A tool to clear out a clogged toilet. Consists of a handle upon which is mounted a chamber of sorts which is pressed into the toilet's drain to force the blockage out.

Toilet plungers come in three varieties: the wimpy hemispheric ones which have no capacity and do not develop enough pressure, the ordinary ones which are okay, and the big-ass blue ones sold under the name "Master Plunger" which kill clogs dead.

Also known as a plumber's helper.

A toilet plunger, sometimes also known as a "plumber's helper", or more simply, plunger, is a simple device for clearing blockages in a toilet's drain which prevent the toilet bowl from properly emptying after flushing.

The most common toilet plunger design consists of a semiflexible rubber bell known as a force cup attached to a long, firm shaft serving as a handle (see fig 1). To use, the force cup is placed around the toilet bowl's drain so as to create a tight seal. The user then presses down on the handle, which causes the rubber of the force cup to bend inwards (fig 2).

             |  |
             |  |
             |  |
             |  |
             |  |                                  /\
             |  |                                 |  |
             |  |         <-- Handle -->          |  |
             |  |                                 |  |
             |  |                                 |  |
             |  |                                 |  |
         ----+--+----                             |  |
        /            \                            |  |
       /              \                           |  |
      /                \   <-- Force       /\     |  |     /\
     |                  |       cup -->   |  \    |  |    /  |
     |                  |                 |   ----+--+----   |

           Figure 1                             Figure 2

As you can see, this decreases the volume of the force cup, thus increasing the pressure of its contents. As water is effectively incompressible, this pressure is transmitted to the blockage. When the handle is pulled back, the resultant suction acts on the blockage in the opposite direction. Hopefully, this force will break up and dislodge the blockage; if not, the procedure ("plunging") is repeated until satisfactory results are attained.

As the principle on which these plungers operate is not specific to toilets, they may also be used to clear other soft blockages like hairballs in sink or shower drains. More advanced forms exist, employing more complex design or compressed CO2, but given a force cup of sufficient volume, the basic design should be adequate for common household use.

What to do without one…

What happens when you come to one of those points in life when you realize that the toilet didn’t flush and, with the brown tide rising in the bowl, you sigh deeply and know that you can't just walk away; you have to fix it somehow. Either you have to deal with it yourself or you have to ask someone else to, usually the Alpha Male of the household. Asking generally leads to an embarrassing intrusion into a normally private part of your life, so instead you sigh, close your eyes, and reach for the plunger. But what if when you reach out all you find yourself touching is air rather than the plastic or wooden handle of the plunger? And what if an extensive search of the house yields no reward either? This situation may seem absurd or impossible to some of you (I know it was for me until that day), but it does happen every now and then and it would be good to have an idea of what to do.

So I found myself in this same predicament while I was house-sitting for a person that I had met through a very good friend only a few days before and so I didn’t know the house very well. After searching the house in all the likely places one would find a plunger, to no avail, I realized that I had to find a way to resolve the situation myself or bow down to calling up the owner and asking for the secret location of her plunger. The second option would not do, so I had to find other strategies.

First, go down to any local hardware or general store and purchase a plunger for a few bucks, drive home and be done with it. This works if you know the town well enough to know where the local hardware store is, but in my case I was new in town and had no idea where a hardware store would be, so I had to think of other options.

Second, call a local plumber and pay the big bucks for him to come over and use HIS plunger for you. Just not going to work. This option ran through my head for about four seconds before I discarded it as ludicrous, feeling confident that there must be another solution.

Third, go to the next-door neighbor and ask to borrow their plunger. Tell them you’ll bring it back the same way you found it. This was another option that lasted for only a few seconds.

Finally I decided that I had to find a different way to solve my problem using household items and ingenuity. Basically I was trying to find a way to simulate the effects of a plunger using stuff that I had around, so first I had to find out how a plunger works. What a plunger does is create a seal against the wall of the bowl which closes the system (makes it impossible for the liquid in the system to go anywhere, much like the brake fluid in your car). After the system is closed pressure is applied by pushing down on the plunger and since liquid is incompressible something’s got to give and in most cases the blockage down the line does and the problem is solved.

The Splunger

So the two important things in the plunger invention are the closed system and finding a way to put pressure on the system and I found my salvation in a Tupperware and a 20oz plastic bottle. The Tupperware is simply a bailer, a container to empty out some of the water in the bowl leaving only enough to completely submerge the bottle. The bottle first needs to be modified. Cut two inches off the bottom of bottle. Then, after bailing out the bowl, remove the cap and stick the bottle down into the hole at the bottom of the bowl and submerge it completely into the water so that the bottle is filled with water. Then put the cap back on so that the system is closed (like putting you thumb over the hole in a straw). Finally, start moving the bottle back and forth in the hole with vigor, making sure that the bottle stays in tight against the walls of the tube (keep the bottle in the part of the tube that is small than the mouth of the modified bottle). If the seal breaks and the system opens then resubmerge the bottle with the cap open and then close it again after the bottle is filled up. Continue this process for about a minute, flush and repeat until the blockage is removed.

Well that’s my story, I was unfortunate enough to have to deal with this problem without the conventional solution, but now at least you know that you’ll be able to deal with this problem with any level of preparation. I would not have solved this problem in this manner if the fates hadn't conspired to cut off all my other options, just so you know. Our world are in a constant state of change, however, and we must adapt rapidly if we are to survive as viable human beings. Thanks for reading.

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