Choosing the Right Plunger for the Job

unclogging sink with plungerYou woke up late.  You're trying to get the kids out the door for school and get yourself to work.  You are obviously in a huge hurry.  You go to brush your teeth before you leave, and… oh, no. 

The drain is clogged.

Or worse, you flush the toilet and it doesn’t drain—it starts to overflow!

There’s no time to call a plumber, and you may not need to anyway.  Grab a plunger!

But not all plungers are created equally.  If you do not use the right plunger for the job, not only will you still have a clogged drain or toilet, but you may have a big mess and the great deal of frustration that comes with it.

Cup and Flange

The two most common types of plungers are the “cup” plunger and the “flange” plunger.

illustration of two plungers side by side

The cup plunger (red-ish brown in the picture) is most useful for sinks, bathtubs and any other drain around which the surface is flat.  The outer lip of the plunger can create a proper air seal around a flat surface, which is critical for effective plunging.

But a simple cup plunger typically won’t work on a toilet.  The drainage hole at the bottom of the bowl is not surrounded by a flat surface, so the cup plunger cannot create an effective seal.  Enter, the flange plunger.

A flange plunger (black) has a narrow extension that the cup plunger does not have.  This extension, or flange, serves to create a more effective seal in the drainage hole of a toilet.

Taking the plunge

Plunging is a simple do-it-yourself fix for a clogged drain or toilet, but there are a few critical things that must be done correctly.

First, do not use chemicals and a plunger together.  Plunging can cause the chemicals to splash all over the bathroom, kitchen or your skin.

Next, try and remove most of the excess water using a bucket or a cup, but do not remove all of the water.  You want to be able to submerge the rubber part of the plunger completely so that there is no air trapped inside.  Forcing only liquid down into the drain is more effective than forcing air.

Make sure you create a strong seal around the drain by making sure that either the lip of a cup plunger is fully pressed up against the sink, bathtub or shower all the way around the drain or that they flange is inserted into the toilet’s drainage hole.

You may consider draping a towel over the toilet before plunging to minimize unpleasant splashing.

Once you have a strong seal, make quick, downward thrusts for about 20 seconds.

Remove the plunger, and examine the drain.  Is the water draining?  If not, give it another attempt following the same process, as some clogs are extra stubborn.  If you are not able to remove the clog after two or three attempts, do not keep trying.  Instead…

Call for backup

Plungers are great, cheap do-it-yourself fixes for many drain clogs.  But sometimes there is a more serious issue with your drain or toilet or a clog that is too severe to be plunged.

In that case you will need the help of an expert plumber such as those that work for Service Specialties, Inc.  We will investigate the issue and determine how best to fix it, whether that means taking the drainage system apart, snaking out the clog or making other repairs.


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