It will probably happen to all of us at one point or another. A shower drain backs up during a shower, water refuses to empty out of the tub, a sink fills up far faster than it empties itself out, or—the most dreaded drain moment of all—the toilet refuses to cooperate when we flush. Under these less-than-ideal conditions, it’s important to have the right tool on hand and know how to use a plunger properly.
But plungers aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions for all of these scenarios. Depending on the type of drain that’s clogged, one kind may be more helpful than the next. Read on for an overview of the various options, and check out the following favorite picks that are among the best plungers available.
- BEST OVERALL: Korky Telescoping BeehiveMAX Universal Plunger
- RUNNER UP: NEIKO Toilet Plunger Patented All-Angle Design
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Supply Guru Heavy Duty Rubber Toilet Plunger
- UPGRADE PICK: simplehuman plunger and Toilet Brush Bundle
- BEST ERGONOMIC: MR.SIGA 2 Way Rubber Toilet and Drain Plunger
- BEST ACCORDION: JS Jackson Supplies Accordion Toilet Plunger
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE: ToiletShroom Plunger, Squeegee, Clog Remover
- BEST TRAY AND BRUSH: MR.SIGA Toilet Plunger and Bowl Brush Combo
- BEST FOR SINK CLOGS: Master Plunger Sink & Drain Plunger
- BEST FOR TUBS AND SHOWERS: PlumbCraft Mini Home Plunger
Types of Plungers
A high-quality plunger will clear blockages effectively when the unfortunate need arises. When faced with a clog, the first step is to determine the best plunger for the job, which can range from unclogging a kitchen sink to clearing a blocked-up toilet. Plunger types include toilet plungers, sink plungers, automatic plungers, and multipurpose plungers. It’s not unusual to have a couple of types on hand to handle different unexpected tasks.
For the dreaded task of dealing with a stopped-up toilet, a plunger needs a base made to reach into the recessed drain. Some of the best toilet plungers on the market can be categorized into a few different shapes.
- A beehive plunger looks just like its name implies: It’s a rounded cylinder that’s widest in the middle, similar to a cartoon honey hive drawn in the shape of an exaggerated barrel. This silhouette, along with the flange (an extended cylindrical lip), makes it a universal tool that can fit into almost any toilet drain. If the drain is fairly wide, you can press the plunger farther into the recess until the drain is sealed. If it’s narrow, less of the beehive will fit, but you’ll still maintain a strong seal.
- A bellows-style plunger looks a bit like an accordion along the outer edges of its bowl. This design allows for the plastic bowl to collapse and expand when in use, much like the musical instrument. This creates better water displacement than a traditional plunger and releases the clog a little quicker and with less effort. These accordion-style tools are made with shorter handles for use on sink and tub drains.
- A traditional flanged plunger looks a lot like a cup plunger, but a narrow flange or tiered flange will fill the drain to create a seal when it’s plunged all the way to the bottom of a toilet bowl. It may require more effort to unclog the toilet than a beehive or accordion plunger, but not much.
If the goal is to release a toilet clog in just one or two quick tries, then either an accordion/bellows or beehive plunger is usually the best bet.
Sink and Shower Plungers
When dealing with a flat drain—such as in a sink, shower, or tub—a cup-shaped plunger can provide sufficient suction, creating a pressured push to get things moving right along.
For a clogged sink drain, opt for a simple round rubber cup large enough to cover the drain. The edge of the cup should come in direct contact with the sink bottom to create the strongest possible seal around the drain before pumping and releasing.
A shorter handle, usually 4 or 5 inches long, is a bonus for more controlled plunging action. It’s not recommended to try unclogging a toilet with one of these, though; its size and flat-bottom shape won’t allow it to get the job done.
Automatic and Multipurpose Plungers
As the name suggests, automatic plungers do the bulk of the plunging work for you. They look similar to traditional plungers, but with a more streamlined design that eliminates the need for physical plunging.
Automatic plungers have a cartridge (for example, a CO2 cartridge) inside that sends a burst of pressure down the drain to clear blockages. Users just need to place the plunger in the drain and activate the plunger. No back-and-forth plunging motion or accidental splashes are involved.
To suit multiple uses, some toilet plungers feature interchangeable heads ideal for different drain sizes. Other models can double as cleaning tools. Multipurpose storage trays can include toilet brush holders to keep bathrooms or utility rooms organized.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Plunger
Although they only have one simple task, plungers come in a range of designs and materials. Besides overall effectiveness, consider ease of use, durability, and aesthetics (a plunger doesn’t have to be an eyesore in the bathroom). When choosing the best plunger for your needs, consider the plunger material, design, handle type, and storage method.
Most plungers feature a rubber plunging end. Rubber can be manufactured into a range of designs to give plungers their cup, beehive, or accordion shape. The flexible rubber end also helps to create a tight seal around a drain. A good seal is important; it helps maintain the pressure that will clear the blockage.
The plunger handle is as important as the plunger head. Look for a sturdy handle that can withstand the plunging motion. Material options include plastic, wood, aluminum, and steel. Plastic handles tend to be less durable, but they are a budget-friendly pick. Wood and metal handles are durable and easy to find, plus they can help make the plunger look a little more attractive.
Handle and Grip
The plunger’s handle design, length, and grip type helps make the plunger easier to use. Generally, toilet plungers have a longer handle than sink and shower plungers that have shorter handles. A longer handle provides enough length for plunging toilet drains. On the other hand, a long handle would be unwieldy for plunging most sinks, so sink plungers tend to have a shorter handle. The handle length also affects storage. If space is tight, consider a plunger with a telescoping handle that can be collapsed after each use.
Nonslip features make handles easier and safer to hold. An ergonomic grip can make plunging more comfortable and effective. For example, a T-handle can offer a better hold for consistent plunging power.
Drip Tray and Brush
When a plunger is not in use, it’s wise to keep the tool off of the floor. Drips of dirty toilet water are not only unsanitary, they can cause water damage where the plunger is kept, such as in a wooden cabinet interior.
No matter the type of plunger, consider this key accessory to keep a bathroom or kitchen sanitary: a drip tray. Drip trays collect excess water and can even conceal the business end of the plunger in a stylish covering.
Some plungers come as sets with a drip tray and toilet bowl brush. This offers the same benefits of cleanliness while keeping the two bathroom tools organized in a caddy.
Our Top Picks
A reliable plunger is an essential tool in any home and can save an expensive call to the plumber. Having the right plunger type on hand means you don’t need to scramble to take care of a clogged sink, shower, or toilet. Clear blockages quickly and effectively with the following top plunger picks that are among some of the best on the market.
Unclog all types of toilets with the Korky Telescoping BeehiveMAX Plunger. This plunger features a beehive shape designed to fit all types of toilet drain shapes. The narrowed flange fits both older, round toilet drains and narrow, elongated drains that are common on some newer, high-efficiency toilets.
The flexible beehive plunging end reduces splashback and creates excellent pressure for plunging toilet drains. A T-shaped grip provides a comfortable spot to hold the plunger, and the adjustable handle is sturdy and compact. Although this plunger does not come with a drip tray, the handle can collapse down for easier storage after each use.
Thanks to a cup with tiered flanges and heavy-duty suction, this plunger from Neiko can get the job done on most toilets. It’s among the best toilet plunger options due to its unique all-angle design. The plunging end features a four-level flanged suction cup. Each level has a different diameter, which helps the plunger create a tight and effective seal in a wide range of toilet drains.
The lightweight aluminum handle resists both mold and rust, and it features a hole at the end for hanging in a supply closet with a dustpan and broom. Durability, affordability, and ease of use—this plunger from Neiko offers all three.
The Supply Guru Heavy Duty Toilet Plunger features a classic, old-school plunger design. The no-frills build has a rubber cup plunger and a sturdy wooden handle.
The flat rubber cup creates a tight seal ideal for kitchen sinks, bathtubs, and shower drains. While this plunger is less effective for toilets, the long wooden handle also makes it usable for toilets and other drains. Made for residential and commercial use, the high-capacity cup creates a good amount of pressure to undo clogs.
While this plunger might not have the fancier design of modern versions, it’s affordable and has all the parts to tackle a clogged drain.
With a matching plunger and toilet cleaning brush, this set from simplehuman is a stylish starter set for the bathroom. It includes a flanged plunger and a toilet bowl cleaning brush. The flanged plunger has a narrow plunging end, designed to work well in modern toilets that often have a narrow or elongated drain.
For stylish storage, each piece comes with its own discreet white holder. The holders have a drip-free design, with a magnetic collar that attaches to the sturdy stainless steel rod of the plunger or toilet brush. This design keeps the handle in place and allows users to store and carry the units with no risk of drips.
This multipurpose plunger from Mr. Siga features an ergonomic plastic grip so users can put more power behind each plunge. The smooth grip has a knobbed end that hits comfortably in the hand, on top of a sturdy aluminum handle that won’t bend or break under tough plunging jobs.
The flanged plunger end is suitable for unclogging sinks, drains, and toilets. It features a flexible extended flange to create a better seal inside toilets. The flange can also collapse within the cup to create a flat suction cup plunger for use on sinks, tubs, and showers. This dual-purpose design and comfortable handle makes this plunger a well-suited pick for those with finicky plumbing.
The accordion-like design of a bellows plunger can offer even more pressure with each plunge. This accordion plunger from JS Jackson is made to dislodge toilet clogs swiftly and effectively. It features a rubber plunging end with a no-fold lip that fits snugly into toilet drains and reduces the chance of splashback. With each push, the bellows design forces pressure down the drain to unclog stubborn blockages.
The long, plastic handle may be less durable than some wooden or metal options, but it features ergonomic grooves for a secure grip. For use in smaller living spaces, the cup detaches from the handle for compact storage.
Clear blockages and wipe down the toilet bowl with this dual-purpose plunger from ToiletShroom. This nontraditional toilet plunger features a brush-like plunger on a sturdy stainless steel handle.
The synthetic rubber plunging end physically dredges and pushes clogs down the drain rather than using water pressure to dislodge gunk. Since it doesn’t rely on a suction seal, the narrow plunger can work in just about any toilet drain.
The plunging end features soft grooves to move blockages. These soft nubs also work as a squeegee-like toilet bowl brush for light cleaning. After blockages are cleared and the toilet wiped clean, store the plunger in the included caddy.
A toilet bowl brush is just as much of a necessity as a toilet plunger. This 2-in-1 set from Mr. Siga includes a holder to keep these two rather unsightly bathroom items tucked away.
Included in this set is a flanged toilet plunger and a standard toilet bowl cleaning brush. The plunger features a commercial-grade rubber suction cup and an ergonomic handle. The toilet bowl brush has dense nylon bristles that keep its shape even with frequent scrubbing.
Both items fit into the space-saving holder, which features a sanitary, no-drip design. The compact holder is the ideal size to tuck beside the toilet or under the sink as an attractive and functional storage solution.
The Master Plunger Sink & Drain Plunger is a plunging powerhouse in a small package. With a short handle, this compact bellows plunger is ideal for sinks and drains. Its patented accordion-style plunging cup displaces up to 4 cups of water with each plunge—double the power of a standard rubber cup plunger.
The flat plunging end is ideal for bathroom sinks, floor drains, showers, tubs, and kitchen sinks. A contoured grip makes this plunger easy to hold so users can keep a good suction seal. Plus, the small build is easy to store under the sink or in a utility room.
The PlumbCraft Mini Home Plunger displaces water and creates pressure sufficient enough to clear up most clogs quickly. This compact bellows-style tool packs a strong suction pressure to clear drains smaller than 4.5 inches. A short handle and a flat suction cup are ideal for dealing with flat-drain clogs, such as in the sink, tub, or shower. The handle features a knobbed and textured design that fits comfortably in the hand.
The smaller size means this plunger is less suitable for toilets. But there is one advantage to its size; it makes the plunger very easy to stow away after the dirty work is done.
FAQs About Plungers
When it comes to plungers, it always pays to be prepared. With the appropriate plunger on hand, you can clear blockages before they become a costlier issue. As an inexpensive and effective solution for most sink and toilet clogs, plungers are a necessity in any home. Read on for some frequently asked questions and answers about choosing and using a new plunger.
Q. What’s the difference between a cup plunger and a flange plunger?
Flange plungers have a narrowed protruding tube at the end of the plunger cup that can help create a better seal, especially for plunging toilets.
Q. Can a plunger be too small?
Although uncommon, it is possible for a plunger to be too small, such as on a larger toilet or shower drain. If your drain is larger than average, take the plunger size into account before buying.
Q. Can you use a plunger on a tub?
Absolutely! The PlumbCraft Mini Home Plunger is one of the best options to plunge sinks, tubs, and showers. It features a flat suction cup and ribbed design to fit over tub drains.
Q. What’s the best plunger for a toilet?
The Korky Telescoping BeehiveMAX Universal Plunger is among the best toilet plunger options. The beehive plunger has a flexible flange to fit both old, round toilet drains and newer, slimmer toilet drains.
Q. What’s the best sink plunger?
The Master Plunger Sink & Drain Plunger is one of the best sink plungers for its patented and powerful clog-clearing bellows design.
With a reliable plunger on hand, you are ready to tackle a backed-up sink or overflowing toilet before it becomes a bigger problem. These affordable tools are a must-have in any home, and they’ll likely save you from a costly call to the plumber more than just once. An effective plunger can help clear every drain in your home, from the kitchen to the bathroom.