. Help!!!

          • Bob Jackson January 5, 2017 at 8:33 pm - Reply

            If you have plastic slip nuts, remove it with channel lock pliers. Hold the drain pipe steady with one hand so it doesn’t twist, place the jaws of the channel locks on the nut and turn. It should do the trick. For example, I’m using two pairs of channels locks to remove a shower valve in this photo. They’re available at the home improvement store.

  2. February 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

      • Syannah August 21, 2016 at 9:34 pm - Reply

        Uhmmm does this works with contacts to

        • Bob Jackson August 21, 2016 at 9:46 pm - Reply

          A contact lens is very light and will be washed out the P-trap. Besides, the drain is unsanitary and you don’t want to put the contaminated contact in your eye even if you did find it. Contact disinfection solution isn’t designed to handle the germs in the sink drain.

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

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

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

    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 - Reply

    Ok looks like it is glued shut! :(

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

    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 - Reply

    You are a life saver!!!

    • moo August 22, 2015 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      HI i got all in metal hard to take of pls give someother idea

      • Bob Jackson August 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm - Reply

        You’ll need one or two pairs of large wrenches or channel locks to disconnect the metal sink drain plumbing. Be sure to apply pipe thread sealant to the metal threads before reassembling. Any home improvement store will have the tools and sealant. If you need more specific advice you can e-mail photos to bob[at] – replace the [at] with the @ symbol.

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

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

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

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

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

    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!

  19. lyn December 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Fantastic, easy to follow instructions -it worked! A big thank you!!

  20. Angie February 9, 2015 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Thank you. I just brought home a new pair of earrings and in less than an hour one of them went down the sink drain as I took it off from gazing at them in the bathroom mirror. I am a single woman who doesn’t know anything about plumbing at all!!!! I was able to follow your instructions and retrieve my earring….I am so happy. Thank you again :0)

  21. Deborah February 18, 2015 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    These were quite possibly the clearest, most helpful instructions ever. Bob Jackson for PRESIDENT! Thank you so much…I dropped gold earring in sink last night…rushing out late for dinner. I did not want to pay plumber to come fish it out, so I was resigned to just losing the earring. I thought, “well, I’ll just google and see if anything I can try.” Followed your directions with my 5th grade daughter and voila! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  22. YinYin March 5, 2015 at 8:24 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this! My mom dropped her pendant down the sink and I was able to retrieve it thank goodness. It was sitting at the end of the p trap. She was really happy cause she was going to let it flush away originally. Thanks again!

  23. miranda March 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Yeah this did not work I dropped my lip ring down took it apart and not to be found

  24. Amy June 9, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

    This was the most helpful site I ever used!!! I diamond stud went down the drain this morning.I googled and this popped up right away. I had my stud back in under 3 minutes. A million thank you’s and my husband says thank you as well.

  25. Anjali August 9, 2015 at 2:01 am - Reply

    Thanks Bob… I had my new diamond earring down the drain and had started thinking during my sobs how to get a replacement or ask someone to help from plumbing…just thought of checking if it’s possible to retrieve and found ur pic…u godsend…kudos and keep up the good work…God bless u.

  26. Tanika August 16, 2015 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    Worked like a charm. My earring dropped right out into the bucket after I removed the J bend. Thank you kindly :)

  27. Penny October 27, 2015 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I’ve just retrieved my contact lens. Thank you!

  28. dionna November 22, 2015 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    I dropped my earring in the sink, and I knew it was probably still in the “J” pipe. I told no one to run water. My sister ran it for a second before I reminded her. I looked in the “J” pipe and I didn’t see it. Is there a slight chance its still retrievable or is it gone?

    • Bob Jackson November 23, 2015 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Did you also remove the pop-up drain pivot rod to see if the earring got caught on it? Take apart both the J-bend and pop-up drain.

      If you still can’t find the earring then it’s been washed out and is gone for good.

  29. Shawna February 24, 2016 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Thank you! Saved my earring from one sink and also used your instructions to figure out how to repair our other sink, where the plug has broken. Saved me a $100 handyman bill!

  30. Barbara March 11, 2016 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much, my husband passed away last year, and I dropped a small gold charm that said “I love a Farmer”, that he gave me and was so happy when I wore it as a necklace ,on a chain. I was distraught when it went down the drain. I found this article and managed to retrieve it. I am 78 and was really proud of myself. Your directions and clear pictures saved the day..

  31. Inger April 13, 2016 at 9:14 am - Reply

    I can’t get to the underneath bits due to position and design (would involve breaking pedestal). Is there a way of sucking up the water and the lost item! From the trap? Some kind of suction device I could hire from somewhere?

    • Bob Jackson April 13, 2016 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Try a spring-shaft claw pick-up tool. Remove the pop-up drain and pivot rod then slowly insert the claw pick-up tool down the drain. When you feel the claw make contact with the U-bend, open the claw and push it in another inch or so. Close the claw and withdraw it from the drain. Hopefully you’ll retrieve the lost item after a couple of tries. Take care not to insert the claw beyond the U-bend because it could push the lost item down the pipe where it would be irretrievable. Claw pick-up tools are widely available at auto parts stores.

  32. janet April 25, 2016 at 11:06 am - Reply

    thanks .. did it myself… without calling a plumber!!

  33. Pv April 28, 2016 at 3:25 am - Reply

    That’s awesome.. I did find my lost earring with your clear instructions. Thanks for your help

  34. Jennifer July 7, 2016 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Thank you for preparing this “how to” guide for dummys. I retrieved my diamond earring and was so relieved. I am not a handy person by any stretch of the imagination. If I can do it, anyone can. Thx again!

  35. Dee August 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    I was in the process of cleaning my diamond earrings and “clink” one went down the sink. I was devasted but then I googled and found your post. You made it so simple to follow and I am so happy to have my earring back! Thank you and God bless!

  36. Vicky September 18, 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Great! My sink had huge metal slip nuts and I had to buy a big wrench to loosen them, but when I did…presto! My diamond stud! Thank you!

  37. gloria October 7, 2016 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    hello, i accidentally got a crochet hook stuck in my bathroom sink drain and i caint get it out help me!

    • Bob Jackson October 8, 2016 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Remove the pivot rod and pop-up stopper only. That should free whatever the crochet hook caught on. If the hook happens to fall into the drain it’ll be in the P-trap.

  38. Kathy November 16, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much!!!! I was able to retrieve my black pearl earring myself with your step by step tutorial. Your the best.

  39. Cath December 10, 2016 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    I dropped a ring down my sink but I guess the way my sink pipe is built, I only have 1 slip nut at the top of the J-bend that can be loosened and the other one at the other side of the J-Bend seems like there’s caulk around it so I can’t remove it. So I then tried a coat hanger and that didn’t work. Not sure what to do. Please help.

  40. Sharon katz January 3, 2017 at 6:47 am - Reply

    I dropped a sewing needle down my brand new sink. I was scared to take apart any pipes. I went to Home Depot and bought the smallest magnet on a flexible handle. I was thrilled when it took the needle right out of the drain.

    • Bob Jackson January 3, 2017 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      Excellent! The limitation is a magnetic pickup tool won’t work on non-ferrous items like silver and gold.

  41. Cora Brown January 14, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Thank you! This excellent article kept me from crying when I dropped a fork down the kitchen sink!

  42. Holly C March 4, 2017 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Thank you so much! I retrieved a diamond earring I washed down the sink this morning.

  43. Yvette May 16, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    What about a shoelace?? Should i even try or do you think its long gone??

    • Bob Jackson May 16, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      A shoelace could get caught on the pop-up stopper. If it makes it past that it’s probably washed down the pipe for good.

  44. Rian June 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Super helpful! Thanks for the tutorial, I’m feeling super handy right now. Found 4 toothpaste caps, a makeup wand, 2 quarters, a chunk of glass and a ring, I guess Draino doesn’t clear with these things ;) Apartment life struggles are real!

  45. Mason June 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I have only a couple of words…THANK YOU!!! Being a young dumb millenial I had no idea how to retrive my gfs valentine’s day diamond stud earring when she sobbingly told me she dropped it down the bathroom sink. My first response was “I will buy you a new one!” Obviously, that was the WRONG response.

    So after a quick Google search and 3 minutes of work the earring is back from the dead. However, now my sink is leaking at the J-bend…guess I have another Google search ahead haha but still THANK YOU!!!

    • Bob Jackson June 10, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Fix the leak by taking apart the P-trap and clean all surfaces including the pipes, cone washer(s) and slip nuts. Double check the cone washer is oriented correctly – the wider flat end goes against the nut.

      If the old washer is scratched or damaged new ones are available at the home improvement store.

  46. Roberta June 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much !! I was able to retrieve my earring once, and then after I put it back together I promptly dropped the other earring down the same drain…..seriously !! No more putting expensive earrings on in the bathroom !!! You are a life saver !!

  47. Lisa June 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    I want to thank you very much i had dropped the cap to the toothpaste down the sink and it was difficult taking the pipes about only because my bathroom is very small so the area where the sink is was hard to get behind it I did it but no my neck is in a spasm and i hurt my shoulder that was already bad and again it was only because i have a small bathroom. I didnt retrieve the cap to the toothpaste so i hope it doesnt cause a major problem. But if it wasnt for you i would have know what to do and i cant afford a plumber. Thank you again for putting this info and showing us.

  48. Victoria May 19, 2018 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Genuinely cannot than you enough.

    I just salvaged my earring from my j bend. My boyfriend was asleep and I didn’t want to wake him with my late night dramas!!! I feel pretty proud right now. Your instructions are spot on!!! Xx

  49. manny adler November 24, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Can a broken pivot rod ball be removed without taking apart the entire assembly. the ball rod broke exactly where it attached to the white ball (a Moen pop-up) Any tricks for removing the ball? The nut is off but nothing to grab the ball.

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