How To Use A Toilet Plunger

Almost everybody owns a toilet plunger. Some people know right where their plumbers helper is. Others don’t, but are sure they have one somewhere. I am fairly certain that the advent of the 1.6 gallon toilet has been very good for plunger sales!

Those of you who are regularly called upon to deal with a toilet clog may be well trained on how to use their plungers. But even if they're not your weapons of choice, (some would rather use drain chemicals instead of a plumbers helper) you may at some point need to unclog a toilet. So with no further ado, here's my tutorial on how to use it.

I like an old school red rubber toilet plunger. Toilets have various shapes of trap entryways. A plunger does not need to be extra large, double thick, or accordion shaped. Simple plungers have the added benefit of being easier to keep clean.

It must be large enough to cover the drain opening, and supple enough to create a seal. Making a tight seal with the plunger requires the suppleness of rubber.

Plungers clear drains on the pull, not the push. If an object is jammed in the trap, it will be much harder to force it through the drain than to draw it back in order to remove it, or allow it to realign and pass through.

If there is a foreign object in a toilet it is apt to gather toilet paper and plug the passageway. A plunger may clear the toilet paper part of the clog, but not remove the object. Click here for more help with clearing a clogged toilet.

Because you know the plunger works on the pull, you're going to push it slowly in and draw it sharply back. Pulling it causes a lot less splashing than you get when you push it sharply.

Aside from toilets, plungers can be used on sink, lavatory, shower, and floor drains. There are times when a slow lavatory drain is smooth wall pipe clogged with soap or toothpaste. At that time a plunger is the right tool.

Wet a rag and place it over the overflow opening of the lavatory. Now when you draw on the plunger, you'll be drawing on the water in the drain, not the air in the room.

Floor drains may be clogged with dirt. Water and a plunger can turn it into mud that will flow away.

When you plunge a drain that is connected to a vent you may draw a few plungers worth of water back. Then there'll be less resistance and you'll seem to draw air. If this happens you are drawing on the water in the trap arm only, and then the air from the vent. Removing the plunger lets the water back into the drain, but this repeats when you plunge again.

If this goes on and there's no improvement, it becomes more likely that you'll need to be snaking the drain instead of using your toilet plunger.

Except for simple toilet clogs, I think of plunging as a shortcut. A drain snake is the tool most likely to clear clogged drains. If you have no questions, you are now ready to plunge in.

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