What is a Plunger?

Patti Kate

A plunger is used to unclog drains and plumbing of toilets, bathtubs, and sinks. The plunger consists of a vessel made of rubber material. This rubberized part is fastened to a wooden handle. With exerted pressure, the cup of this device will be forced against the drain, then quickly released. This action causes the blockage to be released.

When drains are clogged, a plunger may be needed.
When drains are clogged, a plunger may be needed.

There are various types of household and industrial plungers, such as those for designed for a sink and those made for the bathroom. When a bathroom toilet overflows, a common cause may be a blockage trapped in the plumbing. The plumbing within every toilet has what is known as a trap way bend. This unique shape inside the plumbing prevents toxins from sewerage infiltrating the home. This bend, however, can occasionally become blocked.

A plunger is used to unclog toilets.
A plunger is used to unclog toilets.

Toilet plungers are specifically designed to provide the pressure needed to release a clog from the trap way section of the pipes. Toilet plungers come in various sizes, and some are made differently. For example, ball plungers do not have the cup-like shape, but resembles a ball or orb. This type may be more effective for stubborn clogs. Other toilet plungers feature an extended funnel that may provide better slip resistance, while others offer two-piece construction with removable handles.

For unclogging stoppages in kitchen sinks, a sink plunger will generally have a shorter handle and smaller rubberized cup. Some are small and known as mini plungers. This type of plunger will exert less pressure, as most sinks will not require the same amount of pressure as a toilet clog. Sink plungers are typically less expensive than most toilet plungers.

While conventional toilet and sink plungers are store bought, some individuals resort to using a homemade plunger when it is the only option available. A homemade plunger may be made of various materials commonly found around the home. One method involves using a square piece of rubber. The rubber should not be very thick, however. Placed directly over a drain, the person will apply pressure until the clog is removed.

A wire hanger may also be used in making a homemade plunger for emergency situations. The wire would need to be unraveled first. Some individuals also use a plastic jug or bottle as a homemade device for unclogging drains. Basically, any effective device that can be "plunged" into a drain for clog removal can be considered a plunger.

Plungers can be used to dislodge items clogging a kitchen sink.
Plungers can be used to dislodge items clogging a kitchen sink.

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Discussion Comments


Plungers are very useful, and can even have other uses besides unclogging toilets. A gentleman in my church, now gone on to glory, had the puzzle of changing the light bulb above the pulpit, right at the peak of the church's 30-foot ceiling. Ladders, scaffolding -- we talked about it all. The next Sunday, the light bulb had been changed and when asked about it, he said, "Well, it's amazing what you can do with a ladder, a broom handle, a toilet plunger and Karo syrup." I would have given a great deal to have seen that operation in progress.

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