How Does a Toilet Plunger Work?

By Juliet Myfanwy Johnson

The Plunger

A toilet plunger is made of a long stick and a bell-shaped, sturdy rubber cup on one end. The cup has a flange on the underside. It fits slightly into the pipe at the bottom of the toilet bowl and creates a seal when plunging.

How it Works

The plunger is inserted into the bowl of the toilet by holding the wooden stick and setting the rubber cup over the bottom drain of the toilet. The flange underneath the plunger cup will fit into the pipe, and the cup overlaps the outer edge of the drain to create a seal. The plunger stick is then pushed down, inverting the rubber plunger cap and forcing the air that was in the plunger cap into the pipe. The plunger is then pulled back, sucking air and water up with it, causing a vacuum. This abrupt force of air and water pressure helps loosen a clog in the pipes and gets the toilet pipes draining again. It may take several repeated motions of pushing and pulling back on the plunger to loosen the clog.

Using a Sink Plunger

A sink plunger can work in a toilet as well. The only difference is that there is no flange on a sink plunger, and the rubber cap is smaller and flatter. It will not draw in as much water or air when plunging, and the vacuum created by the seal will be a weaker force to work with than when using a plunger with a flange fitting into the toilet drain.