This is a nightmare scenario for many people. Somehow a valuable item gets into the toilet, and before we realize what’s happening, we push the flush handle. Obviously, if you notice the item before you press the flush handle, you can put on a pair of gloves and pull it out of the toilet bowl safely. But, if you see it swirling down into the drain, most people automatically think that it’s gone forever. This is probable, but sometimes the item can become lodged in the plumbing, and it may be possible to recover it. Let’s take a look at this topic in more detail.
Contact a Local Professional Plumber
Firstly, it’s important to avoid panicking because it’s easy to make the situation worse if you lose your cool. If the item is a wedding ring or a piece of jewelry with sentimental value, it’s understandable to be upset. But, the item may be recoverable, so don’t lose hope just yet. Don’t allow anyone to run a tap, flush a toilet or take a shower while you make a phone call. Call your local certified plumber and tell them what happened, and follow their advice carefully. Remember that a professional plumber has the training, skills, experience, and specialized tools to recover items from your plumbing system. It may be tempting to attempt a recovery yourself, but unless you can actually see the item and reach it, this should be left to your plumber.
Why it’s Important to Avoid Toilet Flushing
If your valuable item has disappeared out of sight, you must avoid another flush. Most modern toilets have sufficient suction power to pull a small item like a ring or other piece of jewelry through the various toilet bowl parts. This occurs during the flushing process, and an additional flush will force the item further into the drain. Eventually, it may travel too far to be recoverable, and this must be avoided at all costs.
The Toilet May Not be Totally Flushed
If you have an older toilet or you didn’t fully press down the flush handle the toilet may not have completely flushed. This is good news, because, with a half flush, the item may not have moved entirely into the drain. Although you may not be able to reach it yourself, the plumber will have a much improved chance of recovering your item. Sometimes you can just see the edge of the item, and if you’re feeling confident, you may be able to fish it out of the bowl. Wear some rubber gloves and gently hook the item with a thin piece of wire. Remember, the item may be just out of sight, so you need to take care if you can’t see it because you could push it into the drain further.
Always Turn Off the Toilet Water Supply
Once you call the plumber and you’re staying with the toilet to prevent anyone using or flushing it, you can turn off the water supply. This is a good precaution to prevent a flush if you’re called away, and it can prevent flooding. Locate the toilet water supply valve, it’s usually behind the toilet, or it could be in the basement. Turn the valve completely clockwise to stop the supply of water to the toilet. But, this will not prevent flushing because there may be a supply of water inside the toilet tank.
What if You Want to Attempt a Recovery Yourself?
If you feel confident in your DIY plumbing skills, you can attempt a recovery yourself, but this is best left to a professional plumber. Follow these seven simple steps in order.
- The Toilet Tank: Many toilets have a toilet tank where the water used for flushing is stored. This can usually be accessed via a liftable lid, and the tank is also known as the cistern. Carefully lift the lid off the cistern and put it aside well out of the way to prevent damage.
- Clearing the Water: Remove the water from the toilet bowl using a small scoop or container of some kind. Pour the water into an external drain to prevent further flushing around the home.
- The Toilet Screws. The toilet is secured to the floor with several screws that you need to locate and untighten. You will need a wrench and a putty knife to get at the bolt covers and remove the bolts safely.
- Remove the Toilet. Now the bolts are removed, you can remove the toilet, but get some help because the unit can be heavy and cumbersome. Lift the toilet gently and lay it down on its side on your bathroom floor.
- Find the Item: With the toilet safely on its side, it’s time to look for the lost item. Get a flashlight and take a look at the waste opening. If you can’t find the item there, take a look at the wax ring that connects the toilet flange to the floor. Sometimes a small item can get stuck inside these toilet parts, so take your time and go slowly.
- The Item is Not There: We hope that after all this effort, you found your precious item, but if you didn’t, what happens next? Well, believe it or not, the item may still be around, but it could be just out of reach or not visible. It’s time to call a local certified plumber and tell them about your problem. They have specialized equipment, including drain line cameras, that they can use to carry out a detailed inspection for you.
- Put the Toilet Back Together: Hopefully, you found your item, and now it’s time to put the toilet back together. While you’re doing this, it’s probably a good idea to fit a new wax seal to prevent sewer odors and water leaks on your floor.
Now you’re finished, give the toilet a flush if you have your item back to make sure it refills correctly. If you’re not confident about tackling plumbing work, contact your local certified plumber today. Plumbers recover a large number of valuable items every day that the owners thought they had lost, so don’t despair.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.