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How to Retrieve Items from the Toilet Without Touching Them

Squeamish mother of three, I used my creativity to avoid gagging while doing icky mom jobs. Veteran of the "toilet wars' & "no flush zone."

Sometimes you don't want to know where the kids dropped it...

Sometimes you don't want to know where the kids dropped it...

"Mommy! Something fell in the toilet!"

These are the words no mother wants to hear! Yet no matter how careful we are, we will eventually hear those dreaded words. And then whatever item fell in will have to be retrieved from whatever -ick!- else may be in that toilet bowl. It won't be the highlight of your day.

Maybe you can't blame that now-sunk object on a kid. Perhaps high-tech and low-tech met when your cell phone POPPED! right out of your pocket at a most inopportune moment and PLOPPED! right into the toilet bowl.

Or maybe you're one of those people trying to figure out how to get a metal fork or spoon out of the toilet. Hey - I don't even want to know how those got there!

If you can't bear to quickly reach in and grab it, what can you do?

What NOT To Do When You Drop Something in The Toliet

  • Don't try to flush the item down. Just don't.
  • Even if it seems like it's small, it could get stuck exiting the toilet bowl and then you will be in a pickle and need a plumber.
  • Yes, even a metal spoon or fork could get wedged down into the curvy parts of the toilet exit system. (See "Anatomy of a Toilet" shown further below for technically correct language.)
  • Toilets can handle toilet paper and, well, the other "usual" stuff, but not so much larger pieces of paper, plastic, etc.
  • Don't use a metal spoon or fork to reach into the toilet.
  • Don't use a metal hanger or any other metal object that could scratch the porcelain tank.
Don't try to flush the object down the toilet! It could get stuck in the secret toilet parts.

Don't try to flush the object down the toilet! It could get stuck in the secret toilet parts.

Hands-Free (or at least Hands CLEAN!) Removal

Some people don't seem to get squeamish about reaching into a toilet bowl to retrieve dropped jewelry, a cell phone, or a toy. For others, the mere thought makes us gag - and that's just the thought of reaching into "clean" toilet bowl water!

But have no fear! We do not have to sully our hands to save the day!

There are a few options for precious-item-retrieval that will save our sanity and our sewer system.

Raid The Kitchen

My favorite kitchen utensils to use for object retrieval:

  • Tongs are my top choice for grabbing anything that I don't want to touch. (I've even used them to take the giblet bag out of the turkey.)You may have a really long pair of tongs with a barbecue set or a regular-sized pair in the kitchen. If you don't have tongs, don't you want a set now that you see how useful they can be?
  • Any wooden spoon, especially one that you don't like anymore. Two used in tandem would be even better.
  • Plastic Spoon - I'm talking about the Oxo-type nylon ones with handles about 14 inches long. If the size is right you can scoop the spoon slightly down into the s-trap exit and catch behind the item. A slotted spoon works well as the water can pass through while the item is contained.
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Raid the Junk Drawer

  • Back scratcher - Have one of these novelty items on hand? The curved fingers will clutch a small item nicely.
  • A ruler - Not top choice, but in a pinch it can be used to slide an item up the side of the bowl to where you can grab it.

Glove Up!

  • If you're the sensitive type then just wear rubber kitchen gloves when you've gotta reach into the toilet bowl. Have a pair under the kitchen sink? Sure you'll probably want to throw them out after this use, but they will go up to your elbows and give you the ability to reach your fingers around a more delicately sized-item without contacting anything unpleasant.
  • No gloves? If all else has failed, grab a plastic bag - maybe a couple of them - to stick your hand in, wrap around up your arm and then "just" reach into the toilet water.
  • If you're going to plunge your naked hand into the toilet be sure to really scrub well when you pull it out.
  • Don't touch anything else before you give your hads a good long washing just like a surgeon scrubbing into surgery, especially if anyone in your family has had...uhm, how shall we say it? intestinal upset recently.
Anatomy of a toilet

Anatomy of a toilet

The Technique

  • Get on your gloves!
  • Pull your t-shirt up over your nose if you're squeamish. (Seriously, I'm not kidding. It's better than the alternative because you really don't need another mess to clean up!)
  • You will have to work very carefully so lock out the kids and the pets.
  • If you push the item back too far you may not be able to get it without a plumber.
  • You may try a two-handed method, with perhaps a ruler in one hand and the tongs in the other.
  • Use the ruler to scoop behind the object and push it slightly forward, and then use the tongs to grab a hold.
  • The ruler in the back will keep the object steady while you get a grip, as well as preventing it from sneaking down that back drain.
  • Again, be careful with the porcelain. Scratched porcelain may be the last thing you are thinking about now, but the scratches will last longer than that cell-phone or toy.

Sanitizing the Mess

You'll want to sanitize that retrieved item and whatever you used to retrieve it. You can do this by soaking the item(s) for 2 minutes in a solution of 3/4 cup of regular bleach (or 1/2 cup of concentrated bleach) mixed with 1 gallon of water. Of course you'll need to keep this mixture away from kids and pets, and if you're prone to migraines make sure there's some air circulating. Then go ahead and rinse off the bleach when the two minutes are over.

For more details on disinfecting with bleach visit Dr. Laundry at the Clorox bleach site.

Now you just have to worry about your kids announcing at the next barbecue, "Hey, Daddy! Those look like the tongs Mommy used to get her cell phone out of the toilet!"

Yeah, might want to buy an extra pair. You never know when you might need them again...and not for flipping burgers.

Dare to Share!

What's Safe to Put in the Toilet

Safe for ToiletNot Safe for Toilet

Anything that comes out of your body

Metal utensils

Toilet paper

Action figures

Toilet cleaner

Flushable wipes (ask a plumber!)

Plumbing tools

Feminine hygiene items

Matchbox cars


House keys




Anything not on the "Safe" lid

© 2013 Amanda Rose

Share Your Toilet Traumas - What Fell In & How Did You Get It Out?

Amanda Rose (author) from Florida's West Coast on January 11, 2013:

I sure appreciate your comment, and thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like you've "gone fishing" a few times!

Nell Rose from England on January 11, 2013:

Haha! Oh yes how I know this one! tried the plastic bags, yuck but successful, the tongs, yep, a curtain rail! yes that was handy at the time because I was about to throw it away! great ideas!! and voted and shared! nell

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