BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention:
This invention relates to cleaning devices for rugs, upholstry, and the like, and it is specifically adaptable for non-commercial use, as in the home.
2. Description of the Prior Art:
Both vacuum cleaners and so-called "steam cleaners" (which are actually hot water vapor cleaners) are old, per se. However, the invention disclosed herein is the first known unit combining the two cleaning techniques in a device suitable for use in the home.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The combination vacuum and hot water vapor cleaner referred to hereinafter as a "steam cleaner" disclosed herein contains both a vacuuming apparatus, including a novel vacuum tank assembly, and a steam cleaning apparatus, including a liquid tank in which cleaning liquids may be heated to elevated temperatures and a pump for conducting the liquid to the object to be cleaned. The vacuuming apparatus and the steam cleaning apparatus may be used separately or in combination, whereby the unit as a whole may be used as a dry vacuum cleaner, a wet vacuum cleaner, or a steam cleaner, at the user's option. When the vacuuming apparatus and the steam cleaning apparatus are used simultaneously, the vacuuming apparatus may be connected to a flexible vacuum line and the steam cleaning apparatus to a flexible steam line, each of which is in turn connected to a combination vacuum and steam cleaning head. This head is designated both to spray hot water or liquid cleaner vapor on the object to be cleaned and to suck up the hot water or liquid cleaner previously sprayed on the object along with foreign matter, such as dirt, lint, etc., removed from the object by the combined action of the hot water or liquid cleaner vapor spray and the vacuum.
A particular feature of the invention is that one wall of the combination vacuum and steam cleaning head can be transparent and the opposite wall opaque, whereby the water or liquid cleaner and the foreign matter being drawn into the head can be viewed through the transparent wall against the background of the opaque wall.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the invention with its protective cover on.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 with the protective cover removed and a flexible vacuum line attached to the vacuuming apparatus.
FIG. 3 is a longitudinal sectional view taken along the line 3--3 in FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 is a transverse sectional view taken along the line 4--4 in FIG. 2.
FIG. 5 is a plan view of the vacuuming apparatus in the embodiment of FIG. 1.
FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along the lines 6--6 in FIG. 5.
FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along the line 7--7 in FIG. 5.
FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a "Clear View" combination vacuum and steam cleaning head attached to a flexible vacuum line and a flexible steam line, the whole being particularly adapted for use with the embodiment of FIG. 1.
FIG. 9 is a sectional view taken along the line 9--9 in FIG. 8.
FIG. 10 is a partially plan, partially sectional view of the combination vacuum and steam cleaning head shown in FIG. 8.
FIG. 11 is a sectional view of a squeegee combination vacuum and steam cleaning head attached to a flexible vacuum line and a flexible steam line, the whole being particularly adapted for use with the embodiment of FIG. 1.
FIG. 12 is a bottom plan view of the sequeegee combination vacuum and steam cleaning head shown in FIG. 11.
FIG. 13 is a perspective view of another combination vacuum and steam cleaning head.
FIG. 14 is a perspective view of still another combination vacuum and steam cleaning head.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
FIG. 1 shows the preferred embodiment of the present invention assembled for storage, shipping, or the like. In this configuration, the total package size is approximately 20 × 18 × 14, inches and the only parts protruding from the body 20, which may be a single piece of molded plastic or the like, are a steam switch 22, a vacuum switch 24, a steam line coupler 26, and a steam switch warning light 28, and an electrical outlet 30. A protective cover 32, which may be removably attached in any convenient way, protects the operative parts, all of which, other than the exceptions noted, are contained within the body 20. Alternatively, the switches 22 and 24, the coupler 26, the warning light 28, and the outlet 30 could all be mounted on the upper surface of the body 20, thereby presenting an entirely protected configuration when the device is assembled for storage, shipping, or the like.
FIG. 2 shows the same device shown in FIG. 1 with the protective cover 32 removed. In this view, the following additional parts are visible: the top of a removable vacuum tank 34, a cover 36 for the removable vacuum tank 34, the top of a removable liquid tank 38, a cover 40 for the removable liquid tank 38, the electrical wire 42 which introduces the power needed to operate the device, an accessory chamber 44, where the wire 42 can be coiled when not in use and the various accessories for the device kept when not in use, and the protruding leg 46 of an L-shaped hollow coupling pipe 48 which is mounted in the top of the vacuum tank 34.
The vacuum tank 34 and the liquid tank 38 are both removably mounted in sockets in the upper surface of the body 20 so that they may be easily removed for periodic cleaning. This figure also shows a flexible vacuum line attached to the protruding leg 46 of the L-shaped coupling pipe 48. It should, perhaps, be noted at this spoint that the covers 36 and 40 are preferably transparent so that the user of the device can observe the level of the liquid contents, if any, of the two tanks 34 and 38 while the device is in use.
FIG. 3 shows the operative components of the device in longitudinal cross-section. These include a vacuuming apparatus, designated generally by the number 52, and a steam-cleaning apparatus, designated generally by the number 54.
The vacuuming apparatus 52 includes a vacuum pump 56, which must be capable of operating with very humid air, and a vacuum tank assembly 58. The vacuum tank assembly 58 includes the vacuum tank 34, its cover 36, and a hollow riser pipe 60 mounted on the bottom of the vacuum tank 34 over a corresponding hole 62 in the bottom of the vacuum tank 34. The riser pipe 60 has an opening 64 near its top and is open at bottom, thereby being able to snugly receive a male member 66 protruding from the vacuum pump 56. The top of the male member 66 contains the inlet for the vacuum pump 56, whereby its vacuum is communicated to the interior of the vacuum tank 34 through the riser pipe 60 and the opening 64 therein.
Removably attached to the top of the riser pipe 60 is a diffuser cap 68 which is shaped to reduce the amount of foreign matter sucked into the riser pipe 60. The diffuser cap 68 is composed of an inner cup-shaped member 70 and an outer cup-shaped member 72. The inner cup-shaped member 70 is of an inner diameter sufficient to fit loosely over the top of the riser pipe 60 and of a height sufficient to extend beneath the bottom of the opening 64 in riser pipe 60. It contains an opening 74 which is in size and shape approximately equal to the opening 64 in the riser pipe 60 and which is spaced from the bottom of the inner cup-shaped member 70 by an amount sufficient to cause it to overlay the opening 64 in the riser pipe 60 when it is angularly positioned over it. The outer cup-shaped member 72 has a closed bottom 76 to the inner side of which the inner cup-shaped member 70 is attached and a flat exterior surface 77 (best seen in FIG. 5) parallel to its axis. The surface 77 is adapted to engage a corresponding surface on a deflector divider 78 (to be described subsequently), thereby positioning the opening 74 in the inner cup-shaped member 70 over the opening 64 in the riser pipe 60. The flat exterior surface 77 can be formed in various ways, but it is preferably formed by cutting away a portion of the outer cup-shaped member 72, leaving a U-shaped surface in a plane parallel to its axis.
The vacuum tank assembly 58 also includes the deflector divider 78, which will be described in detail in connection with FIG. 5. For now, it is sufficient to note that it is positioned between the riser pipe 60 and the leg 80 of the L-shaped coupling pipe 48 extending into the interior of the vacuum tank 34 and that it extends substantially from the bottom to the cover 38 of the vacuum tank 34 and from one side to the other of the vacuum tank 34. Also, while not a part of the vacuum tank assembly 58 per se, it should be noted that the vacuum tank assembly 58 is designed to be used with a layer of water 84 over the bottom of the vacuum tank 34. With a device of the overall dimensions previously stated, the layer of water 84 should be approximately 3 inches deep to start with.
Thus the longest path which can be taken by foreign objects, liquids, etc., drawn into the vacuuming apparatus 52 is, as shown by the arrows in FIG. 3, in through the L-shaped coupling pipe 48, down to the bottom of the vacuum tank 34, through openings such as opening 82 shown in FIG. 3, up along the outside of the riser piper 60, between the inner and outer cup-shaped members 70 and 72 of the diffuser cap 68, through the opening 74 in the former and 64 in the riser pipe 60, down the interior of the riser pipe 60, and into the vacuum pump 56. However, in practice most foreign objects will be trapped in the water 84, and most of the liquid will become a part of the body of liquid (namely, the layer of water 84) already contained in the vacuum tank 34. (As previously noted, the cover 38 is preferrably transparent, and this feature allows the user to gauge when the level of the liquid in the tank 34 has built up to a dangerous level.) Thus, for the most part only clean, moist air is drawn into the vacuum pump 56, from which it can be harmlessly expelled to the exterior of the device, preferably through a plenum chamber filled with a rock wool or other filtering material to muffle the noise of the vacuum pump 56.
It should be particularly noted that this device does not require the use of cleanable or disposable vacuum bags. Rather, the dirt and other foreign objects are accumulated in the vacuum tank 34, which is preferably made from a durable, easily cleanable metal. This tank is then easily dumped and rinsed out once the cleaning operation is complete, or when the tank becomes full during use.
The steam cleaning apparatus 54 will now be described. It comprises the removable liquid tank 38, its cover 40, means 86 for heating a liquid contained in the liquid tank 38 (such as an immersion heater of conventional design), and an outlet 88, which must be located at a level above the top of means 86 if a conventional immersion heater is used in order to prevent a burn-out of the heating element. The outlet 88 is connected by a tube 90 to a liquid pump 92, and the liquid pump 92 is connected by a tube 94 to the coupling 26 mounted on the exterior of the body 20. Means are provided for selectively activating the liquid pump 92 and the heating means 86. In the device shown, both such means are controlled by the steam switch 22, but they may be separately controlled if it is desired to have the ability to pump cold water for cleaning certain kinds of surfaces. Also, the steam switch warning light 28 can be designed to go on either whenever the heating means 86 is on or only when its temperature goes above a previously determined level. In the latter case, the light 28 can be used to warn when the level of the liquid contained in the tank 38 has dropped dangerously low; in the former, observation of the user through the transparent cover 40 must be relied upon.
FIG. 5 shows the vacuum tank assembly 58 in plan. In addition to the features already described, this view gives a better idea of the shaped the novel deflector divider 78. This device is actually formed from two separate pieces: a divider plate 96 and a deflector plate 98. The divider plate 96 is in height approximately equal to the interior height of the vacuum tank 34 and in width approximately equal to the distance from one inner wall of the tank to the opposite wall, taken along a line touching the exterior of the diffuser cap 68. As previously stated, it has one or more apertures in it, such as the opening 82, which are preferably located near its bottom, thereby substantially inhibiting but not preventing passage of foreign matter from one side to the other of the divider plate 96. The deflector plate 98 is attached to the divider plate 96 approximately perperdicularly to the plane thereof on the side thereof facing towards the L-shaped coupling pipe 48. As may be seen in FIG. 5, the deflector plate 98 is also mounted at a small angle to the vertical such that it slopes away from the L-shaped coupling pipe 48, and it is in width approximately equal to the distance from the divider plate 96 to the adjoining wall of the vacuum tank 34. Finally, as may be better seen in FIG. 7, the deflector plate 98 extends from approximately the top of the divider plate 96 to a short distance above its bottom. Since the inlet of the L-shaped coupling pipe 48 is nested between the divider plate 96 and the top of the deflector plate 98, foreign matter introduced into the vacuum tank 34 through the L-shaped coupling pipe 48 is deflected to a segment of the bottom of the vacuum tank 34 defined by the adjoining faces of the divider plate 96 and the deflector plate 98. It may then pass through the apertures in the divider plate 96 as previously described.
FIGS. 8, 9, and 10 depict a Clear View combination vacuum and steam cleaning head 100 removably attached to a flexible vacuum line 50 and a flexible steam line 102. The flexible vacuum line 50 and the flexible steam line 102 may also be used with the squeegee combination vacuum and steam cleaning head shown in FIGS. 11 and 12 and the other two combination vacuum and steam cleaning heads shown in FIGS. 13 and 14. It should be noted that disposed at some convenient spot on the flexible steam line 102 there is a valve means 104 for selectively obstructing the passage of the contents of the steam line. This valve means may be used by the user of the apparatus to control the flow of hot water in the steam line 102 even when the liquid pump 92 is turned on. It is provided because the user of the apparatus will typically want to turn a spray of particles of hot water on and off many times while leaving the vacuum suction on, and it is therefore important to have a more convenient means of regulating this flow than is provided by the switch 22.
The Clear View combination vacuum and steam cleaning head 100 itself is better seen in FIGS. 9 and 10 than in FIG. 8. As may be seen therein, the head 100 comprises a first surface 106 and a second surface 108, with a narrow, generally triangularly shaped chamber 110 between them, one side of which is open to the exterior of the head 100. These surfaces may be fabricated separately or the whole head 100 may be fabricated as one piece, but the important point is that one of the surfaces, preferably the surface 106, is transparent, while the other surface is opaque. This construction allows the user of the apparatus to view foreign matter being drawn into the chamber 110 by the vacuum pump 56.
The head 100 also comprises a hollow coupling 112 extending from the apex of the generally triangularly shaped chamber 110 to the exterior of the head 100, where the flexible vacuum line 50 may be removably attached to it, and at least one coupling 114 to which a spray nozzle 116 may be removably attached. The spray nozzle 116 may in turn be removably attached to the flexible steam line 102 so that hot water contained in the steam line 102 can be directed into the spray nozzle 116, from which it issues as a spray of hot water particles in a triangularly shaped matter 118 parallel to the generally triangularly shaped chamber 110 in the head 100 and moving toward the open side thereof. This construction allows the head 100 to be moved along an object to be cleaned in a direction toward the surface 108 thereof, thereby first ejecting hot particles of water or cleaning liquid on the object, then sucking up the previously ejected hot water or cleaning liquid and, simultaneouly, particles of foreign matter.
FIGS. 11 and 12 depict a squeegee combination vacuum and steam cleaning head 120. The operation of this cleaning head is generally similar to that of the head previously described except that the spray is discharged within a spray chamber 122 and the entire operation is confined within a squeegee lip 124 which surrounds both the spray chamber 122 and the vacuum chamber 110'. As before, the vacuum chamber 110' is in communication with a passageway 112' which is releasably attached to the flexible vacuum line 50.
FIGS. 13 and 14 show two additional combination vacuum and steam cleaning heads, each of which is similar in principal to those previously described except that the means for direction the contents of the the flexible steam line 102 on the object to be cleaned are a plurality of apertures 126, disposed in a line to the open face of the triangular vacuum chamber, rather than a single spray nozzle. In each case, the principal is the same, and only the details have been varied.
While the present invention has been illustrated by a detailed description of a preferred embodiment thereof, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail can be made therein without departing from the true scope of the invention. For that reason, the invention must be measured by the claims appended hereto and not by the foregoing preferred embodiment.