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Are you allowed to use a plunger to unclog a toilet on shabbos?

  • What about a toilet auger- a short, easy to use snake that works when the plunger won't? – Gary Jun 14 '17 at 2:49
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    Why do you think it would be an issue? – DonielF Jun 14 '17 at 3:53
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    Since, as it stands, the question doesn't ask on a specific passage in Maseches Shabbos, I took the liberty of editing the tags. Feel free to edit it back if you feel that's not appropriate. – DonielF Jun 14 '17 at 3:54
  • @Gary See the linked source In my answer. I infer that a snake of any kind may be a problem as it is a special tool used for clearing total blaockages. Usually, on Shabbat, one may not use a specialized tool even by using that tool in an "unnormal" fashion. For example, one may not use a potato masher on already mashed foods, even though (according to many opinions) one may use a fork to mash. – DanF Jun 14 '17 at 13:06
  • @DanF - thanks Dan! A toilet auger is pretty specialized, but does come in handy for other types of clogs - getting house traps cleared, for example...with most problems, however, there is SOME water flow seeping by, which might make things kosher, then... – Gary Jun 15 '17 at 20:45
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From dinonline:

Concerning a toilet, some rule that it is permitted to use a plunger, because it is very easy to clear the toilet (see Minchas Yitzchak 5:75). For a toilet, there is special reason to be lenient, because it involves an issue of kavod ha-brios. However, the Minchas Yitzchak writes that one should preferably use a non-Jew, or his weaker hand.

The Be’er Moshe is also lenient, explaining that the case is different from the case of the gutter, in that one needs only to push some of the blockage through (like pushing cocoa through a blocked straw). This is also stated by Binyan Shabbos, ps. 18, 303, in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggros Moshe 4:73) writes that one may only unclog a toilet with a plunger if it is partially stuffed, and water can still flow through (it is then permitted to use the plunger if it can be cleared with one or two pushes). He adds that if a toilet is regularly clogged, it is permitted to clear it, because this is not considered fixing. However if the toilet is totally stuffed, and this does not occur regularly, then it is considered a maaseh uman (expert labor) to clear it, and is forbidden on account of uvda de-chol. If there is a great need and an issue of kevod ha-briyos, one can clear the toilet by means of a non-Jew.

Because clearing the toilet is a pressing issue and involved kevod ha-beriyos, one can rely on the lenient opinions.

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    the choices are to use a plunger or a non-Jew or his hand? – rosends Jun 14 '17 at 1:19
  • @rosends I think that means have a non-Jew do the plunging, or if that's not possible, you can do it with your weaker hand. It doesn't mean stick your hand in the toilet. – Scimonster Jun 14 '17 at 9:35
  • @Scimonster Besides for being gross, I'm not sure that that last option works. I don't know about you, but my arm doesn't bend like that. – DonielF Jun 14 '17 at 10:24
  • @DonielF Exactly - you don't use your arm to plunge the toilet. You hold the plunger in your weaker hand. – Scimonster Jun 14 '17 at 10:26
  • OMG! Some people really can't decipher yeshivish, even when translated into English. I placed a link in my answer. Perhaps, if you had read it, you would see the full title of the question, and infer that he means using your weaker hand on the plunger. But, if you really want to use just your hand ... – DanF Jun 14 '17 at 12:56

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