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Person plunging a toilet

Take the Plunge(r)!

No matter how careful you are to keep your drains clear and maintained, minor clogs are bound to happen. When they do, will you have the right plunger on hand? You may be surprised to learn that there are three common types of plungers—each best suited for a particular job. If you often struggle to clear clogs and have to call upon your trusted Portland plumber, the wrong plunger may be to blame.

Cup Plunger

This is probably what comes to mind when you think of a plunger: A cup plunger has a red rubber cup at the end of a straight handle. This standard plunger is designed for sink, bathtub, and shower drains. In fact, the cup plunger really only works well on flat surfaces like these, where it can make a tight seal over the drain in order to create the necessary suction to dislodge a clog. If used on a toilet, the cup plunger will lose its seal over the bowl-shaped drain as soon as you pull up.

Flange Plunger

To clear a clogged toilet, a flange plunger is just what the plumber ordered. This type of plunger is bell shaped, with a rubber flap (flange) that folds out from the cup. The cup is usually made of black rubber rather than red. This special flange design allows the plunger to fit perfectly with the curved drain of a toilet bowl and maintain a vacuum seal. A flange plunger is very versatile and can potentially double as a cup plunger—with the flange folded inside, this plunger can press flat against sink and tub drains.

Accordion Plunger

Accordion plungers are also designed for toilets. Unlike standard plungers, an accordion plunger is made of hard plastic and has flexible ridges that force out air when compressed. Though ideal for breaking up tough clogs, this powerful plunger is not as simple to use as a flange plunger. Because accordion plungers have small cups and are rather rigid, forming a tight seal can be tricky. The plunger must also be completely submerged, so you may need to add water to the toilet bowl before attempting to clear a clog.

Tips for Pro Plunging

Picking the right plunger is only the first step. There are many more tips and techniques you can use to dislodge a clog like a pro. When plunging a sink or tub, plug the overflow drain with a wet washcloth—this will help you get better suction. Similarly, if there’s another sink or drain nearby, temporarily block it with a rag for better results. For really stubborn clogs, apply some petroleum jelly along the rim of the rubber cup to improve the plunger’s seal. Petroleum jelly will also prevent a rubber plunger from drying out—a dry, cracked plunger won’t make the best vacuum seal and will lose pressure when plunging.

Armed with the right plunger, and the right techniques, you’ll be able to tackle common plumbing problems in no time.

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