There’s no denying that toilet clogs are an inescapable part of life. As the water level rises so does our panic. It’s a problem that needs solving and a plunger could just be your solution – there’s a reason they’re referred to as a plumber’s best friend! 95% of the time a plunger will do the trick making it a crucial tool in any house. Extra stubborn clogs may need to be treated with a chemical cleaner or an auger, but the plunger should always be your first line of defense.
A plunger consists of a rubber suction cup attached to the end of a wooden or plastic stick. When your toilet clogs the suction created by the plunger helps loosens and break up the blockage allowing the water to drain and return to normal flushing.
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3 Types of Plungers
Plungers are extremely common and cost-effective and can be found in all hardware stores. There are a few different plunger types – let’s talk about the different kinds and when to use them.
Type 1. Sink/Cup Plunger
The most common plunger, sink plungers only work on flat surfaces making it less suitable for your curved toilet bowl and better for showers, baths, sinks and basins. Pushing the cup down creates a positive force of pressure, and pulling the cup back creates a negative pressure. This alternating pressure jostles the clog back and forth, loosening the waste.
Type 2. Toilet/Flange Plungers
You guessed it, this is the plunger for your toilet problem. The flange refers to the flexible rubber base. If necessary, this flap folds into the cup making the plunger suitable for flat drains too. When it comes to toilets, however, the flap stays exposed and fits neatly into your toilet drain with the thicker rubber cup fitting snugly over the curve of the bowl, preventing air from coming through and securing suction.
If your toilet and sink both need plunging, we recommend buying a cup plunger and a toilet plunger. Using the same plunger for both is unhygienic and increases the risk of illness and contamination.
Type 3. Accordion Plungers
This is the most difficult plunger to use and is only to be used in extreme cases. The accordion plunger has a much more rigid plastic than cup and toilet plungers. No air must be allowed to pass in and out of the plunger cup and correctly positioning this less flexible plastic can be tricky and risks scratching your toilet. This plunger is more powerful than the others, however, make sure you use it with care.
How To Plunge a Toilet
Now that you know your plungers, here’s a step-by-step guide that will help you efficiently plunge any toilet.
Step 1- The Preparation
Make sure your water-level isn’t too high. Vigorous plunging may cause splashback and drench you and your surroundings. In case of splashing, we recommend putting newspaper down on the floor around the toilet and wearing old clothes. If you have already tried a drain cleaner be sure to wear gloves while plunging to protect your skin.
Step 2- The Positioning
Place the plunger directly over the drain hole. Make sure it completely covers the hole so that proper vacuum suction can be created. Keep the handle of the plunger straight down at a vertical angle. This helps in creating better suction, as opposed to plunging at a slanted angle.
The plunger should be completely submerged in the water, with the plunger’s cup at the halfway point of the water level in the bowl at least. Fully submerging the plunger is what creates suction – without enough water and too much air the plunger won’t be able to pull and push the clog.
Step 3- The Performance
Once you have confirmed the plunger positioning and the level of water, it’s time to start the real work. Push down on the plunger until you feel it touching the drain hole, and then pull it back. Be careful not to pull back so far that you release the suction. Continue this motion a couple times before finally pulling out the plunger completely.
Repeat this process as needed in spurts of about fifteen seconds until you notice the water start draining out. Unless you’re faced with a very solid object, most toilet clogs can be resolved with this approach.
Step 4- The Perusal
Once you are satisfied that the clog has been removed, reconnect the water supply to the toilet. Then, flush the toilet once to see if it drains properly. If the toilet does not flush normally then you may have a more serious problem on your hands.
There’s no need to panic however as there are other powerful solutions out there like drain cleaners and augers.
Yes, the P-words were too tempting not to run with after starting with preparation and positioning. So try to remember the four Ps and you’ll be a plunging pro pronto!
The video above is a great plunging visual walkthrough. You can see the process of declogging, how he had to flush it a few times to completely remove the blockage, and even the signaling “pop” as he clears through it.
His bowl had drained before he started plunging which is why he flushed but if yours is full already then there’s no need to raise the water level anymore.
He uses a cup plunger and although it worked for him you can see how precise the angle and timing of suction is – this guy knows his way around a clog but it’s tougher for a pre-plunger to get it on the first few tries which is why we recommend a flange plunger instead.
Final Plunging Thoughts
Always remember, a plunger is a sound investment in your household so don’t default to the cheapest option. A good quality plunger is reliable and can last years with proper maintenance. Keep your plunger clean and dry when not in use. If your plunger is a bit old and showing signs of wear and tear, it may not create a tight enough seal. To fix this issue, you can tie an old cloth around the ending to block any leaks that would hamper suction, but this is only a temporary fix.
Before using a plunger try running it under some hot water. This will soften up the plastic and allow for a more secure seal to form. Do not plunge your toilet if you recently used toxic chemicals. Often these chemicals are corrosive and can cause serious harm to you or your bathroom should splashing happen, which is highly likely.
Plunging your toilet doesn’t have to be the undertaking it sounds like. With the right considerations plunging is a straightforward and effective process that can help resolve almost every clog.
We hope these tips help resolve all of your plunging questions and concerns. Good luck and happy plunging!