A Guide to Plungers (and How to Use Them)

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Hand holding a plunger.

Plungers are a homeowner’s best friend. You should always have a plunger handy and reach for it first when you have a clogged toilet or sink.

 

Why to Use a Plunger

Many people’s first instinct when they have a clog is to pour store-bought drain cleaner down the drain, but this is actually harmful to your pipes. Liquid drain cleaners are full of caustic chemicals that eat away at clogs to get rid of them, but the problem is they also eat away at your pipes. Using store-bought drain cleaners will eventually cause leaks in your pipes, which is much more difficult and costly to fix than a simple clog.

 

How to Use a Plunger

First things first, you need to know the different kinds of plungers and how they work. There are two types of plunger, cup plungers and flange plungers.

 

Cup Plunger

Cup plungers are the most common style of plunger, with a rubber cup attached to a long wooden handle. This type of plunger is best for using on flat-surface drains like those found in bathtubs, showers, and sinks. They can be used on the curved drains of toilets but are not as effective as flange plungers for this job.

 

Flange Plunger

Flange plungers look like cup plungers but have an additional rubber ring, or flange, around the cup. The rubber flange allows you to get a good seal around a curved drain, so these plungers are especially effective on toilets. They can be used on flat-surface drains as well, but are not as effective as cup plungers. For the best results you should have a flange plunger for toilets and a cup plunger for sinks, showers, and tubs.

 

Plunger Technique

For sinks, tubs, and showers, use a cup plunger. If there is a lot of water in the sink or tub, you may want to remove some with a bucket to reduce the mess while you plunge. Place the cup of the plunger securely over the whole drain and gently push down on the handle in order to create a seal. Now you can thrust the plunger down in quick, repetitive movements, making sure not to lift the handle up enough to break the seal. Continue for about 30 seconds.

For toilets, use a flange plunger. Wait a few minutes after flushing the toilet to let the water level go down. Insert the plunger into the toilet drain so that the rubber flange is inside the drain, creating a seal. Move the plunger up and down in quick thrusts for about 30 seconds.

If you have a clog that’s too stubborn for your plunger to get rid of, it’s time to call in the professionals. 

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