How to Use a Plunger – A Plumbers Guide
In the plumbing trade, a professional plumber knows the true value of their trusted plunger. A plumber going to work without a plunger is like a joiner going to work without a hammer.
It is like an old friend who gets you out of trouble time and time again!!!! We cannot overemphasize just how important a plunger is, how often it can be used and how a simple plunger will solve most of your drainage and blockage issues.
The interesting thing is that not every home even has a plunger and of those who do, often they do not know how to use a plunger, or they are using the plunger wrong. So wrong that it renders the plunger useless…???!!!!!
Waoh!!!!!!!! How can such a simple and effective tool as a plunger be so misunderstood and used wrongly or not at all?
In our guide on Hot to Use a Plunger, we give insiders Pro Plumbing Tips, not only on hot to use a plunger and which plunger to buy but also on how not to use a plunger and even which plungers not to buy.
First up, we need to cover some basics.
What is a Plunger?
It seems like a stupid question but since not every home has a plunger then we must ask ourselves why?
The anatomy of a plunger could not get any simpler. It has a stick or shaft, and it has a cup. 2 working parts to this unique and useful tool.
Traditionally, the stick or shaft would have been made of wood and the cup at the other end would have been made of rubber. Often, a modern plunger now can be made of plastic and rubber or very often all plastic.
What Does a Plunger Do?
In short, a plunger is designed to clear blockages. Whether you are clearing a blocked drain, blocked pipes or a blocked toilet, a plunger is the number one tool which you should have on hand to do the job.
How Does a Plunger Work?
A plunger can clear blockages by forming an airtight seal around the affected area due to its large suction cup.
The large suction cup of the plunger forms a vacuum over the drain, pipe, or toilet.
Pushing down with the plunger stick on this airtight seal of the plunger cup causes air and water (if present) to be pushed through the system.
Pulling up on the plunger stick on the airtight seal creates a vacuum under the cup which then forces air and water (if present) up and out of the system.
The act of repeatedly “plunging” up and down forces the air and water to alternate between being pushed through the system to generate a forceful flow of water out and being pulled back up by the vacuum and again acts as a strong force on the air and water with the vacuum. This means that the air and water is continually bombarding the blockage which will eventually give under the continual pressure of jetted air and water being forced against it like a mini jet wash.
As the blockage breaks up, more air and water can flow more freely which helps the plunging process to break up more of the blocked area. Eventually, you should be able to get to a point where the water in the blocked area, now moves freely as it should.
How to Use a Plunger
If you do not already know how to use a plunger, then follow these simple steps for an effective cheap and easy way to unblock drains, pipes, and toilets – FAST and FREE!!!!
Use the cup of the plunger to form an airtight seal around the blocked area (for example, cover a blocked drain with the plunger cup).
Take a firm grip of the shaft and begin plunging it up and down for around 30-60 seconds.
Test to see if the blockage has cleared or not. If the blockage is clearing but has not yet totally disappeared, then repeat the process as before. Ensuring again that you get an airtight seal.
Break off the airtight seal by wiggling the plunger around.
What to Do Before Using a Plunger
Before using a plunger, put on protective clothing and gloves!!! Even safety glasses to protect your eyes and face if it is a toilet you are dealing with.
If you are about to go plunging into a completely clogged toilet, protect yourself from any back splash and from getting your bare hands and skin from being covered in the faecal matter which is undoubtedly going to be splashing about. At the very least put on gloves.
If you can, try and clear any debris away with your hands. If might be food caught up in a drain or faecal matter blocking up a toilet. Get your hands in there (with long gloves on) and scrape away as much as you can and put it in the bin if food or appropriate waste for the bin. If it is faecal matter, place it in a plastic cup or other receptacle which you can then put down another toilet or dispose of appropriately outside. Do not put it back down a clogged up toilet!
Top Tips for Using a Plunger?
If you are trying to clear a blocked drain, sink, bath, or shower then a traditional sink and drain plunger is all that you need. This plunger has a flat base and is perfect for forming an airtight seal over flat surfaces like sinks, baths, basins etc. It can be used to unblock a toilet although it does not form a great seal therefore does not do the job as effectively as the next type of plunger – A Flange Plunger.
If you are trying to clear a blocked toilet, then a Flange Plunger (Also known as a Force Cup Plunger, a Taze Plunger or just a Toilet Plunger) or a is a better option. A flange plunger creates a better seal around a toilet bowl and can force more air and water up and down as you plunge therefore creating more force to dislodge any blockages.
The top tip for using a plunger other than choosing the correct plunger for the job in the first place is to firstly ensure that you have created an airtight seal around the blocked area. For example, if you are unblocking a drain, ensure that the cup from the plunger covers all of the drain without any gaps or allowing the drain to show.
Allow a small amount of water under the cup to make sure that there is sufficient water to generate a decent flow of water.
Add a cloth around the drain or toilet bowl to create an extra airtight seal.
If you are plunging a sink, make sure you seal off the overflow with a cloth to prevent the air pressure being pushed
What Plunger Should I Buy?
A good quality plunger. They are not expensive in any way and can easily be stored around the house in a cupboard or drawer somewhere until that day when you need it. And you WILL need it. Every household has a partial or completely blocked drain, pipe, or toilet at some point.
What Plunger Should I Not Buy?
Whatever you do, DO NOT buy a cheap plastic plunger with a small cup which is unable to form any seal. Unfortunately, we must mention this as these days this is the most common plungers, we see on sale is cheap shops and people buy them and they have no effect. Then they must call in a plumber, costing them a lot more money than buying a proper plunger in the first place.
Buy the Right Plunger for the Right Job
Standard Plunger – Sinks, Basins, Drain, Showers
Flanger Plunger – Toilets (keep a separate plunger for your toilets than the one which you would use for your sinks for obvious reasons!!!)
Accordion Plunger – An accordion plunger is able to hold more air due to the extra capacity in the bellows. It therefore has more of a jet although is can be more tricky to operate and is not as versatile as a standard plunger.
Our choices and personal favourites is to have a standard plunger for all of your sinks, showers, basins, drains and pipes. Then have a second flanger plunger for toilets only.
How a Plunger Will Save You Money
There are many times we have been to a job where the customer could have easily unblocked the drain, pipe, or toilet themselves just by knowing how to use a plunger. We certainly understand why somebody would not want to use their plunger. Especially knowing some of the horrific sites which plumbers see over the years!!!!!!! OMG. How? Why? Is it even possible to do these things?????? Anyway, I am getting side-tracked.
Simply knowing how to use a plunger could save people hundreds of pounds every year by calling in a professional to very quickly and easily use their own plunger to clear a blocked toilet or a blocked sink. It certainly is not rocket science people and knowing how to use a plunger can definitely save you in plumbers costs. And plumbers much prefer doing other types or work than clearing out a blocked-up toilet or a sick filled sink at a pub or night club at 2am! Ha-ha…. We have all been there.
How to Test After Using a Plunger
When you have used your plunger to clear the blocked area, you then need to test to see if the plunger has done its job and the blockage has been cleared.
Check to see if the water level has dropped or has cleared completely.
If the water appears to be cleared, pour a “test” amount of water down the drain, pipe, or toilet bowl. What you do not want to do is to add more water to the system if it hasn’t completely cleared. Flushing a toilet to test if the blockage has cleared is the number one thing not to do as this may overflow your toilet bowl and have faecal matter pouring over onto your floor surface.
Instead, pour a small amount of test water in and see if that drains away efficiently and effectively. If it does, then try some more water until you are able to pour enough water down the fully tests that the blockage has cleared.
What to Do After Using Your Plunger
After using your plunger and testing the affected area has drained away, we always like to wash down the area with hot or boiling water. This helps clear away any oils, fats, soap etc from the drain and cleans the area being worked on so that you are leaving the job not only free from blockages but also free from foul odours and smells which blockages often cause.
Looking After Your Plunger
Since your plunger looks after you, it is only fair that you look after your plunger. Due to the simple design of a plunger, it couldn’t be easier to look after it. The most important thing is that you keep it clean when storing it after use. Be sure to thoroughly clean your plunger and store it away for another day when it will be used again.
For your toilet plunger, be extra careful in cleaning it with extra strong detergent like bleach and storing it in a safe space. An extra tip is that you can store it in a bleach filled tub and seal off the ends so that nothing else can be contaminated.
There is not much that can go wrong with a plunger, however just look out for the rubber pitting or cracking over a long period of time. If this happens, it might be time to replace your trusted plunger. A plunger is so cheap and effective that you don’t mind buying a new one when necessary.
What if a Plunger Does Not Clear Blockage
If you have tried all the tips here, but the plunger still fails to clear the blockage then you can look at alternative measure to try and clear the blockage. I have gone over these in another post which you should look at and includes, Chemical (Home made or shop bought) and Heat Treatment, Mechanical Treatment, Drain Snakes and Zip-It Tools.
If all this fails, then you have done a great job on how to use a plunger but sometimes you need to call in the professionals.
Tips on Clearing a Blocked Toilet
Tips for Clogged Up Pipes