Owning the best toilet plunger doesn’t really seem that relevant—that is, until you actually need it. With a clogged toilet just centimeters from spilling over, the last thing you’ll want to do is run to the hardware store, especially on Brown Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. the busiest day of the year for plumbers).
That’s why you need to keep a reliable plunger stashed away.
“Having the proper equipment makes all the difference when tackling a dreaded clogged toilet,” says Glenn Gallas, vice president of Operations for Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
OK, let’s get down to business: There are three main types of plungers: a cup plunger, a flange plunger, and an accordion plunger. Each design is best suited for a certain use, so unfortunately, you might end up needing more than one plunger in your home, depending on how finicky your pipes are.
Let’s take a look at the best toilet plungers to get you out of any foul mess.
Best toilet plunger for everyday toilet clogs: flange plunger
“To clear a clogged toilet, a flange plunger is just what the plumber ordered,” says Gallas.
Flange plungers are bell-shaped, with a flange (the flap part) that helps it create a tight seal on a toilet bowl. Flange plungers are usually made of black rubber instead of red. They can also double as cup plungers in a pinch by folding the bottom part of the bell back inside the cup, explains Gallas. (Gross but necessary tip: Don’t use a plunger you’ve already used on a stopped-up toilet on your sink or tub unless it’s been fully sterilized.)
This MAXclean flange plunger and holder ($15.99, Amazon.com) should be enough to clear most clogs. It gets four-and-a-half stars on Amazon and, according to one reviewer, there is “not much to say other than it serves its purpose very well.”
Best toilet plunger for the design-conscious
Keeping a plunger in the bathroom near the toilet is doing you and your guests a service, but who wants an ugly rubber plunger hanging out in your powder room at all times? This sleek and modern plunger ($30, simplehuman.com) houses a flange plunger inside a white or black case. Even better, a magnet in the case holds it on to the plunger so that you can transport both at once, cutting down on drips. Is there anything less appealing than toilet plunger drips? That alone makes it worth the upgrade.
Best toilet plunger for serious clogs: accordion plunger
Accordion plungers are made of hard plastic and are, unsurprisingly, shaped like an accordion. They’re great for breaking up really tough clogs in toilets, but beware: They aren’t quite as easy to use as a flange plunger.
“Because accordion plungers have small cups and are rather rigid, forming a tight seal can be tricky,” says Gallas. “The plunger must also be completely submerged, so you may need to add water to the toilet bowl before attempting to clear a clog.”
Consider the accordion plunger the plumbing version of calling in the big guns.
In addition to toilets, they work on sinks, showers, and bathtubs, but again, don’t cross-contaminate.
The G.T. Water MP 100-3 Master Plunger ($15.59, Amazon.com) is recommended by Amazon reviewers for busting up hair-clogged tub drains and stopped-up toilets alike. Hosting the entire family for Thanksgiving dinner? You might want to keep one of these guys in the garage at the ready. Maybe two.
Best do-it-all plunger: Korky Beehive
This hybrid of a flange and an accordion plunger is a winner for both its plunging power and its ability to form a tight seal on multiple kinds of toilet bowls. It costs more than a basic flange plunger and is less aesthetically pleasing than the SimpleHuman plunger, but it delivers accordion plunger power with ease.
If you constantly have difficult-to-clear toilet clogs, it’s probably worth upgrading to the Beehive ($29.47, Amazon.com). You can get a Beehive for less without the holder ($13.98, Amazon.com), but if it’s going to be sitting on your bathroom floor, spend the extra money on a holder. Otherwise, the germ situation is going to be a whole other issue.
Worst plunger for toilets (but the best for flat surfaces): cup plunger
A cup plunger is the classic half-globe red plunger with a stick on the end—”probably what comes to mind when you think of a plunger,” says Gallas. It’s actually not optimal for toilets, though.
According to Gallas, cup plungers are designed to be used on sinks, showers, or tubs with flat surfaces.
“The cup plunger really only works well on flat surfaces where it can make a tight seal over the drain in order to create the necessary suction to dislodge a clog,” says Gallas. “If used on a toilet, the cup plunger will lose its seal over the bowl-shaped drain as soon as you pull up.”
How to get the most out of your plunger
Picking the right plunger for the job is only the first step, according to Gallas. He shared some of his plumber tricks for dislodging clogs like a pro.
- When plunging a sink or tub, plug the overflow drain with a wet washcloth to get better suction. If there’s another sink or drain nearby, temporarily block it with a rag for better results.
- For really stubborn clogs, put some petroleum jelly along the rim of the rubber cup to improve the plunger’s seal.
- A coat of petroleum jelly will also prevent a rubber plunger from drying out. A dry, cracked plunger won’t make the best vacuum seal and will lose pressure when plunging.
Still have a clog? This video shows you the proper technique for unclogging a toilet.