Can Plunging a Toilet Damage the Wax Ring?

Wax rings are, as you might have guessed, rings made of wax. They thus have the properties of wax and that of rings in the way they operate. Unknown to most people, some activities and forces we subject the wax rings to can be damaging to them. Plunging the toilet in itself doesn’t always damage to the wax ring but doing it the wrong way does it.

Toilets get to block at various locations but the most important one when it comes to the wax ring is whether the blockage is before or after the P-trap. If it’s before the wax ring, plunging will exert the force directly onto the clog forcing it down the drain without damage on the wax ring. On the other hand, if the clog is after the wax ring, the plunging force will act on the wax ring and damage it in the process.

Given that you can’t actually tell where the clog is exactly, it is best to take precautions to preserve the integrity of the wax ring. While plunging is one of the best solutions to eliminating clogs, doing it right goes a long way in keeping your toilet in good working condition. Below, we detail the steps to take to plunge correctly.

Plunging Effects on the Wax Ring

The design of the wax ring is a circle which is made of wax. By the laws of physics, rings can withstand more force from outside than from inside. Pushing towards the center does little damage to the ring since you’re simply compressing it. However, pulling it outward is stretching it and can easily damage it.

Wax doesn’t have the recovery power of materials like rubber or the resistance of materials like foam and metals. As such, what plunging does is force the ring outwards which can easily damage it. When you push and pull on the wax ring with every plunging motion, it will get damaged with time.

The result can be major leaks from the base of the toilet once the wax ring is damaged or shifted out of the way. Materials such as rubber can withstand much more force from the plunger and they would often recover their original shape after each plunging. For this reason, you should consider using non-wax seals such as those made of foam for your toilet.

Toilet Plunger
Toilet plunger

How to plunge without causing damages

Lucky enough, you can still use a plunger to unclog the toilet even when there is risk of damage. You only need to reduce the risk of damage by doing it the right way.

To plunge without causing damage to the wax ring, you should first focus on dislodging the clog rather than forcing it downwards. To attain this, follow these steps:

  1. Place the plunger’s bulb on the side of the inner bowl such that part of its surface touches the top of the water. You then gently push it downwards. This doesn’t exert any force on the wax ring as you’re pushing against the side of the toilet and not the drain pipe where the wax ring is.
  2. Slide the bulb of the plunger downwards onto the bottom of the toilet bowl then pull it up in a jerking motion. Repeat this motion until the clog comes out.

As you might have noticed, the plunger isn’t pushed down the drain but on the side of the toilet bowl. Once it gains the suction power, you slide it over to the opening of the toilet bowl then pull it up. What happens is that the force exerted to the wax ring is inwards towards the center. This won’t damage it in any way.

Here are some plunging tips

  1. Start with a gentle plunge to allow air within the plunger to escape easily without blowing a lot of water out of the bowl to the floor.
  2. After forcing the air out, plunge vigorously in and out, keeping the seal.
  3. Be patient. Try alternating between steady strokes and occasional monster heaves.
  4. Ensure there is sufficient water in the bowl to cover the plunger. This helps to generate more pressure.

More on Plungers & Plunging

Working Without a Plunger

Plunging isn’t the only way to unclog a toilet. To avoid damaging the wax ring, you can use many other methods such as the following:

Shampoo or dish soap

Besides the dish soap and shampoo, you can use small pieces of bar soap. These items lubricate the clog so that it’s easy to flush it down the drain. Check details here

Cloth wire hanger

A cloth hanger made of wire can make one of the best tools to unclog the toilet. Check this post for details

White vinegar and baking soda

These kitchen ingredients are great at cleaning surfaces as they break down substances quite effectively.

If the clog hasn’t gone away, repeat the process till it works or go to another method on the list.

Check this post for details

Epsom salts

Epsom salts do a great job at softening items and they can be used to soften the clog before you flush it down the drain. You should add the Epsom salts to the toilet bowl then wait for about an hour before flushing the toilet. Check this article for details

If you can’t access Epsom salts easily, use salts or bath bombs that have these salts.

Toilet auger

A toilet auger only needs to be inserted into the toilet to eat away at the clog before flushing the toilet. Some augers are manual while others are electric. Whatever type of auger you put your hands on, insert it into the toilet from the bowl until you feel resistance then turn it on to break down the clog. After that, flush the toilet. A similar tool you can use is a toilet snake

Further Reading: How to use a toilet auger

Hot water

Hot water also softens the clog in the toilet and can thus be used to unclog the toilet. You can do so by pouring hot (not boiling) water into the toilet bowl then wait for 20 minutes before flushing the toilet.

The reason we use hot and not boiling water is that very hot water can crack the toilet if it’s made of some materials such as porcelain. Check this post for details

Bleach

A combination of bleach and powdered dish detergent is a great choice for unclogging a toilet. You should use the two to soften the clog making it easy to flush away. You can add warm water to make the process more effective.

Further Reading: How to unclog a toilet with bleach

Hot water bottle method

With the hot water bottle method, the focus is creating enough pressure in the drain pipe to force out the clog. Arm yourself with gloves, a face mask, hot water and a bottle then follow these steps:

  • Start by emptying the toilet bowl as much as possible. A small cup should do the trick for this step.
  • Fill the plastic bottle with water then cover its opening with your thumb.
  • Insert the bottle into the opening of the toilet bowl then squeeze it to push water down the drain with force. Repeat this until the clog is removed.

This method isn’t for everyone given that it entails lots of work by hand which can be messy and gross for some.

Toilet brush

The brush you use to clean the toilet can be used as a stand-in plunger although it doesn’t create enough pressure to damage the wax ring. You simply push it in and out of the toilet bowl’s opening. The pressure created should be enough to dislodge the clog within the drain pipe or P-trap.

With these methods, you should be able to save your wax ring yet still unclog the toilet. If none of these methods work for you, call in an expert since it means the problem is much more complex than you thought.

More Ideas on Unclogging your toilet

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