How to Get Something That Fell Down the Sink Drain

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated July 21, 2022
overhead shot of home bathroom interior featuring square sink, light wood counter, and white tile walls
Photo: Diana Vyshniakova / Adobe Stock

Don’t lose hope that your precious items are gone—take a breath and follow these steps

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There’s not much worse than watching something valuable or sentimental clink twice on the porcelain and escape a last-ditch effort before it falls down the sink. Fortunately, your belongings are (most likely) easier to recover than you might think. So if you’re reading this in a frenzy, just know that chances are pretty good your ring (or other precious item) isn’t gone forever.

How to Get Something Out of the Sink Without Taking It Apart

Try these steps that may help you retrieve your item quickly.

Use a Magnet

You can use a magnet for magnetic metal items that fall down your sink, like those that are iron-coated or stainless steel. Silver and gold rings are not magnetic. 

Attach a small magnet to a piece of string, or buy a flexible rod with a magnet on the end that will fit down your sink. If you know your item is magnetic and you're close but can’t seem to bring it up to safety, you may need a stronger magnet. You can find coin-sized magnets of varying strengths at home improvement stores for under $5.

Use a Grasping Tool

This applies to non-magnetic items. There’s slightly more of a risk that you’ll push the item further down the drain using this method, so it’s worth using a magnet first if applicable.

A grasping tool or flex cable is designed to travel down sinks and latch onto lost items. You can buy them at home improvement stores for $10 to $15. Again, be gentle when pushing the tool down the drain—if you push too hard or go too fast, you might shove the item down the drain further. Listen for metal noises and attempt to hook the item and bring it back up the drain.

How to Get Something Out of the Sink Drain

aide view of home bathroom sink and counter with bathroom products and towels neatly placed
Photo: littleny / Adobe Stock

If you’ve tried the steps above to no avail, you may need to do a bit more work to retrieve your item.

1. Turn off the Water

If you haven’t done this yet, do so immediately. Shutting off water to the sink will prevent your item from getting any further into your plumbing than it already has. To do this, look under your sink. You should find two valves: one each for hot and cold water. Turn them clockwise to shut off your water.

2. Remove the Drain Plug

Removing your sink’s drain plug will help you gain access to your pipes. Some drain plugs are removable with a gentle tug. Others have a horizontal rod underneath the sink that you must unhook first. Then you can remove the plug. 

Proceed carefully—sometimes a valuable can get hooked on the bottom (or against the side) of your drain plug. Removing it forcefully could cause the object to sink further down the drain.

If it's been a while since you’ve cleaned your bathroom sink, the drain plug might be dirty and bring debris up with it. Check this carefully for your item, too. 

4. Disassemble the P-Trap

If your item still hasn’t appeared, don’t lose hope. Maybe when cleaning your kitchen sink you’ve noticed the U-shaped pipe design underneath. This is called the p-trap.

P-traps hold onto water to prevent sewer gases from backing their way into your home. But because of the way it’s designed, there’s a possibility your item is stuck there and will come out with the water trapped inside.

To disassemble, place a bucket and several towels underneath your sink before opening the p-trap with your pliers. Even though the water is off, there will be residual water leftover inside that will come spilling out as soon as you loosen the pipes.

Turn the compression nut on both sides of the trap and loosen the nut carefully. Lower gently and allow water to pour into the bucket.

5. Clean the Trap’s Interior

In some cases, especially if your sink’s pipes are dirty, the item could be lodged in the gunk that’s accumulated in the p-trap. Remove any hair, soap scum, or other items that have built up here carefully while searching for your valuable item.

When to Call a Plumber

If the item you’ve lost is not in the p-trap and doesn’t come out with the residual water in your pipes, hiring a sink repair specialist or local plumber can help.

Don’t worry; hope is still not lost—as long as you don’t turn your water back on or run the faucet. 

Fortunately, most plumbing systems are designed with several bends and traps. An experienced plumber can check these areas carefully without damaging your plumbing and safely put your pipes back together.

Additional Tips for Getting Something That Fell Down the Drain

Short of hiring a pro, here are some additional DIY tips to keep in mind when getting something that fell down the sink drain:

Don’t Stick Other Objects Down the Sink

It can be tempting to stick an unwired coat hanger or another similar object down the drain in hopes of hooking or latching onto your item. Avoid doing this, as you could push it further down the drain or get the item you’re putting in the sink stuck. A flex cable is your best bet.

Don’t Take the Sink Apart

Unless you really know what you’re doing, taking apart your sink completely probably isn’t a good idea. This could require you to hire a sink repair specialist to come and fix it, which could cost several hundred dollars.

Take Pictures (or At Least Mental Notes)

Minor pipe disassembly is OK, but make sure you take note of how your pipes look before you take them apart. Taking photos or even a short video on your smartphone can help you put things back together when you’re done.

In short, be careful and don’t lose hope! Your ring or other precious item is likely not far down the pipes. Whether it’s you or a pro, you will likely be able to retrieve it.

Cost to Get an Item out of the Sink: DIY vs. Hiring a Plumber

Unless you need to buy a set of pliers and gloves, getting an item out of a sink drain will cost you only a few dollars at most. You can buy a flex gable or grasping tool at home improvement stores for $10 to $15, or a small magnet for $5. The whole project shouldn’t cost more than $20.

Hiring a plumber or handyperson near you will probably cost $50 to $150. It may take them only a few minutes to take apart your sink and retrieve your item, but you’ll still probably have to pay for the full hour (or pay a flat-rate service fee).

FAQs

Can a ring clog a sink?

A ring or other small object may clog your sink, especially if it accumulated other debris on its way down. However, that is probably the least of your worries if you drop your favorite jewelry down your drain. If your gold band goes tumbling down the sink drain, don’t panic—refrain from running more water down the sink, and follow the steps above.

What happens if you drop something small down the sink?

Anything you drop down your sink runs the risk of damaging and clogging your pipes. Even if it’s not valuable, it’s definitely worth trying to retrieve the item, or at the very least, asking a pro for specific advice.

Can a ring get past a p-trap?

Yes, in some cases, it can. If you don’t find the ring in the p-trap or elsewhere during the steps outlined above, it’s time to call a plumber for help.

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