Title:
Self-contained portable cleaning machine & in situ method of cleaning public restroom surfaces
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of more effectively disinfecting a surfaces by application of a disinfectant foam that remains in contact with the surface. The invention also includes a portable cleaning machine that provides on-the-go generation of a disinfectant foam that can be applied to a surface so that the foam clings to the surface for an extended period of time sufficient to disinfect the surface. Once the surface is disinfected the machine includes equipment for rinsing the surfaces and vacuuming away any remaining residue.



Inventors:
Bullis, Steven J. (White Bear Lake, MN, US)
Application Number:
09/836684
Publication Date:
10/17/2002
Filing Date:
04/17/2001
Assignee:
BULLIS STEVEN J.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/323
International Classes:
A47L11/03; A47L11/30; (IPC1-7): A47L9/00; A47L7/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20120222223AUXILIARY CLEANING TOOL ASSEMBLY AND CLEANING APPARATUS HAVING THE SAMESeptember, 2012Yoo
20050166358CleanerAugust, 2005Lee et al.
20110146023BACKPACK POWER TOOLJune, 2011Wada et al.
20020129838Substrate aspiration assemblySeptember, 2002Myland
20120137456Rotating Ball Cleaning DeviceJune, 2012Welsh et al.
20090152857DEBRIS REMOVAL SYSTEMJune, 2009Easley
20150007406Windshield Blade Locking MechanismJanuary, 2015Rabin et al.
20010009047COMPACT BURNISHERJuly, 2001Bernstein
20070151055PIPELINE PIG BRUSH AND BRUSH ASSEMBLYJuly, 2007Chee et al.
20160106278Vacuum Air Pump and Glass-Wiping ApparatusApril, 2016Feng
20140317866Microfiber Cosmetic Textile and Methods of UseOctober, 2014Burt



Primary Examiner:
CONLEY, SEAN EVERETT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Carl L. Johnson (St.Paul, MN, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A self contained restroom cleaning machine for on-the-go foam generation comprising: a cart; a pump mounted on said cart; a water tank; a source of pressurized air; a liquid disinfectant; a source of pressurized air for directing a portion of the pressurized air through the liquid disinfectant to thereby generate a disinfectant foam; and an applicator for applying a layer of the disinfectant foam to a surface of a restroom.

2. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 including a vacuum source for collecting a residue remaining after application of the layer of disinfectant foam.

3. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 including a liquid disinfectant tank.

4. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 wherein the applicator comprises a flow-through brush.

5. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 including a flexible hose for connecting to a vacuum source on said machine.

6. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 including a foam holding tank and a flexible hose connecting the foam holding tank to the applicator.

7. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 including a multi-port valve having at least four valves therein.

8. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 8 wherein the multi-port valve has two ports for clean water.

8. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 including a flexible vacuum hose connected to a vacuum motor discharge to provide a source of drying air.

9. The self contained restroom cleaning machine of claim 1 wherein the cart includes a tool box.

10. A self-contained portable, cleaning machine comprising: a source of pressurized air; a source of liquid disinfectant, a portion of the pressurized air mixable with the liquid disinfectant to thereby generate a disinfectant foam; and an applicator for low impact application of the disinfectant foam to a surface to thereby provide in situ disinfecting.

11. A method of disinfecting comprising the steps of: directing a mixture of water and a liquid disinfectant in a foam condition onto a surface; allowing the water and the liquid disinfectant in the foam condition to cling to the surface for sufficient time to disinfect the surface; and removing the water and the liquid disinfectant in the foam condition from the surface after the surface has been disinfected.

12. The method of claim 11 including the step of vacuuming the surfaces to remove any residue on the surfaces.

13. The method of claim 11 including the step of air drying the surfaces with a stream of air.

14. The method of claim 11 wherein the foam is applied through a flow-through brush having a plurality of bristles projecting therefrom.

15. The method of claim 11 wherein the foam is mixed on-the-go in a foam mixing tank.

16. The method of claim 11 wherein the mixture of water to disinfectant is varied to control the disinfectant content of a foam generated from the water and disinfectant.

17. The method of claim 11 including the step of allowing the disinfectant foam solution to remain on the surface for at least a minute.

18. The method of claim 11 including on-the-go mixing of the pressurized air with the liquid disinfectant.

19. The method of claim 18 including the step of applying the disinfectant foam comprises applying the disinfectant foam with a flow-through brush.

20. The method of claim 19 including the step of mixing a stream of water with a stream of liquid disinfectant before directing a combined stream of water and liquid disinfectant into a foam mixing tank and then directing a portion of a source of pressurized foam mixing tank to convert the combined stream of water and liquid into the disinfectant foam.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates generally to cleaning and more specifically to a self-contained portable cleaning machine and an in situ method of cleaning public restroom surfaces.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] One of the difficulties in cleaning public restrooms and the like is to ensure a kill of all the harmful bacteria and the like that are present on the restroom surfaces. Oftentimes with conventional cleaning devices and methods that spray disinfectants onto the surfaces the bacteria are not completely killed. In the present invention, a cleaning machine turns a disinfectant liquid into a disinfectant foam that is applied to the restroom surfaces by an applicator such as a flow-through brush. It has been found that the application of the disinfectant foam, which is a mixture of air and liquid disinfectant, to a restroom surface provides a more effective in situ disinfecting method than methods that spray liquid disinfectants since the disinfectant foam clings or adheres to the restroom surfaces longer than liquid disinfectants that are sprayed on the walls. The result is the present method using a disinfectant in a foam state can provide for a more effective in situ disinfecting than if the disinfectant was applied in a liquid state because the disinfectant foam provides increased retention time over liquid disinfectants which tend to quickly run down the walls of the restroom.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0003] The present invention comprises a method of more effectively in situ disinfecting surfaces through application of a disinfectant foam to the surfaces. The invention also includes a self-contained, portable, cleaning machine that provides on-the-go generation of a low-moisture disinfectant foam that when applied to a surface clings to the surface for an extended period of time to effectively disinfect the surface. The increased “clinging time” over a liquid of the same disinfectant ensures that one can more effectively disinfect the surface. Once the surface is disinfected the machine includes equipment for rinsing the surfaces and vacuuming up any residue.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0004] FIG. 1 shows a semi-schematic side view of a self-contained portable, cleaning machine;

[0005] FIG. 2 shows a semi-schematic view of the self-contained portable, cleaning machine of FIG. 1 in a non operational mode;

[0006] FIG. 3 shows a semi-schematic view of self-contained portable, cleaning machine of FIG. 1 in a water fill mode; and

[0007] FIG. 4 shows a semi-schematic view of self-contained portable, cleaning machine of FIG. 1 in a cleaning mode.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0008] FIG. 1 shows a semi-schematic view of a self-contained portable, cleaning machine 10 comprising a cart 71 supported by a set of front wheels 72 and a set of rear wheels 73. A handle 74 extends from cart 71 to permit an operator to move cart 71 from one location to another. An electrical cord 69 extends outward from cart 71 which allows one to power the equipment on cart 71.

[0009] Cart 71 carries a water pump 37, a clean water tank 82, a compressor 83 to provide a source of pressurized air, a tank 80 containing a liquid disinfectant, a waste recovery tank 36 and a mixing tank 35 where the liquid disinfectant is mixed with air to form a lightweight disinfectant foam that can cling to the surfaces to be cleaned. A control panel 81 includes an electrical switch 68 and a multi-port valve 21. Directing pressurized air from compressor 83 though the liquid disinfectant in the foam mixing tank 35 generates a disinfectant in a foam state. That is the disinfectant is no longer in a liquid state but comprises, small multiple bubbles. The disinfectant can be any of a number of conventional disinfectant solutions that are suitable for disinfecting. Directing air through the disinfectant solution mixes the air with the disinfectant solution which causes the disinfectant solution to foam or froth by forming small bubbles of disinfectant which are applied to the surfaces in bubble or foam form.

[0010] Extending outward from cart 71 is a flexible hose 78 that is partially supported in a coiled condition on hanger 77. One end of hose 78 connects to foam mixing tank 35 and the other end connects to a foam applicator comprising a flow-through brush 79 having bristles 79a extending therefrom. In the application of disinfectant foam to the surface the disinfectant foam, which is generated in foam mixing tank 35 is pumped through hose 78 and into brush 79. As the operator moves the bristles 79a along a wall 9 it provides a layer of foam disinfectant 11 which clings to the wall surface. The use of a flow-through brush to apply the disinfectant foam allows for more of the disinfectant foam to be retained on the walls since the splatter from spraying with high pressure wands is eliminated. Thus, the present invention not only provides for a longer “clinging time” of the disinfectant by providing the disinfectant in a foam state rather than in a liquid state but the amount of disinfectant that remains on the surface is increased since the splatter associated with jets of high pressure liquid disinfectant applicators is eliminated. In addition, the disinfectant foam can be sprayed on a surface with less splatter than disinfectant in liquid form since the air bubbles provide are compressible to absorb the impact whereas the liquid in spray form is incompressible which tends to cause the liquid to be reflected from the surface.

[0011] Locate on the back of cart 71 is a second hanger 76 containing a second flexible hose that connects to the vacuum recover tank 37 which can connect to a vacuum squeegee (not shown) to allow a person to vacuum the foam residue from the wall surface 9. Self-contained portable, cleaning machine also contains a hose 58 (see FIG. 2) that connects to the clean water tank 36 and pump 51 to allow a person to rinse the surface 11. If desired a conventional spray nozzle can be connected to hose 58 to allow one to spray clean rinse water on the surfaces to be rinsed.

[0012] In order to appreciate the operation of the self-contained portable, cleaning machine reference should be made to semi-schemattic views of FIGS. 2-4. FIG. 2 shows a semi-schematic view of the vacuum recovery tank 37, the clean water tank 36 the foam mixing tank 35, pump 51 and a multi-port switch 21 in non-operational mode and FIGS. 3 and FIG. 4 show the self-contained portable, cleaning machine in different operational modes.

[0013] Referring to FIG. 2 the multi-port switch 21 is shown with valves 22, 23, 24 and 25 in the closed condition. A safety switch is located proximate switch 21 to allow an operator to quickly deactivate the system in the case of an emergency. FIG. 2 illustrates the self-contained portable, cleaning machine in the off mode which allows the self contained portable cleaning machine 70 to be taken from one location to another.

[0014] Entering one side of multi-port switch 21 is a clean water inlet line 44 that fluidly connects with valve 25 and a branch clean water line 45 that fluidly connects with valve 24. A third line 30 fluidly connects to the source of disinfectant fluid or foam making solution located in tank 80 to direct disinfectant fluid into valve 23. In the closed condition valves 23, 24 and 25 prevent fluid from flowing from left to right through multi-port valve 21. The top valve 22 controls the flow of liquids and solids into vacuum recovery tank 37. In the closed condition valve 22 as illustrated in FIG. 2 valve 22 prevents material and solids from flowing through fluid line 56 and into vacuum recovery tank 37.

[0015] Referring to FIG. 3 the system is shown in a clean water fill mode. In the fill mode valve 25 is open allowing clean water to flow-through line 44 and valve 25 and into the clean water tank 36 which is carried by cart 71. This provides a source of water that allows the self-contained portable, cleaning machine to be used in areas where a hookup for clean water may not be readily available. The top of clean water tank 36 includes a vent 40 to allow air to escape as one fills the clean water tank 36. Connected to the lower end of clean water tank 36 is a water pump 51 that has an inlet line 49 and an outlet line 58. A bypass valve 52 also connects to line 58 and a bypass line 50 extends from bypass valve 52 to clean water tank 36 to allow water to return to the clean water tank 36.

[0016] If pump 51 is in the on mode water from clean water tank 36 is directed through line 58 to a conventional water spray nozzle (not shown) for rinsing the surfaces with clean water. Thus system 10 can be set in a rinse mode to allow for rinsing of the surfaces with clean water by activating water pump 51 through a switch 68 on control panel 81.

[0017] Referring to FIG. 4 the self-contained portable, cleaning machine 10 is shown in an operational mode. In the operational mode illustrated in FIG. 4 the valve 25 for supplying clean water to clean water tank 36 is in the closed condition. The valves 23 which allows a foam making disinfectant solution to flow-through line 30 and into a mixer valve 32. Mixer valve 32 allows one to control the ratio of disinfectant to water that enters line 33 by limiting the amount of disinfectant solution flowing through mixer valve 32. Similarly, valve 24 is shown in an open condition which allows water to flow-through line 45 and valve 24 where the disinfectant foam and water flow combine and flow-through line 33 into the foam mixing tank 35. Foam mixing tank 35 contains an air inlet 61 that connects to an air compressor 83 that can supply pressurized air to foam mixing tank 35. A set of check valves 53 and 54 prevent the contents of tank 35 from flowing backward into compressor 83. Extending outward from the top of foam mixing tank 35 is a fluid line 41 having a control valve 63 for opening or closing the fluid line 62. Fluid line 62 connects to flexible hose 78 to direct disinfectant foam under pressure to the flow-through brush head 79. Activating compressor 83 forces air into the disinfectant solution in foam mixing tank causing the disinfectant solution to form into a froth of bubbles and foam. Consequently, when valve 63 is opened the disinfectant foam flows through valve 63 and fluid line 41 to the flow-through brush applicator 79.

[0018] FIG. 4 shows vacuum recovery tank 37 having a vacuum pump 38 with tank 39 including an air vent 39. When the vacuum pump 38 is in the on condition the vacuum pump can be used as a blower, that is a hose can be connected to air discharge port (not shown) of the vacuum pump 38 to allow a person to blow the vacuum pump discharge air onto the cleaned surfaces to assist in drying the cleaned surfaces. Vacuum pump 38 is also usable in the vacuum mode to allow liquids to be drawn into vacuum recovery tank 37 by connecting a vacuum pick up hose to inlet 39. With valve 22 in the open condition as shown in FIG. 4 the vacuum pump 38 can be used to empty the foam mixing tank 35 after the task is completed.

[0019] In order to generate foam in foam mixing tank air compressor 83 is activated to direct pressurized air through one way check valves 53 and 54 and into foam mixing tank 37. The stream of pressurized air is directed into the disinfectant solution thereby generating a foam of disinfectant and water. The foam of disinfectant and water obtained by mixing the air with the disinfectant solution can then be directed onto the surfaces to be cleaned. With the disinfect and water in a foam condition the foam clings or adheres to even vertical surfaces thereby maintaining the disinfectant foam in contact with the surfaces long enough to kill the bacteria present. The increase in “clinging time” provides for longer contact between the disinfectant and the bacteria thereby ensuring a more effective bacteria kill than with a liquid disinfectant that runs off immediately after application. That is, the use of liquid disinfectants that are applied by mists or sprays tend have a shorter “clinging time” as liquid quickly run down the walls and consequently prevents effective bacteria kill.

[0020] FIG. 4 shows that excess foam can be removed from foam mixing tank 35 thorough fluid line 55 which is coupled to foam mixing tank 35 by a quick-connect coupler 55a. A further feature of the self cleaning machine 70 is that the machine can be used as a vacuum to remove excess materials and water. To use system as a vacuum system the quick disconnect 55a is removed from mixing tank 35 and connected to a flexible hose having a vacuum pick up head attached thereto which allows one to vacuum up excess materials in a manner that one vacuums his or her home.

[0021] In order to have access to various tools as well as to other equipment usable with the present invention a toolbox 89 is also carried by cart 70 and is illustrated in FIG. 1.

[0022] In summary the presenting invention comprises a method of cleaning a restroom comprising the steps of: 1. directing a mixture of water and a disinfectant in a foam condition onto a restroom surface; 2. allowing the foam to cling to the surface for sufficient time to kill the bacteria; and 3. rinsing the surface to remove the foam. In addition, one also can vacuum the surfaces to remove any removing residue on the surfaces and one can also air dry the surfaces with a stream of air.

[0023] In the method shown the foam is applied through a flow-through brush having a plurality of bristles projection therefrom however, it is envisioned other device for applying disinfectant foam could be used that would deliver the foam in a condition where the foam can adhere to the surfaces. By providing for on-the-go generation of foam one can readily generate and apply foam in a continuous application. In addition the strength of the disinfectant foam needs to be changed the ratio of water to disinfectant supplied to the foam mixing tank can be varied to control the disinfectant content of a foam generated from the water and disinfectant. The amount of time the disinfectant needs to remain on the surface varies but the present invention allows the foam to cling to a vertical wall surfaces for a minute or more.

[0024] It should be understood that while reference to bacteria is used herein the type of killing action depends on the disinfectant selected as some disinfectant are effective not only against bacteria but against various spores and the like and are equally suitable for use in the present invention.