So, You've Lost An Item Down Your Toilet. Now What?

It's not uncommon for things to get flushed down the toilet. Particularly in homes with small children, the likelihood of a toy, toothbrush, or piece of jewelry going down the drain is quite high. When the object in question is large or valuable, you're going to need to retrieve it.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take before you call your plumber in order to retrieve your lost item. That said, make sure that you only go as far as you feel comfortable with, and always call a professional if you need help. Plumbing mistakes can cost up to $125 per hour to fix, not to mention thousands of dollars in water damage!

Step 1: Check With Your Hand

Placing your hand in the toilet to find an object is probably one of the least appealing prospects imaginable. You'll always want to start with this step first, though. That's because toilets have a unique construction that often causes objects to stay within arm's reach when flushed--particularly for those with slender hands and wrists.

After placing a glove on your hand, reach into the drain at the bottom of the bowl. Resist the urge to flush the toilet again before reaching, since that could result in your lost object entering your home's pipes. At that point, your item will be almost impossible to retrieve. Hopefully, you find the object with your fingers quickly and easily.

Step 2: Use a Plumber's Snake

If your hand comes back empty, you'll need to use a plumber's snake. However, this is a point where homeowners can get into a lot of trouble. If you use the snake incorrectly, you could end up forcing the object further into the drain and pipe system. If the object becomes lodged in your interior pipes, be prepared to pay a professional to retrieve it.

The key to using the snake correctly is to use the item like a hook or a lever. Remember, you are not trying to force the item downward like you would with a plunger. Try to confirm the item's location with the snake, and then use it to scoop or hook the item back up through the toilet bowl to a point where you can grab it with your gloved hand.

Step 3: Remove The Toilet Bowl

If you cannot retrieve the item with a snake, removing the toilet bowl is your next step. This is effective if the item is still in the toilet or if you suspect the item hasn't traveled too far into the interior pipes. For this step, you'll need a:

  • Bucket
  • Deep-socket wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Hose

Begin by turning off the water supply to the toilet. This is a valve that is located on the wall behind the toilet structure. Then, flush the toilet to remove any residual water. Even though this could move your lost item, it's an important step.

Next, remove the seat from the toilet and the bowl from the floor. Start by removing any screws holding your seat to the bowl. Next, unsocket the bolts that hold the bowl to the floor with your deep-socket wrench. You may need to pry a plastic cap off of the bolts with your screwdriver. 

At this point, place the empty bowl on top of your bucket and spray water through the toilet using your hose. Hopefully, your item will fall into the bucket quickly. If not, you'll now have access to the interior pipes. You should inspect these pipes and even use the snake if your toilet does not contain the item. No matter what, be sure to replace every item on your toilet bowl exactly as you found it before turning the water supply back on.

After following these steps, you'll either have your lost item in your hand or you'll know that the item is likely lost. If you were unable to retrieve the item, you may want to hire a professional to ensure that your interior pipes are free of obstruction. Nothing makes losing a valuable item worse than major home repairs caused by water damage! For more information on how to handle plumbing emergencies, click this link.