Indoor plumbing has become an indispensable creature comfort, and when it’s suddenly taken away due to a drain clog, it can feel like an instant emergency. Some clogs do require professional assistance to clear, but others are minor enough that you can clear them yourself with your trusty plunger.
Plungers are fairly self-explanatory tools, but depending on your technique, you could find yourself plunging away to no avail. The next time you attempt to clear a clog on your own, keep these tips in mind to maximize your efforts.
Choose Your Weapon
Plungers come in a variety of sizes for a variety of drain types and diameters, so the first step is to choose a plunger with a cup diameter that is just slightly larger than the drain. There are also two styles: standard plungers and flange plungers. A standard plunger has a simple cup that looks like a half-sphere, whereas a flange plunger has an extension that makes it the more effective choice for plunging toilets.
Not Too Much, Not Too Little
No matter what kind of drain you’re plunging, the water level is important. Too much standing water, and the agitation from plunging will cause it to splash all over the place -- especially messy if you’re talking about a clogged toilet. Too little water, and you won’t be able to get a proper seal around the drain. Make sure the water level is just deep enough to fully cover the plunger cup. If you need to bail water out, wear rubber gloves and use a bucket or cup.
You’ll put more pressure on the clog if you plug up drains located nearby. For instance, if you’re planning to plunge the toilet, put the stoppers in the bathtub and sink drains. If you need to ad-hoc a stopper, you can use a wet washcloth.
Seal It Up
When you’re ready to plunge, it’s all about the seal. A trick of the trade is to smear a little petroleum jelly on the rim of the plunger or flange. But more importantly, you must ensure the rim is making contact all the way around the drain, and that the plunger handle is pointed straight up.
With your seal secure, plunge straight up and down for up to 30 seconds. You can try this a few times if necessary, but if a few rounds with proper plunger technique doesn’t get the job done, it’s time to call in the local plumbing pros.