Title:
Device for cleaning a toilet seat
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to a device for cleaning a toilet seat (12). In order to achieve a satisfactory cleansing consuming as little energy as possible, the inventive device comprises a mobile cleaning unit (18) which can be moved along the toilet seat (12) by means of water power.



Inventors:
Blatz, Wilhelm (US)
Lenhard, Michael (Friedrichtsthal, DE)
Heub-schneider, Andreas (S?ouml;tern, DE)
Application Number:
10/416492
Publication Date:
03/04/2004
Filing Date:
05/19/2003
Assignee:
BLATZ WILHELM
LENHARD MICHAEL
HEUB-SCHNEIDER ANDREAS
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/30; (IPC1-7): A47K13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PHILLIPS, CHARLES E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Arlington/LADAS & PARRY LLP (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A device for cleaning a toilet seat (12), characterized in that the device has a mobile cleaning unit (18) which is movable along the toilet seat (12) by means of water power.

2. The device according to claim 1, characterized in that the device has a hydraulic drive unit (20) with a cylinder (22) in which is located a piston (24), which is movable by water power, connected with the mobile cleaning unit via actuating or drive means (30, 32; 88, 90).

3. The device according to claim 1 or 2, characterized in that the drive unit (20) is located in a water tank (14), such as a flush tank.

4. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the cylinder (22) has a first, e.g. upper, and a second, e.g. lower, water inlet (46, 48) as well as a first, e.g. upper, and a second, e.g. lower, water outlet (58, 60), the water inlets (46, 48) being connected with a water supply pipe (56) via a valve (54) and the water outlets (58, 60) opening into the water tank (14).

5. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the water outlets (58, 60) each have a valve (62, 64).

6. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that cords (30, 32) connected with the piston (24) movably arranged in the cylinder are provided as actuating or drive means, the cords being preferably connected with the mobile cleaning unit (18) via a gearing or a conversion unit such as a guide pulley and/or cord line (42).

7. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the cords (30, 32) are each connected to an end of the piston (24).

8. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the cords (30, 32) each pass through an upper and a lower end wall (34, 36), respectively, of the cylinder.

9. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the conversion unit (42) is provided as a guide pulley (152, 158), having a first pulley (152) which preferably has two paths or grooves (154, 156), of a smaller diameter d, where, in particular, 10 mm≦d≦20 mm, preferably d=15 mm, and a second pulley (158) which has two paths or grooves (160, 162) of a larger diameter D, where in particular 70 mm≦D≦110 mm, preferably D=90 mm, the cords (30, 32) extending from the smaller diameter pulleys being connected with the piston (24) and cords (88, 90) extending from the larger diameter pulley (158) being connected with the cleaning unit (18).

10. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the mobile cleaning unit (18) is substantially U-shaped with a first, lower leg (18) that extends parallel or substantially parallel to the underside (76) of the toilet seat (12) and a second, upper leg (66) that extends parallel or substantially parallel to a surface (94), of the toilet seat (12), which is to be cleaned.

11. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that guide pulleys (78, 80; 84, 86; 92) proceed from the lower leg (68) which engage in a guide groove (74) situated on the underside (76) of the toilet seat (12) and that cleaning elements (96, 98, 100), such as rubber wipers (98) or a brush and/or a sponge (96) and/or a container (100) for cleaning agents, proceed from the upper leg of the mobile cleaning unit (18).

12. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the liquid container (100) has openings (102) for discharging a cleaning fluid which is to be applied to the top (94) of the toilet seat (12) to be cleaned.

13. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the container (100) for the cleaning agent, such as cleaning fluid, is connected with a water source and/or a reservoir (120) for cleaning fluid in the first position of the mobile cleaning unit in order to fill water and/or cleaning agent into the container (100) when required.

14. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the mobile cleaning unit (18) is housed by a receptacle (16) so as to be protected in the first position (park position).

15. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the guide groove (74) provided in the toilet seat (12) has guide pulleys (104) for the cords (88, 90).

16. The device according to at least one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the lower leg (66) of the mobile cleaning unit is supported on the underside (76) of the toilet seat (12) by means of a second support (92), preferably by one or more ball bearings.

Description:
[0001] The invention relates to a device for cleaning a toilet seat.

[0002] A system for the automatic cleaning of a toilet seat is known from U.S. Pat. No. 5,806,105. The system comprises a slidable and rotatable toilet seat which can be moved between a front and a rear position. Furthermore, a motor is provided which turns the toilet seat about a vertical circulating axis by means of a gear wheel engaging in the underside of the toilet seat. When the toilet seat is turned, the surface of the seat is cleaned by means of a cleaning unit, the waste water being able to flow off into a tank situated below the cleaning unit. After the toilet seat has been cleaned, it is moved into the front position and positioned on the rim of the toilet bowl.

[0003] DE-A 1 779 823 relates to a device for cleaning and sterilizing the seat of toilet bowls, comprising a cleaning element on an articulated transport element which is connected via a gearing to an electric motor, the transport element passing through a path which corresponds to at least a part of the shape of the seat, so that the cleaning element runs over the surface of the seat and thereby cleans and sterilizes it.

[0004] DE-C 214 183 A relates to a toilet bowl having a seat which is rotatable in its plane and cleans itself automatically when rotating. The seat turns automatically by means of a waterwheel inserted into the flushing line.

[0005] A toilet having a flushing device and a self-cleaning toilet seat can be found in DE 81 03 218 U1. The toilet seat is rotatable, a device for cleaning the seat surface extending over a segment of the toilet seat. The drive mechanism for moving the toilet seat comprises a driving wheel or a water turbine.

[0006] According to FR 2 761 253 A1, to clean a toilet seat, it is turned by a rotor driven by water power.

[0007] A cleaning device for toilet seats is known from DE-C 510 241. In this case, a brush is moved along the seat by means of a cord pull. The cord pull itself is set into motion by means of a crank.

[0008] According to EP 0 221 017 B1, to automatically clean a toilet seat, a device for automatically cleaning a toilet seat is proposed in which a seat is turned toward a cleaning device by means of electric motors.

[0009] The disadvantages to be noted in the known devices are, on the one hand, the expensive drive and, on the other hand, a mechanical susceptibility to failure.

[0010] Based on the foregoing, the object of the present invention is to improve a device for cleaning a toilet seat of the aforementioned type in such a way that a flawless cleaning of the toilet seat is possible with a simple construction and a more favourable energy consumption.

[0011] According to the invention, the object is essentially achieved in that the device has a mobile cleaning unit whiuch is movable along the toilet seat by means of water power. According to the invention, the energy released when water flows into the water tank is used to move the mobile cleaning unit along the toilet seat. Due to its smaller mass in comparison to that of a toilet seat, the mobile cleaning unit offers the advantage that the construction is simplified and that a drive having a more favourable power is provided.

[0012] In particular, the device according to the invention is distinguished by a hydraulic drive unit which has a cylinder in which is located a piston which is displaceable by water power and which is connected with the mobile cleaning unit by drive means. In this case, the drive unit is preferably located in a water tank, such as a flush tank, so that water flowing into the hydraulic drive unit can subsequently be drawn off into the flush tank.

[0013] First, inflowing water is conveyed into the cylinder, as a result of which the piston moves in a first direction and the mobile cleaning unit moves from a first position along the toilet seat into a second position. A return movement of the piston is then started by diverting the water flow, as a result of which the cleaning unit then travels from the second position back into the first position.

[0014] The cylinder is designed in such a way that it has an upper and a lower water inlet as well as an upper and a lower water outlet, the water inlets being connected with a water supply pipe via a valve. The water outlets each have a valve. The aforementioned arrangement enables the back-and-forth movement of the mobile cleaning unit.

[0015] Cords connected with the piston movably mounted in the cylinder are provided as drive means, the cords preferably being connected with the mobile cleaning unit via a gearing or a conversion unit such as guide pulleys and/or cord lines. Preferably, the piston is connected with a cord at each of its ends, the cords passing through an upper and a lower front wall of the cylinder, respectively. Due to the conversion unit, the force exerted on the piston by the force of the water can be transmitted to the cleaning unit.

[0016] In a further preferred embodiment of the device, it is provided that the conversion unit is in the form of conversion pulleys, the conversion pulleys having two small cord pulleys with a diameter d, where preferably 10 mm≦d≦20 mm, in particular d=15 mm, and two larger cord pulleys with a diameter D, where preferably 70 mm≦D≦110 mm, in particular D=90 mm. The pulleys are fixedly connected to one another and arranged along an axis. The conversion pulley offers the advantage that the stroke travelled by the piston is stepped up by a factor F where, in particular, 3.5≦F≦11. To obtain the conversion, the two cord ends connected with the piston are each fastened to one of the smaller cord pulleys. This cord pulley is configured in such a way that the two cords can be wound and unwound separately from one another in different paths. The smaller cord pulley is securely connected with a second cord pulley on which there are also two cord paths which, however, have the larger diameter. The cord wound on the larger cord pulley is fastened to the cleaning unit which thus always moves through F-times the movement of the hydraulic piston. The two cord lengths on each of the pulleys make it possible to move the cleaning unit over the toilet seat in both directions.

[0017] The mobile cleaning unit itself has a substantially U-shaped geometry which comprises a first leg that is parallel or essentially parallel to an underside of the toilet seat and a second, upper leg that extends parallel or essentially parallel to a surface of the toilet seat to be cleaned.

[0018] On the lower leg, there are guide rollers which engage in a guide groove located on the underside of the toilet seat in order to thus ensure that the mobile cleaning unit is guided along the toilet seat. Cleaning means such as, for example, a rubber wiper, a brush, a sponge as well as preferably a liquid container are arranged on the upper leg. It is thereby provided that the liquid container has openings for discharging a cleaning fluid which is applied to the surface of the toilet seat to be cleaned.

[0019] Furthermore, the invention provides that the liquid container for the cleaning fluid is connected with a water source and/or a reservoir for cleaning agents in the first position of the mobile cleaning unit in order to fill water and/or cleaning agent into the container when needed.

[0020] It is provided that the mobile cleaning unit is housed by a receptacle in the first position (park position) so as to be protected in order, on the one hand, to avoid odour problems and, on the other hand, to ensure increased safety. To drive the mobile cleaning unit, the driving cord is situated in the guide groove on the underside of the toilet seat, preferably via rollers.

[0021] The lower leg of the mobile cleaning unit is preferably supported twice on the underside of the toilet seat, whereby a first support takes place in the peripherally extending guide groove and a second support on the underside of the rim of the toilet seat, preferably by means of ball rollers. On the upper side, the mobile cleaning unit is supported by the cleaning elements, such as sponge, brush, wiper, so that a good guidance is ensured overall.

[0022] Further details, advantages and features of the invention can be found not only in the claims, the features that can be found therein—alone or in combination—but also in the following description of a preferred embodiment that can be found in the drawings.

[0023] FIG. 1 shows a perspective illustration of a toilet with toilet seat, water tank and integrated cleaning unit,

[0024] FIG. 2 shows a perspective illustration of the water tank with drive unit,

[0025] FIG. 3 shows a perspective illustration of the drive unit,

[0026] FIG. 4 shows a sectional illustration of the toilet seat with cleaning unit,

[0027] FIG. 5 shows a sectional illustration along the section line A-A of FIG. 4,

[0028] FIG. 6a shows a bottom view of the toilet seat,

[0029] FIG. 6b shows a section of the bottom view of the toilet seat of FIG. 6a,

[0030] FIG. 7 shows a perspective illustration of a conversion unit,

[0031] FIG. 8 shows a schematic illustration of a control circuit for the drive cylinder,

[0032] FIG. 9 shows a perspective illustration of the mobile cleaning unit in its park position, and

[0033] FIG. 10 shows a flow chart for controlling the device for the automatic cleaning of a toilet seat.

[0034] In a perspective illustration, FIG. 1 shows a toilet 10 with a toilet seat 12 to be cleaned as well as an associated water tank 14 with a receptacle 16 for a mobile cleaning unit 18. According to the invention, the mobile cleaning unit 18 is actuated by a hydraulic drive unit 20 situated in the water tank 14, so that the mobile cleaning unit 18 can travel along the toilet seat.

[0035] The hydraulic drive unit 20, shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, comprises a cylinder 22 which is shown in FIG. 3. A piston 24 is longitudinally movably arranged in the cylinder 22. Actuating means such as cords 30, 32 are situated on the ends 26, 28 of the piston 24, the actuating means passing through the end closures 34,36 of the cylinder and being connected via guide rollers 38,40 with a conversion unit 42, 44 which is in the form of a pulley block in the illustrated example and arranged on both sides of the drive unit 20.

[0036] The cylinder 22 has a first upper inlet opening 46 and a second, lower inlet opening 48 which are each connected with a water supply pipe 56 via a connecting pipe 50, 52 and a valve 54.

[0037] Furthermore, a first upper outlet opening 58 and a second lower outlet opening 60 are provided via which the water which flowed into the cylinder 22 is ejected into the water tank 14. The outlet openings 58, 60 each have valves 62, 64.

[0038] Due to the movement of the piston 24 inside the cylinder 22, the mobile cleaning unit 18 is moved back-and-forth from a first position, preferably within the receptacle 16, into a second position. During the movement, the mobile cleaning unit 18 travels completely, or almost completely, over the toilet seat 12 and subsequently returns into the first position.

[0039] FIG. 4 shows a cross-section of the mobile cleaning unit 18 as well as the toilet seat 12. The mobile cleaning unit 18 is essentially U-shaped and comprises an upper leg 66 and a lower leg 68 which are connected to one another via a cross piece or a connecting element 70. A guide element 72, which extends from the lower leg 68, engages in a guide groove 74 extending in the lower side 76 of the toilet seat 12 and, for example, milled or moulded. The guide element 72 comprises ball bearings 78, 80 which bear on an inner wall 82, in particular a bottom wall, of the guide groove 74. Furthermore, rollers 84, 86 are provided which essentially have a diameter that corresponds to the width of the guide groove 74. This ensures a lateral guidance of the mobile cleaning unit 18. Furthermore, the rollers 84, 86 serve to receive drive cords 88, 90 which are led within the guide groove 74 and each connected with one of the pulley blocks 42, 44.

[0040] As a further support on the toilet seat 12, a further pulley 92, which bears on the underside 76 of the toilet seat 12 and which is to prevent the mobile cleaning unit 18 from tipping, extends from the lower leg 68 of the cleaning unit 18. Moreover, the rollers 78, 80, 92 ensure a frictionless movement of the mobile cleaning unit, so that, on the whole, low forces are employed.

[0041] To clean a surface 94 of the toilet seat 12 to the desired extent, cleaning means such as a sponge or brush 96, wipers 98 and/or a container 100 for cleaning agents such as a cleaning fluid or disinfecting liquid are integrated in the upper leg 66 of the cleaning unit 18 which extends essentially parallel to the surface 94 of the toilet seat 12 to be cleaned. To apply a liquid contained in the container, openings 102 are provided via which the cleaning agent can drip onto the surface 94 to be cleaned. When the cleaning unit 18 is moved, the liquid is absorbed by the sponge 96, so that an effective cleaning can take place. The remaining liquid is subsequently removed from the surface 94 by wipers 18.

[0042] FIG. 6 shows an underside of the toilet seat 12 with the guide groove 74 within which the cords 88, 90 extend. To prevent the cords 88, 90 from being in contact with the guide groove 74 over the entire distance, cord pulleys 104 are inserted into the guide groove 74, so that the contact surface is limited to the few contact points with the rollers 104. This reduces the friction considerably.

[0043] Preferably, the toilet seat 12 is essentially designed as a closed circular body 106 which can be articulated to an end piece 108 via which the cleaning unit 18 can travel into the receptacle 16. Preferably, an intermediate piece 110 extends between the end piece 108 and the actual toilet seat 106, the intermediate piece 110 being alternatively designed as a removable intermediate piece, as a rubber connection or as a joint. The intermediate piece 110 is designed in such a way that, when the toilet seat 12 is lifted, the driving cords 88, 90 are not affected in their travel.

[0044] FIG. 7 shows a preferred embodiment of a conversion unit 42 in the form of a conversion roller. The stroke through which the piston 24 travels is stepped up by a factor F such as 6 via the conversion unit 42, in the present embodiment designed as a conversion pulley. To obtain the conversion F, cord ends of the cords 30, 32, which are connected with the piston 24, are fastened to a cord pulley 152 having two grooves with a small diameter, e.g. with the diameter d=15 mm. The cord pulley 152 is designed in such a way that the two cords can be wound or unwound separately from one another in different paths or grooves 154, 156. Furthermore, the cord pulley 152 is fixedly connected with a second pulley 158 on which there are also two paths or grooves 160, 162 for the driving cords 88, 90. The diameter of the larger pulley is e.g. D=90 mm. The wound cords 88, 90 are fastened to the cleaning unit 18 which covers six times the path of the hydraulic piston in the embodiment. It is possible to let the cleaning unit 18 travel in both directions over the toilet seat 12 with the two cord ends on each roller. In this case, the cleaning takes place in such a way that the cleaning unit 18 in the first position (park position) is filled with a mixture of cleaning fluid and tap water after the water tank 14 has been emptied and moved by the drive unit over the toilet seat.

[0045] FIG. 8 shows a schematic design of a control unit for driving the cleaning unit 18. The essential elements relating to the drive cylinder 22 were already described in association with FIGS. 2 and 3. The drive unit 20 is connected via the pipe 56 with a valve 112 which is connected at the inlet side with a water supply system via a supply pipe 114. At the outlet end, the valve 112 has a pipe 116 which is designed to supply water for the container 100 situated in the cleaning unit 18. A further outlet 118 is used to fill the water tank 14.

[0046] Furthermore, to fill the container 100 integrated in the cleaning unit, a reservoir 120 is provided to accommodate a cleaning fluid, the reservoir being connected with the cleaning unit in the park position via a pipe pipe 122 and controlled by a valve 124.

[0047] The cleaning should take place in such a way that the cleaning unit 18 which is in the park position is filled with a mixture of cleaning fluid and tap water after the water tank 14 has been emptied and then moved over the toilet seat 12 by means of the drive unit 20. The filling capacity of the container 100 integrated in the cleaning unit 18 is sized such that it is used up after it has travelled over the toilet seat 12 once. As soon as the cleaning unit 18 has travelled over the entire toilet seat 18 [sic], the piston 24 moving in the drive cylinder and controlled by the valve 54 is acted upon by pressure in the opposite direction, as a result of which the cleaning unit travels back and the previously wetted surface 94 is dried with the rubber wiper 98. After the cleaning, the cleaning unit 18 is again in its park position and remains there until it is used again.

[0048] The valves 54, 62, 64, 112, 124 which are employed can be designed as electric nic switch units which are preferably provided with an energy supply, such as a solar cell or storage battery.

[0049] A preferred procedural sequence is shown in FIG. 10. In a first step 126, a flush knob is actuated. In a further step 128, the contents of the water tank are emptied into the toilet, whereby the water supply is switched on in a step 130 by means of a mechanism known per se.

[0050] According to the invention, the valve 112 and the valve 124 are first opened in a procedural step 132, so that water and cleaning fluid can flow into the container 100 integrated in the cleaning unit, the cleaning unit being filled in the procedural step 134.

[0051] After this process has been completed, the valve 124 is closed in a further step 136 and the valve 112 is switched over, so that the drive unit 20 is provided with water via the supply pipe 56. The valve 54 is thereby actuated in such a way that the cylinder 22 is supplied with water via the pipe 52. The outlet valve 62 is closed in this procedural step 136, the outlet valve 64 being opened so that the water contained in the cylinder 22 can flow out into the water tank 14.

[0052] The water flows into the cylinder 22 and moves the piston 24, so that the movement of the cleaning unit 18 is started in a step 138. In a subsequent step 140, namely when the piston 24 has reached its end position, the valve 54 is switched over, the valve 62 opened and the valve 64 closed, as a result of which the water flow through the pipe 50 moves the piston 24 in opposite direction, so that the return movement of the cleaning unit 18 is started in step 142. As soon as the cleaning unit 18 has reached its park position, the valve 112 is switched over in step 144, so that the flush tank is filled via the pipe 118 in step 146. Preferably, a signal lamp can be switched on in step 148. After the tank 14 has been filled, the water supply is automatically switched off in a last step 150.