Fact Check

Strange Drain Finds

Strange things found in drains by Roto-Rooter men.

Published Dec 31, 1998


Claim:   If it's interesting enough, what you send down your drains might well end up neither gone nor forgotten.

Status:   True.

Origins:   Whatever you've stuffed down your toilet, rest assured someone has topped it.

From a 1994 news article:

It used to be the only things you worried about finding in the sewer lines were alligators, old love letters or motel keys. And maybe an occasional rat that took the wrong turn downstream and ended up in someone's toilet.

But the Roto-Rooter guys rooting around in average house drains find everything from Barbie Dolls to rattlesnakes.

Every year, the Roto-Rooter Corp. surveys its folks about the goodies they find on house calls in the United States and Canada. So far this year, tree roots are still the most common obstruction.

Which you have to figure is pretty tame compared to a 2.2 meter boa constrictor. Which, in turn, seems only a tad less unsettling than finding a 2.4 meter rattlesnake in the drain. Sort of a self-coiling plumbing snake.

Some of the survey items boggle the mind as well as the drain. How do you suppose was someone able to flush a complete bedspread down a household drain? Women's lingerie, sure, even long underwear (two sets) or assorted automobile parts. But a bedspread?

There were no details about the reported roto-rootings of three pigs, three possums or three skunks. Neither were there any specifics about who found the piranha or how many fingers he had left.

One Roto-Rooter in Fort Collins, Colorado, was unclogging a 10 cm drain line from a pond to a nearby stream when he bagged a 2.5 lb trout right through the gills with the rooter blades. "And I don't think he had a licence," said his boss.

Some things you expect to go down the drain, like contact lenses and toothbrushes. But the survey also uprooted 20 sets of false teeth, a six-pack of Budweiser and, in one department store john, 14 pairs of extra-large men's briefs. While you try to figure that one out, consider that one Rootarian found an eight ball, and another found 30 golf balls in one line.

And once in a while, things go down that drain that should... like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, someone's beeper/pager, a television remote, and an alarm clock. And yes, before you even mention John Cameron Swayze, one Rootarian found a Timex watch still ticking. Personal items, everything from keys to vibrators, comprise 65% of all drain-clogging things found by Roto-Rooter folks.

Upscale and down-drain were a Rolex watch and a $4,000 diamond.

Last updated:   2 January 2005

  Sources Sources:

    Hahn, John.   "Rooters Reveal Unusual Findings About Nation's Clogged Drains."

    The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette.   27 August 1994   (p. EV6).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.