Which plunger is best?
A toilet plunger is one of those household tools that can sit unnoticed in a corner for weeks or months until a plumbing crisis arises. When a toilet’s drain becomes clogged with debris, a simple plunger will create enough suction and water pressure to clear it quickly. A plunger is often called a “plumber’s helper” and with good reason. It does the job it was designed for without harsh chemicals, complicated mechanics, or dangerous electricity.
One common concern with toilet plungers is largely cosmetic but still a concern. Most toilet plungers are designed to be functional, not decorative. Fortunately, many manufacturers do make an effort to improve the aesthetics of the plunger, along with its storage container. Ease of use is also a major consideration because plunging can require some physical effort.
If you are in the market for a new toilet plunger, read this buying guide for more advice. Our top choice is the Simplehuman Toilet Plunger with Holder, which is a well-designed stainless steel plunger with a discreet holder and an ergonomic handle.
What to know before you buy a plunger
Different drain systems require a different approach when it comes to drain clearing. Many standard plungers have round cups, which makes them ideal for kitchen or shower drains but not necessarily toilet bowls. The round cup fits securely over a round drain and creates strong suction, but it does not handle oblong or elongated drains well.
For unclogging toilets, many people turn to a flange-style toilet plunger. The cup’s flared design forms a better seal over elongated toilet bowl drains, and a better seal means better suction and pressure. A flange plunger can be more difficult to clean, but it should work on a wide range of drain types.
If additional water pressure and suction are desired, plungers with an accordion design are recommended. The pleats of the accordion-style cup extend the capacity of the plunger, making each stroke more efficient. These plungers can be challenging to keep seated in the drain opening, however.
What to look for in a quality plunger
Plunging a stubborn clog can become tiring after a few strokes, so the handle design is an important consideration. Most standard plungers have a straight handle with a rounded tip. Gripping the handle and applying downward pressure with the palm of the hand is not always comfortable. Straight handles do generate good pressure but are not designed well for long-term sessions.
Some plungers have a special “T” bar attached to the end of the handle. This feature helps spread the weight across the user’s palm, which reduces fatigue and improves stability. A few plungers expand on this idea and provide a wider handle tip to fit the user’s entire palm.
Plunger manufacturers use a number of different materials in the construction of a plunger. The cup needs to be flexible but durable, which makes rubber the ideal choice. Though, there are plunger cups made with plastic or silicone components. The handle is traditionally constructed from solid wood; although, plastic or stainless steel are possibilities.
Storage and cleaning
A plunger is not the most attractive household repair tool, so many manufacturers include a storage case to make it less conspicuous between uses. A clamshell case can hide the cup, or a special bucket will hold the plunger in place and prevent leaks. A plunger should be cleaned thoroughly after a session because fecal material and other contaminants can cause unpleasant odors and unsanitary conditions.
How much you can expect to spend on a plunger
Smaller rubber and wood plungers can be found on store shelves for as little as $5, but a decent quality model for heavy-duty use will cost between $10-$20. High-end plungers with stainless steel or bronze handles can retail for more than $25.
Q. Can I use the same plunger to unclog my kitchen sink and my toilet?
A. While the same style of plunger should work in most drains in your home, it is not a good idea to use the same plunger on toilets and sink drains. Bacterial and fecal matter can cross-contaminate the sink used for cleaning dishes.
Q. I have a low-flow toilet. Do I need a special type of plunger for it?
A. The flow rate of a toilet does not generally change its overall design. As long as the cup of the plunger fits over the toilet drain, you can use any plunger type you want. Accordion-style plungers tend to be the safest to use if pressure on the porcelain is a concern, however.
What plungers are best to buy?
Our take: The Simplehuman plunger’s stainless steel appearance is attractive, but it still delivers strong pressure for clogs.
What we like: Flat handle delivers strong pressure. There’s a magnetic connection between plunger and holder. Narrow flange for modern toilet designs.
What we dislike: It may not work well on elongated toilets. Correct positioning is a challenge for some users.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Top plunger for the money
Our take: This accordion-style plunger is not quite as durable as some, but it is ideal for users with limited arm strength or older toilet models.
What we like: Accordion-style plunger delivers powerful pressure in one stroke. Does not require a strong arm. Works on most toilets, old or new.
What we dislike: Excess water can spray out if the seal is not strong. The plastic handle can break sooner than expected.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: The OXO Good Grips plunger and canister set is one to consider if minimizing the appearance of bathroom tools is a priority.
What we like: Ventilated storage canister for faster drying. An extra-long handle keeps hands away from water. The clamshell canister is unobtrusive.
What we dislike: Strong off-gassing from rubber components. Cup does not always spring back into place during use.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
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Michael Pollick writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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