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Common household plungers: to the left, a toilet plunger; to the right, a sink plunger

A plunger is a common device that is used to release stoppages in plumbing. The tool consists of a rubber cup with an attached stick "shaft", usually made of wood or plastic. The cup is pushed down against the drain opening, and either pressed hard into the drain to force air in, or is pushed down until the rubber cup is flattened, then pulled out, causing a vacuum that attracts material. The intent is to loosen or break up a clog caused by excessive material in the drain.

The difference between a sink (kitchen) plunger and a toilet plunger is that the former looks like a ball cut in half while the latter looks more like a distorted ball with a large hole on the bottom.[1]

A plunger is much more effective when there is water in the pipe because water does not compress and will thus transmit more of the applied force than air.[2]

When a plunger is ineffective, it is often supplemented by a chemical drain cleaner, or by a plumber's snake.[3]

Plungers are used for dual purposes. There are not only plungers that are made for unclogging toilets, but also sinks and almost any drain you can think of. Specifically, there is a sink plunger know as the Water Ram. The function of this specific plunger is described as such: "The environmentally safe Water Ram uses compressed air to generate a shock wave that pulverizes the stoppage" (Bernick, 87).[4] This is also how a toilet plunger is used. When sealing the bottom of the toilet with the rubbery end, you guide air into the port, pulverizing, yet again, the stoppage. If you were to plunge a bathtub you would also need to make sure to have the correct plunger. Like previously stated, there are multiple types of plungers. If you look at a plunger and it has an extra ring unlike the standard cup plunger than that is for the shower or bathtub. When using a plunger in the shower or bathtub it has the same lasting effect and is also done the same way. [5]


  1. ^ "Tampa Plumbers from Roto Rooter Talk About Clogs". November 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ Henkenius, Merle (2006). Ultimate Guide to Plumbing. Creative Homeowner Press. p. 216. ISBN 1580113117. 
  3. ^ Lou Manfredini (2004). Lou Manfredini's House Smarts. Random House. p. 28. ISBN 0345449894. 
  4. ^ Bernick, Elisa. "What's the best toilet plunger?" The Family Handyman Mar. 2012: 87. General OneFile. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
  5. ^ Berendsohn, Roy. "How it works/two-stage flushing unit." Popular Mechanics Jan. 2013: 23. General OneFile. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. "Ram it!" Reeves Journal Sept. 2008: 66. General OneFile. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.

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