To answer this question we first need to identify some vocabulary.
What Is a P-Trap?
There is, under your sink, a pipe fitting called a P-trap which connects your sink drain to the rest of your plumbing drain system. The P-trap’s function is to keep sewer gas out of your home. Because the P-trap is a literal trap, it’s also good at catching things, such as jewelry, that gets dropped into the sink drain.
Since most jewelry is denser and therefore heavier than water, if you accidentally drop it into the sink drain, the jewelry will fall to the bottom of the P-trap and will remain there. The water will be unable to push the jewelry up and over the trap weir.
How Do I Get Jewelry out of a Sink Drain (P-Trap)?
You’ll need a small bucket and maybe some slip-joint pliers large enough to fit the diameter of the P-trap nuts. Most of the time, the nuts can be loosened and removed by hand. Put the bucket under the P-trap to catch the water when you remove the nuts. Once removed, empty the P-trap and you should find your jewelry! Next, reassemble the P-trap. Hand tighten the nuts and that’s usually good enough to seal the joints. If not, give the nuts a little extra turn with your slip-joint pliers.
How Do I Get My Jewelry Out of a Flushed Toilet?
If you drop jewelry in the toilet and accidentally flush. Yes, I have gone on service calls where jewelry was dropped in a toilet and flushed by a toddler. Toddlers are fascinated with flushing stuff down toilets. The force of the flush may or may not push your jewelry past the toilet’s trap. Do this first:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet.
- Get a sponge and sponge out the water from the bowl.
- If the jewelry is in the trap, someone with small hands may be able to reach it.
- Or, get a small mirror and see if you can see it at the backside of the trap. If it’s there, you should be able to reach it.
If it’s not there, it could have snagged on something where the toilet seats to the flange mounted at the floor.
Follow these steps to remove a toilet:
- Turn off the water supply and disconnect from the toilet tank and remove all the water from the tank and bowl.
- Remove the tank from the bowl. Trust me, it’s the easiest way.
- Remove the bowl from the floor, and turn the bowl upside down. You may see your jewelry right there, either at the flange or on the bottom of the toilet. If not, pick up the bowl and get it a couple of up and down shakes. You may hear the jewelry jangle inside the toilet and it may drop out. If so, great, Now, you’ll have to reassemble the toilet and reset it to the floor. This would be a good time to replace all the parts in the tank. Honestly, you should probably hire a plumber to do all this.
If the jewelry isn’t in the toilet bowl, then it probably pushed past when the toilet was flushed, but not all hope is lost yet. We can run a camera down the toilet drain and see if we can find it with the camera and possibly retrieve it or cut the pipe where the jewelry is located and then rejoin the pipe with a coupling. You’ll need to determine what value the jewelry has because this whole process could cost between $500-$1,000 and it may not be worth the effort.
How Do I Get Jewelry Out of the Tub / Shower Drain?
You ask “how could this happen?” Well, it’s rare, but I have retrieved jewelry from a tub drain. It will definitely be at the bottom of the P-trap, but not as easy to retrieve as from a sink drain. You’ll need a wet/dry vacuum with powerful suction. For a tub drain, remove the overflow plate with a screwdriver. Then, you’ll need to adapt the size of the vacuum hose down to about ½” or ¾” flexible pipe so it will easily fit into the 1 ½” diameter tub drain waste and overflow pipe. You don’t have to get technical here. Just use duct tape. Push the small diameter flexible tubing down as far as it will go. This should be the bottom of the trap, usually about two feet below the waste and overflow plate. Then turn on the wet/dry vac. It will suck the water and jewelry out of the P-tap and end up in the wet/dry vac bucket. Reinstall the overflow plate and run some water in the tub to refill the P-trap to keep sewer gas out.
Use the same process for a shower drain, although the only way to lose jewelry down a shower drain is if the grid drain cover is missing. And yes, I have been on service calls where the cover was missing. Remove the drain cover with a screwdriver and follow the same process as with a tub drain.