Today I lost my keys in a storm drain [insert embarrassment emoji here]. This is not directly in the street but attached to a building.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to open the drain either from above or to get to it from the basement of the building. Fortunately, the drain does not really drain very much, so its bottom is of cement and I can perfectly see down through it. I can see my keys! They are two meters down below, mixed with rubbish.

The drain is just like any other, e.g.:

enter image description here

The space between bars is around 1.5 to 2 cm.

How can I recover them? Any clever idea? I got some but I would like to know what people come up to.

4 Answers 4


Similar to Zeiss Ikon's answer, you could bend a paper clip into a hook, and attach it to a piece of string or cord that is long enough to reach down to your keys. It may become frustrating trying to get the "hook" to grab the keys, so a pole may be better.

A strong magnet would probably work better. Attach that to the long string or cord, and lower that to your keys. You won't have to worry about hooking your keys; they'll stick. However, it may be impossible or difficult to lower the magnet between the slots in the metal grate. You could shove it down through them with a short stick, pole, or ruler.

  • 5
    A magnet tied to a rope did the trick. Super easy!
    – luchonacho
    Oct 19, 2018 at 9:07
  • @luchonacho That's fantastic! Thank you so much for telling me! How did you get it down through the grate without it sticking to the metal? Oct 19, 2018 at 15:10
  • 1
    It just didn't. Although I used this tool, so it was easy to push it down.
    – luchonacho
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:16
  • @luchonacho Clever tool! Oct 19, 2018 at 18:36

If you're lucky and your building is old enough, there might be some blind hooks inside -- these are poles with a hook on the end, used to pull down roll-up window shades that are too high to reach from the floor.

If you're not that lucky, that's what you need anyway -- a pole with a hook on the end. You might manage with a fishing rod and a large fish hook set just loose at the end eyelet.


A cup-hook inserted into the end of a bamboo cane makes a very effective tool for hooking things - we use it for a “hook the rubber duck” fair game. A strong magnet would also work, given it’s keys.

A tape measure can also work to hook stuff that’s fallen - you’ll need to add a magnet or paper clip hook, but it’s more discreet than bringing a 2.5m stick with you.


If the keys are made of brass and not able to be lifted with a magnet, or are on a large metal ring which won't fit thru the holes in the cover, you can still lift the cover, but it will require a crow bar easily purchased or borrowed from any hardware store. Looking at the cover, there appears to be a lifting slot at the lower edge of your picture. A crow-bar will fit in that slot and you should then be able to lever the cover off. Remember Archimedes? "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world", thus a drain cover should be a cinch :-)

  • The photo was an example. This cannot be lifted, partly because it would involve intervening in public property, and its a busy street.
    – luchonacho
    Oct 19, 2018 at 9:06

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