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A plunger, force cup, plumber's friend or plumber's helper [1] [2] is a tool used to clear blockages in drains and pipes. It consists of a rubber suction cup attached to a stick (shaft) usually made of wood or plastic. A different bellows-like design also exists, usually constructed of plastic.



For the common plunger, the cup is pushed down against the drain opening, either pressing hard into the drain to force air in, or pushing down until the rubber cup is flattened, and is then pulled out, creating a vacuum to pull blockage material upward and dislodge it.

Shape and function

The cup of a kitchen plunger looks like a rubber ball cut in half with a flared edge, while the toilet plunger's cup looks more like a distorted bowl, tapered on one half, with a large opening on the bottom.

A plunger is much more effective with water in the pipe, as water does not compress and thus transmits more of the applied force than does air. [3] When a plunger alone is ineffective, it can be supplemented by a chemical drain cleaner for sinks and tubs; or a plumber's snake for stubborn clogs, and clogs of the main line or toilet). [4]


The plunger was invented in 1874 [5] by New York confectioner [6] John Hawley, with the flattened rim added in 1876. [7] The invention is referred to in the patent as a "vent-clearer", and was marketed as a "force cup". [8]

See also

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  1. "Meaning of plunger | Infoplease". Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  2. Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. "The American Heritage Dictionary entry: plunger". Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  3. Henkenius, Merle (2006). Ultimate Guide to Plumbing. Creative Homeowner Press. p.  216. ISBN   1580113117.
  4. Lou Manfredini (2004). Lou Manfredini's House Smarts. Random House. p. 28. ISBN   0345449894.
  5. USpatent US158937A,John S. Hawley,"Improvement in vent-clearers for wash-bowls",issued 1875-01-19
  6. Biographical history of Westchester County, New York. 1. Lewis Publishing Company. 1899. p. 39.
  7. USpatent US186206A,John S. Hawley,"Improvement in vent-clearers for wash-bowls",issued 1877-01-16
  8. "Improved Elastic Force Cup". Scientific American. Vol. 32 no. 21. New York. 1875-05-21. p. 329.