You’ve dropped something down your bathroom sink drain. Or your kitchen drain. Maybe it was an earring or maybe it’s your teenager’s Airpods. Regardless, you have an object stuck in your pipes and you’re wondering how to get it out.
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Most items that fall down a drain end up caught somewhere in the p-trap, between the fixture and wall. Don’t panic, we’ll show you how to get something that fell down the drain out again. We’ll start by removing the drain plug and finish by showing you how to take your P-trap apart. Simply follow each of these steps:
1. Turn the water off
Do this as soon after dropping something down the drain as possible. Make sure the water is off before proceeding to any of the steps below. Your water shutoff valves (hot and cold) should be under your sink.
2. Clear out the space beneath the fixture
You’ll probably end up working under there, so you’ll need the space to move around.
3. Put a bucket under the fixture’s piping
The P-trap pipes you may have to remove tend to collect sludge, so you’ll want a place for that stuff to go that isn’t all over you. Gross.
4. Locate the P-Trap
The P-trap is a section of piping usually located directly under a drain fixture. It’s called the P-trap because it kind of looks like the letter ‘P’. It usually looks like this:
Or like this sink P-Trap diagram:
Your P-trap is probably made of either PVC piping or steel. Look for PVC piping if the trap isn’t visible, and steel if it is. The P-trap is made up of two 90-degree joints: one that connects directly to the underside of the sink basin, and one that connects to the sewer line via your wall. It also contains a ‘U’ shaped overflow pipe.
That U pipe under your sink contains a water seal system that prevents sewer gas from entering your home through the drain. This system allows water to enter the pipe from the sink but doesn’t let it go back to the sink once inside.
5. How to remove the drain plug from a sink
Before we can empty out the overflow pipe, we must first remove the drain plug. Here’s how to do that:
- Close the drain plug
Close the plug in the sink completely by pulling up on the plunger behind the faucet that opens and closes the plug.
- Locate the plug connector rod
Find the horizontal pivot arm connected to the plug. You’ll find it beneath the sink on the upper 90-degree angle joint (“90-degree angle joint 1” in the photo above), on its back side. There will be a metal rod extending from the p-trap up through a hole on the fixture.
- Unscrew connector rod
The shorter end of the metal rod will be held against the p-trap by a retaining nut. Unscrew this nut by turning it in a counterclockwise direction.
- Detach the plunger clip
There will also be a clip connecting the retaining rod to the sink plunger. Detach this clip by hand so that the plunger is no longer connected to the metal retaining rod.
- Release the drain plug
After unscrewing the retaining nut and disconnecting the plunger, pull the metal retaining rod straight back. This should release the drain plug. Position your bucket to catch any excess water falling out of the drain.
- Remove the drain plug
Lift the drain plug straight out of the drain hole in the sink.
6. Use a pliers or similar tool to retrieve your item
Now that the drain plug has been removed, you might be able to go into the drain directly to get back your lost item. Reach into the drain with a grasping tool to see if you can retrieve your item. Don’t be surprised if you run into some hair or slime.
If you manage to retrieve your item at this point, all you need to do is reinstall the drain plug and make sure it’s functioning correctly. The plug should fit snugly in the drain hole when closed and rise when it’s open. Don’t forget to re-attach the plunger clip, too!
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If your lost item isn’t in the drain, it was probably flushed into the p-trap’s overflow pipe itself. To retrieve it, we’ll have to remove and clean out the p-trap’s overflow pipe. Don’t reinstall the drain plug yet! Instead, follow these steps:
7. Put on rubber gloves
This next part is going to get a little grimey.
8. Loosen the slip nuts
Unscrew the two slip nuts connecting the overflow pipe to the 90-degree joints at either end. Remember that these slip nuts are the only thing holding the overflow pipe on. Make sure your bucket is ready to catch the filth that may overflow when the pipe is tipped.
Most slip nuts can be removed by hand, especially if they’re made of PVC. Some slip nuts will have to be removed with pliers. Be careful not to overwork the slip nuts or you could strip or damage them. Try to loosen the slip nuts with the pliers just enough so they can be turned by hand.
9. Remove and dump the overflow pipe
Turn the overflow pipe out and dump its contents into your bucket. Your missing object should be there. Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of gross stuff as well. The overflow pipe tends to collect that stuff; that’s part of its job.
Consider having cleaning tools with you for this step, so you can clean out your overflow pipe before replacing it. This will help it from becoming clogged and keep your drain flowing.
10. Wash out and re-install the overflow pipe
After you’ve cleaned it, replace the overflow pipe. Make sure it’s positioned correctly and that the slip nuts are tight. Hook the plunger to the retaining rod, screw the rod back onto the p-trap, and place the plug back into the drain.
When you’re finished, turn your water back on. Run the sink and check for leaks coming from the p-trap or drain hole. If you discover any leaks, tighten the corresponding slip nuts. A little plumbers tape can help seal the connection.
Expert Help with Your Drains
We’ve shown you how to remove the drain plug from your sink and how to clean a P-trap out. If you followed all these steps and you still can’t find your lost earring–or if your p-trap doesn’t have slip nuts–give us a call. Our experienced Dallas area plumbers have seen all types of pipes and drains. If they can’t figure out how to get something out of your sink drain, no one can!