Sink vs. Toilet Plunger: Differences and Similarities

John Hawley. Ever heard of him? Well, he is the man behind the invention of that plunger you use on your sink and toilet. A plunger works by playing around with the water pressure and air in the drain. You push it, and the pressure on the piping system rises, sending the water downwards and vice versa.

Sink plungers differ from toilet plungers in their shape and function. In fact, they can’t be effective as toilet plungers since they lack flanges which create pressure for toilet plungers. As such, sink plungers won’t be effective in unclogging toilets. Others are accordion and taze plungers.

There are sink plungers and toilet plungers. The two may look almost the same, but their functioning is different. Read on and learn how the two compare.

Sink and Toilet Plunger

What does a plunger do?

A plunger unclogs. That time you clean your hair and face on your sink but the water won’t flow calls for a plunger. Or, you flush your toilet but the stuff sits on the bowl adamantly. What do you do? You get your plunger ready.

A clogged plumbing system, whether on a toilet or a sink, indicates an underlying problem with no free flow on the drain. If you have a half, 3/4, or full bathroom, you’ll need more than one type of plunger.

And clogging may occur due to various reasons. For instance, a  bathroom sink may have its drain stopped by a combination of hair and soap scum getting tied to the rod on the drain.

On the other hand, a toilet can clog due to people throwing dirt or lack of enough water to clear the load. Either way, a plunger comes in handy in all clogging scenarios.

Plungers, like all tools, need to be kept clean with regular cleaning. Cleaning solutions like WD-40 can be used in cleaning plungers although some harsh chemicals can affect the rubber on them.

Sink vs. Toilet Plunger

The main differences between the different types of plungers are as follows:

1. Sink Plunger

A sink plunger is the common one in most households. It has a rubber cup on one end. The handle is straight, and it can be made of different materials, including wood, acrylic, or metal.

The diameter of the base cup varies. Some have a 4-inch diameter, while others can feature a 2” diameter.

A sink plunger works by placing the flat base of the cup on your flat sink and suctioning. You need to move it up and down until you clear the clog. This should have the water flowing faster again.

It must not be cracked for the sink plunger to work. Otherwise, you will be wasting your energy and time. 

2. Toilet plunger

A toilet plunger is shaped almost the same as a sink plunger. The most remarkable difference is that the toilet plunger has a flange that folds up when you work it. 

The flange below the cup allows you to suction with less energy as it folds up, adding more pressure to the system and forcing the clog to dislodge.

The flap on the cup is standardized to fit on the toilet drain and suction effortlessly. The toilet plunger is designed with a cup on the end of the flange to allow no toilet water to turn inside and out.

When using a toilet plunger, be careful to avoid damaging the seal between the toilet seat and the floor. You can easily tell this if you see your toilet leaking underneath.

Other types of plungers

Although the sink and the toilet plunger are the most common in almost all households, there exist other types and designs that you ought to consider as they come in handy.

They include:

3. Accordion Plunger

The accordion plunger gets its name from resembling the accordion pleat similar to the musical instrument. The pleats are meant to exert more pressure on the drain pipes, especially when handling severe clogging.

The water on the drain goes up the pleats as you force it down and up as you pull. Those who prefer the accordion swear by its lightweight functionality and ease of use.

It takes less time plunging your toilet with the accordion as the pleats work out the clog faster than other plungers.

4. Taze plunger

The taze is not a typical household item. Instead, it’s best suited for professional plumbers. The reason is that it’s designed for a specific size of pipes, not the common ones on sinks and toilets.

It features a protruding steel rod sized for specific pipes as they push down the disc to unclog large hardy particles. The disc and the rod alter the water and air pressure in the pipe, enabling it to clear the large particles fast.

Why you Need Different Types of Plungers

You should stock different types of plungers in your home for several reasons:

1. Functionality

Different plungers are suited for different areas. For instance, the common sink plunger may not work effectively on a toilet. And if it does, it will suck up your energy and take up more time.

In the same way, a toilet plunger may not work effectively on a sink, given the extending flange. 

2. Hygiene

Using the same plunger on your toilet and your sink will expose your household to preventable infections.

The plunger is inserted deep down in the toilet drain and suctioned rhythmically to unclog. Once done, you may transfer some invisible bacteria to other sections of your home.

It’s even advisable to label and place the plungers on different sections of your home. That way, even in your absence, your loved ones can’t confuse the plungers.

3. Different Types of Clogs

Some clogs are small and require minimal effort, while others require tactics, energy and more time.

Different plungers exert varying amounts of pressure on the drain and are best suited for specific types of pipes. For instance, an accordion plunger works effortlessly on a toilet, while it may not work on a sink. Plus, the design itself doesn’t support the same.

What to Look for When Selecting a Plunger

Don’t just buy your plunger blindly and start blaming the vendors when it fails. Here’s what to look for when buying a plunger:

1. Material

Depending on the frequency of usage, you should get a durable plunger. For example, a wooden handle would break more easily than a metallic handle or acrylic.

Ensure that the cup on end is flat so it doesn’t create gaps and that the rubber cup is not cracked. A cracked flange or cup will not suction the drain effectively as it will allow air in as you plunge.

Check for uneven finishes that could scrub off your toilet bowl or sink. Can you imagine a ceramic sink getting scratched? It looks bad!

2. Weight

A plunger works by rhythmically exerting enough energy. Now, you don’t want a plunger that you struggle to lift up and down.

Most plungers are made of plastic and are lightweight. However, there are others made of wooden, acrylic or metallic handles. These can be heavier. The elderly and children in your home may not be able to unclog with them properly.

3. Handle Size

Some plungers in the market today have short handles that require you to kneel when working the toilet or bend as you unclog the sink.

It’s easy to exert more energy and pressure with a short handle, but you need to consider the users of your plunger. What’s their height? Kneeling so close to the toilet can have the toilet water splattering on you.

4. Grip

You don’t want a plunger that consistently slips from your hand the moment you exert all your energy. Instead, check how well it’s threaded to give you the best grasp.

For instance, a wooden handle plunger loses its grip sooner after consistently being exposed to water. On the other hand, a threaded acrylic plunger can last longer even with constant exposure to water and soaps.


As you plan and budget for a plunger, be very clear whether you are looking for a sink or a toilet plunger. The two are meant to unclog different drains in your home. 

And for this reason, you should be armed with the right information on buying either of these plungers. Train your households on using a plunger effectively as you never know when the toilet or the sink will block.


Hadley Institute. Unclogging Toilets and Drains.
San Jose State University. Plumbing Information.

University of Hawai’i. Building Maintenance and Construction: Tools & Maintenance Tasks (Interactive).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *