November 27, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions needed for getting a rubber ball out of a tub drain pipe. Will Drano or Liquid Plumr dissolve it? Are there other DIY options?

I was bathing my daughter last week when her toy smiley-face rubber ball went down the drain. This ball is probably 1/8" smaller than the drain itself and is now far enough down the drain that I can't see or feel it.

So far, I have tried poking with a coat hanger and removing the two screws that hold the round disk that holds the lever that closes the drain. As it turns out, that round disk is there purely for cosmetic reasons, as the lever isn't connected to anything.

The ball is made out of the same material as rubber duckies. Would Drano dissolve it? Any other suggestions other than calling a plumber?

Thanks in advance.
posted by 4ster to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Spear it. Get a knife with a sharp point and stab it, then pull it out once it's stuck on the end of the knife.
posted by decathecting at 1:32 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: shop vac.
posted by mrbugsentry at 1:35 PM on November 27, 2007

if a knife does not work perhaps something with a barb, like the tip from a hunting arrow would work better.
posted by phil at 1:37 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: Make sure the pipe is completely dry and grab a vacuum cleaner. Use the flat end of the vacuum tube directly over the drain. If there is an insufficient seal to suck up the ball or the hole is too large, modify the end of a rubber plunger to fit the end of the tube - a knife and plenty of tape may come in handy.
posted by oliverst at 1:38 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: 2nd the shop vac.

If it's between the trap and the tub you should stick something in the trap to block the pipe so it can't get any further down.
posted by bondcliff at 1:41 PM on November 27, 2007

Fondue fork.

They have harpoon-like barbs.
posted by The Deej at 1:42 PM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I have a feeling that the pipe goes down from the drain and then goes immediately parallel to the floor and then down again, so I'm having a tough time trying to spear it, because everything I stick in the drain can't seem to get that far, due to the bends in the pipe.
posted by 4ster at 1:49 PM on November 27, 2007

You might want to have a plumber snake the drain. I think they use a mechanical drill/blade type arrangement that would chew the rubber to bits and let it wash down the drain.
posted by autojack at 1:55 PM on November 27, 2007

You need a flexible grabber tool. You can get in varying lengths from Sears.

I remember our school janitor used this to remove ball-shaped soaps from a sink drain once. As soon as I bought my house, I bought one.

They're also great for when screws and stuff fall down behind your servers.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:59 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't try a hardcore drain acid like Liquid Fire. My chemistry may be off on this (sure to be quickly corrected), but that stuff is sulfuric acid and adding it to rubber will turn it harder and tougher.

And Liquid Fire is usually my answer to any drain issues.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 2:07 PM on November 27, 2007

ok, i had the exact same problem. went to the hardware store and bought a small, handheld manual snake.

put it down the hole, started spinning, and the ball popped right up. never even had to tell the landlord. and i searched the kid for small toys after that.

a picture of the snake can be found here: http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1280064&cp=2568452.2631224.2631250&parentPage=family

that's what I used. tried to hyperlink it, but it didn't work for some reason.
posted by lester at 2:08 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't mention this, but I assume the problem is that the tub drains really slow now. So the ball is stuck somewhere in the portion of the pipe that just a tad wider than it. It could be floating on the other side of the U-shaped trap that's right under the drain opening. If so, the wet-dry shop vac idea might work, but what you'd have to do is seal up the overflow, otherwise you'd just be pulling air through there. Alternatively, you could push the ball further down the drain, using a plumber's snake, or maybe just by using a toilet plunger (again sealing up the overflow). Eventually the narrow pipe opens up into a wider pipe (probably where it connects to a vertical riser), allowing the ball to travel freely with the sewage.
posted by beagle at 2:13 PM on November 27, 2007

Lester snagged it with the snake, but the snake might also just push it down to the wider pipe. Either way, it solves your problem.
posted by beagle at 2:14 PM on November 27, 2007

4ster, I assume, like beagle, that you're having problems with the drain running slow now? If not, the ball may have flushed far enough down the pipe that it's bobbing along at your city's wastewater treatment plant by now.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:54 PM on November 27, 2007

I wouldn't use a shop-vac -- you could draw sewer gas up through the drain. At best, it's decidedly unpleasant. At worst, methane is very flammable and vacuums, lights, etc can provide a spark.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 3:01 PM on November 27, 2007

You could pour in liquid nitrogen and smash it with a coat hanger. But if your pipes are plastic it's leak city.
posted by noble_rot at 3:40 PM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have mentioned earlier that the water isn't draining out of the tub at all.
posted by 4ster at 3:55 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: A wet/dry shop vac will work well. As beagle mentioned, seal up around the overflow (I've used a wadded up small plastic shopping bag) so you can create a suction in the drain pipe. If you can have another person turn the vacuum on and off, you only will have to suction it for a few seconds, limiting the amount of "sewer gas" you might pull up.

Put the nozzle down to the drain opening, have your friend turn the vac on, and the ball should pop up.

I've used this method to clear several dozen clogged drains, particularly those clogged with long hair, etc. and have had good success.

Hardware stores sell small cup strainers which fit down flush in the drain and will readily stop large objects as well as long hair. Wish you well!
posted by tronec at 5:07 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: Is this a situation where you can go into your basement and look up at the pipe, or where the pipe is buried in a wall or floor? Also, what is the pipe made of? It might be an easy task to unscrew a pipe fitting. If it's cast iron, though, I wouldn't even think about messing with it. If it's plastic it would not be that hard of a job to cut the pipe and then, after you have the ball out, repair the cut with a pipe union.

I seriously doubt that dissolving it is workable. The shop vac and small plumbers snake are both standard approaches and one of them is likely to work.

If pulling doesn't work, depending on the layout of things, you could have someone block up the roof vent while you use something like a shop vac to blow air down the sink drain. The ball is more likely to come back up than you are to move all the water in your sewer trunk or toilet. The problem with this is that someone has to go up on the roof and you have to block up all the drains that are on that vent stack.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:48 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: I've managed to use a dry vac to pull a broken dipstick out of an engine; I see no reason why the wet/dry vac won't work perfectly.
posted by davejay at 11:07 PM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Hi everyone,

The shopvac got it in less than 2 seconds. I had no luck with the snake, but the ball turned out to be smaller and solid and not a hollow rubber duckie ball.

Thanks again!
posted by 4ster at 6:46 PM on November 29, 2007

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