In our "Weekly Innovation" blog series, we explore an interesting idea, design or product that you may not have heard of yet. Do you have an innovation to share? Use this quick form.
A South Korean toilet unclogger is definitely not your dad's rubber plunger on a stick. It's a single-use plastic film called Pongtu that stretches across the toilet bowl and sticks to clean, dry edges.
An airtight seal and a toilet flush, the plastic film bulges and voila! Clog-clearing positive pressure! As you can see in the demo video, the clog is free in three pushes down on the bulged film. (I did hold my breath, though, as it seems highly dangerous to tempt fate on an already-full toilet with another bowl-filling flush.)
The appeal here is that it can be hard work to build up enough pressure using a regular plunger without kicking up toilet muck, and Pongtu seems easy (and splash-free) enough — when the seal is airtight. It also boasts that it is "foldable and portable" — ideal for the chronic on-the-go john stopper.
A few months ago, a video blog about living in South Korea called Eat Your Kimchi — run by a Canadian couple, Simon and Martina Stawski, who work in Seoul — tested Pongtu but were stymied by a bum seal.
"It worked when we did a test run on it, but on video we messed up," Simon wrote in an email to NPR.
Simon says he has only seen the product online. "We don't see them in our supermarkets or grocery stores here," he writes.
As we do with our weekly innovations, we reached out to folks associated with this product in the hopes of interviewing the inventor. We have not yet heard back. If more toilet innovations are what you're craving, look no further than our previous coverage: a hackable toilet; a toilet-sink combo; and a sink-urinal combo.
Heidi Glenn is a digital producer at NPR. She often writes about the intersection of technology and kids. This is her first post about clogged toilets. Find her on Twitter (@heidiglenn) and Tumblr.