plunging a toilet with water in it

Can Plunging a Toilet Damage the Wax Ring?

The Wax ring is perhaps one of the most important parts of your toilet bowl that serves two purposes- it helps to steady the toilet attached to the floor and creates a battier between the toilet and the sewer beneath it. If you damage the wax ring, your toilet might start leaking, or your bathroom might start stinking to the high heavens! 

Improper plunging can damage the wax ring under your toilet, creating many problems. Applying too much pressure while plunging can knock off the toilet from its wax ring, causing your toilet to leak. Hence, you must be careful while plunging if you don’t want your bathroom to smell like the sewer. 

Stay with us if you want to know how to plunge your toilet properly to avoid accidentally damaging your wax ring and inviting a ton of plumbing trouble to your home. Let’s start with the effects of improper plunging on your toilet and work our way to the proper plunging technique for a trouble-free unclogging, shall we? 

How Can a Plunger Damage a Wax Ring? 

Improper plunging can knock the toilet bowl off the wax ring quite easily. When you apply force while plunging, the toilet bowl experiences more force from the inside than from the outside, increasing the chance of damaging the wax ring. If the power is directed outward, it can stretch and damage the wax ring.  

Unlike rubber, wax does not have a high recovery power. Consequently, the ring can easily get damaged when the force is exerted tangentially. You stretch the wax ring whenever you push and pull with the plunger. Over time, this stretching can damage the wax ring. 

A damaged wax ring can create a host of plumbing problems for you. The first symptom of a damaged wax ring is water leaking from the toilet bowl’s bottom. In some cases, you might experience that your bathroom smells like sewer if the wax ring is damaged. While non-wax materials like foam can be a good alternative for wax rings, if you have them, you should exercise caution while using the plunger. 

How to Plunge Properly Not to Damage Wax Ring? 

A plunger can be a handy tool to unclog a clogged toilet; thankfully, you can use it safely without damaging your wax ring. Using the proper technique can reduce the risk of damaging your wax ring and get the toilet unclogged. The key is to try and dislodge the clog rather than forcing it down the drain. 

Here is a short, stepwise guide to using the plunger such that it unclogs the toilet without causing any damage to the wax ring. 

Step 1:

The placement of the plunger is crucial. Place the plunger in the toilet bowl such that a part of the bulb is submerged under water and a part touches the surface. Once in place, push down the plunger gently. The goal is to push the plunger against the toilet bowl and not against the drain pipe where the wax seal is. 

Step 2:

Once you create a vacuum in the plunger bulb, step one, slide it down onto the bottom of the bowl, and pull it up with a jerk. Keep repeating till the clog gets dislodged. 

As you can notice in the steps above, we aim to push the plunger against the toilet bowl and not against the drainage pipe. Doing this eliminates the tangential force on the wax ring and prevents it from tearing or sliding out. When you pull with a plunger, you exert pressure inward toward the center of the wax ring, which is much safer. 

You can also benefit from some general tips while using a plunger to unclog your toilet-

  • Start gently. You want to create a vacuum inside the plunger bulb without blowing much water out. 
  • Once the vacuum is established, slide the plunger gently over the pipe and start pulling in and out without breaking the seal.
  • Get a rhythm going. Push and pull gently with occasional monster heaves.
  • Ensure enough water is in the bowl to cover the plunger completely. 

What are Alternatives to Plunging? 

While plunging is the go-to method for most people to unclog a toilet, other methods are much safer for the wax ring. Here are a few practical ways to unclog your toilet without damaging the wax ring.

Using White Vinegar and Baking Soda

Two ubiquitous kitchen ingredients- baking soda and white vinegar can be excellent at unclogging your toilet. The method can work wonders if the clog is not especially big and fresh. 

As both vinegar and soda are not corrosive, there is little chance that using them will damage your wax ring. 

The only potential drawback is that this method is ineffective in handling large clogs. 

Combination Of Bleach And Dish Detergent 

Combining bleach and dish detergent is also an effective method to unclog a toilet if the clog is not especially big. This method aims to soften the clog with the help of bleach so that it can flush away easily. 

While this method can be effective, excessive use of bleach can be dangerous for the wax ring as it can dissolve. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Will over-plunging damage my toilet wax ring? 

Plunging is not inherently damaging to the wax ring if done with a proper technique. That said, the wax ring does experience a bit of stress with repeated plunging. If your toilet is repeatedly clogged, it is better to call the professionals rather than try to unclog it using a plunger. 

How long should a wax ring last in a toilet? 

If you use the proper plunging technique and maintain your toilet, wax rings can last as long as 30 years once installed. 

What can Dissolve the toilet wax ring? 

A wax ring, as the name suggests, is made from wax. Although wax is quite an inert material, it can melt and dissolve. Excessive heat through a radiator installed near a toilet can melt the wax ring causing its failure. Similarly, using drain cleaners containing caustic substances can also damage the wax and compromise the wax seal of your toilet. 

To Conclude

A wax ring is a crucial part of your toilet that prevents leaks. The improper plunging technique can put much pressure on the wax ring, compromising its integrity. Repeated, forceful plunging sessions can damage and break the wax seals causing all sorts of problems. 

Follow a proper plunging method to avoid damaging your wax ring. If your toilet is repeatedly clogged, it is time to seek professional help rather than pulling out the good old plunger every time you see a clog. 

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