How to Retrieve Jewelry After It Falls Down a Drain

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated July 25, 2022
Woman washing hands at the kitchen sink
Photo: Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

Take a deep breath—here's how to get your beloved jewelry back

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Difficulty: ⅖; Flex your DIY muscles.

Time: 60 minutes

Cost: $0–$5

Cost details: You might need a thing or two.

What You’ll Need

Tools needed:

  • Magnet

  • Bucket

  • Tongs

  • Screwdriver

  • Wet-dry vacuum

Supplies needed:

  • Piece of string

Losing jewelry down the drain can happen in any number of ways. Maybe you took off your wedding ring to wash your hands and placed it on the counter, but then accidentally knocked the ring in the drain. Despite your cat-like reflexes, you couldn’t catch it in time. Don’t worry—it’s not a lost cause. 

Before calling a plumber, follow these steps to recover lost jewelry from the drain.

How to Retrieve Jewelry from a Bathroom or Kitchen Sink

If you’re looking to retrieve a lost piece of jewelry from a sink, here are a few strategies to try.

1. The Magnet Trick

Before getting into the intricacies of your plumbing, see if you can capture that long-lost jewelry with a strong magnet. Tie your magnet to a string, and lower it into the drain. If your magnet fishing isn’t fruitful or your jewelry is silver or gold—which aren’t magnetic—go to step two.

2. Turn Off the Water Supply

 Male hand turning off water supply
Photo: The Toidi / Adobe Stock

Use the shut-off valves under the sink to turn off the hot and cold water or, if needed, turn off the main water supply to your home.

3. Take Apart the P-Trap

Plumber hand removing p trap from sink
Photo: A Stockphoto / Adobe Stock

The P-trap is a U-shaped pipe under the sink. Most P-traps have drain plugs. Place a bucket under the P-trap to keep your rescue mission from becoming a mess, and if your trap has a drain plug, remove it to release the water. Take apart the trap by loosening the slip nuts on either side of the pipe’s bend. Dump out any remaining water, and your lost artifact should hopefully be there with it.

How to Retrieve Jewelry from the Garbage Disposal

If you’ve lost a ring while tossing some food scraps down the garbage disposal, here are a few handy ways you can try and retrieve it.

1. Turn the Power Off

Male hand turning breaker off
Photo: The Toidi / Adobe Stock

Always use caution when trying to retrieve anything from the garbage disposal. Before doing anything else, you should switch the power off to the disposal at the electrical breaker box.

2. Try the Magnet Trick

As noted above, you can try using a strong magnet on a string to attract your lost jewelry. Keep in mind that this strategy won’t work for gold or silver jewelry.

3. Use Tongs

In some cases, you may be able to see your missing item in the disposal. If the item is visible, try to retrieve it with tongs, wooden spoons, or other long utensils. Shine a flashlight down the disposal to check. As tempting as it might be, you should never stick your hands inside the disposal.

4. Check the P-Trap

If you don’t see the jewelry in the disposal, it could be in the P-trap. As mentioned above, you can remove the P-trap’s drain plug and take apart the trap by loosening the slip nuts on either side of the pipe’s bend.

5. Call in Reinforcements

 Plumber inspecting kitchen garbage disposal
Photo: yunava1 / Adobe Stock

If your jewelry is in the grinder, chances are it has damaged your disposal. Plus, retrieving this can be dangerous. You should call a plumber to inspect your disposal and remove the item.

How to Retrieve Jewelry from the Shower Drain

Your morning routine can get way more hectic if your ring tumbles down the shower drain. Here are some strategies to help remove it.

1. Remove the Drain Cover

The first step to retrieve your jewelry is to remove the shower drain cover. If you don’t see any screws holding the drain cover on, you should be able to just pop it off. Wedge a screwdriver behind it, and pull it up at an angle. If it has screws, remove them before popping off the drain cover.

2. Use a Retrieval Tool

If you can see the jewelry, remove it with a flexible retrieval tool. You can find these tools at a hardware store for about $10.

3. Vacuum

If you can’t see the jewelry, you can try sucking it out of the drain with a wet-dry vacuum. Turn the vacuum on using the wet setting, and insert the open end of the hose into the shower drain until it reaches the bottom. 

With the vacuum still running, remove the hose, holding it straight up in the air. If the jewelry is in the hose, it will fall into the vacuum tank. Turn the vacuum off, remove the top of the tank and dump the contents onto an old towel. Sift through the debris to find your jewelry.

4. Put the Drain Cover Back On

Blue tiled floor shower drain
Photo: Alex / Adobe Stock

Be extremely careful if the drain cover needs to be screwed back in. The screws could easily fall down the drain, too. Whether you were successful in retrieving your jewelry or still need help, you should put the drain cover back on while you wait for next steps.

What to Do if You Can’t Get Your Jewelry Out

While it can be stressful when you lose an important piece of jewelry, it’s important not to panic. This situation can be frustrating, though, and it’s understandable to be upset. Even if a piece of jewelry is covered by insurance, it can still have sentimental value that’s impossible to replace, making retrieving this specific piece of jewelry from your drains a priority.

That said, you can make a huge mess if you’re not sure what you’re doing, and you should avoid damaging your plumbing system accidentally. If you’re still struggling to retrieve your jewelry, you should get in touch with a plumber near you for help.

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