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How To Use a Plunger to Unclog a Toilet, Sink, Tub or Shower

A plunger is a drain clearing tool designed to force water through a pipe to push out a clog. The model shown below is classic style plunger. Another style has a flange on the opening which can be fitted more securely into the bowl of a toilet. The flange style may be more difficult use in a sink and so the classic model may be a better choice.

When using a plunger, a mistake people often make is leaving to much air in the plunger cup. Air is compressible but water does not compress very much. So if the cup is full of air, every time you push down, the air compresses and acts like a shock absorber. This means the clog doesn't receive as much force. If the plunger cup is filled with water, the force you apply to the plunger is transferred through the water all the way to the clog and the force is much more effective. So, when plunging, there must be some water in the fixture, and tilt the plunger cup to burp the air as it is submerged in the water.

How To Plunge a Clogged Toilet

We recommend a plunger with a flange for toilet, rather than the old fashioned cup style.

  • If the bowl is full, put on some gloves and bail out water until the bowl is only half full.

  • If the bowl is empty, add water to fill it to half full.

  • In order to avoid the possibility of splash back, drape a large towel over the bowl and under the toilet seat.

  • Place the plunger in the bowl and completely cover the drain opening.

  • With the plunger completely under water, press and pull it rapidly for 15-20 seconds.

  • If the water drains out of the bowl, add some more water and plunge again.

  • If the water seems to be properly draining, go ahead and try flushing the toilet.


How To Plunge a Clogged Sink, Shower or Tub

We recommend a standard plunger without a flange for sinks, bathtubs and showers.

  • Add water, if necessary, to submerge the plunger cup.

  • Place the plunger over the drain and completely cover the drain opening.

  • Sinks and tubs have overflow drains. They must be securely covered or the plunger will force the water out through the overflow. Sinks have hole that you may be able to stuff with a rag. Bathtubs have a drain overflow about one foot above the drain opening. It may be necessary to remove the cover plate before a towel can be used to seal the overflow opening.

  • With the plunger completely under water, press and pull it rapidly for 15-20 seconds.

  • If the water drains out of the fixture, add some more water and plunge again.

  • If the water seems to be properly draining, go ahead and run some water to test the drain.

Related Articles on Acme How To.com:

How To Fight Clogged Drains

How a Plumbing System Works

Plumbing Repairs

How To Guide to Home Repairs




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