Maybe your toddler has just discovered the joy of flushing things down the toilet, and your keys happened to be the handiest object nearby. Maybe they fell out of your pocket at an inopportune moment. When your keys have been flushed down the toilet, how they got there really doesn't matter; all that matters is getting them out.
Unfortunately, there's no guarantee you'll ever see them again depending on how far they've been carried into your plumbing system. If they're sitting just out of reach, there are a few DIY strategies that might help you retrieve them.
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First Steps to Take
While you're working on retrieving things flushed down the toilet, you don't want to accidentally bump the flush handle and have more water pour into the bowl. So, start by turning off the water supply using the shutoff valve. It's a knob that's generally located where the toilet's tubing meets the wall. Turn the valve clockwise to close it.
Emptying the bowl of water may make it easier to retrieve flushed keys and may ultimately be necessary if you end up removing your toilet. You can do this by manually scooping out water with a plastic cup or by using a wet/dry vacuum to suck the water out. However, if the best case scenario is true and the keys are sitting in the toilet's trap — just beyond your sight but reachable — you may be able to get them out without draining the toilet bowl.
It may go without saying, but you'll also want to pull on a pair of long rubber gloves before actually reaching into the toilet.
Retrieving Flushed Keys
With your gloves on and the toilet seat up, the first thing to try is simply reaching down through the toilet hole as far as your arm will reach to see if you can feel the keys. How far you can reach will depend on the design of your toilet, the bulkiness of your keys, and the size of your arm. If that doesn't work, try maneuvering a bendable magnetic pickup tool through the hole. You should be able to feel the magnet being attracted to the key ring if the keys are in fact located in the trap.
Another option is to use a clawed toilet snake to try to find and pick up flushed keys, but don't experiment with homemade toilet snakes for this purpose. They can be great for pushing a clog further into your plumbing but won't help you remove an object.
The Last Resort
If you absolutely need those keys and haven't been able to find them going in through the toilet bowl, the final thing you can try is to remove the toilet and see if they're lodged in the trap or inside the closet bend (the pipe just under your toilet). Removing the toilet is a two-person job. With the water valve off and the bowl empty, disconnect the toilet connector tube from the wall. Have a bucket on hand to collect any water still in the tube.
Carefully cut any caulk sealing the toilet to the floor using a utility knife. Pull the caps off the nuts that bolt the toilet to the floor (use a screwdriver if necessary) and remove the nuts using pliers. Then, with someone's help, you should be able to lift the toilet off the floor. Ideally, have a third person hold a piece of cardboard under the base of the toilet while you lift it in case the keys fall out so they don't tumble into the hole in the floor.
Set the toilet on its side (you may be able to remove the tank first depending on the model) and reach inside the trap to see if you can find the keys. If not, use a flashlight to look inside the closet bend. Then, reinstall the toilet with your helper's assistance. Lift it into place, screw the bolts back on, reconnect the water, and apply new caulking to the base.