Plumber’s helper or a push rod?

Last summer while at Bozeman, MT, a call came on our club’s radio net asking for a toilet plunger. It seems the caller, who shall remain unnamed, had a blocked toilet in his RV. He asked the other listeners on the morning net if anyone could loan him a plunger. They offered him a stick instead. A stick?

If you’ve seen most RV’s toilets, they are gravity flush from the bowl through a neck and straight down into the holding tank. This arrangement is inexpensive, extremely simple, and darned reliable. But accidents do happen. Oh crap! Yeah, sometimes movements stop on the way down, wedged in the narrow neck between the toilet dump valve and the tank.

Who hasn’t heard of, or used, a plumber’s helper? Many, if not most, Americans have indoor plumbing. Almost all residential indoor plumbing includes a siphon flush toilet. The siphon refers to a means of creating a trap for water to separate sewer gases from our indoor environment, while still allowing body waste (and whatever else your family throws into the toilet) to flush from the bowl into the sewer drain piping. And the siphon, depending upon specific design, can sometimes be just a little too curvy or small for the job.

What then? Most households have a plumber’s helper somewhere in, or near, the bathroom. A plumber’s helper hardly has an equal for the job of clearing a blockage from the bottom of the bowl at the siphon’s mouth. A push or three of the plumber’s helper will almost always clear the blockage and allow the bowl to flush and refill. This works because the plunger uses hydraulic force of water displaced from the plunger cup, as you push the handle, to clear the siphon of obstructions.

Okay, back to the RVs. Without a siphon trap between the bowl and the waste piping, waste and water dump straight down to the holding tank. Well, this is usually what happens. What if it doesn’t? The blockage is in the neck, or pipe, below the bowl. A plunger is not the tool of choice, unless one wants to turn it around and use the cup as a handle. A plunger won’t help because there is not water to capture in the cup and force downward.

Now what? The unfortunate RVer last summer quickly received at least a half-dozen offers of “a stick” to clear the blockage. A small diameter toilet brush would work, or any sort of stick of approximately 18 to 24 inches length will work fine. The remedy is simply to push the obstructing waste down through the neck. The waste will then fall into the tank.

A push stick would be a one trick stick, and where could I store it? I’ll just use the johnny mop, and clean the brush and bowl when I’ve cleared the blocked toilet pipe. Sticks and bricks houses have plumber’s helpers, we have a johnny mop in the bathroom. Luckily our johnny mop almost exclusively serves as a bowl cleaning tool. And only rarely, we may use it as a push rod.

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One response to “Plumber’s helper or a push rod?

  1. Excellent discussion of a sensitive issue. I hear more about the sanitation issues on RV than any other areas.
    Your discussion is informative with solutions to a very common problem.
    Thanks, Jim!!!

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