Plunger versus Plunger

This is not a toilet plunger.


It isn’t.

So if you have this thing sitting beside your toilet it’s really just decorative.

Because this … happens to be a sink and shower plunger. Meant for clogged sinks and showers.

THIS is a toilet plunger.

See the bell shape? That’s what makes it a toilet plunger. The bottom cup of it fits perfectly into the bottom of the toilet to create suction.

This particular type of plunger costs around $137.  Just kidding.  It costs around 9 bucks.  When you see it in the hardware store the bottom cup is usually pushed up into the top bell, so it just looks like a regular plunger.  This is probably why a lot of people don’t even know this type of plunger exists.

How to Plunge a Toilet

1.  Insert your plunger into the offending toilet.

2.  Tilt the plunger so it fills with water.  You don’t want it filled with air, you want it as full of water as possible.

3.  Once you’ve expelled as much air from the plunger as possible, place it over the bottom of the toilet.

4.  Using short up and down strokes, try to get the plunger to lock onto the toilet.  It will suction to the bottom.  You’ll know when this has happened because there will be resistance when you try to pull up.

5.  Plunge the toilet with quick, short up and down strokes.  Don’t break the seal you created.

6.  Your goal is to break up the clog or bring it back into the toilet as opposed to just pushing it through.  Your “up” pull is just as important as your “down” push for clearing the clog.  Isn’t this gross?

7.  Once you hear the toilet starting to suck, you’ll know you’ve unclogged it.

8.  Go yell at your kids/husband for clogging the toilet.  Even if it was you who did it.

For smaller jobs like those eco friendly toilets, you can use this.

Just grasp and plunge.


  1. amanda sti says:

    the first time i know that i need to put water in the plunger i think i was doing it wrong all the time thank you for sharing this useful tips

  2. Rena Yong says:

    hahaha Karen you scared me with that $137 price …. and yelling must be so funny theyll be shocked…. is that last plunger a toy ?

    we just love our plunger its good for big boys who really love to eatt a lot… prize is really afforadble only $14 … its a Neiko plunger thanks for this really helps a lot especially on special occassions

  3. Rebekah says:

    I propose that rather then tilting the plunger to fill with it with water, air in the bell is actually advantageous because air is compressible, like a spring. By compressing air in the bell you can briefly store and then release more energy then just moving the same volume of water, hence the awesomeness of the accordion plunger above. Air in your plunger may also let you use a lower stroke rate, improving the splatter situation in the mildly upsetting first comment. (A small amount of internal water may improve the seal, though.)

    • Karen says:

      Rebekah – That’s very impressive and obviously took a lot of thought, so I hate to tell you that … it’s also wrong. LOL. Sorry. You fill it with water. The spring plunger, (which I’ve never used) may in fact be designed for using with air, but the other plungers are not. They work best when filled with water. Logical or not … that’s the way it is. But if you have the time, you seem to be good at research … I’d like to know why Paul Shaffer always plays “Cult of Personality” by Living Color, in between commercial breaks on David Letterman. Seriously. They play that 80’s song at LEAST once a week. Lemme know! ~ karen

      • Rebekah says:


        Fairly seat of the pants actually, although I am an engineer. Can’t say about Paul Schaffer…. David Letterman is still on?

        You need a little water in the plunger for a seal, but even so the impulse of the air on the water causes a shockwave the likes of which can’t easily be achieved by moving a water-filled plunger. Also, I think you probably have air trapped in the bell no matter what you do, unless you’re working really hard to fill the bell.

        There’s a party trick that demonstrates this: Note the empty neck – this won’t work with a full bottle. Also, brown glass bottles are thicker, so go with clear or green.

        PS – Your blog is seriously awesome. Even though you made fun of me. Now, please pardon me while I go shop at your various advertisers’ websites.

  4. Jan says:

    When we built our house (late 1994), the US had just passed the law about low-water-use toilets, so we had to buy the first generation of these new-fangled depositories. What a nightmare (still!). I became so incensed about the frequent use of plungers–by my husband, it was certainly never my job–that I just kept one in each bathroom. To add flair, I had my young girls paint the wooden handle before first use. So each bathroom still has a multi-colored plunger next to the toilet. Yes, I do remove them for big parties!

  5. Beauty Jackson says:

    THANK YOU! When I moved into my place, they had one of those mamby pamby sink plungers, and I just wanted to swing it around in righteous fury. I bought this nifty accordion plunger ( that really has made my world a brighter place. It works even faster than the old standard REAL toilet plunger, and I think it only cost a dollar or two more.

  6. Weaving The Web says:

    I love what my cheese shop did with the red plungers:

  7. Janelle says:

    Um….is there anything you can write about that won’t absolutely thrill and delight your readers, myself included? I mean, honestly…last time I checked in you were on about a pig’s nipple. Now toilet plungers! Way to be fearlessly helpful.

    • Karen says:

      Janelle – *laughing* … Thanks. It’s hard to be anything *but* fearless after the Frozen Yogourt Tampon post. ~ karen

  8. Sharon says:

    Note to hosts: always make sure your bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper AND a plunger (your guests will appreciate it).

  9. Chau says:

    I probably shouldn’t read this during lunch hour. Duh!

  10. Ange says:

    Fun fact, did you know that you can successful unclog a toilet with saran wrap?!

    I used to work with a guy who hosted a pair of Korean boys for six weeks. One night when my coworker and his wife were in bed, the kids clogged the toilet. Being very very polite Korean kids they stayed up half the night researching ways of unclogging the toilet on the internet (they obviously did not find this post).

    And what they came up with was placing a perfect saran wrap seal over the bowl of the toilet (I’m assuming with the lid up) and then pressing down on the centre of the wrap, which then cleared out the clog! I’ve never tried it myself, but boy were those kids excited the next day when they told their host parents all about it!

    Maybe not so polite after all?

  11. Norell says:

    Thanks so much for your post. I needed a laugh this morning and you “hit the nail on the head”!! I too, used that orange one for years and could never figure out why it didn’t work. The black one works great, but I didn’t know about the filling it water. Now I can be a plunger Queen. We have a rule in our house, only one bathroom can be used for “certain things”…………..

  12. Alisha says:

    I’m REALLY curious how (and why?) you acquired a tiny little plunger. It’s adorable but there has to be a story behind it.

  13. kathy says:

    I come from a family of 8 kids and every toilet in the house had a plunger and all of us knew how to use it. When I married my second husband 15 years ago, he thought the way to clear a clogged toilet was over time (meanwhile using the other toilet!) and lots of flushing. I had to teach him (an only child) how to use the plunger. Alas, he still reverts back to his ancient ways occasionally. I did learn something from your post though… I thought the plunger should be full of air rather than water. I guess both ways work, but I will try the water way next time. Thanks!

  14. jjjordan says:

    Hands in air..did anyone get an instruction manual with their plunger? (looking around room) I see, that no one has their hands up. Therefore, I propose that a) we are absolved from any plunger guilt and b) we owe Karen a round of applause for illuminating us on this very important task! I nominate Karen as “QUEEN OF THE BOWL!” show of hands?

  15. Bobbie in Oregon says:

    Karen, Thank you so very much for this post! I may sound deranged by my appreciation of the plunger but…..…..I have one of those black ‘toilet’ plungers and I honestly had no idea the bottom popped out like that. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why I could not get all of the water out of the inside of the think, nor why it was even made in such a way. Now I know! It is because I did not pop the bell part down. I am much relived! I am quite the handy woman myself and was bringing to seriously doubt said handywoman skills and all because of my confusion over a plunger. Each time I have tried using the blasted thing it would bring up feelings of confusion and remorse. But no more! Thanks to you (bopping my head that I didn’t know this already, my father would be so ashamed, you see, he raised me as though I were XY and not an XX). Thanks Karen, love the blog by the way. It is part of my coffee/music/blog, first-person-in-the-office, and morning ritual. Cheers!!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Bobbie in Oregon! I still think it’s hilarious that people around the world are sitting at work reading my blog. Glad I could help with the plunger pandemonium! ~ karen

  16. Jacque says:

    HA!! My husband is a Marine… and they love to eat… and poo.. We have a giant black plunger… but I *didn’t* know it was supposed to be full of water…. Thanks for that! Next time we have to pull it out (which is usually weekly at least) I’ll have to tell them to fill it with water!

  17. marilyn says:

    so much for my breakfast…

  18. deborahinps says:

    What kind of diet do you have to be on to use that last plunger Karen? Just wondering 🙂

  19. Amy Schmucker says:

    Ok, there is one idea I never thought writing about. But your just the type of girl who would. Just love it.
    The only time I have ever needed a plunger… is when guests come.. They are the culprit.

  20. jo says:

    I have a girlfriend who is into the art of rubber stamps, so thanks to Canada Post, I mailed her a plunger with a note that said, wood on the top, rubber on the bottom, must be a stamp! LOL, Thankfully the post office let me mail it without packaging, it was pretty funny.

  21. Nancy says:

    Oh my GOD. When my roommates and I moved into our apartment, the stupid low-flow toilet basically clogged immediately, and two of us accidentally both bought plungers. The *red* plunger that we got didn’t seem to do anything so we’ve been using the *black* heavy-duty looking plunger BUT APPARENTLY the bottom part has been PUSHED IN the entire ten months we’ve been here. I never even knew something was supposed to pop out! And THEN we’ve been trying to figure out why all this nasty TOILET WATER was getting trapped inside the plunger. Uuuuggggghhhhh…. Thank you, Karen, thank you for writing about plungers.

  22. Jamieson says:

    Thanks for distinguishing between the two plungers! I have one of each and had no idea why they were different.

    I also bought one of these fancy plungers once:

    It’s the kind where you pull on a handle and you’re supposed to get incredible suction from very little effort – lauded as the first great advance in plunging technology since before WWII, the Big One.

    I used it once. It shot putrid water in my face and I was no longer in such an experimental mood. I didn’t have the nerve to return a used plunger. I reverted to my trusty old toilet plunger and dislodged “the big one”.

  23. Rebecca says:

    I’m already a plunging expert (one useless toilet + one low-flow toilet + two young children who use a giant amount of TP in proportion to their tiny bums = phD in plunging) Now, if you could tell me how to do it without the sh*t splatters I’d be endlessly grateful!

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