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A Necessary Tool, But Using It Grosses Out Some People.

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I recently had a relatively minor problem that has a very simple solution. To some the solution grosses them out. Without this simple tool quite a bit of money would have to be spent to fix a problem we all have had at one time or another – a clogged toilet or sink drain. What is this special tool? It has a nickname “the plumber’s helper,” but it is actually called a plunger. Who came up with this simple device that we can’t do without? That is the subject of this week’s installment of my column.

Two Plungers
Two Types Of Plungers | Photo by plumberorlandparkil

I didn’t know this, but no single person has been named as the inventor of the plunger. Let’s investigate what is known about its development. Here’s what explains “According to the New York University, no patent records exist. Cha Cha suggests that in 1932 on the Ile of Jersey, Jeffrey Gunderson may have been the inventor of the modern day plunger. It is more likely the plunger was invented between 1850 and 1900 when the use of wood and synthetic rubber were becoming common practice, says New York University. The invention of the suction cup during the 1850s supports this theory. Furthermore, plungers work due to the shape of the S-trap drainage pipe. Toilets with S-pipe traps existed at least as far back as 1852.”

S-Pipe Under Toilet
Toilet Snake – Shows S-Pipe Under Modern Toilet | Image by speculatoryimagesgallery

Going even further into the past the explains “…in 1777 Samuel Prosser applied for and received a patent for a plunger closet. “ It used a hand operated plunger to flush water  through the toilet and out through a pipe. Some experts therefore claim he actually was the inventor of the first plunger even though it was a part of the toilet itself.

Decorative Plunger
Ashton Decorative Plunger | Photo by

There are many companies making their own versions of the plunger. Since some people actually “decorate” their bathroom or bathrooms in a particular style designer plungers and plunger holders have become an up-and-coming business. The idea is to disguise the container so it looks more like a decoration instead of an ordinary clog remover.

Pongtu South Korean Plunging Invention | Photo by

In a previous column I made a reference to the old adage “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” The topic there was also about inventions. A Korean inventor has developed a new technique for unclogging a toilet without the use of a plunger. It took Seung-il Kim two years to develop the adhesive needed to stick his invention onto a ceramic toilet bowl. The device is a strong plastic film that is pressed on the rim of the toilet bowl. By pressing along the edge the adhesive sticks to the bowl making a tight seal. After flushing again putting downward pressure at the center of the film multiple times is supposed to break the clog free.

Here is the Youtube video they made to sell their product. It has had over 7 million 500 thousand views.

As I mentioned earlier there are an assortment of plungers to choose from that range from the simplest design to more the innovative approach.

Designer Plungers
Designer Toilet Plungers | Photo by

It is recommended by plumbers that the used plunger be put in a container of some kind in such a way that the suction cup not be flat where it can form a suction grip. Small stones or something similar are suggested.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at:

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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