Gone down the plughole

Careless Brits have lost millions of pounds worth of goods

New research from the AA's Home Emergency Response service reveals that millions of pounds worth of goods disappear 'down the tubes'.

The research, part of its State of the Nation's Homes series of reports, finds that more than a third (34%) of respondents say they've lost something down the plughole or loo, including mobile phones, jewellery, cash and keys.*

Our own engineers tell us about the strange things they find in customers' drains, and it does make you wonder how they got there.

Tom Stringer, head of Home Emergency Response

Jewellery is most likely to get stuck in the U-bend. Fifteen per cent said they'd lost a piece, worth a pricey £175 on average. Mobile phones and toothbrushes are second most likely to meet a watery grave, with almost one in ten saying either of these belongings had gone astray.

As well as being inconvenient, losing keys can be costly, as the one in twenty respondents who'd lost them spent an average of £58.25 replacing them.

Other items respondents said had gone down the drain were make-up, children's toys, household tools, socks and underwear.

Tom Stringer, head of the AA's Home Emergency Response service said: "It's surprising what will fit down a plughole. We know the kinds of things we're not supposed to put down the drain, like vegetable peelings and cooking fat, but we're often not overly careful in making sure other things don't accidentally end up down there.

"It's easy to imagine that a ring could slip off when you're washing up, or that a set of keys could fall out of your pocket down the loo.

"But our own engineers tell us about the strange things they find in customers' drains, and it does make you wonder how they got there. A lot of people are surprised when they call somebody out to unblock their drain and discover the culprit was something like a child's toy that they thought they'd lost.

"Luckily, about three-quarters of those who'd lost something down a drain had managed to get it back. A lot of the things that people lose – like jewellery and mobile phones – are expensive. They may have a lot of sentimental value too, or be difficult to do without.

'But even when those items are retrieved they might not be fit for use any more. Nobody wants to use a toothbrush that's been down the loo."

Women are the unluckier gender. Four out of ten said they'd lost an item, compared to 28% of men. Those aged under 35 are similarly ill-fated: 46% had lost something, whereas just 28% of over 65s had done the same.

Have any of the following items ever fallen down your drain?

Lost item

Percentage of respondents

Average value of item







Mobile phone









Children's toys



Household tools



Cash or credit/debit cards









12 June 2013

* Populus interviewed 1,244 AA members aged 18+ from its online AA Home Panel during 10–21 May 2013. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.