A toilet plunger is a tool designed for use in unclogging toilets. Plungers are used to break a seal inside the pipe to allow water to drain freely from the toilet bowl. In some cases, a plunger alone may not be enough, and it will be necessary to use a snake to clear out the clog. Hardware stores are a common source for plungers and they are also sometimes available at general stores, drug stores, and so forth.
The most basic toilet plunger design consists of a rubber cup on the end of a long stick. The cup is fitted over the opening at the bottom of the toilet and, using the stick, the user presses and releases several times to create a vacuum intended to pull the clog free. Other toilet plungers are more bulb-shaped, designed to create a tighter seal inside the toilet's plumbing. These plungers can be more effective at clog removal, in addition to less messy, as there tends to be less splashback.
Rubber and plastic toilet plunger designs are both available, including accordion-folding plastic to allow people to create a stronger vacuum. Plungers should ideally be used when there is some water in the plumbing, although it is advisable to at least partially bail out the toilet bowl to limit splashing. If using the plunger does not clear the clog, it might be too firmly lodged to be removed with a vacuum alone. In these cases, a snake should be purchased, rented, or borrowed and fed down the pipe to clear the clog.
Using a toilet plunger skillfully can require some practice. Too much aggression can break the seal created by the plunger and ruin the vacuum, in addition to making a mess. Being tentative may not create enough force to move the plug. Addressing clogs as soon as a toilet starts to drain more slowly is strongly recommended, as they are easier to remove when they are smaller.
Plungers are often stored next to the toilet in a dish or cup for convenient access. It is advisable to rinse the toilet plunger after use and periodically bleach it, as it can attract and hold bacteria. In addition to causing unpleasant odors, colonies of bacteria in the bathroom can also make people sick. Moisture around the plunger can also promote the growth of mold and mildew, and it is important to shake the plunger off in the toilet bowl to remove as much water as possible.