Understanding the various plungers that exist makes it easy to know and choose the right plunger to clear blockages in your bathroom and toilet drains.
Plunger types include the cup, flange, beehive, accordion or bellows, air pressure, automatic, touchless and many more. Read on for details on each type, pros and cons, and how best to use them.
Also known as the standard plunger or simply sink plunger, this is the most common type of plunger in many households. It is what usually comes to mind when most people think of plungers.
A standard plunger has a straight, frequently wooden handle that has a rubber cup attached to its end. The rubber cup, usually red or black in color, has a flat bottom and can be of varying diameters. The handles can be short or long but the basic structure stays the same.
This type of plunger only works well on flat surfaces such as bathroom sinks, bathtubs and shower floor drains. On flat surfaces, the cup can lay flat over the drain to create the vacuum necessary for plunging and dislodging blockages.
While cup plungers are the cheapest and easiest to use, their main downside is that the flat-bottomed rubber cup cannot make a seal against drains that have irregular surfaces such as toilet bowls, they’re limited to flat surfaces. They also may not provide enough suction power.
Some of the most popular brands of cup plungers include;
Further Reading: Sink Plungers vs Toilet Plungers: What are the Differences?
This is a modified version of the cup plunger. Like the standard plunger, the flange plunger, also known as toilet plunger, comes with a wooden/metallic/plastic handle and a rubber cup attached at the end. Instead of a flat bottom, the cup has a soft rubber flap (called a flange) that extends down to form another smaller cup.
It is this extended part, the flange, that makes it perfect for creating seals on surfaces that are not flat such as the inside of toilet bowls. The flange fits over the toilet drain, providing the necessary suction power to clear blockages.
The flap also helps the plunger to fit into smaller drains that may have uneven edges.
How to Use a Flange Plunger
To properly use a flange plunger to unclog your toilet:
- Place the plunger into the bowl and into the drain at a slight angle to create a seal.
- Push in gently to release the air trapped inside the cup of the plunger. The flange on the plunger inserts slightly into the drain trap to allow maximum suction with each pull or push on the plunger. A forceful push can cause unnecessary splashing.
- Plunge up and down. With the air out of the bell, you can use more force to create movement in the drain. The suction generated by effectively sealing the bowl with the flange acts to clear the clog in the toilet.
- You may need to pump the plunger several times to break the clog.
Pros and Cons of a Flange Plunger
Versatile- it provides the flexibility to fit in just about any drain and can be modified to work on flat surfaces
More suction power- toilet plunger can hold more water which will help create the right amount of suction and pressure.
Affordable-it is quite cheap compared to other plunger types.
The cons include; may not clear tough congestion and plunging with this tool requires a lot of effort to drain the clog.
This type is a polished-up design of both the flange and the sink plungers, but it hardly looks like a conventional plunger.
A bellows plunger is made of a handle that is connected to a single piece of elongated molded plastic body with numerous flexible accordion-style ridges.
The bottom of the accordion-like body can be flat, for flat surfaces, or have a rubber flap like that of a flange plunger for toilet drains.
The bellows allow this type of plunger to expand and collapse quickly exerting extra pressure on clogs. The rubber flap allows them to make seals on all kinds of surfaces with that additional plunging power.
- Submerge the plunger completely into the water before attempting to break up any clogs, so you may need to add extra water to the bowl.
- Press the plunger against the toilet drain or bowl. By doing this, the ridged area of the plunger holds air.
- Then plunge up and down the toilet bowl numerous times, applying average force.
- The ridges compress and the air shoots out from the cup to push out the clog.
While the bellows plunger is affordable and provides a lot of force with a minimal amount of effort, it is quite challenging to achieve a tight seal because the accordion-style body is made of rigid plastic instead of rubber which is softer and flexible.
The ridges easily collect fecal matter and dirty water, and since they are hard to spot, they get unsanitary rapidly. The ridges are also not easy to clean
Another disadvantage of this type of plunger is that it can possibly scratch the surfaces of your toilet, since it is made of plastic, unlike other rubber plungers that will not.
This yet another upgraded and versatile variation of the regular cup plunger. Like the cup plungers, it comes with a handle that is connected to a beehive-shaped rubber cup with a flange at the bottom.
It is narrow at the top, which is made of thicker rubber where it connects to the handle. It then widens at the middle section, which is stiff, and then narrows again at the bottom section, to form the flange which is made of soft, non-marking rubber to perfectly fit over most toilet drains.
The most common model of this plunger is the Korky’s Beehive Max Toilet Plunger which comes with a plunger holder. Its cup is 6 inches (15.24 cm) in diameter. It also features a 16 inch (40.64 cm) T-shaped handle which enables an optimal grip when using it.
This is a high-efficiency plunger that works on both narrow and wide drains. In case you have a wide drain, you can press the narrow flange further down into the hole to create the seal you need to plunge. When it comes to narrow drains, the flange can rest on them, creating that seal.
The beehive makes work for both old style and new style toilets. That is round and oblong toilet bowl shapes respectively due to their shape. It immediately seals the outlet and pushes the liquid out of the bowl.
The major downside is that it is quite costly compared to the other types of plungers
Air Power Plunger (Air Drain Bluster)
This type of plunger does away with the idea of the traditional rubber cup and handle altogether, replacing it with a regular manual pump-like mechanism that utilizes pressurized air to loosen and break clogs in drains.
A power plunger works by sending a powerful blast of air pressure down through the pipework. Water is forced downwards, breaking up the blockage and forcing it down the drain.
Most brands of air drain bluster come with interchangeable rubber plunger heads/suction cups which makes them useful for different surfaces and drains of varying sizes.
Air pressure plungers come can be by hand or electricity corded or cordless with a rechargeable battery.
To use this type of plunger, all you need is to select the appropriate suction cup, fill the plunger with pressurized air, place the suction cup on the clogged fixture and either pull the trigger or press the button to hit the clog.
While an air-powered plunger is an easy, affordable and effortless way to clear clogs from your drains, the pumping action, especially on the manual versions, takes some effort.
These types of plungers cannot be used to unblock tough blockages such as those caused by hard objects including metal items or construction debris.
The following are some of the most reviewed manual and electric air-pressure powered plungers on Amazon
InstaPlunge Electric Plunger System
This is a multipurpose plunger you can use to clear toilets, shower drains, bathroom/kitchen sinks; courtesy of the multiple attachable heads. It also includes an inflatable toilet head that creates airtight seal that prevents any backsplash
It is easy to use, all you need is to plug it in, turn on to desired psi, unplug, place it in clogged fitting and push the button to blast away the blockage.
It is built from environmental-friendly materials, chemical-free and safe for all pipes.
Battery-Style Air Pressure Plunger
Like the InstaPlunge, this plunger works by t by automatically filling up with air pressure at the desired PSI and with a push of a button a blast of air is sent through your pipe to push the blockage through to clear and open the pipe. However, this model eliminates the hassle of plugging and unplugging it to fill up the air pressure. It is cordless, a comes with a rechargeable lithium battery that can be used more than 40 times under 4bar(58psi) after fully charged.
Other features of this cordless electric plunger include;
- Stainless steel reinforcement cylinder for durability and ease of cleaning
- Visual barometer to ensure the right amount of pressure for each application
- Balloon seal technology to avoid splash while ensuring a tight seal
- A comfortable handle
Manual Pump Air Pressure Plunger (Gun-Style)
Unlike the other air power plungers, this is an affordable alternative that does not require electricity.
While it also utilizes the power of high-pressure compressed air to blow away blockages in the drain quickly. It comes with a manual air pump lever which you push with your hands to fill it up the air.
Instead of pressing a button, you pull a gun-style trigger to clear away the blockages.
This plunger comes with 4 sizes of suction cups and splash-proof plastic film. You can use it in the toilet, bathroom vanity, bathtub, shower, sink, squatting pan, floor drain, pipe blockage, kitchen pipe blockage
Another popular air plunger worth mentioning is the Milwaukee air plunger system. It is a drain cleaning kit that can reach clogs 35 feet out
Water Power Plunger
This type plunger utulizes water pressure to blast blockages in drains. It works like a hand pump.
Once you insert the nozzle in the clogged drain all you need is to pull the hand back which creates a vacuum that lets in water. You then push the handle down. the resulting pressure pushes through and unclogs the toilet with your plunger.
One of the most popular plungers of this type is the Johny Jolter Pro Power Plunger. It is made from durable engineering-grade plastic and assembled by Disabled U.S. Veterans. It is easy to disassemble/reassemble for easy maintenance to ensure many years of use
Automatic Toilet Plunger
The automatic toilet plunger uses powerful Carbon (IV) Oxide (CO2) air pressure to quickly and easily dislodge clogs. All you have to do is firmly insert the tip of the plunger into the drain hole.
This causes the release of a burst of Carbon (IV) Oxide to unclog the toilet. It is a powerful tool that can more thoroughly clear clogs than other plungers.
SurePlunge is the most popular plunger of this type.
It is safe and not only easy to use but also an effective way to thoroughly clear clogs. However, it is only limited to toilets and requires you to buy single-use Carbon IV Oxide canisters.
Tiered Universal Toilet Plunger
Tiered plungers have a similar appearance and work the same way as beehive plungers, but with several flat-bottomed tiers instead of rounded. This type of plunger has stepped flanges that can fit into different types of toilet drains.
Neiko Patented All-Angle Design plunger is the pioneer in tiered style space. It comes with an aluminum handle that is attached to a unique 4-step level suction cup that fits securely in most types of toilets. It is one of the best-selling on Amazon, with over 10k ratings.
The downsides of tiered plungers include; less volume than an accordion-style plunger, it can be harder to clean, and you need more plunging effort compared to the automatic and power plungers
A rather uncommon household drainer is the taze plunger. It resembles a disc with a long steel rod that is meant to fit into specific pipes. They unclog drains by pushing the disc against any clogging matter in the pipes. It’s more of a professional plumbing tool because its specialty lies with large pipes like those of a sewer line.
If you’re not a pro plumber there’s no reason to purchase this type of plunger since the works require disintegrating the pipe connection to clear an entryway for the steel rod to fit.
This an innovative massive disposable sticker that you apply over the entire bowl then press with your hands to clear clogs. Also known toilet push bomb, this plunger is designed to make the whole process of plunging your toilet mess-free.
It is easy to use. All you need is to stick it over your bowl stick. Once it is sealed, you flush once more to intentionally overflow your bowl.
The overflowing water creates air space that you can push on several times with your hands until the blockage is cleared.
Korean-made Pongtu toilet unclogger, is the most known disposable plunger.
While this type of plunger is honestly innovative and easy to use it only works for light clogs. You cannot use it to clear tough blockages. It is only limited to toilets and because it is a throwaway type, you cannot reuse it.
Touchless Toilet Plunger
This yet another ingenious toilet plunger gives you to ability to unclog your toilet without touching anything that might touch the toilet water keeping germs in the toilet bowl.
It features high-volume bellows that you insert between your toilet seat and bowl, then pump by moving the seat up and down to push compressed air through the water toward the clog.
The high-volume bellow design delivers a blast of air–more than 25 times the air volume of a standard plunger.
Like the disposable sticker, this a recent and innovative development but not as versatile as other plunger types.
The PlungeMAX sanitary plunger is the best example of a touchless plunger. It is made of strong vinyl and has flexible steel rings for long-lasting durability. When you’re finished using it, you can easily fold and store it in a convenient location.
Yet another revolutionary and weird-looking type of plunger is the Toiletshroom. It basically clears blockages by pushing out the clog in one simple step. It also doubles as a squeegee to help keep the insides of your toilet clean.
How to Choose the Right Plunger Type
The following are some features and factors to look into when selecting plungers
Plunger Construction Materials
Always check the manufacturer’s details to find out what has been used to create the plunger, especially the handle and cup. The best construction materials are durable, environment-friendly, chemical-free, lightweight, comfortable to use, and easy to clean and maintain.
For the cups opt for sturdy but soft rubber to avoid damage to some fixtures like the toilet.
The handle usually come in metal, wood or plastic. While wooden handles look and feel nice and are some of the most affordable, they’re not easy to clean and they start to rot through when they get too damp. At the same time, wood is a rougher surface which is more likely to gather dirt, grime, and bacteria over time.
Metal and plastic handles are lightweight, comfortable, durable and most importantly easy to clean and maintain
The Shape of your Household Fixture Surface
From the above sections, it is clear that there are quite many types of plungers and each type serves a unique purpose. Plungers have either a flat-bottomed cup or non-flat cups with a flange (the extra rubber flap that comes out the bottom)
If you have a flat-surfaced fixture such as sink, floor drain or bathtub drain use flat-bottomed plunger types. However, the surface of your fixture is not flat, for instance, the curved bottom of your toilet, use plungers that have a flange.
Comfort and Ease of Use
How comfortable and easy to use a plunger mainly depends on the overall design. If you want to instantly clear blockages with the least effort the air-pressure types are ideal.
If you do not mind a little bit of action, the traditional cup-style plungers are the best. Opt for handles with a good grip.
Plunger Safety & Maintenance Tips
Before getting a new plunger, be sure it is the right type and free of damages Any tears of the cup or bell of the plunger will result in a poor vacuum seal and loss of pressure.
After every use, clean your plunger. After cleaning keep it dry is a safe place to prevent cracking, ripping, or growth of mold and mildew.
Do not use a plunger after using toxic cleaning chemicals. The chemicals can damage your plunger. Plunging can create backslash and lead to toxic chemicals splashing throughout your bathroom and kitchen and possibly even onto your skin.
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