A plunger is a household necessity. They’re our tools for dealing with issues that must not be named. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of needing one when you didn’t have one, we are truly sorry. 

However, don’t just throw any ‘ol plunger in your bathroom and call it a day. In fact, the one you have in your bathroom right now (please tell us you have one in your bathroom) is probably the wrong kind of plunger.

Check your plunger right now.

No one tells you on the day you become a card-carrying adult that there are different kinds of plungers. I mean, who cares, right? You. You should care. There’s a weird cultural phenomenon where most of us have this ideal plunger in our minds, and it probably looks like this:

Red cup plunger with wooden stick
Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay

This is the plunger you see on sitcoms and cartoons—but this is not the plunger you want in your bathroom.

There’s more than one way to plunge.

The basic plunger pictured above is actually meant for unclogging drains, not toilets. So, yes, you can have this hanging around your bathroom, but don’t expect it to handle anything more serious than a hairball stuck in your sink. The real tool you need is a toilet plunger (I mean, it’s in the name). 

The basic red-cupped plungers work for sinks or drains because its bottom is flat, and it’s able to make a seal on the flat surface around the drain. Toilet bowls aren’t flat though, so using a red-cup plunger for this type of clog isn’t going to be very efficient. 

A toilet plunger has a flange or lip section that extends out past the opening, and this allows for a snug connection. There are also bellow or accordion plungers that can also be used to unclog toilets, but they aren’t as effective as a toilet plunger.