None of you clicked onto Core77 today to read about impacted fecal matter, but design touches all aspects of our lives, including the gross ones. Don't worry, and don't put that sandwich down yet; I'm not going to dwell on the scatological. I am writing this entry out of amazement that some people do not understand the ingenious design of plungers and how they are meant to be used.
It's bad enough that this lack of understanding exists among consumers, but I find it unforgivable for product designers. When designers fail to understand the very devices they're designing for, it becomes what we call Epic Fail. First off, look at this design and see if you understand why it is flawed:
You either know right away why the design is fundamentally incorrect, or you don't. Read on.
The other day someone clogged the toilet in my photography studio and I had to clear it with a plunger. Yes, it was disgusting, made worse by the fact that the offender had tried to plunge it using the wrong plunger, did not know what they were doing, made a bit of a mess while failing to clear the clog, and finally called me in embarrassment. But while it was disgusting, it was a short and easy task because I know how to unclog a freaking toilet.
I'm surprised when people don't know this, but there are two main types of plungers, one designed for sinks and the other designed for toilets. Observe:
Sink Plunger - Flat Bottom
Toilet Plunger - Protruding Bottom
The sink plunger has a flat bottom that corresponds with the area around the drain in a sink basin, which is always flat with a kitchen sink and usually close-to-flat with a bathroom sink. (In fact when it came time to buy a new bathroom sink for the studio, I selected one with a flat bottom because I knew it would get clogged and would be easier to get the plunger around the drain.)
The toilet plunger has a protruding bottom, and is of course made of flexible rubber. The protrusion is meant to go into the large, throat-like opening at the bottom of a toilet, while the largest-diameter part of the plunger then forms a seal around the basin surrounding the drain.
Using a flat-bottomed sink plunger, you cannot easily get a good seal around this irregularly-shaped aperture, nor can you accurately direct the force of the plunging downward.
I think a lot of people don't realize how a plunger is meant to be used. You are not forcing air down towards the clog. Air is lighter than water (duh) and won't break up a waterborne clog, not to mention it will cause messy splashing. You are meant to use a plunger to clear the clog by creating water pressure.
Which means that the most important thing when clearing a toilet clog is to first fill the plunger with water. Not in the sink, I mean you stick the plunger into the toilet and tilt it at an angle, so that you hear air bubbles coming out of the inside of the plunger as it fills with water. Fittingly, this is easiest to do when the toilet is filled up to the brim, as they are when they are clogged. Then you form a seal around the bottom of the basin, as described above, and give it a half-dozen short pumps. When you do this correctly there is no splashing and you'll find the clog clears almost immediately.
Here's the best video I've found illustrating this:
Perhaps now you understand why the design up top is flawed. The designer has created a handsome little stand to hold an extra roll of toilet paper--and the stand contains a sink plunger. With toilet plungers, the protrusion can often be turned inside-out to fit inside the bowl of the plunger, but the one in the photo above is too shallow to be such. That's the wrong type of plunger, indicating the designer does not understand the difference.
More proof that the common man does not understand how easy plunging is, is that this video below is currently making the blogosphere rounds--and people are calling it "ingenious." Look at how involved this is:
That is one of the dumbest, most wasteful designs I've ever seen. It uses plastic, adhesives and ink to solve a problem that has already been solved by a plunger, and you can keep a plunger to use again, rather than throwing it away. Plus, how messy must that adhesive sheet thing be to dispose of afterwards?
Lastly, there's another design for toilet plungers, the accordion-style you see the plumber using in the video above:
While these supposedly create more force, the design creates more crevices for gunk to get trapped in, meaning you're going to spend more time cleaning this design off.
This blog will now return to your regular poo-free programming.