Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Strategist in October 2016, and nearly four years later, it remains an example of a product that does what it’s supposed to do — exceptionally well. So we’re republishing it today as part of Ingenious Design Week.
Since I was a child, I’ve always been the one in my family who had a knack with a clogged toilet. I’ve clogged and subsequently unclogged toilets in hotels around the world, in friends’ houses, in strangers’ houses, and in the many homes and apartments I’ve lived in during my life. I can’t tell you how many toilets I’ve seen snaked. It’s too many. (Now is it clear why I’ve chosen not to use my name?) With this burden comes knowledge and I want to pass it along.
A few years ago, I found myself in a particularly dire situation and I had a heart-to-heart with my neighborhood hardware-store owner. I didn’t want to call a plumber — I’d already spent about $200 that month replacing a leaky valve in my toilet — and he recommended I try the accordion plunger. This is the value that a local hardware store can bring to your life, where you can have frank conversations about poop with a gruff older gentleman. He advised me to buy an accordion plunger, in this case the G.T. Water Products Master Plunger.
For all of you who still have that little rubber cup with a wooden stick attached to it that you might refer to as a plunger, we’re not living in the 1950s anymore. The standard rubber-cup plungers are prone to buckling, and they don’t always create the perfect vacuum seal around the toilet drain that you need to truly get the job done. Basically, they’re amateur hour. While some heavy-duty rubber toilet plungers (also known as “flange plungers”) have an essential part that goes down into the drain, they also still have the rubber cup around the top and for me, the cup always just curls and turns inside out and then I have to waste precious plunging time and energy trying to flip it back.
With one or two plunges of the accordion plunger, though, you get maximum suckage. G.T. Water Products claims on their website and in how-to YouTube videos (now that is a hole you can really get sucked into) that their accordion Master Plungers have seven to nine times the displacement of a rubber-cup plunger. Because of its shape, the nose of the accordion plunger actually fits into the toilet drain, not above it, and sucks the water up to create a vacuum. It takes up no more room or aesthetic annoyance than a regular plunger (and actually, comes in some nice colors). It’s lightweight and easy to use, even for spindly arms desperate to clear a path forward. Can you tell that I’m kind of passionate about plumbing? (I’ve thought of gifting the accordion plunger to people as a housewarming gift, but it didn’t seem to strike the right tone.)
The accordion plunger has never failed me, even in the darkest moments. And there have been some dark moments.
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