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This article is about the plumbing tool. For other uses, see Plunger (disambiguation).
2 upright plungers, left one black with extension, right one red.
Common household plungers: toilet plunger (left), sink plunger (right)

A plunger, force cup, plumber's friend, or plumber's helper[1][2] is a tool used to clear blockages in drains and pipes. It consists of a rubber suction cup with an attached stick (shaft), usually made of wood or plastic. A different bellows-like design also exists, usually constructed of plastic.


For the common plunger, the cup is pushed down against the drain opening, either pressing hard into the drain to force air in, or pushing down until the rubber cup is flattened and then pulling out, creating a vacuum that attracts material. The intent is to loosen or break up a blockage caused by excessive material in the drain.

Shape and function[edit]

The cup of a kitchen plunger looks like a rubber ball cut in half with a flared edge, while the toilet plunger's cup looks more like a distorted ball, tapered on one half, with a large hole on the bottom.

A plunger is much more effective with water in the pipe because water does not compress and will thus transmit more of the applied force than air.[3] When a plunger is ineffective, it is supplemented by a chemical drain cleaner (in the case of sinks and tubs) or a plumber's snake (for stubborn clogs or clogs of the main line or toilet). [4]


  1. ^ Random House Dictionary
  2. ^ American Heritage Dictionary
  3. ^ Henkenius, Merle (2006). Ultimate Guide to Plumbing. Creative Homeowner Press. p. 216. ISBN 1580113117. 
  4. ^ Lou Manfredini (2004). Lou Manfredini's House Smarts. Random House. p. 28. ISBN 0345449894. 

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of plunger at Wiktionary
  • Media related to Plungers at Wikimedia Commons