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This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. §120, as a continuation application, of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/381,792, entitled “LAUNDRY APPLIANCE FOR WASHING SMALL QUANTITIES OF CLOTHING,” filed on May 5, 2006, which in turn claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/681,973, filed on May 18, 2005 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/723,457 filed on Oct. 5, 2005. All of the foregoing applications are hereby incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to devices which can be used to wash clothes. Specifically, a portable washing appliance is disclosed which permits washing of small wash loads and individual delicate garments.
There is a need for a small appliance to wash a small number of garments, particularly when traveling. It may be necessary to quickly wash a single item or small loads so that it is available when more traditional laundry services are unavailable, and the only recourse to washing a single item is hand washing the item. In this way, it is possible to launder socks, brassieres, underwear, and other items without the need for conventional washing facilities. While hand laundering has been the traditional way such items are cleaned, hand laundering can be time consuming, messy, and may otherwise preoccupy either a kitchen sink or bathroom sink. In view of the foregoing, the present invention has been conceived.
In dormitory rooms, apartments, nurseries, military locations and any other facilities, conventional clothes washing machine may not be available due to space or the necessity of a water hose connection and drain for the waste water. Even when such facilities are available, there are delicate items, like cashmere sweaters, silk scarfs, etc. which should be hand washed to avoid any damage to the fabric, or when someone wants a favorite item or small quantity of clothes washed quickly and they do not want to wait for a full load required with a standard sized washer. Further, it is very wasteful to wash a small quantity of items in a conventional laundry facility which is designed to wash a full load of garments. These facilities do not lend themselves to a “quick wash” of a small number of items.
The present invention is directed to a portable laundry appliance which does not require access to dedicated plumbing. Specifically, the item is a self contained washing device which can launder a limited number of items in virtually any location.
The portable washing appliance, in accordance with the invention, includes a container which is open at a top thereof. The container has a first compartment adjacent the top, containing a perforated basket which is supported for rotation within the first compartment. A water reservoir and detergent dispenser may be optionally located around the periphery of the container opening for supplying water and detergent for washing and rinsing the garments.
A second compartment disposed preferably adjacent, such as below, the first compartment is connected to the first compartment by a passage which includes an electrically operated valve and/or pump. The valve is operated to discharge water in the first compartment into the second compartment. A motor drives the basket in first and second alternate directions during a wash cycle. At the end of washing, a valve or pump is operated and the water is discharged into a waste receptacle which is located in a second compartment adjacent to the first compartment. The waste receptacle or receptacles are removable to allow any discharge water to be discarded and the receptacle serves as a way to fill the laundry device. An electronic wash cycle controller controls the supply of water into the first chamber during wash and rinse cycles, as well as operates the motor in both a wash cycle and spin/dry cycle wherein water is centrifugally removed from the clothing. In some configurations, a removable central agitator may be provided to improve the washing effectiveness of the machine.
The novel features which are characteristic of the present invention are set forth in the appended claims. However, the invention's preferred embodiments, together with further objects and attendant advantages, will be best understood by reference to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a washing appliance in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 is a second perspective view of the washing appliance in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention with the lid in an open condition;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 during a water and detergent fill operation;
FIG. 4 is cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 during a wash and agitation operation;
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 after water has been drained from the first compartment;
FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 showing when a rinse operation is commenced;
FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 showing when the rinse water is discarded;
FIG. 8 is cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 during a subsequent rinse operation;
FIG. 9 is cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 showing when the second rinse operation is completed;
FIG. 10 is cross-sectional view of the appliance of FIG. 1 during an air spin operation;
FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the laundry appliance of the present invention;
FIG. 12 is an exploded perspective view of the laundry appliance of FIG. 11;
FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view through the line 13-13 of FIG. 11; and
FIG. 14 is a front elevational view of an optional agitator for use with the present invention.
FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of the appliance device 2 for washing clothes in accordance with the present invention. The appliance 2 is well-suited for use as a countertop type of appliance, operated from standard 115 volts electrical service. However, the present invention is not limited in any way to such use. For example, in some applications the device 2 may be configured to operate from 12 volt DC voltage, which is commonly found in automobiles. In fact, when properly configured, the device 2 may operate using any type or amount of electricity. Also, it may be configured for use not only on a countertop but also for use on the ground or floor.
The device 2 includes a container 11 having a top which is closed by a hinged lid 12. An optional latch 35 may be provided to ensure that the lid remains closed when the device 2 is in use. Alternatively, a front load device (not shown) may be configured to be loaded through a door on the front of the device instead of through a hinged top. Electrical switches 15, 16 and 17 on the appliance permit the operator to select several modes of operation. In accordance with the preferred embodiment of the invention, these may be a normal wash cycle mode selected with electrical switch 15, a time soak mode selected by switch 16, and an extract mode selected by switch 17 which causes the water to be removed from a garment by centrifugal force. The container 11 includes a compartment 19 which receives a waste water receptacle 21. The waste water receptacle 21 is inserted using handle 22 in a position within the container 11 to collect and discard waste water discharged during washing of the clothing item.
Specifically, the device 2 preferably provides controls for a normal wash cycle. delicate wash, soak, spin as well as start and stop control. These are just examples of what can be provided by the present invention.
The device 2 of the present invention can optionally include further components for optimizing and improving the washing process that is carried out by the device of the present invention. For example, as seen in FIG. 3, an optional inline heater 13 is provided, which is electrically connected to a source of electricity. As can be understood, heat can be used to improve wash performance in certain circumstances, such as when washing whites. Such a heater can be optionally added in the embodiment of FIGS. 1-10 as well as the alternative embodiment of FIGS. 11-13, as will be discussed below. Still further, an inline generator 31 of ozone and/or UW (ultraviolet) light can be added to the device 2 to assist in disinfecting the clothes.
FIG. 2 is a similar section view showing lid 12 in an open position, wherein an opening 23 receives a single or a small number of garments to be washed at one time. The appliance in accordance with FIGS. 1 and 2 is designed so that the user need not have full access to laundry facilities, including water inlets, waste water discharge pipes, or otherwise burden the normal facilities found in a laundry room, hotel, kitchen or bathroom. Power cord 18 provides standard outlet voltage to the device 2 for operation.
The washing appliance device 2 may have a pre-soak mode, wherein a garment is inserted in the first chamber of a container 11 through the opening 23 and is permitted to soak for a period of time. Alternatively, the device 2 may go directly into a wash cycle where the clothing is agitated in a solution of water and detergent.
In general, the device 2 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 is one of many different configurations that is possible in accordance with the present invention. The device may be broken down into different sections or be provided as separate component parts that cooperate together to provide the device 2 of the present invention.
It should be noted that FIGS. 1 and 2 show a device 2 where the receptacle 21 is located below the container 28 so that the water downwardly drains by gravity thereinto. It is also possible, as shown in FIGS. 11-13 below, that one or more receptacles can be provided and they can be either below or adjacent, such as to the side, of the device. Thus, the device 2, in FIGS.
1-10, and 100, as in FIGS. 11-13, can be configured any way as desired independently of the location and configuration of the receptacle(s). For ease of illustration and discussion herein, FIGS. 1-10 will be discussed in connection with a receptacle 21 that is positioned below the container 28. However, it should in no way be intended that the scope of the present invention be limited to such a configuration.
Turning now to FIG. 3, a section view of the washing appliance shows the device 2 when in an agitating mode of operation. The water is located in a compartment 28, along with the garment 10 to be washed. A perforated basket 24 is driven by a motor 30 in alternate directions to agitate the solution of water and detergent and the immersed garment 10. Optionally, as shown in FIG. 14, a removable agitator 150 may be attached to the device, such as to the basket 24, so that better cleaning may be achieved, if desired.
It is also possible to provide a smaller insert container 28 and/or basket 24 to reduce the overall size of the load by reducing the amount of water used. This would be particularly useful if only a few garments are being laundry in order to save water.
In accordance with a first mode of operation, a self contained water reservoir 25 is provided along the top periphery of the opening 23. Water may be poured into the peripheral reservoir 25 through an opening 33 having a valve 27 prior to the start of the washing cycle. Alternatively, the peripheral reservoir 25 may be of a open trough-like configuration. The valve is shown as 27 on the lower right inside reservoir 25. Laundry detergent may be added through compartment 26. As an alternative mode of operation, water and/or detergent may be conventionally poured in the first compartment 28 by removing the empty waste receptacle 21, filling it and then pouring the contents into the container 28.
It is also envisioned, in accordance with the present invention, that wash water can be supplied to container 28 of device 2 via a hose connection (not shown), such as from a sink or other water source. An inline valve (not shown) can also be provided to control the inflow of the water from the hosed connection into the container 28. Such valved water flow from such an optional hosed connection can be integrated into the operating system of the device where control of such water flow, i.e. opening of the inline valve, is directly controlled by button controls 15-17 on the device. It is possible that a setting is made on the device 2 to indicate that a valved hose connection is made so that the operating system of the device 2 directs and controls water flow accordingly. In that connection, a water sensor can be provided in the container to indicate when flow of incoming hosed water should be stopped by closing off the inline valve.
The washing operation under control of motor 30 and a wash cycle controller gently agitates the immersed clothing 10 by rotating the perforated basket 24 in first and second opposite directions as shown in FIG. 4.
Following a washing and agitation operation, the water within the container 28 is released via the electrically controlled valve 29 into waste receptacle 21 under control of the device wash cycle controller. The basket 24 may be optionally spun at this time while the water is running to help extract out detergent. The ability to wash and then extract is not found in prior art laundry appliances of the type of the present invention. Once the wash water has been discharged into the waste water receptacle 21, the controller then enters into a rinse cycle. During the rinse cycle, more water is discharged through a second valve (not shown) in the reservoir 26 to supply the rinse water. As an alternative embodiment, the water may simply be added through the opening 23 when needed.
Following the rinse cycle, wherein the motor 30 has agitated the washed clothing 10, the rinse water is similarly discharged through valve 29 under control of the wash cycle controller as shown in FIG. 7.
A second rinse cycle may follow wherein water is discharged by the reservoir 25 or manually poured through opening 23. The motor 30 is again driven in alternate directions to provide a second rinsing of the clothing 10. The second rinse operation ends, as shown in FIG. 9, with a discharge of the rinse water through valve 29 into the receptacle 21 under the control of the controller.
FIG. 10 represents the final spin dry operation, wherein the perforated basket 24 is continuously rotated at a suitable RPM to centrifugally remove water from the clothing 10. The basket may be optionally spun at this time while the water is exiting to help extract out water and detergent. The ability to wash and then extract is not found in prior art laundry appliances of the type of the present invention. Water is forced through the openings in basket 24, and collects in the first compartment 28. Water collected in the compartment 28 is again discharged through the valve 29 under control of the device wash cycle controller. The collected water is then discarded by removing the waste receptacle 21 from the second compartment and pouring it into a sink drain.
According to additional embodiments, the motor 30 may be replaced with a manual crank mechanism. The crank mechanism could include a linkage connected to the basket 24 and operated by a rotary crank arm, knob or handle extending from or disposed on the lid 12 or a side of the container 11.
Alternatively, a pulley mechanism could be used to rotate the basket 24. For example. such a pulley mechanism could include a spindle attached to the basket and arranged to rotate the basket, and a cord having one end wound about the spindle and another end extending through an opening in the lid 12 or a side of the container 11. A handle could be attached to the end of the cord extending through the opening in the lid 12 or side of the container 11. In such a mechanism, pulling and releasing the handle would unwind and wind the cord, thereby spinning the basket 24.
According to another alternate embodiment, the basket 24 could be operated with a manual pump mechanism. The pump mechanism may include a linearly reciprocating handle assembly incorporated in the lid 12 and connected to the basket 24 with components that convert the reciprocating motion of the handle into rotation of the basket.
According to further embodiments, the water receptacle 21 may be replaced with two or even three receptacles having a combined volume similar to that of the receptacle 21. Using multiple water receptacles would allow for a more comfortable carrying size and weight when filling and emptying the receptacles, while still providing sufficient water capacity for soak, wash and rinse cycles. The multiple receptacles may be stacked vertically or side-by-side. An additional electronically or manually controlled valve or pump could be provided to enable selective discharge of water into each of the water receptacles following the wash, rinse and spin dry cycles, or the valve 29 could be modified to enable selective discharge of water into each of the water receptacles.
The foregoing illustrates the basic wash operations of preferred embodiments of the invention. The device may as indicated provide a time soak before any washing operation by halting the wash and agitate operation for a fixed period of time. The wash and agitate operation may be dispensed within other applications, so that only a time soak is provided, followed by the rinse cycle and air-spin cycle. The appliance in accordance with the foregoing figures will by routine programming of the wash cycle controller allow for such alternative modes of operation. As indicated from the controls of FIGS. 1 and 2, both the time soak operation, and an air-spin only operation can be effected by operating each of the controls as desired.
Referring now to FIGS. 11-13, an alternative embodiment 100 of the present invention is shown in detail. FIG. 11 shows a front perspective view of the alternative embodiment while FIG. 12 shows an exploded view thereof. Device 100 operates substantially the same as device 2 in FIGS. 1-10, however, a number of receptacles 102a, 102b are positioned to the side and adjacent to the main housing 104 of device 100 rather than below, as in the preferred embodiment of device 2. A number of controls 106 and lockable lid 108 by latch 110 are also provided and serve the same functionality as corresponding components of device 2 above. Referring now to FIG. 13, a cross-sectional view through the line 13-13 of FIG. 11 is shown to illustrate the construction of device 100. In this embodiment, controls 106 are provided on the main housing 104. An outer container 118 is provided with a spinning perforated basket 120 therein. An optional agitator 150 is also provided. A motor 122 is employed to spin the basket 120. After water is used after a given cycle, it is pumped by a pump 124 to one or both of the receptacles 102a, 102b adjacent to the main housing 104 rather than to receptacle 21 below by gravity, as in FIGS. 1 and 2.
In an example operation of the device 100, which is not limited thereto, both of the side receptacles 102a, 102b are preferably removed by the assistance of handles 126a, 126b and filled with water. For example, each of the receptacles 102a, 102b may have the capacity of 2 gallons each but this may be modified, as desired. Water in one of the receptacles, e.g. 102a, is preferably poured directly into the container 118 for washing and the water in the other receptacle, e.g. 102b is poured into the rinse water reservoir 128 for use at the appropriate time, namely controlled delivery thereof into the container 118 via valve 130. A detergent port 132 is also provide to facilitate delivery of detergent without opening the lid 108.
Used wash water is preferably pumped by the pump 124 into one of the receptacles 102a, 102b. The used rinse water is pumped by the pump 124 into the other receptacles. It is also possible that the pump 124 can be used to pump used water to one or more receptacles 102a, 102b below the container 118. Or, the pump 124 can be used to pump used water to a single large receptacle to the side or adjacent to the main housing 118. As can be understood, the appropriate internal hoses 110, 112 and valves 114, 116 are provided and controlled by control system of the device 100 to control water flow and positioning throughout the wash cycle.
In view of the foregoing, a new and novel washing appliance device 2, 100 is provided that is hoseless, that can be self-filled and self-emptied during the wash cycle. The device 2, 100 is also uniquely capable of water extraction. Such a device is not found in the prior art.
The foregoing description of the invention illustrates and describes the present invention. Additionally, the disclosure shows and describes only the preferred embodiments of the invention in the context of a laundry appliance for washing small quantities of clothing, but, as mentioned above, it is to be understood that the invention is capable of use in various other combinations, modifications, and environments and is capable of changes or modifications within the scope of the inventive concept as expressed herein, commensurate with the above teachings and/or the skill or knowledge of the relevant art. The embodiments described hereinabove are further intended to explain best modes known of practicing the invention and to enable others skilled in the art to utilize the invention in such, or other, embodiments and with the various modifications required by the particular applications or uses of the invention. Accordingly, the description is not intended to limit the invention to the form or application disclosed herein. Also, it is intended that the appended claims be construed to include alternative embodiments.