Title:
Toilet rim block holder
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Methods and apparatus for dispensing a material such as a fragrance, a disinfectant, a coloring agent, or a cleaner into a toilet bowl are disclosed. In accordance with certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, a rim holder and material container are provided. The rim holder includes a vessel section that collects flush water after initiation of a flush cycle. After the volume within the vessel section reaches a a predetermined level, the material is mixed with the water and permitted to flow into the toilet bowl from a lower aperture. The present invention permits the material to be added alter in the flush cycle so that the material is no carried way with the initial flow, but instead remains in the bowl after the flush cycle is complete.



Inventors:
Troost, Erik Herman (Amsterdam, NL)
Application Number:
11/093425
Publication Date:
03/16/2006
Filing Date:
03/30/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D9/02; E03D9/03
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS & FRAGRANCES INC. (Union Beach, NJ, US)
Claims:
1. Apparatus for dispensing a material into a toilet bowl comprising: a rim holder having a hanger portion that engages the toilet bowl, a vessel section that captures and holds a volume of flush water, and a lower aperture that drains the vessel section; and a material container received by the vessel section comprising a material dispenser and a means for selectively admitting material into the vessel section, whereby material is admitted to the vessel section after a predetermined level of flush water fills the vessel section.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for selectively admitting material comprises a float within the vessel section connected to the material dispenser.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the material dispenser comprises a tubular member connected to the float, wherein the tubular member moves relative to the material container.

4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the float operates a valve connected to the material dispenser.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein the valve comprises a pivoting flap that covers an open end of the material dispenser.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the float is offset from the flap.

7. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the material dispenser comprises a tubular member connected to the float, wherein the tubular member is fixed relative to the material container.

8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the tubular member is comprised of open-celled foam.

9. The apparatus of claim 7, further comprising one or more longitudinal slits along the tubular member.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a dose container that holds a pre-determined volume of material.

11. A method of adding a material to a toilet bowl, comprising the steps of: positioning a rim holder within the toilet bowl; positioning a material container in fluid communication with the rim holder; diverting flush water entering the toilet bowl into a vessel section of the rim holder; filling the vessel section to a pre-determined level to selectively admit material from the material container into the vessel section; mixing the material with water in the vessel section; and flowing a solution of material and water into the toilet bowl via a lower aperture in the vessel section after an initial volume of flush water has exited the toilet bowl.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the step of mixing the material with water comprises the step of displacing a float to open an aperture between the material container and the vessel section.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the step of displacing a float further comprises the step of opening a valve.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein the step of displacing a float further comprises the step of compressing a tubular member.

15. The method of claim 11, wherein the step of selectively admitting material from the material container into the vessel section comprises admitting a pre-determined volume of material.

16. Apparatus for introducing material into a toilet bowl comprising: a rim holder; a vessel section comprising walls and a lower aperture open to the toilet bowl; a material container filled with a material; and a material dispenser connecting the vessel section and the material container, comprising an aperture and a valve wherein the valve selectively permits the material to flow through the aperture from the material container and into the vessel section, upon the initiation of a flush cycle which fills the vessel section to a predetermined level actuating the valve and causing the material to be dispensed into the vessel section.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the valve comprises a float.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the valve and the float are connected by a pivot arm.

19. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the valve comprises a deformable tubular member.

20. The apparatus of claim 16, further comprising a dose container that holds a pre-determined volume of the material.

Description:

STATUS OF RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/379,174 filed on Mar. 4, 2003, now pending, the contents of which are incorporated by reference as if set forth in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to methods and apparatus for packaging, and more particularly to packaging for products used to disinfect, deodorize, add color and/or add fragrance to toilet bowls.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Both commercial and residential toilets often use treated water for several purposes. The water is treated to provide disinfectant, anti-bacterial, anti-odor and other useful properties that make the toilet “self-cleaning” to the extent that situations such as the proliferation of mold, slime, calcium or lime deposits and iron oxide stains are diminished, and so that the bowl is as clean as possible after each use from the turbulent action of the flush cycle alone. Additionally, the water is often treated to add color and fragrance, both of which improve the aesthetics of the toilet and the room. A fragrance is any molecule that diffuses via vaporization into the atmosphere (under local conditions of temperature and pressure) and subsequently activates a specific receptor in the nasal cavity. The fragrance may either mask an unpleasant odor or may simply be an environmental improvement.

Toilet water treatment systems fall into two broad categories, i.e., those that treat the water in the tank, and those that treat the water in the bowl. Systems operating within the tank range from solid “drop in” tablets to more elaborate systems such as that shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,192,524—Black, which discloses a system that is affixed to the overflow drain tube found in toilet tanks. However, commercial toilets and many newer residential toilets are either tankless or have a significantly reduced tank volume. Therefore, a system that is attached to the toilet bowl itself is ultimately of wider applicability.

Systems attaching a simple fragrance-containing solid to the bowl rim are well known in the art, as are more elaborate systems that dispense liquids into the water. For example, both U.S. Design Pat. No. D466,583—Heijdenrijk and U.S. Pat. No. 6,434,758—Camp, et al. disclose rim mounted systems. Both these patents are assigned to Sara Lee Household and Body Care, a company that manufactures and sells the Ambi-Pur™ line of devices to treat the water in toilet bowls. The systems disclosed in the Sara Lee patents have a holder with a flexible section for suspending the unit from the toilet bowl rim and a reservoir that holds an active substance such as cleansing and air freshening liquids. These liquids are introduced to a porous section that lies in the path of the flushing water, i.e., underneath the rim and along the interior bowl surface. The porous mass is in constant communication with the active substance such that when the unit in place, a discharge opening discharges active substance on to the porous mass. The active substance is later washed into the water when the toilet flushes. The problem with such systems, however, is that as with a solid “cake” hanging under the bowl rim, the active substance is constantly being eroded and dissipated. Moreover, upon flushing, the initial volume of flush water carries the highest concentration of active substance out of the bowl entirely, leading to waste and ineffective results.

Thus, none of these prior art systems addresses the problems outlined above. There remains therefore a long-felt yet unmet need for providing a simple device mounted to the toilet bowl rim that will effectively and reliably introduce an active substance at a later point in the flush cycle so that the highest concentration of active substance is not carried away with the initial volume of flush water. It would further be desirable to provide such improvements in a manner applicable across a wide variety of packaging designs, and combinations of active substances and the forms of the active substances (solid, liquid, gel, etc.) in a cost-effective manner.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

These shortcomings of the prior art are remedied, however by an apparatus for introducing material into a toilet bowl that has a rim holder positioned within the toilet bowl and a material container filled with a material along with a material dispenser connecting the rim holder and a vessel section of the material container, such that the vessel section comprises walls and a lower aperture open to the toilet bowl. In operation, upon initiation of a flush cycle, this apparatus fills the vessel section to a predetermined level causing the material to be dispensed into the vessel section. There is a wick, valve or other structure that permits material to be admitted to the vessel section when a predetermined volume of flush water is collected. In certain preferred embodiments, the rim holder and vessel section are integral, and in certain embodiments, the rim holder further comprises a hanger. The apparatus is preferably molded from a plastic material and the material preferably comprises at least one liquid component. The material is at least one material selected from the group comprising a fragrance, a disinfectant, a coloring agent, and a cleaner. In preferred embodiments, a float is provided that controls a valve so that the rising level of liquid in the vessel section causes the material from the material container to be released. The float can be connected to a valve, or alternatively to a resilient member that is deformed to create an opening. In still another embodiment, the float itself acts as a valve or stopper and admits material into the vessel section when the liquid level rises to a predetermined level.

The present invention also discloses methods of adding a material to a toilet bowl by positioning a rim holder within the toilet bowl, positioning a material container in fluid communication with the rim holder, and then diverting a portion of flush water entering the toilet bowl into a vessel section. Material is mixed with the water in the vessel section and a mixture including the material flows into the toilet bowl via a lower aperture in the vessel section after an initial volume of flush water has exited the toilet bowl. Preferably, the mixing takes place when a predetermined level within the vessel section is reached, and the flow through the lower aperture is metered so that substantially all the liquid within the vessel section is dispensed into the bowl after a flush cycle is substantially competed. In preferred embodiments, the material added is at least one material selected from the group comprising a fragrance, a disinfectant, a coloring agent, and a cleaner.

The present invention therefore discloses, in preferred embodiments, apparatus for dispensing a material into a toilet bowl that has a rim holder with a hanger portion that engages the toilet bowl, a vessel section that holds a volume of flush water, a lower aperture that drains the vessel section; and a material container received by the vessel section, whereby material is admitted to the vessel section after a predetermined level of flush water fills the vessel section. Most preferably, the rim holder and the material container are molded from plastic and the material is at least one material selected from the group comprising a fragrance, a disinfectant, a coloring agent, and a cleaner.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment 100 of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the assembly illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of an apparatus made in accordance with the present invention taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1 and shown affixed to a toilet bowl;

FIG. 4, is a view similar to that of FIG. 3, showing the invention in use at a later stage in the flush cycle;

FIGS. 5-7 are a sequence of front elevation views illustrating the operation of one preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 8-10 are a sequence of front elevation views illustrating the operation of another preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 11-13 are a sequence of front elevation views illustrating the operation of still another preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 14 is a side elevation, in cross-section, of a broken away, enlarged view of the seal component shown in FIGS. 11-13.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is implemented in several preferred embodiments, which are discussed below as illustrative examples. This description is provided for purposes of understanding of the invention and is not meant to be limiting.

Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown a perspective view of a preferred embodiment 100 of the present invention in which a material container 110 is inserted into a rim holder 120. Further details of this embodiment can be seen with reference to FIG. 2, which is an exploded perspective view of the assembly illustrated in FIG. 1. As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, in certain embodiments the entire assembly 100 will be sold as a disposable assembly, while in other embodiments, the material container 110 will be sold independently for replacement in an existing rim holder 120. As will be further understood by those of skill in the art, the rim holder 120 may be made of any of a number of materials, primarily molded polymers, however, alternative materials include metals, fiber composite materials and ceramics. Similarly, the material container 110 may be formed from a molded polymer, glass or ceramic or other material. The choice will take into consideration the nature of the liquid being held inside and chosen so as to minimize degradation of the nature of the liquid, e.g., the preservation of fragrance strength, cleansing and disinfectant power, and color stability.

The material container 110 provides a housing for at least one material (“M”) that is to be admitted to the water that is to remain in a toilet bowl. The material may be a cleaner, a disinfectant, a fragrance or a colorant, or any combination of such materials, all of which are well known, either alone or in various combinations. Additionally, the material may be provided in solid, gel, particle, liquid or any combination of forms so long as the material in the material housing 110 is water-soluble. It should be noted that although the discussions herein relate to toilets that use water, it should be understood that the concepts of the present invention have equal applicability to “chemical” toilets that use a medium other than water. When flushed, such embodiments will provide the same mechanism of action as described below, except that the toilet bowl is not filled with water, and the material “M” will be soluble in whatever chemical flushing agent the toilet uses

An elevation cross-sectional view of an apparatus made in accordance with the present invention affixed to a toilet bowl is shown in FIG. 3. As illustrated, a hanger portion 122 of the rim holder 120 extends over and engages the rim of the toilet bowl 50 in a manner known in the art. As mentioned above, the material chosen for the hanger portion will provide sufficient strength, flexibility and resilience to accommodate this function. The geometry of the hanger 122 is chosen so that the assembly 100 is disposed below the top of the rim 52, and partially underneath the lower edge of the rim 54, as illustrated. Also shown in FIG. 3 is an approximation of the water flow in a flushed toilet, shown by the arrows. Upon flushing, water flows from the lower edge of the rim 54, and due to the construction of the rim holder 120, a portion of this flow is captured in the vessel section 124 of the rim holder 120.

Referring how to FIG. 4, there is illustrated a view similar to that of FIG. 3, the primary difference being that the water flow from the flushing action of the toilet has substantially filled the vessel section 124. In other words, the view of FIG. 4 is at a later time in the flushing cycle than the view shown in FIG. 3. At this point, the water level “L” has risen so that material “M” held in the material container 110 is now mixed with the water in the vessel section 124, and this mixture is released into the toilet bowl from a lower aperture 126, as shown by the arrow in FIG. 4. In a preferred embodiment, the size and structure of the vessel section will be designed to create a mixture of material and fresh water that is sufficient for the intended purpose, whether cleansing, fragrance, deodorizing, disinfecting, color, or any combination of these functions.

Also shown in FIG. 4 is the material dispenser 128, which causes the material “M” to be mixed with the water in the vessel section 124. The material dispenser 128 can be a simple wick or tube, a section of permeable material, such as a sponge or foam, in such embodiments, when the water captured in the vessel section 124 rises to a predetermined level, the material “M” is in contact with the water and fills the vessel section with a solution of water and the material. Alternatively, in certain preferred embodiments the material dispenser 128is a somewhat more complex mechanism, e.g., a valve with a float actuation such that the valve opens when the level within the vessel section 124 rises to a sufficient level. The material dispenser 128 may be part of the material container 110, part of the rim holder 120, or a separate component that cooperates with of the main components. In any embodiment, the function required is that the material M is admitted into and mixed with the water only upon a sufficient level “L” in the vessel section 124, that in turn correlates to a predetermined time into the flush cycle. As a result, as explained above, since the aperture 126 is designed to permit liquid to escape at a slower rate than it is admitted, the filled vessel section 124 will continue to be drained after the flush cycle is complete, and as a result, the solution of water and material M will be introduced into the bowl at a higher concentration with substantially less waste and greater effectiveness than found in prior art designs.

Referring now to FIGS. 5-7, there is illustrated a front elevation view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, as discussed above, a hanger portion 122 extends from a rim bolder 120, which also have a vessel section 124. Disposed above the vessel section 124 is a material container 110 and connecting the two is a material dispenser 128. As discussed above, in certain preferred embodiments, the material dispenser 128 is a valve, and as illustrated in FIGS. 5-7, the valve used to selectively admit the material “M” from the material container 110 to the vessel section 124 is a simple flap valve 228 that opens and closes as the level of liquid in the vessel section 124 rises and falls. As seen in FIG. 5, the material dispenser 128 includes a valve 228 that is comprised of an arm 226 that opens and closes a dose container 227. At the opposite end of the arm 226 is a float 230. In FIG. 5, the flush cycle has not yet been initiated and the vessel section 124 is empty. The material dispenser 128 is filled with a pre-determined amount of material “M” that has been admitted to the dose container 227 via gravity flow through an aperture connecting the two vessels. Referring now to FIG. 6 and as described above with reference to FIGS. 1-4, upon initiation of a flush cycle the vessel section 124 fills with flush water and this rising fluid level causes the float 230 to move upwardly and pivot the arm 226, which has the effect of opening the dose container 227. As illustrated in FIG. 6, this condition permits the contents of does container to be admitted into the volume of flush water that has been collected in the vessel section 124. As described above, the mixture of flush water and material “M” is now admitted to the fresh water in the toilet bowl, and as a result the level of liquid within the vessel section 124 begins to drop, as illustrated in FIG. 7. The dropping of the liquid level causes the float 230 to drop and thereby re-seal the dose container 227. As seen in FIG. 7, the device begins to re-set itself by material “M” beginning to drip into the dose container 227, which will fill and reach equilibrium, awaiting another discharge. As will be readily understood by those of skill in the art, the structural members illustrated in FIGS. 5-7 can be replaced by other structures that carry out a similar function, for example, the pivoting structure can be replaced by a float 230 that moves vertically and removed or releases a cover over the dose container 227.

Another embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 8-10. Using a similar numbering system to describe this embodiment, a float 230 is again employed, but instead of moving or displacing a valve, the float 230 is used to physically open the dose container 227. In this embodiment, the dose container 227 is comprised of a hollow structure that is made of a flexible material and most preferably slit longitudinally, as seen in the detailed view of FIG. 8. The float 230 is attached to the dose container 227, preferably near the distal end, i.e., the end farthest displaced from the material container 110. As explained above, the dose container is filled with material “M” by a gravity drip from the material container 110. In certain preferred embodiments, the dose container 110 will be made from a flexible tube made from silicone or a similar flexible and resilient material, while in other embodiments, the dose container 227 will be made from a foam material, such as an open celled foam, that will become saturated with the material “M.” In operation, flush water will fill the vessel section 124 and, as seen in FIG. 9, the liquid level in the vessel section rises, displacing the float 230, which in turn causes the dose container 227 to be deformed so that it becomes deformed and releases the material it contains. As illustrated, if the dose container 227 has a slit the slit deforms into an opening. Alternatively, the if the dose container is made of foam, in certain embodiments a slit will not be necessary and the urging of the float against the material container 227, which is fixed relative to the vessel section, will compress the foam and squeeze the material “M” from the pores or cells of the foam. Preferably, the material container 227 is made of foam and slit, as illustrated, and thus takes advantage of both the deformation and the squeezing action caused by the upward motion of the float 227. In a manner similar to the embodiments discussed above, once the material “M” is released, it mixes with the flush water in the vessel section 124 and is discharged into the toilet bowl. As the liquid level drops, illustrated in FIG. 10, the dose container 227 returns to its original position and in the embodiment illustrated, the slit re-seals itself so that the dose container may again receive a quantity of material “M” so it is ready for another cycle.

FIGS. 11-14 illustrate another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the float 230 and the valve 226 described above are preferably a single seal component 330 that provides a sealing and releasing function and thus selectively admit material into the vessel section. As seen in FIG. 11 the seal component 330 is disposed in an aperture that connects the material container 110 and the vessel section 124. As explained in further detail below, the seal component 330 has a flange that seals the material container so that no material “M” flows or is introduced into the vessel section 124. As illustrated in FIG. 11, the forces of gravity and the weight of the material “M” together provide a downward pressure between flush cycles. Upon initiation of a flush cycle, the liquid level within the vessel section 124 begins to rise and, as seen by comparing FIGS. 12 and 13, when the level in the vessel section 124 reaches a pre-determined point, the float function of the seal component 330 will be initiated and it will be displaced upwardly, breaking the seal and permitting a flow of material “M” into the vessel section 124. Unlike the other embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 5-10, in this embodiment, the volume of material “M” is not a pre-determined “dose.” Instead, by selecting the diameter of the seal component 330 and the rate of discharge from the vessel section 124, an efficient use of the material “M” is obtained. As the mixture or solution of the material “M” and the flush water is discharged, the seal component drops back into its original position, again sealing the material container 110 and effectively halting the discharge of the material “M.”

Further detail of the seal component 330 are illustrated in FIG. 14, which is a cross-sectional elevation view of the seal component 330 in the sealed position, as seen in FIGS. 11-12. The seal component 330 has an upper flange 331 that rests within a corresponding sealing groove 332 that is formed in the bottom surface of the material container 110. The seal component 330 also has a main body 333 that is of a smaller diameter than the aperture “A” in the material container, so that when the seal component 330 rises, the material “M” can flow between the edges of the aperture “A” and the main body 333 as seen in FIG. 13. Preferably, but not necessarily, the seal component 330 also has a lower flange 334 that serves to both enhance the float function of the device and as a “stop” so that if the vessel section 124 is over-filled, the seal component 330 will not be pushed up into the material container 110.

In accordance with the present invention, the device 100 described above enables a material, for one example a fragrance liquid, to be dispensed into a toilet bowl 50 both during and after the flushing cycle. In this aspect the present invention provides a significant improvement over the prior art in that previously treated liquid was flushed away since it was created either before or during the flush cycle, in some instances resulting in the majority of the liquid being flushed out of the bowl. On the other hand, a device made in accordance with the present invention will provide a system wherein the material, whether a cleaner, disinfectant, colorant, fragrance, etc. remains substantially in the water remaining in the toilet bowl after the flush cycle has ended.

Upon review of the foregoing, numerous adaptations, modifications, and alterations will occur to the reviewer. These will all be, however, within the spirit of the present invention. Accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims in order to ascertain the true scope of the present invention.