Whether it's someone trying on a new pair of earrings or a child playing with small Christmas gifts over (or in) the bathroom sink, it is not unreasonable to assume that some new item may take a plunge down the sink drain.
However, if it occurs, all is not lost. Quick thinking, a little bit of effort, and a tolerance for handling slimy and smelly water will allow the item to be saved by removing and cleaning the sink trap.
What is a sink trap?
A sink trap is a "J" shaped plumbing fixture that provides a buffer zone from your sink drain to the main drain line of your home. Because of its curved shape, it retains some of the waste water that would normally fall directly to the main drain line.
This standing water will trap small items that have fallen down the sink drain, preventing clogs farther along a more inaccessible portion of the drain line. It also prevent noxious sewer gases from traveling from the main sewer line and entering your home.
However, the ability to retain fallen items is based upon further use of the sink. A great rush of water will dislodge the item and send it along its way into the main drain line.
The sink faucet must be turned off a soon as possible to increase the chance of retrieval, so it's a good idea to inform all house residents of this fact before an incident occurs. Turn off the water immediately.
Removing the sink trap
To remove and replace a sink trap, you'll need an adjustable wrench, a roll of teflon tape (thin plastic ribbons used for sealing pipe threads), and rags or paper towels for cleanup. A bottle brush would also be helpful for cleaning out the trap, but you can improvise with a garden hose or something else that you have on hand.
Place the bucket under the trap, then loosen the large compression nut at the top of the trap. You will then loosen the large threaded nut at the bottom of the trap, holding the trap upright to avoid spilling smelly water and sludge. Place the trap into the bucket.
The trap will likely be filled with a black sludge that is lining its inner surface, as well as dirty standing water. You may get lucky and find your lost item in the water, but you should still remove the sludge to thoroughly clean the trap.
If you use water pressure from another faucet or the garden hose, prepare for blow back of loosened particles by pointing the openings of the trap away from your face and body.
Reconnecting the sink trap
You will begin by wrapping a few layers of teflon tape in a clockwise direction around the threaded bottom end of the trap. Slip the top end of the trap over the drain pipe that id descending from your sink, then align the bottom threaded end with the main drain line and tightening the nut securely.
Next, tighten the compression nut at the top of the sink drain, securing the trap to your sink drain.
Clean up your mess and you're finished. If you're looking for more plumbing help, click here for info.