Title:
Bathroom diaper washing apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a washing apparatus for small garments such as diapers and the like. The apparatus comprises a housing sized for installation in a bathroom, and a laundry tub for handling small loads rotatable in said housing and sized to receive the small garments. A water intake pipe connects to a supply of standing water, and a feed arrangement draws water through the intake pipe from the supply of standing water and supplying the water to the laundry tub. A wastewater pipe for returning wastewater from the laundry tub to a bathroom drain. The feed arrangement may be a gravity feed or an electric pump. The supply of standing water is preferably a toilet tank and the bathroom drain is preferably a toilet bowl.



Inventors:
Lafleur, Philippe J. G. (Ottawa, CA)
Application Number:
10/342373
Publication Date:
07/15/2004
Filing Date:
01/15/2003
Assignee:
LAFLEUR PHILIPPE J. G.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
68/181D, 4/666
International Classes:
D06F41/00; (IPC1-7): D06F1/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ADHLAKHA, RITA P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARKS & CLERK (P.O. BOX 957, OTTAWA, ON, K1P 5S7, CA)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A washing apparatus for small garments such as diapers and the like, the apparatus comprising: a housing sized for installation in a bathroom; a laundry tub for handling small loads rotatable in the housing and sized to receive the small garments; a water intake pipe for connection to a supply of standing water; a feed arrangement for drawing water through the intake pipe from the supply of standing water and supplying the water to the laundry tub; and a wastewater pipe for returning wastewater from the laundry tub to a bathroom drain.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the feed arrangement is a gravity feed.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the feed arrangement is an electric pump.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the supply of standing water is a basin filled with water.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the supply of standing water is a toilet tank.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the bathroom drain is a toilet bowl.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the wastewater pipe is routed from the laundry tub to the toilet bowl under a toilet seat.

8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the water intake pipe is routed from the toilet tank to the laundry tub under a tank lid of the toilet tank.

9. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the housing is wall mountable.

10. In combination, a tank for holding a supply of standing water and a washing apparatus for small garments such as diapers and the like, said washing apparatus comprising: a housing sized for installation in a bathroom; a laundry tub for handling small loads rotatable in said housing and sized to receive said small garments; a water intake pipe connected to said tank; a feed arrangement for drawing water through said intake pipe from said tank and supplying said water to said laundry tub; and a wastewater pipe for returning waste water from said laundry tub to a bathroom drain.

11. The combination of claim 10, wherein said feed arrangement is a gravity feed.

12. The combination of claim 10, wherein said feed arrangement is an electric pump.

13. The combination of claim 10, wherein said tank is a toilet tank.

14. The combination of claim 13, wherein said bathroom drain is a toilet bowl.

15. The combination of claim 14, wherein the wastewater pipe is routed from the laundry tub to the toilet bowl under a toilet seat.

16. The combination of claim 15, wherein the water intake pipe is routed from the toilet tank to the laundry tub under a tank lid of the toilet tank.

18. An apparatus for washing small garments, such as cloth diapers, the apparatus comprising: an automatic washing machine for receiving the garments to be washed; a water intake pipe taking water from a toilet tank and supplying it to the washing machine; and a wastewater pipe for discharging wastewater from the washing machine to a toilet bowl.

19. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the wastewater pipe is routed from the washing machine to the toilet bowl under a toilet seat.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the water intake pipe is routed from the toilet tank to the washing machine under a tank lid of the toilet tank.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to washing apparatus. More specifically, the present invention relates to an automatic washing apparatus, optimized for small loads of laundry.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The advantages of using cloth diapers are well known. They are environmentally friendly, they are cost effective and since they are breathable, they promote the healthy development of the baby.

[0003] The primary disadvantage of cloth diapers is the inconvenience of the cleaning process. Cloth diapers have to be rinsed shortly after being soiled, stored to accumulate a full load for the washing machine, carried to the laundry area, washed and dried, and carried back to the changing area. For parents without a washing machine, or the option to install one, washing must be either done by hand, or at a laundromat; both of these are inconvenient and time consuming. Finally, soiled diaper accumulation leads to undesirable odors.

[0004] By simplifying the cleaning process, the primary disadvantage of cloth diapers would be eliminated. One potential solution is the use of diaper services, where soiled diapers are exchanged for clean ones. Generally, this service has higher costs than disposable diapers, and diapers still have to be given an initial rinsing and stored until pickup.

[0005] A potential solution to diaper accumulation is to wash the diapers immediately after they are soiled in a conventional washing machine. However, being optimized for large loads, conventional washing machines are inefficient for small loads, and unless located in close proximity to the changing area, they still have to be carried to and from the washing area.

[0006] Another possible solution is to try to simplify the hand washing process. Many patents disclose solutions designed to assist in the hand washing process by providing wastewater disposal through a toilet bowl. Some of these provide hand protection through integrated gloves, and others assist in hand washing by providing a water source from a faucet or plumbing. Being a hand washing process, washing diapers with the above inventions would still be inconvenient and time consuming. Furthermore, attaching devices to the toilet bowl interferes with the normal operation of the toilet.

[0007] As an improvement to assisted hand washing, other patents disclose automatic washing machines. In these inventions, the wastewater output is the toilet bowl. These require an external means for supplying water such as a faucet or plumbing. With the faucet used as the water source, these apparatuses interfere with the use of the sink. Furthermore, these are cumbersome devices that would be difficult to integrate within a small bathroom.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides a cloth diaper washing apparatus optimized for small loads that requires no additional plumbing fixtures, such as pressurized water sources or dedicated drains, with the water source coming from the toilet tank, and the wastewater drain into the toilet bowl. The basic embodiment of the apparatus comprises a water intake pipe with one end at the bottom of the toilet tank, and the other end attached to a washing machine; an electric pump to draw from the standing water in the toilet tank, a small washing machine, and a wastewater pipe draining into the toilet.

[0009] In addition to the basic apparatus, a variety of options may be integrated within the typical apparatus for the convenience of the user including: an in-line water heater, automatic dispensers for cleaning agents, integrated dryer, various washing (drying) settings and controls, mounting accessories for wall mounting, electrical cord routing and pipe routing, various washing modes including water jets, agitation, spinning, ringing and rinsing, and safety features including safety switches for openings, water level and other fault detection schemes.

[0010] The use of the apparatus is analogous to the use of a conventional washing machine. The user simply loads the soiled diaper, adds the appropriate cleaning agents, makes the appropriate settings, and activates the wash cycle. The invention consists of a few basic components, with a variety of optional configurations and accessories being possible within the scope of this invention.

[0011] Thus, according to one aspect, the invention provides a washing apparatus for small garments such as diapers and the like. The apparatus comprises a housing sized for installation in a bathroom, and a laundry tub for handling small loads rotatable in the housing and sized to receive the small garments. A water intake pipe connects to a supply of standing water, and a feed arrangement draws water through the intake pipe from the supply of standing water and supplies the water to the laundry tub. A wastewater pipe returns wastewater from the laundry tub to a bathroom drain.

[0012] In another aspect, the invention provides in combination, a tank for holding a supply of standing water and a washing apparatus for small garments such as diapers and the like. The washing apparatus comprises a housing sized for installation in a bathroom and a laundry tub for handling small loads rotatable in said housing and sized to receive said small garments. A water intake pipe connects to the tank, and a feed arrangement draws water through said intake pipe from said tank and supplies said water to said laundry tub. A wastewater pipe returns wastewater from said laundry to a bathroom drain.

[0013] The feed arrangement may be either a gravity feed or an electric pump. The supply of standing water may be a basin filled with water, but preferably is a toilet tank, while the bathroom drain is preferably a toilet bowl.

[0014] There are many advantages in using such a bathroom diaper washing apparatus. Embodiments of the invention greatly simplify the cloth diaper cleaning process. The apparatus may be located in the bathroom nearest to the changing area, thereby reducing the carrying requirement. Diapers can be cleaned immediately after being soiled, thereby eliminating the storage requirement and the associated odors. For example, rinsing of very soiled diapers may be done in the toilet and then immediately placed in the washing machine of the apparatus, simplifying the workflow. Washing is automatic, reducing the time and effort required. Furthermore, this invention requires no additional plumbing, and does not interfere with the use of any of the existing fixtures. Being sized for small loads, it can easily be integrated within small bathrooms.

[0015] Other aspects and advantages of embodiments of the invention will be readily apparent to those ordinarily skilled in the art upon a review of the following description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] Embodiments of the invention will now be described in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0017] FIG. 1 illustrates a bathroom diaper washing apparatus in accordance with the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 2A is a side view of the washing machine of the apparatus of FIG. 1 in more detail;

[0019] FIG. 2B is a front view of the washing machine of FIG. 2A; and

[0020] FIG. 3 illustrates the operation of the control system of the apparatus of FIG. 1.

[0021] This invention will now be described in detail with respect to certain specific representative embodiments thereof, the materials, apparatus and process steps being understood as examples that are intended to be illustrative only. In particular, the invention is not intended to be limited to the methods, materials, conditions, process parameters, apparatus and the like specifically recited herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0022] Referring to FIG. 1, there is illustrated a bathroom diaper washing apparatus 30 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The apparatus includes a water source and wastewater disposal, which is the toilet 1 in the illustrated embodiment. Water is pumped from tank 1a and wastewater is drained into the bowl 1b. The wastewater pipe 7 is preferably designed to allow routing of the wastewater pipe 7 under the toilet seat 1c. Alternatively, the toilet seat 1c may be adapted to facilitate pipe routing by increasing the amount of separation between itself 1c and the bowl 1b. The water intake pipe 2 is preferably routed into the tank of the toilet 1a under the tank lid 1d. Pipes 2 and 7, and cord 6, can be fixed with appropriate hardware 13.

[0023] The apparatus includes a washing machine, or laundry tub, 4 which is preferably mounted to the wall behind the toilet 1 with a mounting plate 12. With the laundry tub 4 being mounted to the wall, the apparatus does not have to be mounted and unmounted for each use; it may be kept mounted to the wall without interfering with normal use of the toilet. The laundry tub is preferably an automatic washing machine that may offer any variety of washing modes. For example water jets, agitation, spinning, ringing and rinsing may be provided. The washing machine is powered by a power source, which is shown in this embodiment to be an electrical cord 6. The electrical cord 6 is routed to the appropriate existing outlet 5.

[0024] Referring to FIGS. 2A and 2B, the washing machine 4 is sized for small loads and, in the preferred embodiment, consists of an outer drum 25, a wash drum 18, agitating motor 19 to turn the wash drum 18, water intake 20, drain valve 21, and control interface 22. With the optional integrated dryer, an air intake 23, and air exhaust 24 are added. The same motor 19 is used for agitation during the wash cycle, and tumbling during the dry cycle. To facilitate tumbling, a horizontal drum 18 configuration is preferred. The present invention would integrate the washing machine as a complete and self-contained unit, and add the additional components required for tank operation; all within an esthetically pleasing housing 25.

[0025] During typical use, immediately after being soiled, the diaper is taken from the changing area, to the bathroom where the apparatus of the present invention is installed. The diaper may be initially hand-rinsed to remove most of the waste in the toilet bowl 1b. If the diaper is not overly soiled, hand rinsing can be omitted. Referring to FIG. 1, the diaper (not shown) is then loaded into the washing machine 4 of the apparatus 30 through the access door 14 with appropriate cleaning agents. Alternatively, with optional cleaning agent dispensers 9, the agents would be added automatically according to the amount set by the user controls 11 once the wash cycle was activated. The wash cycle settings are set, and the wash cycle is activated, all through user controls 11. Machine status is also displayed on status display 17.

[0026] Referring to FIG. 3, during the wash cycle, the electronic wash controller 15 manages operation of the washing machine. It controls the pump 3, the washing machine 4, the status display 17, and other optional components such as the inline water heater 8, the integrated dryer 10 and safety switch 16. At the start of the cycle, water is pumped via pump 3 from the toilet tank 1a into the washing machine 4. With the optional inline water heater 8, the water would be heated prior to entering the washing machine 4 as set by the user controls 11 and managed by the electronic wash controller 15. If the access door 14 is opened at an inappropriate time during the wash cycle, the optional safety switch 16 would trigger the wash controller 15 to halt the cycle. The washing machine 4 is then activated and washes until it completes its first portion of the wash cycle, as controlled by the electronic wash controller 15. With the optional cleaning agent dispensers 9, the electronic wash controller 15 would automatically trigger the correct amount of cleaning agents to be added at the appropriate time(s) in the wash cycle.

[0027] Wastewater is then drained from the washing machine 4 to the toilet bowl 1b, and clean water is pumped in via pump 3 from the toilet tank 1a for rinsing. After rinsing, the wastewater is drained from the washing machine 4 to the toilet bowl 1b. Depending on the wash settings set by the user controls 11, all or parts of this cycle may be repeated. With the optional integrated dryer 10, air would be blown into the washing machine 4 to dry the cloth diaper. The electronic wash controller 15 handles all aspects of the control, timing, and input from the user controls 11.

[0028] Should a toilet tank not be available, the present invention could draw its clean water from any other standing water source, such as a filled sink or bucket filled with water. However, use of a toilet tank as the water source is preferable because of the automatic level control inherently present in a toilet tank.

[0029] Also, if a toilet bowl is not available, the present invention could drain its wastewater into a drained plumbing fixture, or water container such as a bucket. However, water containers have a limited capacity, and care must be taken to prevent overflowing.

[0030] An additional possible benefit of locating the present invention in the bathroom is that the bathroom fan or window can readily vent any humid air. This is particularly important when with an integrated dryer.

[0031] Finally, cloth diapers are referred to specifically throughout this document, but the present invention could equally be used to wash other sufficiently small loads of laundry.

[0032] Numerous modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.