How to Use a Plunger to Unclog Your Toilet
Everything You Need To Know About The Plunger!
Uh oh, you have blocked the toilet. Luckily, clogging your toilet is one of the most common, and most easily fixed blockages around your home. In this article, we’ll help teach you How To Use A Plunger To Unclog Your Toilet and break down everything you need to know about the humble plunger, so you are as informed and ready to DIY as possible.
The household plunger is also known as a “force cup”. Nearly every household has a plunger tucked away in a cupboard under the sink in the bathroom or kitchen, and rightly so because when there is a clog you don’t want to be left without one. However, once you locate the plunger, how do you use it, and are you using it correctly?
As with most DIY Plumbing, not knowing how to use the plunger correctly can go and create a bigger, nastier issue. Then you definitely will need to call the professionals and could be facing a costly emergency plumbing situation. If you are in the midst of a plumbing emergency right now, or you just don’t want to deal with your smaller plumbing problem, call our friendly team today – we are here to assist you!
The following article is a simple yet useful guide to assist you in mastering the use of your plunger in unclogging your toilet, along with everything you need to know about the different types of plungers available to purchase, where you can purchase a plunger and the best uses for the varieties of plungers on the market.
WHAT IS A PLUNGER?
Before we jump into the details of How To Use A Plunger to Unclog Your Toilet it’s important to know the basics. What are you working with? Well, a plunger is a tool that consists of a wooden or plastic handle attached to a rubber suction cup (imagine a rubber ball cut in half). Whilst its design is relatively simple, it is a powerful tool when used correctly to unclog kitchen sinks, blocked drains around the home, and clogged toilets.
WHEN YOU SHOULD USE A PLUNGER?
The best time to use a plunger is when your kitchen or bathroom sink, shower drain or toilet is blocked.
These blockages can occur due to several reasons:
- Kitchen sink: The build-up of grease and food particles has blocked your sink.
- Shower drain: The build-up of hair, and soap has blocked your shower drain.
- Bathroom sink: The build-up of toothpaste, hair, and bathroom debris has blocked the drain.
- Bathroom toilet: The build-up of toilet paper, wipes, and feminine hygiene products has clogged the toilet.
Here are some signs to look out for that may indicate you have a clogged sink, drain or toilet:
- If you see or hear your toilet bubbling.
- Water backs up to your sink, bathtub, shower, or commode.
- Water is coming out from beneath your commode.
- Water is slow to drain from your sink, bathtub, shower, or commode.
- Bad odour coming from drains.
- Puddles of water on the floor near the sink, bathtub, shower, commode, or laundry area.
A Quick Note From The Professionals:
If you’re not sure as to why your sinks or toilets are blocked or you are facing consistent blockages (even after you successfully clear a blockage with a plunger) then it’s our advice you call our team to attend your property and inspect your pipes and plumbing system. There could be a hard-to-spot issue, such as an infiltration of tree roots, happening further along your pipe network. Best to book in a routine inspection with our Proximity Plumbing team and we can see exactly what’s occurring.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLUNGERS AND THEIR USES
There are three types of plungers and each one is designed to be used on a different type of drain.
Flat Plunger – Common Sink Plunger.
Many of you will be familiar with this plunger and may have one stored away in a cupboard at home. It is the one that comes to mind whenever one thinks of a plunger.
Sink plungers have a rubber cup at the end of a straight handle, usually made up of wood or plastic. These plungers work best on flat surfaces which allow the cup to easily create a seal around the drain. Therefore, the flat plungers are generally used to unclog kitchen and bathroom sinks but can also be used in bathtubs.
Toilet Plunger – Also Known As Flange Plunger.
Like the sink plunger, toilet plungers are quite similar in design, they also have a rubber cup, but they also have a soft rubber flap that folds out from inside the cup. The flap is designed to fit around the toilet drain to create the necessary suction to create the clog. Whilst the design of this plunger provides the flexibility for it to fit just about any drain around the house, for hygiene reasons, we recommend that you merely use this for the toilet and keep a flat plunger handy for your sink/bathtub/shower drains.
A less common plunger, the accordion plunger is another plunger used to unclog toilets. Built-up of a single piece of plastic moulded with flexible ridges and a small cup at the bottom, this plunger is designed so that when pressed against the toilet drain, the ridges compress allowing air to shoot out from the cup and push the clog.
When using the accordion plunger, it must be completely submerged in water, therefore, you may need to add extra water into the bowl. Whilst this plunger is seen by many as being more powerful than the flat or toilet plunger, it can be slightly challenging to master its use.
WHERE CAN I BUY A PLUNGER?
You can buy a plunger almost anywhere. They are available in your local hardware store, homeware department, most major grocery stores and through online retailers.
Here are a few options for you to choose from:
HOW DOES A PLUNGER WORK?
Essentially a plunger creates a vacuum that with added pressure, attracts the material which is causing your blockage. A plunger can also work to loosens or break up the excess material or debris clogging the drain. Now that you know the basic types of plungers and what kind of blockages they’re used to clear, the next step is understanding how to correctly use your new hardware.
To get your pipes pumping once more, here are a few expert tips on how to best use a plunger to clear whatever blockage may be clogging your pipes.
How to unclog a blocked drain in your sink, bathtub or shower using a plunger:
- Firstly, cover the overflow drain if there is one. This helps create a stronger suction. Place the cup of the plunger over the drain to create a seal.
- Ensure there is enough water in the sink to submerge your plunger. This allows us to add more force to each plunge and break down the clog effectively.
- Then using firm pressure, push and pull the plunger keeping it straight and vertical. Do this for about 20 seconds.
- Keep plunging until the debris has shifted and you have unblocked your sink.
Need a quick visual resource, watch this video on How to unclog a bathtub and shower drain.
How to unclog your toilet using a plunger:
If your toilet looks like it is going to overflow:
- Turn off the water supply to your toilet and remove some of the water using a disposable cup but leaving enough to completely cover the cup of your toilet plunger. Having the right amount of water will make the plunging more effective.
- Make sure the flange of the plunger is out from inside the cup and the cup is covered with water. Ensure the flange is inserted into the drain opening in the bowl to create the suction.
- Apply even pressure, pushing and pulling vertically for about 20 seconds.
Need a quick visual resource, watch this video on How to unclog a toilet.
Important Advice: Do Not Use A Plunger After Using Toxic Cleaning Products.
If you have used a chemical drain cleaner before turning to your trusty plunger, we advise skipping the plunger. You could be left with injuries from the cleaning product. In this instance, call a professional to inspect your pipes.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR PLUNGER
You may want to consider replacing your plunger when the handle begins moving around too much and/or if you notice cracks in the cup. A damaged plunger is less likely to create good suction and therefore be less effective at unclogging your drain.
For hygiene purposes, it is also good to keep it clean by soaking it bleach or a cleaning solution and storing it somewhere convenient.
DON’T HAVE A PLUNGER HANDY?
If you don’t have access to a plunger, then you can buy one from most hardware stores and general stores with ease. However, until the time where you can get to the store, here are a few DIY toilet drain clearing tips to try yourself:
- Dish Soap
Dish soap is a versatile household item due to its ability to lubricate. Any slippery liquid can replace dish soap if that’s running low. Pour half a cup of dishwashing liquid directly into the toilet bowl and flush. The aim here is to lubricate the pipes and try and clear the obstruction.
- Boiling Water
Turn the kettle on Jan! Boiling water is such a great first start to any blocked drain or a blocked toilet. Fill a bucket with boiling water (and please be careful so as to not burn yourself so wear gloves, and also be mindful of any ‘splash back’). Pour the boiling water down the toilet bowl, the pressure and heat of the water should help to dislodge any obstruction.
- Wire Hanger
A wire coat hanger, once unbent, creates a makeshift hook or poker and can access further down the S bend than you may think. The wire hanger can be used to reach the obstruction and either push it along the pipe or pull it free.
Tips To Ensure You Don’t Block Your Toilet
1. The biggest tip to keep your toilet unclogged is to remember the 3 P’s. The only things that should be flushed down the toilet are Pee, Poop, Paper (Toilet paper).
EVERYTHING else including ‘flushable wipes’, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, nappies (you’d be surprised) have no place in your toilet.
2. Even very thick or large amounts of toilet paper can be an issue, so be mindful of the toilet paper you’re using.
3. If you have small kids who love the idea of making things disappear down the toilet, be sure to teach them what does and does not go down the toilet. This could save a plumber’s fee to unclog the crayons from the S bend!
4. Make sure you clean and flush your toilet regularly to keep the pipes flowing in the best possible way.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A PLUNGER DOESN’T WORK?
If using a plunger does not completely clear your blocked drain or clogged toilet, then you may wish to use alternative methods. There are chemical products you can buy or you can try homemade cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar if you are not keen on using chemicals.
Want to learn more about chemical drain cleaners and why we recommend to our clients that you DO NOT use them? Read our article on chemical drain cleaners to find out why and the friendlier alternatives you can use.
When all else fails, there could likely be a more serious underlying problem, in which case, contact our expert team on 0420 102 394 and our team will be with you within 30-minutes to provide a free onsite inspection at a $0 call-out fee and assist you in unclogging the clog. In the meantime, if you would like to read more about clearing blocked drains, here is one of our previous articles on how to clear a blocked drain.