Title:
Bathtub wall liner
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A liner is disclosed for cushioning and protecting a bather from harmful contact with the walls of a bathtub while bathing. The liner can be used for bathing infants, children, elderly or physically disabled individuals. The liner typically includes chambers that reversibly adhere to the walls of the bathtub. The chambers can be filled with air, water, or a soft padding material. When the chambers are not inflated or otherwise filled, the liner is able to be folded into a compact condition for ease of storage and for travel. The liner can include at least one rim chamber to allow one to lean their elbows on the rim of the bathtub while bathing the bather, a faucet chamber for covering the water faucet system of the bathtub to protect the bather from a fall towards the faucet, or an arch that rises over the bathtub that can keep a child occupied while bathing.



Inventors:
Kranson, Sara Elizabeth (Loveland, OH, US)
Kranson, Bradley David (Loveland, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/210133
Publication Date:
04/13/2006
Filing Date:
08/23/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hasse & Nesbitt LLC (CINCINNATI, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A bathtub wall liner for cushioning the vertical interior walls of a bathtub, comprising: a plurality of interconnected chambers; and an attachment means adapted to detachably adhere the liner to the vertical interior walls of the tub, the chambers adapted to circumferentially line the vertical interior walls of the bathtub, each chamber including an interior portion and an exterior portion, each exterior portion including a front surface and a back surface, each interior portion including a right end and a left end, the left end of one chamber sharing a connection with the right end of another chamber.

2. The liner of claim 1, further comprising a fill port for adding a fluid to and removing the fluid from the interior portion of at least one chamber, wherein the interior portion of each chamber is inflatable and deflatable with the fluid, each of the connections between the chambers including at least one passage port for allowing communication of the fluid from one interior portion to another interior portion during inflation and deflation, thereby allowing inflation of the entire liner with the fluid via the fill port.

3. The liner of claim 1, wherein the interior portion of each chamber comprises a soft padding material selected from the group consisting of Styrofoam, cloth padding, foam, and an elastomeric gel.

4. The liner of claim 1, wherein the attachment means is at least one suction cup located on the back surface of at least one of the chambers.

5. The liner of claim 1, wherein the plurality of interconnected chambers comprises a first chamber, a plurality of intervening chambers, and a last chamber, and wherein the left end of the last chamber and the right end of the first chamber have no connection.

6. The liner of claim 5, further including an insert of additional interconnected chambers adapted to attach to one of the first or the last chamber to elongate the liner.

7. The liner of claim 1, further comprising at least one faucet chamber adapted to cover the faucet system of the bathtub when the liner is removably installed therein.

8. The liner of claim 1, further comprising at least one rim chamber adapted to cover at least a portion of the rim of the bathtub when the liner is removably installed therein.

9. The liner of claim 8, comprising a plurality of rim chambers adapted to cover the rim of the tub.

10. The liner of claim 1, further comprising at least one arch extending upwardly from and attached to the upper ends of two chambers which are situated on opposing walls of the bathtub when the liner is removably installed therein.

11. The liner of claim 1, wherein the exterior portions of the chambers have properties that allow for ease of cleaning, puncture and tear resistance, and resistance to mold and microbes.

12. The liner of claim 1, further comprising additional small pieces that can be placed on each chamber by the user, the additional small pieces configured to attach to the front sides of the chambers via an attachment means.

13. The liner of claim 1, wherein at least one of the chambers includes on the front side thereof an item selected from the group consisting of a non-breakable mirror, a picture of an animal, a picture of a cartoon character, a picture of a ball, a picture of a toy, a letter of the alphabet, the alphabet, a monogram, and hooks for hanging balls, toys and pictures.

14. The liner of claim 1, wherein the front surface of at least one chamber is made of a material that allows the surface to be used as a painting palette for non-toxic bath paints.

15. A method for cushioning the vertical interior walls of a bathtub, comprising: (1) providing a bathtub wall liner including a plurality of interconnected chambers and an attachment means adapted to detachably adhere the liner to the vertical interior walls of the tub, the chambers adapted to circumferentially line the vertical interior walls of the bathtub, each chamber including an interior portion and an exterior portion, each exterior portion including a front surface and a back surface, each interior portion including a right end and a left end, the left end of one chamber sharing a connection with the right end of another chamber; (2) placing the wall liner inside the bathtub; (3) conforming the chambers of the wall liner along the vertical interior walls of the bathtub; and (4) detachably adhering the wall liner to the vertical interior walls of the bathtub.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the attachment means of the liner is at least one suction cup located on the back surface of at least one of the chambers.

17. The method of claim 15, further comprising folding the liner into a compact form after use.

18. A kit comprising directions for installing a bathtub wall liner, the directions including the method of claim 15.

19. A bathtub wall liner for cushioning the vertical interior walls of a bathtub, comprising: a first chamber; a plurality of intervening chambers; and a last chamber, the chambers adapted to circumferentially line the vertical interior walls of the bathtub, each chamber including an interior portion and an exterior portion, each exterior portion including a front surface and a back surface, each interior portion including a left end and a right end, the left end of each chamber having a connection with the right end of another chamber, with the exception that the left end of the last chamber and the right end of the first chamber form an exterior end to the liner and have no connection, the liner adapted to be removably installed by detachably adhering to the vertical interior walls of the tub.

20. The liner of claim 19, further including a fill port for adding a fluid to and removing the fluid from the interior portion of at least one chamber, wherein the interior portion of each chamber is inflatable and deflatable with the fluid, each of the connections between the chambers including at least one passage port for allowing communication of the fluid from one interior portion to another interior portion during inflation and deflation, thereby allowing inflation of the entire liner with the fluid via the fill port.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/616,814, filed on Oct. 7, 2004.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to bathing devices and, more particularly, to a bathtub wall liner which is used to chamber the interior vertical walls of a bathtub.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Bathtubs have hard surfaces and become slippery when wet. The interior surfaces of the tubs acquire a layer of residue comprised of dirt, soap and water impurities which can become quite slippery without repeated cleaning of the tubs.

Bathtub liners have been known for some time. Generally, such liners are designed to provide comfort, as well as safety. To prevent injury, liners have been used to both provide better traction and to chamber the blow from falling. In general, these liners involve protective padding on the sides and bottom of the bathtub to prevent injuries from accidental falls. U.S. Pat. No. 6,453,485 to Bullock discloses a padded mat device that can be filled with either air or some padding material for protecting the user from harmful contact with an end of a bathtub. U.S. Pat. No. 6,336,231 to Smith and U.S. Pat. No. 5,839,132 to Rooney both disclose inflatable liners for bathtubs to be used with infants, the elderly or the physically disabled which include side walls and a floor to form a chamber for the user. U.S. Pat. No. 3,931,652 to Navarra teaches an inflatable liner for a standard kitchen sink to be used in bathing an infant, which includes a bottom, sides, and ends formed from contiguous inflatable ribs that provide a chambering effect.

While these prior art liners may be useful for their intended purposes, there still exists a need for a portable bathtub liner for bathing infants or small children who may stand or flop around in the bathtub and are at risk of slipping and falling, causing them to hit their head on a wall of the tub. Likewise, it would be advantageous to provide a bathtub wall liner for an elderly or disabled person with a tendency to slip or slide and hit their head on the bathtub wall. It would also be advantageous to provide a bathtub liner that is easily collapsible for storage and transport. These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent with reference to the accompanying specification and claims.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a portable bathtub liner that can protect the user, such as a standing or squirming child or a sitting elderly or physically disabled person, against injuries from falls in the bathtub.

A first aspect of the invention relates to a bathtub wall liner for cushioning the vertical interior walls of a bathtub, comprising a plurality of interconnected chambers and an attachment means adapted to detachably adhere the liner to the vertical interior walls of the tub, the chambers adapted to circumferentially line the vertical interior walls of the bathtub, each chamber including an interior portion and an exterior portion, each exterior portion including a front surface and a back surface, each interior portion including a right end and a left end, the left end of one chamber sharing a connection with the right end of another chamber.

The wall liner typically includes a plurality of inflatable chambers which are in communication with each other, and can be firmly secured to the walls of the bathtub via suction devices which detachably adhere thereto. In one embodiment of the invention the interior portion of each chamber is inflatable and deflatable, and the connections include air passage ports for allowing communication of air from one interior portion to another interior portion during inflation and deflation. This embodiment also includes a fill port for adding a fluid such as air or water to, and removing air or water from, the interior portions of the chambers. In yet another embodiment, the interior portion of each chamber can be permanently filled with a soft padding material, including but not limited to Styrofoam, cloth padding, foam or an elastomeric gel.

A second aspect of the invention relates to a method for cushioning the vertical interior walls of a bathtub, comprising (1) providing a bathtub wall liner including a plurality of interconnected chambers and an attachment means adapted to detachably adhere the liner to the vertical interior walls of the tub, the chambers adapted to circumferentially line the vertical interior walls of the bathtub, each chamber including an interior portion and an exterior portion, each exterior portion including a front surface and a back surface, each interior portion including a right end and a left end, the left end of one chamber sharing a connection with the right end of another chamber; (2) placing the wall liner inside the bathtub; (3) conforming the chambers of the wall liner along the vertical interior walls of the bathtub; and (4) detachably adhering the wall liner to the vertical interior walls of the bathtub.

A third aspect of the invention relates to a bathtub wall liner which provides a cushion for the inner vertical walls of a conventional bathtub, comprising a first chamber, a plurality of intervening chambers, and a last chamber, the chambers adapted to circumferentially line the vertical interior walls of the bathtub, each chamber including an interior portion and an exterior portion, each exterior portion including a front surface and a back surface, each interior portion including a left end and a right end, the left end of each chamber having a connection with the right end of another chamber, with the exception that the left end of the last chamber and the right end of the first chamber form an exterior end to the liner and have no connection, the liner adapted to be removably installed by detachably adhering to the vertical interior walls of the tub.

The nature and advantages of the present invention will be more fully appreciated after reviewing the following drawings and detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with a general description of the invention given above, and the detailed description given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a bathtub liner of the present invention as it appears before installation into a bathtub.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a chamber of the bathtub liner of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a bathtub liner of the present invention as it appears when installed within a conventional bathtub.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a bathtub liner of the invention, in which there is an arch, a faucet chamber, and a rim chamber included.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of one embodiment of a bathtub liner 10 of the present invention as it appears before installation into a bathtub. The liner 10 is made up of a plurality of vertical cushions or chambers, including a first chamber 12, a plurality of intervening chambers 13, and a last chamber 14. In FIG. 1 a penultimate chamber 15 is also shown, which will be described in more detail below. A fill port 16 allows for inflation of the liner 10 with air prior to use and for deflation after use. Alternatively, the liner 10 can be filled with water through the fill port 16 and then later emptied therethrough.

The construction of the fill port 16 can be that of any valve or nozzle known in the art for inflation/deflation with air, or for filling/emptying with water. Further, the location of the fill port 16 is not limited to any particular chamber, such that it can be located on any of the chambers. The fill port is also not limited to a particular location on a chamber. For example, although the fill port 16 is depicted in FIG. 1 on an upper end of an intervening chamber 13, the fill port can be placed on any outer surface or end of a chamber, so long as a user can access it for use. Typically the fill port can be tucked or pushed into the chamber after the liner is filled, as is well known in the art, so that it does not protrude from the surface of the chamber. In alternative embodiments of the invention in which the liner chambers are permanently filled with a padding material, the fill port is not needed. Such soft padding material includes, as a non-limiting example, Styrofoam, cloth padding, foam or an elastomeric gel.

FIG. 2 illustrates a single intervening chamber 13 of FIG. 1 in a three-dimensional outline. Each chamber 13 (also chambers 12, 14, and 15, not shown) has an interior portion and an exterior portion as well as an upper end 20, a lower end 22, a right end 24, a left end 26, a front surface 28 and a back surface 30. However, the interior portion of each chamber typically shares right and left ends 24, 26 with a neighboring chamber, to which it is connected. Each shared wall or end 24, 26 of a chamber includes at least one passage port 32 therein.

In one embodiment, shared ends 24, 26 of the chambers are a singular inner wall between chambers, the wall including the passage ports 32. Also, the shared inner wall connects the front surface 28 and the back surface 30 of the chambers, thus creating an outer seam between chambers which allows the liner to bend around corners and thus more easily fit within the bathtub. The purpose of the passage ports 32 is to allow passage of air or water during inflation/deflation or filling/emptying from one chamber to another. This manner of interconnecting neighboring chambers via a shared wall and at least one passage port allows all chambers of the bathtub liner to be inflated from a single point, such as fill port 16, thus eliminating the need for multiple inflation points.

As non-limiting examples, typical measurements for each chamber are as follows: when inflated the three-dimensional width of the liner is between about one inch to about 4 inches, and typically about 2 inches; the vertical height is between about 5 inches to about 16 inches, but can be made taller to fit larger bathtubs; the horizontal length of each chamber is typically between about 2 inches to about 8 inches; and the overall length of the liner is between about 80 inches to about 180 inches, and typically about 130 inches, but can be made longer to fit larger bathtubs. Further, it is contemplated that an insert including additional chambers can be made available to attach to the liner of the present invention to elongate the liner for larger tubs, or to shorten the liner for smaller tubs. As a non-limiting example, such an insert could connect to the end of the first or last chamber via a hook and loop fastener such as a Velcro® strip or other attachment means.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a perspective view of one embodiment of the liner of the present invention is illustrated showing the chambers 12, 13, 14 of the bathtub wall liner positioned circumferentially around the inside walls of a conventional bathtub 34. Fill port 16 can be seen protruding from the liner near the back right corner of the bathtub 34. The first chamber 12 is shown next to a conventional faucet system 36, and last chamber 14 (in this embodiment shown to be shorter than the other chambers) is located beneath the conventional faucet system 36. The left end of each intervening chamber shares a common wall with the right end of another chamber, and the common wall includes a passage port 32 and seam 26, with the notable exception that the left end of the last chamber 14 has no connection, and the right end of the first chamber 12 has no connection. In the embodiment illustrated the first chamber 12 and the last chamber 14 do not share a common wall or a passage port, as described in more detail above; however they are able to be fitted within the bathtub in close approximation with one another. Further, these ends can each have a suction cup on their back surface to allow them to be stuck close together on the wall of the tub, or alternatively they can be connectable via a hook and loop fastener such as a Velcro® strip or other attachment means.

As can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 3, the vertical height of the last chamber 14 can be manufactured to be shorter than the other chambers 12, 13, 15. In use, this shortened last chamber 14 forms a “cut out” area beneath a conventional faucet system 36 to allow access thereto. Such a faucet system 36 may comprise a faucet, hot and cold water spigots, conventional bathtub drain actuator, shower controls, temperature controls and the like. Typically the cut out area provides complete and unrestricted access to the conventional faucet system 36. In other embodiments (not shown), both the first chamber 12 and the last chamber 14 can be short, forming the cut out area, or even the first few chambers on each end of the liner can be short, especially if the horizontal length of each chamber is small. In yet another embodiment (not shown), for tubs in which the faucet system is located above the bathtub rim, all of the chambers can be of the same vertical height, typically the height of a conventional bathtub wall, since there is no longer a need for a cutout area.

The liner 10 is removably installable into the bathtub 34 by detachably adhering to the vertical interior walls of the bathtub 34, typically via suction cups which are well-known in the art (not shown) located on the back surfaces 30 of the chambers. At least one and typically a plurality of the chambers have suction cups that will stick to the walls of the bathtub to secure it within the tub. The suction cups are typically molded into the back surface 30 of the chamber and also placed in the center of the back surface. Typically, suction cups are positioned at regular intervals along the liner to allow uniform attachment to the bathtub wall. As a non-limiting example, in a liner having twenty chambers each of which are about six inches wide, there can be suction cups placed every third chamber. Alternatively, in a liner having a large number of narrow chambers, for example 80 chambers each of which are only two inches wide, the suction cups can be placed every ten chambers, however the invention is not intended to be limited to such dimensions. If the liner includes a “cut out” area, the chamber(s) forming the cut out area typically include a suction cup.

In another embodiment of the bathtub liner, shown in FIG. 4, a faucet chamber 40 effectively covers the faucet system 36 and protects the bather from harm should they fall towards the faucet system 36. In this embodiment, the faucet chamber 40 attaches to the last chamber 14, and also attaches to both the first chamber 12 and a second-to-last or penultimate chamber 15, which are located on either side of the last chamber 14. In the embodiment illustrated, the right end of the faucet chamber 40 shares a wall including a passage port and a seam with the left end of the penultimate chamber 15. A fastener means 41 such as a hook and loop, a Velcro® attachment, or other attachment means is located between the bottom end of the faucet chamber 40 and the upper end of the last chamber 14, and also between the left end of the faucet chamber 40 and the right end of the first chamber 12. Alternatively, the faucet chamber 40 can be completely attachable and removable from the liner 10 via a fastener attachment with the first, last and penultimate chambers 12, 14, and 15. As another alternative, where the faucet system is located above the rim of the tub, such that an embodiment of the invention uses a last chamber that is the same vertical height as the other chambers, the faucet chamber may attach only to the last chamber and then have an attachment means to attach to the faucet itself. Alternatively, in this embodiment, the faucet chamber may not be needed at all.

FIG. 4 also shows horizontal rim chambers 42 extending outwardly from the upper end of some of the vertical intervening chambers 13 to provide a cushioned cover for the bathtub end or rim 44. The rim chambers 42 allow a parent or health care worker to bathe a child or other person while leaning their elbows on the bathtub rim 44. The rim chamber 42 can also detachably adhere to the rim of the bathtub 44 via a suction cup (not shown) or other means to keep the rim chamber 42 secured thereto. In the embodiment illustrated, the rim chambers 42 only extend partially across the length of one side of the tub. However in other embodiments the rim chambers can extend the entire length of the side of the tub, or completely around the tub, so that more than one person can lean in and bathe the child or person in the tub.

FIG. 4 also illustrates an arch 46 extending upwardly from the upper ends of two intervening chambers 13 which are situated on opposing walls of the bathtub 34. The arch 46 can include pictures or objects attached or permanently adhered thereto. As a non-limiting example, the arch 46 can include a non-breakable mirror or mirrors for a child or adult to view themselves, characters such as animals or cartoon characters, the alphabet or a monogram of the owner or user, objects such as balls and toys, or hooks for hanging such pictures or objects. Generally these pictures and objects are intended to make the liner more child-friendly. The arch 46 can be inflatable with air, and it can have connections, including shared walls with a passage ports and seam, with the chambers. Obviously, if passage ports are used to connect the arch to the liner, the user would only fill the liner with air and not water since the arch could not accommodate being filled with water and still be able to maintain its arch shape. Alternatively, the arch can be removable from the chambers, for example via a hook and loop fastener such as a Velcro® strip or other attachment means.

The liner of the present invention typically has no chambers or member that covers the bottom surface of the conventional bathtub, making the liner lighter in weight, less bulky and easier to fold and store away, as compared to prior art liners. Typically the liner and/or its chambers are manufactured from a lightweight, flexible, vinyl product with properties that allow for ease of cleaning, puncture and tear resistance, water resistance, resistance to cleaning compounds and the like. As a non-limiting example, the liner can be constructed of polyvinyl chloride or other suitable plastic material that is easily filled with air or water and will not leak, and is between about 0.005 inches to about 0.02 inches thick. It is clearly seen by those familiar in the art that while a plastic vinyl compound will meet these characteristics, other materials, readily available today, and those yet to be described, will also meet these characteristics. The construction material making up the arch 46 and the rim chambers 42 is typically identical to that of the other chambers, but it does not have to be.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, each chamber can have a unique design, shape or pattern rather than the rectangular shape of each chamber depicted in the Figures, so long as neighboring chambers share an inner wall at their right and left ends. As a non-limiting example, one chamber can be in the shape of a star, another chamber can be in the shape of a circle, another can be in the shape of a square, and so on. In another embodiment, letters, numbers, animals, sports equipment, etc. can be in the form of additional small pieces that can attach to the surface of the chambers via an attachment means such as a hook and loop fastener such as a Velcro® strip or other fastening device. Also, the chambers can include pictures or objects on the front sides to make the liner more child-friendly. As a non-limiting example, a chamber or chambers can include a non-breakable mirror or mirrors for a child or adult to view themselves, characters such as animals or cartoon characters, the alphabet or a monogram of the owner or user, objects such as balls and toys, or hooks for hanging such pictures or objects. Still further, the chambers can each be made of a material that allows the front surface of the chamber to be used as a painting palette for children, such that children can use non-toxic bath paints to draw pictures, letters, numbers, etc. on the surface of the chambers.

The bathtub wall liner of the present invention provides one or more of the following advantages. It can protect small children who commonly stand or flop around while in the bathtub from harmful injury should they slip and fall in the tub. Also, it can protect an adult bather from injury, such as the elderly or a physically disabled person, should their seating slip during bathing. The liner, due to its light weight and flexibility, is able to be quickly installed and removed from the tub, and is easily deflated, folded and stored, making it ideal for use at home or while traveling. The liner can be made of a light-weight, durable material that can be re-used, or it can be made of a disposable material more adapted to one-time use. It may also be made of a washable material.

While the present invention has been illustrated by the description of embodiments thereof, and while the embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not intended to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departing from the scope Or spirit of the invention.