This won’t be the world’s most glamorous post on Home Ec 101, but real life is hardly as exciting as we wish.
Into every homeowner’s life a little aggravation will fall. Sometimes that aggravation occurs in the form of a plugged drain. That clog can occur in almost any plumbing fixture: toilet, tub, sink, or shower.
Have you ever noticed as adults there are many things we’re just supposed to magically know? Filed under that heading is the fact that there are actually two kinds of plungers.
Sink plungers and toilet plungers both operate on the same principle, when compressed the bell forces water or water and air into the drain, hopefully creating enough pressure to move a clog along. Even renters should have both kinds of plungers on hand. You could call your landlord and wait for him to get around to fixing the problem or you could take just a few minutes and get back to normal life, without the clogged toilet.
Knowing how to plunge a toilet can also make a certain social situation significantly less awkward. Have you ever been at a friend’s house or gone to a party and been the unlucky person to discover the clogged toilet AFTER you’ve done your business? That’s a little slice of fun, isn’t it? It’s much less humiliating to ask to borrow a plunger than it is to have to have the friend take care of the matter. Whatever you do, don’t be the jerk that just quietly abandons the clogged toilet for the next person to find.
How to plunge a toilet.
The plunger on the left is a toilet plunger and should only be used for plunging clogged toilets. Note that the toilet plunger features a cup at the base of the bell.
When a toilet has a minor clog, a plunger is the first choice. Fit the cup into the bottom of the toilet bowl. The cup’s job is to force the pressure into the trap, which is where most clogs occur. The trap is the bend in the pipe that keeps water in the bowl, but sometimes the pressure of a flush isn’t enough to move everything along. When the cup is seated as securely as possible into the bottom of the toilet, press down hard, the goal is to try to create a seal -don’t splash- and compress the bell of the plunger. Depending on the rigidity of the rubber, you may have to use a little strength here. This may take a few tries, but the force should be enough to break up any clogs caused by excess toilet paper and those supposedly flushable, but really aren’t a good idea to actually flush, feminine hygiene products.
If you can’t clear the clog in a few minutes of plunging, a plunger will not solve your toilet clog. If the clog doesn’t budge, you may need to break out the big guns of clog removal, a plumbing snake.
How to plunge a clogged sink.
If your clog occurs in a kitchen sink, your best bet is the plunger on the right. The flat bottom is designed to fit over the entire drain. If you have a double sink, you need to block the drain of the other side with a stopper or rag, held securely in place. Additionally, if you have a dishwasher, you’ll have to clamp the dishwasher drain hose.
Both of these are routes for the pressure to be released. Without adequate pressure, you aren’t going to move a simple clog along. (Difficult clogs won’t budge even with significant pressure).
Once the escapes have been blocked, place the plunger over the drain. Get as good of a seal as possible and then compress the bell. It may take several plunges, but the pressure is typically enough to break up clogs caused by too much organic matter in the trap of the pipe. Once the water flows, run plenty of hot water through to move any straggling bits along.
If you can’t clear the clog within a few minutes. You may want to try dismantling the J or trap beneath the sink. (That post is coming in the near future).
How to plunge a tub.
Just like when preparing to plunge a sink there an escape path to take into consideration, this time it’s the overflow drain. The overflow drain is usually behind a metal plate above the drain / below the faucet. Unscrew this plate and then cover the hole behind it securely before plunging. Then proceed to plunge just as you would with a clogged sink.
*NOTE* If you used a chemical drain product before reaching for the plunger, you MUST wear eye protection and gloves. Chemical drain cleaners are extremely caustic and can cause blindness. Make sure they are stored properly.