You May Be Using the Wrong Piston

Whether you rent or own a home, a good plunger is essential: you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the night waiting for a plumber to fix an overflowing toilet or clean the drain, whether or not you’re responsible for the repairs. or not. But you can’t just pick any old plunger off the shelf – in fact, there are different plungers for different bathroom jobs, and using the right one will speed up the process and with much less effort on your part.

There are different plungers for drains and toilets.

I never gave much thought to the shape of the piston until a few months ago when I encountered a clogged tub drain. (Did you know that a whole rag can slip down the drain? It happened to me.) I watched a lot of YouTube videos instructing me to fill the tub with water a few inches, plug the drain with a plunger, and start pumping. But my plunger didn’t have a flat bottom like the ones in the video – it had an extra flexible piece of rubber on the end that made it hard to create a tight seal around the drain. (Obviously, it takes a lot of effort to move the washcloth.) Turns out I was trying to use the plunger on the sink drain. A quick trip to the hardware store for the right tool and my problem was solved. (I also have a few drain caps.) As an added bonus, I no longer have to think about using a plunger in my sink or tub. Of course, it is possible to unclog the toilet with a sink plunger and vice versa, but not always – and in any case, using the right plunger will make the job easier. Here’s how to choose the right piston for your next cleaning.

Drain plungers (also called sink plungers) have a flat bottom.

Drain plungers are the Platonic ideal of plungers. This is what I would draw if you told me to draw a piston, or what I would reach for if I was a cartoon duck trying to use it to fight crime : your usual rubber cup on a wooden handle. These pistons are great for cleaning out bath or sink drains because the flat bottom allows them to form a tight seal with the surface surrounding the drain. The plungers do their job by suction, and the tighter the seal, the better the suction.

Toilet plungers (also called forced-feed plungers) have a flange.

At first glance , toilet plungers may look like sink plungers, but if you flip them over and look into the cup, you’ll see a rubber plug (called a flange) that can be pulled out to form a spout of sorts. This narrower end fits into a hole in the bottom of the toilet, again to allow you to form a tighter seal and sink more efficiently. You can fold the flange back into the cup and use it on the sink drain, but it won’t be as effective. (Also: rude.)

For more intensive work: beehive or accordion piston.

If your toilet gets clogged frequently (without judgment), you can purchase a beehive plunger or an accordion plunger . Any of these will be your best bet for clearing a large clog, with the caveat that they are indeed single-purpose tools. You can’t use either to clean the sink. Both have larger cups and narrower bores to create a tighter seal and dive with more pressure with each press.


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