How to Plunge a Toilet Correctly

By Chris Deziel

If your toilet is blocked, a plunger is the best tool to unblock it, and if your plunger isn't working, it may be because you aren't using it correctly. A plunger won't clear every blockage; if your child dropped a toy in the toilet and it got stuck somewhere in the drain, the plunger may not develop enough force to dislodge it. Most toilet blockages are caused by paper or solid waste, though, and plungers can effectively loosen these and push them through.

Toilet Paper with Plunger
credit: Brooke Elizabeth Becker/iStock/Getty Images
The inner flange of a toilet plunger fits into the bowl opening.

Step 1

Purchase the proper plunger. The cup-shaped orange-brown plunger you find in most bathrooms is a sink plunger. A toilet plunger is bell-shaped, and it has a tapered opening that fits into the bowl opening.

Step 2

Fill the bowl about half-full of water before you plunge to ensure the plunger remains submerged. If the waste pipe is blocked, the bowl may be overfull. In that case -- unappealing as it sounds -- you should transfer some of the effluent to a bucket, or it may end up on the floor. Wear rubber gloves.

Step 3

Hold the plunger at an angle before you submerge it to allow air to escape. For maximum plunging power, the plunger should be filled with water.

Step 4

Fit the plunger around the opening at the bottom of the bowl and use a vertical up-and-down motion when plunging. If you plunge at an angle, you may not have a complete seal with the bottom opening, the force you develop pushes water back into the bowl instead of down the waste line.

Step 5

Pump three or four times. Remove the plunger and wait for water to drain. Try again if nothing happens.

Step 6

Cover all the drain openings in the bathroom if you still can't move the obstruction. The toilet waste line is usually connected to these drains, and plunging pushes water into the drains instead of against the obstruction. Dry the drains and sink overflow holes with a towel and cover them with duct tape, then plunge several times.