Title:
Flush valve cleaner dispenser system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toilet cleaner dispenser system is centered above an overflow tube and configured to deliver cleanser solution directly to the overflow tube without a hose. A disposable cartridge containing a cleanser tablet is removably coupled to a dispenser housing. Refill water is directed to the housing through an inlet and brought into contact with the cleanser tablet to form a cleanser solution. The cleanser solution exits an outlet of the housing into a receptacle which directs the solution downwardly and directly into the overflow tube. Inlet and outlet water traps prevent fumes from escaping the housing.



Inventors:
Coppock, Christopher A. (Laguna Niguel, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/409675
Publication Date:
11/02/2006
Filing Date:
04/24/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D9/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20040143896Traveling cover bench system with hydraulic fluid actuatorJuly, 2004Last
20050028263Water and space conservation toilet/bidet combinationFebruary, 2005Wodeslavsky
20080083058TELESCOPING PLUMBING DEVICE AND METHODApril, 2008Heffner
20080222790BATH AND SHOWER ASSIST MEANSSeptember, 2008Grant
20060260037Barrel-type steam and hot-air bath applianceNovember, 2006Chen
20030115668Cover for toilet bowl to prevent soilingJune, 2003Grier
20060253972Laminar flow jet for pools and spasNovember, 2006Schmidt et al.
20020069460Flexible spa control system and method of using sameJune, 2002Huffington et al.
20090249539Inside/Outside fitting for plumbing apparatus and systemOctober, 2009Holtsnider
20090320203CONTROL MODULE FOR MULTI-NOZZLE SHOWERDecember, 2009Chen
20050262621Urinal for a hunter's tree standDecember, 2005Dalton



Primary Examiner:
CRANE, LAUREN ASHLEY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GORDON & REES LLP (SAN DIEGO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A toilet cleaner dispenser system for use in connection with a flush valve in a toilet tank, the flush valve having an overflow tube, comprising: a cleaning agent; and a housing disposed above the overflow tube, the housing comprising an inlet and an outlet, the inlet directing refill water to the cleaning agent to form a cleanser solution, the outlet directing the cleanser solution to an overflow tube without a hose.

2. The system of claim 2, further comprising: an inlet water trap; and an outlet water trap.

3. The system of claim 1, further comprising a receptacle coupled to a top of the overflow tube and configured to direct the cleanser solution from the outlet to the overflow tube.

4. The system of claim 4, wherein the receptacle comprises an annular top opening to receive excess water in the toilet tank and to direct the excess water to the overflow tube.

5. The system of claim 1, further comprising a cartridge containing the cleaning agent, the cartridge being removably coupled to the housing.

6. A combination flush valve cleaner dispenser system, comprising: an overflow tube; and a cleaning dispenser device disposed above and coupled to the overflow tube, the cleaning dispenser device including: a housing disposed above the overflow tube, the housing including an inlet and an outlet, and a cleaning agent disposed at least in part within the housing, wherein the outlet directs solution to the overflow tube without a hose.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein: the cleaning agent comprises a tablet; the cleaning dispenser device comprises a cartridge containing the cleaning agent; and the cartridge is removably coupled to the housing.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein the housing defines an opening for receiving the removable cartridge.

9. The system of claim 6, further comprising: an inlet water trap; and an outlet water trip.

10. The system of claim 6, further comprising a receptacle coupled to the overflow tube, the receptacle being configured to direct fluid from the outlet port to the overflow tube.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the receptacle comprises an annular top opening to receive excess water and to direct the excess water to the overflow tube.

12. The system of claim 6, further comprising a siphonic cap disposed on top of the overflow tube and positioned between the overflow tube and the cleaning dispenser device.

13. A method for refilling a toilet bowl, comprising: directing refill water from a fill valve to a housing containing a cleaning agent; dissolving portions of the cleaning agent into the refill water to form a cleanser solution; and directing a first portion of the cleanser solution downwardly to an overflow tube without a hose.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising: storing a second remaining portion of the cleanser solution in the housing; and preventing fumes from escaping the housing.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein preventing the fumes from escaping the housing further comprises blocking the fumes with at least one water trap.

16. The method of claim 13, further comprising allowing overflow water in a toilet tank to bypass the housing and go directly to the overflow tube.

17. The method of claim 13, wherein the cleaning agent comprises a first cleanser tablet held in a first disposable cartridge, the method further comprising coupling the first disposable cartridge to the housing.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising: removing the first disposable cartridge from the housing; and coupling a second disposable cartridge containing a second cleanser tablet to the housing.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application relates to, claims priority from, and incorporates herein by reference, as if fully set forth, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/675,529 filed on Apr. 27, 2005 and entitled “INTEGRATED CLEANER DISPENSER WITH FLUSH VALVE”.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to cleaner dispenser systems for toilets.

2. Description of Prior Art and Related Information

Cleaning dispenser systems for toilets are commonly located in the toilet tank. Since conventional dispensers are often purchased as an add-on, after-market product, some common drawbacks are associated with prior art dispensers.

For example, dispensers typically include clips in order to fasten the dispenser to the wall of the toilet tank. These clips often get in the way of the toilet lid being able to fully close on the toilet tank.

Cleaning agents, such as tablets, which dissolve into the refill water upon contact often generate harmful fumes that can damage the interior components of the toilet tank. The need to prevent the escape of fumes has led to awkward and bulky structures that also cause the entire dispenser unit to take up the limited space within the toilet tank. Accordingly, certain dispenser units in the prior art do not enable the lid to close on a standard toilet tank, thereby creating a rocking or tilted appearance which is undesirable.

To conserve the cleaning agent and thus maximize its usage and lifespan, it is desirable to not dissolve the agent in the flush water that drains the toilet bowl, but only in the refill water that fills the bowl after the flush. This way, a lesser amount of the cleaning agent is used with each flush, and the cleaning agent is used more efficiently as it is not being wasted with flushing water. To accomplish this, the cleaning agent must be fluidly coupled to the water line that refills the bowl, namely, between the fill valve and the overflow tube. Such an arrangement have required a variety of hoses, clips and mechanical fasteners in order to provide fluid communication from the dispenser unit to the overflow tube. Hoses can come loose, thereby dumping harmful chemicals into the toilet tank without the awareness of the consumer.

Add-on dispenser units in the prior art also present fluctuations in the water level therein, caused by the height differences between the top of an overflow tube and the mounting location of the unit. Thus, the concentration of the cleanser solution exiting such a prior art dispenser unit may vary with each toilet depending upon these height differences.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides structures and methods which overcome the deficiencies in the prior art.

In one aspect, a toilet cleaner dispenser system is provided for use in connection with a flush valve in a toilet tank. The flush valve has an overflow tube. The system comprises a cleaning agent, and a housing disposed above the overflow tube, the housing comprising an inlet and an outlet, the inlet directing refill water to the cleaning agent to form a cleanser solution, the outlet directing the cleanser solution to an overflow tube without a hose.

The system further comprises an inlet water trap and an outlet water trap. A receptacle is coupled to a top of the overflow tube and configured to direct the cleanser solution from the outlet to the overflow tube without need of a connecting hose. The receptacle preferably comprises an annular top opening to receive excess water in the toilet tank and to direct the excess water to the overflow tube. The system also comprises a cartridge containing the cleaning agent. The cartridge being is removably coupled to the housing.

In an alternative embodiment, a siphonic cap disposed on top of the overflow tube and positioned between the overflow tube and the housing.

In another aspect, a combination flush valve cleaner dispenser system is provided. The system comprises an overflow tube and a cleaning dispenser device disposed above and coupled to the overflow tube. The cleaning dispenser device includes a housing disposed above the overflow tube. The housing includes an inlet and an outlet. A cleaning agent is disposed at least in part within the housing. The outlet directs solution to the overflow tube without a hose.

The cleaning agent preferably comprises a tablet. The cleaning dispenser device preferably comprises a cartridge containing the cleaning agent. The cartridge is removably coupled to the housing. The housing defines an opening for receiving the removable cartridge. The system further comprises an inlet water trap and an outlet water trap.

The system further comprises a receptacle coupled to the overflow tube. The receptacle is configured to direct fluid from the outlet port to the overflow tube. The receptacle comprises an annular top opening to receive excess water and to direct the excess water to the overflow tube.

In an alternative embodiment, the system further comprises a siphonic cap disposed on top of the overflow tube and positioned between the overflow tube and the cleaning dispenser device.

A method for refilling a toilet bowl with a cleanser solution is also provided. The method comprises directing refill water from a fill valve to a housing containing a cleaning agent, dissolving portions of the cleaning agent into the refill water to form a cleanser solution, and directing a first portion of the cleanser solution downwardly to an overflow tube without a hose.

The method further comprises storing a second remaining portion of the cleanser solution in the housing, and preventing fumes from escaping the housing. The step of preventing the fumes from escaping the housing further comprises blocking the fumes with at least one water trap, and preferably with two water traps.

The method further comprises siphoning overflow water in a toilet tank to the overflow tube.

Where the cleaning agent preferably comprises a first cleanser tablet held in a first disposable cartridge, the method further comprises coupling the first disposable cartridge to the housing. The method further comprises removing the first disposable cartridge from the housing, and coupling a second disposable cartridge containing a second cleanser tablet to the housing.

In summary, a toilet cleaner dispenser system is centered above an overflow tube and configured to deliver cleanser solution directly to the overflow tube without a hose. A disposable cartridge containing a cleanser tablet is removably coupled to a dispenser housing. Refill water is directed to the housing through an inlet and brought into contact with the cleanser tablet to form a cleanser solution. The cleanser solution exits an outlet of the housing into a receptacle which directs the solution downwardly and directly into the overflow tube. Inlet and outlet water traps prevent fumes from escaping the housing.

The invention, now having been briefly summarized, may be better appreciated by the following detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective, exploded view of a preferred embodiment of a cleaner dispenser system according to the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the cleaner dispenser system in a toilet tank;

FIG. 3 is a side view of the preferred embodiment of the cleaner dispenser system;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional side view of the cleaner dispenser system;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional side view of the cleaner dispenser system during a flush;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional side view of the cleaner dispenser system at a rest state; and

FIG. 7 is a diagram of a preferred method refilling a toilet bowl with a cleanser solution.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The invention and its various embodiments can now be better understood by turning to the following detailed description wherein illustrated embodiments are described. It is to be expressly understood that the illustrated embodiments are set forth as examples and not by way of limitations on the invention as ultimately defined in the claims.

FIG. 1 is an exploded, perspective view of a toilet cleaner dispenser system 10. The system 10 may comprise a flush valve 20 having an overflow tube 22. Alternatively, the system 10 may comprise a unit that is configured to be coupled to an existing overflow tube A coupling joint may be employed to couple the system 10 an overflow tube, thereby allowing the manufacture of various overflow tube heights.

In FIGS. 1 and 2, the dispenser system 10 comprises a dispenser housing 24. The dispenser housing 24 includes an inlet 26 and an outlet 28. In the preferred embodiment, the inlet 26 is upwardly facing while the outlet 28 is generally downwardly facing. A cartridge 30 containing a cleaning agent 32, preferably in the form of a tablet or granules, is removably coupled to the dispenser housing 24. As shown in FIG. 4, the outlet 28 comprises a generally horizontal section, or conduit, 29 in fluid communication with a generally vertical section, or conduit, 31. In particular, the cartridge 30 is disposed in an opening, or cavity, 34 defined in the dispenser housing 24. The cartridge 30 may comprise external threads 36 for mating with threads 37 in the opening 34. As shown more clearly in FIG. 4, the inlet 26 comprises a pair of nested tubes 38, 39 that collectively form an inlet water trap.

In FIG. 1, the dispenser housing 24 comprises a main body 41 that is preferably cylindrical. A dome-shaped top cap 43 covers the cylindrical main body 41. The inlet 26 preferably extends through a hole 45 in the cap 43. In the preferred embodiment shown more clearly in FIG. 4, the inlet 26 comprises a first snap-on inlet cap 47 and the outlet 28 comprises a second snap-on outlet cap 49. A third cap, or base, 69 is snapped onto a bottom of the housing 24. This three-piece snap-on design for the dispenser housing 24 will be appreciated by those skilled in the art as manufacturing is greatly simplified and no sonic welding of these components is required. Furthermore, the number of parts is reduced, thereby reducing complexity and saving costs in manufacturing.

In FIGS. 1-3, a receptacle 52 is formed at the top of the overflow tube 22. In the preferred embodiment, the receptacle 52 has an open top 53 for receiving the dispenser housing 24. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, the receptacle 52 includes a vertical wall 54 that defines a compartment 56 for receiving the outlet 28. As described further below, the vertical wall 54 also helps to form a water outlet trap to prevent harmful fumes from escaping the dispenser housing 24. The receptacle 52 also defines a basin, or reservoir, 58 for receiving a substantial portion of the cylindrical body 41 of the dispenser housing 24. The receptacle 52 further includes a top rim 59 that is flared out, or conical, so as to assist in supporting the upper portions of the dispenser housing 24.

In FIG. 4, the cartridge 30 containing the cleaning tablet 32 is inserted, or preferably screwed, into the opening 34 of the dispenser housing 24. The dispenser housing 24 and the removably coupled cartridge 30 collectively forms a unit 61, as shown in FIG. 1, that is disposed at least partially within the receptacle 52. In particular, the cylindrical body 41 of the dispenser housing 24 sits on top of ribs 63 that extend radially inward from an inner surface of the receptacle 52. The ribs 63 help to center the unit 61. In the preferred embodiment, the ribs 63 also provide platforms 65 for supporting ring 67 at a base 69 of the dispenser housing 24. This spaces the base 69 of the dispenser housing 24 from a top shoulder 72 of the overflow tube 22 so as to prevent the unit 61 from sealing the overflow tube 22.

The operation of the system 10 will now be described in reference to FIGS. 4 and 5. In FIG. 5, refill water, indicated by the stippling, is directed from a fill valve (not shown) to the inlet 26. In particular, water enters the top tube 38 and fills the bottom tube 39 until it overflows into a passage 76 that directs the water into the opening 34. As the water level rises from the bottom of the opening 34, it permeates the cartridge 30 through side ports 78 and bottom ports 80 to come into contact with the cleaning tablet 32. A cleanser solution is formed as a result of the refill water coming into contact with the cleaning tablet 32.

As the water level of the cleanser solution rises to a height at or above the horizontal conduit 29 of the outlet 28, the cleanser solution then travels through the horizontal conduit 29 and down the vertical conduit 31 of the outlet 28. The cleanser solution then fills the compartment 56 until it flows over the vertical wall 54. As the cleanser solution overflows the compartment 56, it is directed downward from the basin 58 to the overflow tube 22 to the final destination of the toilet bowl.

It will be appreciated that the preferred dispenser system 10 causes the cleanser solution to exit the dispenser housing 24 directly into the overflow tube 22 without need of a connecting hose or any other intermediary structure that could possibly become dislodged. This eliminates any chance of an outlet hose becoming loose and dumping harmful chemicals and fumes into the toilet tank. The costs and additional complexities of outlet hoses and clips can be avoided altogether with the preferred system 10 according to the invention. It will further be appreciated that mounting hooks for mounting prior art dispensers to the wall of a toilet tank are eliminated altogether with the present invention.

FIG. 6 illustrates the system 10 at a rest state in between flushes. In particular, a first inlet water trap is formed at the inlet 26 by virtue of the pair of oppositely extending tubes 38, 39 that are disposed in a nesting relationship. At the rest state, water in the inlet 26 is at least partially disposed in the downwardly extending tube 38 and the upwardly extending tube 39 to form the first water trap that blocks and prevents fumes from escaping the housing 24 through the inlet 26. A second outlet water trap is formed adjacent to the outlet 28 as a result of the vertical conduit 31 and the dividing wall 54. At the rest state, water is carried in the compartment 56 and is at least partially disposed in the vertical conduit 31 to form the second water trap that blocks and prevents fumes from escaping the housing 24 through the outlet 28. It will be appreciated that any fumes caused by the water coming into contact with the cleaning agent 32 is entirely sealed within the dispenser housing 24 and prevented from escaping out to the toilet tank.

In the rest state, the water level of the cleanser solution remaining in the dispenser housing 24 consistently remains at a height beneath the horizontal conduit 29 as shown in FIG. 6. This enables the system 10 to provide a consistent concentration of cleanser solution with each flush as the water level remaining in the dispenser in the rest state does not fluctuate. It will be appreciated that this self-contained system 10 eliminates the fluctuations in the concentration of the cleanser solution in prior art dispensers, which fluctuations were due to the height differences between the top of the overflow tube and the mounting location of the prior art dispenser.

It will also be appreciated that the lifespan of the cleaning agent 32 in the cartridge 30 may be controlled very precisely by determining the height of the outlet 28, primarily the horizontal conduit 29. In particular, providing a dispenser housing 24 with a higher horizontal conduit 29 causes a higher level of solution to remain in the housing 24, thereby dissolving more of the cleaning agent 32 with each flush. Such a higher outlet 28 would lead to a shorter lifespan of the cleaning agent 32. Conversely, a dispenser housing 24 with a horizontal conduit at a shorter height would leave a lower level of solution in the housing 24. This would dissolve less of the cleaning agent 32 per flush, which in turn leads to a longer life span of the cleaning agent 32.

The preferred dispenser system 10 may include the overflow tube 22 such that the system 10 comprises a combination of a flush valve and a cleaner dispenser. Alternatively, the dispenser system 10 may be coupled to, or retrofitted unto, an existing overflow tube of an existing toilet. In either case, the dispenser system 10 is centered right above the overflow tube and positioned at a short enough height to enable a standard toilet lid to close completely. This is not possible with certain prior dispensers which had to be mounted to the wall of the toilet tank with a mounting hook, thereby causing the toilet lid is be at least slightly propped open. Whereas prior art dispenser systems competed for the same space occupied by flush valves, the system 10 according to the invention saves space by being integrated with the overflow tube.

In the first preferred embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-6, the receptacle 52 is separate from the dispenser unit 61. The receptacle 52 is configured to loosely carry the unit 61 in the sense that there is no mechanical coupling or attachment between the receptacle 52 and dispenser unit 61, even though the dispenser unit 61 is securely held and supported by the receptacle 52. It is to be expressly understood that the dispenser unit 61 and receptacle 52 may be formed as an integral, unitary structure which may then be formed on top of an overflow tube or be retrofitted onto an existing overflow tube.

The system 10 may also be provided as a kit comprising a permanent dispenser housing 24 and a plurality of disposable cleaner cartridges 30. Accordingly, once the cleaning agent 32 is depleted, the current cartridge 30 may be removed from the housing 24 and new disposable cartridge 30 may be inserted in its place.

FIG. 7 illustrates a preferred method 100 for refilling a toilet bowl with a cleanser solution. The method 100 comprises a step 110 of directing refill water into a housing carrying a cleaning agent. Step 120 includes bringing the refill water in the housing into contact with the cleaning agent to form a cleanser solution. This step 120 may comprise directing the refill water into contact with a cleaning agent held inside a cartridge removably coupled to the housing.

Step 130 comprises directing the cleanser solution from the dispenser housing to an overflow tube without a hose. This step 130 may include positioning the dispenser housing directly above the overflow tube.

Step 140 comprises preventing fumes from escaping the dispenser housing. This step 140 comprises blocking the fumes in the dispenser housing from exiting with a first inlet water trap and a second outlet water trap. Step 150 includes storing a remaining portion of cleanser solution in the housing at a rest state in between flushes.

In the event of an overflow of water in the toilet tank, step 160 comprises allowing the overflow water in the toilet tank to go directly to the overflow tube while bypassing the dispenser system. This may be accomplished with a variety of structures, including, but not limited to, a bypass conduit with an open top positioned at a height above the normal toilet tank water level. Such a bypass conduit may be coupled to the receptacle or the overflow tube.

The method 100 also includes a step 170 of coupling a first disposable cartridge containing the cleaning agent, preferably in the form of a cleanser tablet, to the housing. In Step 180, the first disposable cartridge is removed from the housing when the cleaning agent, or cleanser tablet, is depleted. Step 190 comprises removably coupling a second disposable cartridge containing a second cleanser tablet to the housing.

Many alterations and modifications may be made by those having ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Therefore, it must be understood that the illustrated embodiments have been set forth only for the purposes of examples and that they should not be taken as limiting the invention as defined by the following claims. For example, notwithstanding the fact that the elements of a claim are set forth below in a certain combination, it must be expressly understood that the invention includes other combinations of fewer, more or different elements, which are disclosed in above even when not initially claimed in such combinations.

The words used in this specification to describe the invention and its various embodiments are to be understood not only in the sense of their commonly defined meanings, but to include by special definition in this specification the generic structure, material or acts of which they represent a single species.

The definitions of the words or elements of the following claims are, therefore, defined in this specification to not only include the combination of elements which are literally set forth. In this sense it is therefore contemplated that an equivalent substitution of two or more elements may be made for any one of the elements in the claims below or that a single element may be substituted for two or more elements in a claim. Although elements may be described above as acting in certain combinations and even initially claimed as such, it is to be expressly understood that one or more elements from a claimed combination can in some cases be excised from the combination and that the claimed combination may be directed to a subcombination or variation of a subcombination.

Insubstantial changes from the claimed subject matter as viewed by a person with ordinary skill in the art, now known or later devised, are expressly contemplated as being equivalently within the scope of the claims. Therefore, obvious substitutions now or later known to one with ordinary skill in the art are defined to be within the scope of the defined elements.

The claims are thus to be understood to include what is specifically illustrated and described above, what is conceptionally equivalent, what can be obviously substituted and also what incorporates the essential idea of the invention.





 
Previous Patent: Swim mask

Next Patent: Automatic toilet lid and seat