How To Unclog a Drain with a Plunger?

Drains are the backbone of any plumbing system as they are the channels that carry wastewater away from your sinks in the kitchen, bathroom, and toilets. Drains are of various types and are designed specifically for handling various types of waste. Over time, drains get clogged due to the accumulation of various debris and waste materials that travel down the sink with water as we carry out our cleaning routines. 

There are several reasons a drain might get clogged and there are various ways to fix them. One of the most efficient ways to unclog a drain is using a plunger. Plungers help unclog drains quickly and efficiently and most of the time you don’t need to look further than that to fix your clogged drain. Here we will discuss how exactly a plunger works and how you can make the most of it in a few simple steps. 

What is a Plunger?

A plunger is a plumbing tool that helps to unclog drains using simple hydraulic pressure, a plunger typically consists of a rubber suction cup with a rubber flap called a flange the rubber cup is attached to a stick generally made of wood or plastic used as a handle. One of the classic plumbing tools, drain plungers have been used for over 150 years now and are probably the oldest plumbing and drain maintenance tools still in use. 

Drain Plungers are highly efficient in unclogging several types of drains including kitchen sink drains, bathroom drains, toilets, and bathtub drains. Every household has a plunger that they’ve used at one point or another and despite being an old invention, drain plungers are still the go-to tool to get rid of clogs worldwide.

The common type of clogs in a drain is caused by buildups of fats, oils, grease, toilet paper, or any organic waste which can be classified as soft clogs and can be effectively dealt with with the use of a drain plunger.

Steps to Using a Plunger in a Drain

How To Unclog a Drain with a Plunger

Using a drain plunger is a simple process and anyone can learn to use it in a matter of minutes. There are some steps that you need to carry out before you start plunging at your clogged drain to ensure proper results. We have broken down the proper steps for using a drain plunger below:

Examine the Drain Clog

Examining the drain clog is the first step to fixing the problem. There could be several reasons for a drain to get clogged and you can understand the problem better if you examine the drain yourself.  Here’s how you examine your drain before you use the plunger to unclog it:

  1. Remove the cover of the drain and fish for any physical debris that is present. You should wear a pair of rubber gloves, a mask, and some goggles to protect yourself from splashes of dirty water.
  2. Remove any standing water that is visible to open up the mouth of the drain hole where you can fit your plunger for it to work effectively.
  3. Open the drain cap under the sink and see if there’s any buildup of gunk or clog that’s reachable by hand. If yes, remove them by manually pulling them out which should help you get rid of the clog.

If the standing water does not clear after these steps, you should get ready to use the plunger.

Position the Plunger in the Drain Hole

There are certain steps to using a plunger effectively to clear a clog in drains. Firstly, you must select the appropriate type of plunger for the type of drain you want because there are several types and sizes available based on your requirements; a toilet plunger is different from a sink drain plunger. Once you have selected the plunger that fits your drain, you should position it appropriately on top of the drain hole. Follow these steps to position your plunger perfectly to get the best results: 

  1. Select the appropriate type and size of plunger that fits the drain that is clogged.
  2. Wear some clothes that cover your entire body so you don’t get any splashes from the drain.
  3. Put on some gloves and a mask for safety and then grab your plunger.
  4. Position the plunger directly above the clogged drain in a way that it covers the entire drain hole when placed.
  5. Place the plunger on top of the hole and press down a little to begin plunging. Make sure there’s some water around the hole so the plunger sticks to the drain hole.

Create a Seal

Once you have placed the plunger on top of the clogged drain, it’s time to create a tight seal around the drain hole before you begin plunging. Creating a seal is very important as it makes sure your plunger works properly forcing water up and down the clogged drain. Make sure that there isn’t any air that’s trapped underneath the plunger. Here’s how you create a seal on your drain hole with a plunger:

  1. Make sure there’s some water around the drain hole that you’re unclogging as it helps the drain plunger create a perfect hydraulic seal.
  2. Once the plunger is placed on top of the clogged drain, gently press down on the plunger’s handle to tighten it around the drain hole.
  3. To ensure a proper seal is created gently pull up on the plunger to check for tension. The plunger should be glued to the drain hole for it to work properly.
  4. Once the seal is created, you are ready to start plunging.

Plunging a drain

After placing the plunger on top of the clogged drain hole and creating a seal, the next step is to start plunging. Different people recommend different methods and durations for plunging a clogged drain but we have simplified this in a way that will work for all kinds of drains at homes. Plunging can sometimes require force, so be prepared to use both of your hands for the process. Plunging a drain is not difficult and you can learn to do it in a matter of seconds if you follow the steps that’s mentioned below:

  1. Once you have made sure that a seal is formed around the drain hole, you are ready to start plunging.
  2. Start by holding the plunger’s handle perpendicular to the drain hole and pressing it gently.
  3. Place your dominant hand midway down the plunger’s handle and the other hand on top of the handle to get the best grip and force to use the plunger.
  4. Press down on the plunger and bring it back gently, in a pumping motion.
  5. You should slowly start developing momentum as you repeat this process 15/20 times continuously.
  6. Keep repeating the pumping motion for about 30 seconds and see if you hear any gurgling sounds which should mean that the plunger is working.
  7. The repeated motion of the plunger helps to dislodge the clog and restore the flow of water.

Check for Drainage

Once you’re done plunging for 30-40 seconds, you should gently remove the plunger from the drain hole and check if the clog has cleared. See if the standing water starts to disappear after removing the plunger. If you see things flowing down, it means the plunging worked, if not, you may need to repeat the above process a couple of times. Check for restored drainage in the following ways:

  1. Gently remove the plunger from the drain and see if there’s any water that’s pooling.
  2. If you see water flowing down the drain, it indicates that the clog has been cleared.
  3. Wait for 2-3 minutes to allow the debris to flow out the drain pipe after you’re done plunging.
  4. To ensure proper flow of water, pour a pot of cold water down the drain and see if it’s traveling down the drain as it should.
  5. If the water pools, flows back, or drains slowly it means the clog hasn’t cleared or has only cleared partially.
  6. You could re-do the plunging if you wish to but if you aren’t seeing any process with multiple plunges, it’s time you looked at alternatives to fix the drain clog. 

Alternative to Drain Plunger

While a plunger is an efficient tool in dealing with clogged drains, sink drains, and toilets, it might not be able to fix the issue 100% of the time, that is when you start looking at alternatives to get rid of the clog. Several other tools can come to your aid when dealing with a clog like a drain snake/auger, or simple tools like wire coat hangers and tweezers which can pull out or dislodge the debris that’s causing a clog in your drains. 

If that fails, several homemade and chemical cleaners can disintegrate the clog by reacting with them inside the drain pipe, helping restore the flow of water. 

Choosing the best solution is important to fight clogs because each clog is different and the material causing the clog, its location in the drain pipe, and its severity all play a part in determining what method, tool, or chemical you should use to get rid of it. 

If all else fails, calling in plumbers to have a look and fix the clog for you is the ultimate option that you should consider. Several professional plumbers and plumbing companies provide prompt service to help you get rid of clogged sink drains and toilets. 

Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup is a trustworthy name when it comes to plumbing-related services. We provide drain cleaning services, declogging, repairs, restoration, and inspection of plumbing fittings at an affordable cost. With over 35 years of experience, our team of plumbers equipped with top-of-the-line machinery and technology, we can help fix various types of clogged drains and also provide expert advice on how to prevent them from happening ever again.