The toilet plunger is a functional tool that has allowed people for decades to unclog their toilets without calling in the professionals. Its simple mould has remained relatively the same since it continues to prove effective.. The origins of the toilet plunger are not clear. New York University suggests the lack of historical information may be due to the fact that it is associated with human waste, but also because it is a plain household item.

The Plunger Closet

In 1777 England, Samuel Prosser received a patent for his invention of the plunger closet. This was a new lavatory model that used a plunger to flush the toilet. Unlike the modern day plunger, this plunger was placed in the side of the closet system on top of the outflow. When the user would lift the plunger, it would cause water and waste to rush from the bowl into the soil pipe. This model was not considered hygienic as larger waste would collect on the inside of the plunger. A year later, Joseph Bramah received a patent for his flush and valve toilet that forms the basis of modern day toilets.

Origins of the Tool

As was previously mentioned, the exact invention date and inventor are not known. According to the New York University, no patent records exist. Cha Cha suggests that in 1932, on the Isle 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-traps existed at least as far back as 1852.

Plungers in Jazz

Trumpet players and trombonists continue to use mutes to modify the sounds of their brass instruments. Some musicians made plunger mutes by removing the stick from toilet and sink plungers. The suction cup from a toilet plunger transforms the sound to make the music sound like a human voice. In the 1920s, jazz trumpeter Johnny Dunn and trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton from the Duke Ellington Orchestra used plunger mutes while they played.

Plungers in First Aid

In the 1980s, toilet plungers were used to save lives. In California, on three different occasions, caregivers performed CPR using toilet plungers to successfully save the victims' lives. In 2009, a Minnesota company called Advanced Circulatory Systems was working on a prototype shaped in the form of a suction cup that emergency medical responders could use to perform CPR.


Toilet plungers may come with a flat suction cup or with a funnel protruding from the suction cup. Although the varieties with flat cups are commonly referred to as sink plungers, they are the preferred choice for homeowners to unclog their toilets as well (See References 6). Standard colors of toilet plungers and sink plungers are black and red respectively. Today, bathrooms have evolved from functional rooms to part of an interior design scheme, and plungers come in a variety of colors. Plunger boxes are now on the market. These accessories serve to hide the unattractive portion of the plunger.

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