How to Plunge a Toilet

It is surprising to us how one of the most basic tools that can be found in virtually every home has no instructions with it and is therefore frequently misused. The typical situation is that a customer calls with a blocked toilet. They’ve tried plunging it and for the lack of success call a plumber. Someone skilled with a plunger clears the bowl in one plunge and the customer is shocked…and often annoyed. You can save a plumber’s fee if you try the first often unknown step to operating a plunger (see #3):

  1. Remove the toilet tank lid to gain access to the flapper valve just in case step 2 gets exciting.
  2. Gently push down on the actuator- enough to raise it slightly, but not enough to completely lift it. If it does lift now you have access to push it down before the bowl overflows. Fill the bowl t about ¾ full.
  3. Now, here’s what most people don’t know: Place the bulb in the toilet, angling the plunger against the side of the bowl with just a small portion over the top edge of the drain. Then, slowly, put pressure on the plunger to expel all the air. Then, you can put the plunger over the drain and apply rhythmic pressure and negative pressure. Yes, you can pull on the plunger and it has an effect further down the line.

Unless a solid object has been flushed down the bowl, these steps should work.

If they don’t, call us. We spend a bit of time plunging a clogged toilet because using an auger is a last resort. It often scratches the bowl or even can crack it. Sometimes even removing the toilet and seeing if we can push an object back through clears the blockage. Objects most found in toilets that don’t plunge through are rags, sponges, toothbrushes and small toys. Untrained housekeepers sometimes throw used bars of soap down the toilet and end up clogging them. Using hot water to soften it up so it will flush through works, but one has to know exactly what they’re doing or they’ll find themselves with a shattered bowl and water all over the floor. Maybe in the future we’ll share how to do that.

Now, if you have a one piece toilet where the water jet comes in at the bottom of the bowl so that the plunger bulb cannot make a seal over the drain alone, or when a drain is rectangular in shape rather than smooth and round, plunging may be far more challenging or even not possible. Give it a try. If its a soft clog, it might push through. If it doesn’t, we’re here for you.

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