A clogged drain, blocked toilet or backed-up sink can throw life out of gear in any household. Plumbing emergencies – or, as we at Adams and Son Plumbing call them, “plumergencies” – don’t issue a polite warning. While our October 9, 2019 blog post – “What to Do If You Need Emergency Plumbing Services” – covered the importance of calling a pro when the situation warrants, for most people, the trusty plunger is the first (and usually only) go-to DIY tool in busting plumbing clogs. But have you considered that you may not be using it properly? Or that you may not even have the right plunger for the job?
Using the right plunger to clear clogs
First, did you know that there are two different types of plungers? Toilet plungers – also known as flange plungers – have a deep suction cup, which is designed to get a good seal around a toilet drain. You can also use a bellow-type plunger to clear the toilet.
Sink plungers have a more shallow cup. The folks at Roto-Rooter point out that, in a pinch, a sink plunger can be used to break up a toilet clog, but it won’t do the job quite as easily or well. The same holds true in reverse for using a toilet plunger for a sink clog. And when you consider where the toilet plunger has been (unless it’s new), there’s even more reason to avoid using it in a sink – so it’s better to invest in one of each type.
How to use a plunger
Learning proper plunger technique is essential to getting the desired results. Firmly hold the handle of the plunger with both hands and slide the cup over the blocked drain hole. Whether using the plunger in a toilet or sink, be sure there is water surrounding the drain hole. There is no point in plunging a dry hole, because it is mostly ineffective. But when there is water in the line and around the plunger, it can effectively clear the clog because it creates a vacuum inside the drainpipe.
After sliding the cup of the plunger on the drain hole, thrust it up and down several times, and then pull it back with force from the drain. Your drain should clear in most cases, allowing proper drainage.
If your bathroom sink is clogged, plug the overflow hole – which is at the front of the sink – before you start plunging. If you don’t, the plunger won’t effectively seal the drain, and thereby clear the clog. You can use a washcloth to plug the overflow hole, or slide your finger over it. Follow the same procedure to plunge a double kitchen sink. It is not possible to successfully plunge one side of a double sink without sealing the other sink drain properly. You can seal the drain with a sink strainer or drain cover, and then begin plunging.
When to ditch the plunger and call a pro
If you are unable to clear the clog even after plunging several times, try an over-the-counter drain cleaner – follow label instructions to ensure safety and effectiveness. Using more than directed won’t break up the clog any better – in fact, it could damage your pipes. Also keep in mind that not all liquid drain cleaners are safe for use with septic systems, so if your home has one, be sure to check the label.
But should all DIY attempts to clear the clog fail, it’s time to call a pro. Adams and Son Plumbing is a family-owned business with over 50 years in plumbing service. A state-certified plumbing contractor, we have over three generations of master plumbing experience.
Contact us to learn more, and to schedule maintenance, as well as repairs of minor problems to prevent emergencies.