Title:
CLEANING IMPLEMENT HAVING A VISUAL INDICATOR FOR DETERMINING DEBRIS REMOVAL EFFECTIVENESS AND END OF USEFUL LIFE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A visual indicator for the cleaning effectiveness and end of useful life of a cleaning implement, e.g., a fabric sweeper, for removing dust, dirt, pet hair and other debris present on a fabric surface. The implement comprises a housing and a pair of fabric-covered rollers. During a cleaning operation, the implement is swept over the surface to be cleaned. Debris is retained by the fabric on the rollers and transported to a collection chamber by the opposing roller. The fabric covering the rollers is a unidirectional fabric such as velour with a light color such as light blue. The light color provides an indication of cleaning effectiveness since the hair and debris loaded on the rollers contrasts with the light color and therefore can easily be quantified. The light color further aids in determining when the rollers have become too dirty such that the implement should be disposed and a new implement used.



Inventors:
Knopow, Jeremy F. (Burlington, WI, US)
Rath, Judi A. (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Akers, Melissa (Chicago, IL, US)
Olson, Christopher R. (Racine, WI, US)
Wietfeldt, John R. (Franksville, WI, US)
Bethke, Jennifer (Glenview, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/687242
Publication Date:
08/23/2007
Filing Date:
03/16/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/22.1, 15/98, 15/210.1, 15/221, 116/208
International Classes:
A47L13/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SPISICH, MARK
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
S.C. JOHNSON & SON, INC. (RACINE, WI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An indicator for detecting cleanliness of at least one surface-contacting part in a cleaning implement, the indicator comprising: a selected fabric material; wherein the material discolors upon exposure to particulate debris; and wherein the discoloration is discernible by visual inspection.

2. The indicator of claim 1, wherein the selected material comprises a color that contrasts with an expected color of particulate build up such that a colorimetric indication occurs when the particulate build up exceeds a threshold.

3. The indicator of claim 2, wherein the color of the material is one or more colors selected from a group consisting of light blue, white, gray, yellow, pink, and orange, having a hue within a range of about 8-340°, a saturation within a range of 0-100% and a brightness within a range of about 28-100%.

4. An indicator for demonstrating particulate debris removal of a cleaning implement, the indicator comprising: a selected fabric material having a selected light color affixed to at least one surface-contacting part of the cleaning implement; wherein the material picks up and retains particulate debris during a cleaning operation; and wherein the retained debris contrasts with the light color fabric material so as to be discernible upon visual inspection;

5. The indicator of claim 4, wherein an amount of the particulate debris on the material provides an indication of the effectiveness of the cleaning implement.

6. The indicator of claim 4, wherein the color of the material is light blue.

7. The indicator of claim 4, wherein the color of the material is one or more colors selected from a group consisting of white, gray, yellow, pink, and orange.

8. The indicator of claim 4, wherein the color of the material comprises a hue within the range of about 8-340°, a saturation within the range of 0-100% and a brightness within the range of about 28-100%.

9. The indicator of claim 8, wherein the hue is within the range of about 40-306°, the saturation is within the range of about 4-67% and the brightness is within the range of about 55-98%.

10. The indicator of claim 9, wherein the hue is within the range of about 172-224° the saturation is within the range of about 8-50% and the brightness is within the range of about 76-95%.

11. The indicator of claim 9, wherein the hue is within the range of about 54-71°, the saturation is within the range of about 8-50% and the brightness is within the range of about 76-95%.

12. The indicator of claim 4, further comprising: a collection chamber; and a clear housing covering the collection chamber; wherein the clear housing enables a user to see an amount of particulate debris retained in the collection chamber.

13. A method for detecting debris removal effectiveness of a cleaning implement, the method comprising: providing a visual use indicator comprising a selected material having a selected characteristic; providing a cleaning implement, wherein the cleaning implement is partially comprised of the selected material such that, during a cleaning operation, at least a portion of the selected material comes in contact with a surface to be cleaned; using the cleaning implement in a cleaning operation; and visually inspecting the use indicator material.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of: determining the end-of-life of the cleaning implement based on the color of the use indicator material.

15. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of: determining the debris removal effectiveness of the cleaning implement based on the appearance of debris retained on the use indicator material.

16. The method of claim 13, wherein the selected material is a fabric.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the fabric is velour.

18. The method of claim 13, wherein the selected characteristic is a color.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the color is selected from at least one of: light blue, gray, white, and off-white.

20. The method of claim 13, wherein the cleaning implement is a fabric sweeper; and wherein the selected material is affixed to rockers of the fabric sweeper.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE(S) TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 11/450,315, filed Jun. 10, 2006, which itself is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 11/141,099 filed May 31, 2005, the entire contents of both patent applications are hereby expressly incorporated by reference into the present application.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to cleaning devices. Specifically, the present invention relates to a cleaning implement for fabrics, capable of picking up and retaining various particulate debris located on a fabric surface, having a visual indicator of the cleaning effectiveness and the cleanliness of the implement, either of which may be used to determine the end of the useful life of the implement. More specifically, a preferred embodiment of the present invention relates to a fabric sweeper having light colored rollers wherein the light color provides a visual indication of the cleaning effectiveness of the fabric sweeper and the cleanliness of the fabric sweeper.

2. Discussion of the Related Art

When cleaning fabric surfaces such as sofas and recliners, mechanical vacuum cleaning devices may be utilized to remove dirt, dust, and other debris from the fabric surface. However, due to the often large and cumbersome construction of these types of mechanical vacuum fabric cleaning devices, these devices are often not suitable for use in certain situations where the fabric surface to be cleaned is relatively small, or is positioned in a difficult to access location. In addition, for various instances of spot cleaning certain fabric surfaces, a large mechanical cleaning device is often impractical for the particular cleaning task.

Therefore, to provide a lightweight cleaning device that can be utilized as an alternative to larger vacuum cleaning devices for these types of situations, various types of alternative cleaning devices and brushes have been developed. For example, Ueda U.S. Pat. No. 4,765,012 discloses a manually operated cleaner for dust, debris and pet hair removal. Debris is removed via the rotating action of a roll brush having bristles and the rocking action of a debris-removing brush covered with a unidirectional fabric material having piles or bristles. Another example includes the various cleaning implements disclosed in U.S. application Ser. No. 11/450,315. These so-called “fabric sweepers” have one or two debris-removing brushes also covered with a fabric material having piles or bristles, such as velour, for removing debris from a fabric surface. These fabric sweepers are moved back and forth across the surface to be cleaned in short stroke lengths with the two brushes contacting and sweeping the fabric surface.

While satisfactory for the purposes for which they were intended, the aforementioned cleaning devices have certain shortcomings. For example, the ability of these brushes to effectively load, retain and transport dirt, dust or other debris is determined by the strength and rigidity of the bristles or pile of the debris-retaining brushes. However, the unidirectional bristles of debris-retaining brushes eventually wear out and lose their effectiveness to load and transport debris away from a surface being cleaned. In the prior art cleaning implements, there is no effective way to determine whether the unidirectional fabric material is still able to load and transport debris. One reason for this is because the fabric material of the prior art brushes, e.g., see FIG. 1, is a dark color, typically red. With red and other dark colored fabric, the amount or change in position of debris on the fabric-covered brushes is not easily nor readily ascertained or quantified.

Furthermore, after repeated cleaning operations, the fabric material of the debris-retaining brushes may become discolored by an accumulation of dirt particulates, i.e., the brushes become “dirty.” The dark colored fabric of the prior art cleaning devices does not effectively show dirt, and in fact, hides dirt because most dirt is also dark colored. If the prior art cleaning implements are used on dirty carpeting or furniture, the fabric material may subsequently become dirty. Without an easy and effective way to determine whether the fabric-covered brushes are dirty or not, a user may use a dirty fabric sweeper or similar cleaning implement on furniture, thereby causing the furniture to become discolored. This would be especially problematic with light-colored furniture.

Therefore, it is desirable to develop a lightweight, manually operable fabric surface cleaning or sweeping device with a quick and easy way to understand and appreciate the particulate debris loading and transporting effectiveness. Furthermore, it is also desirable to develop a cleaning device having a visual indication as to whether the surface-to-be-cleaned contacting portion of the device has become loaded with particulate debris such that cleaning upholstery or carpeting, especially light colored ones, is undesirable. Finally, it is desirable to develop a cleaning device with a clear housing such that debris retained in a collection chamber is easily viewed and quantified.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with a first aspect of the present invention, a cleaning implement, e.g., a fabric sweeper, comprising a housing and two surface-contacting rollers covered with a unidirectional fabric material such as velour, includes a visual indicator for detecting the effectiveness and cleanliness of the fabric material. The indicator comprises at least one of the rollers having at least a light colored portion of fabric material. Preferably, both rollers are covered with light colored fabric material for ease of manufacture. The light color of the material could be, but is not limited to, light blue, white, yellow, pink, and orange and any combinations or variations thereof. In one preferred embodiment, the color of the material is identified as Pantone 2975C, also known as light or spa blue, as further explained below. In another preferred embodiment, the color of the material may be a gray close in color to Pantone 7544.

In one embodiment, the hue of the material covering the rollers is within the range of about 8-340°, the saturation is within the range of 0-100% and the brightness is within the range of about 28-100%. In another embodiment, the hue of the material is within the range of about 40-306°, the saturation is within the range of about 4-67% and the brightness is within the range of about 55-98%. In a preferred embodiment, the hue of the material is within the range of about 172-224° or 54-71°, the saturation is within the range of about 8-50% and the brightness is within the range of about 76-95%.

The light colored fabric brush material works to indicate the cleaning effectiveness of the fabric sweeper by presenting a generally contrasting appearance with particulate debris such that the amount of retained debris may be readily and quickly discernible to a user. The light colored fabric brush material also easily indicates the cleanliness of the material itself. If the material were a darker color, such as one prior art device having a hue of 3°, a saturation of 97% and a brightness of 66%, dirt buildup would be difficult to ascertain in comparison to the already dark colored material. With a light color material, the mostly dark debris and dirt is more readily ascertainable upon visual inspection due to the contrasting nature of the light and dark colors.

In accordance with a second aspect of the present invention, a method for detecting the debris removal effectiveness of a cleaning implement is disclosed. The method includes the step of providing a visual use indicator comprising a selected material having a selected characteristic, e.g., color. The method further includes the step of providing a cleaning implement having at least a portion covered with the selected material such that, during a cleaning operation, at least a portion of the selected material comes in contact with a surface to be cleaned. The method further includes of the steps of using the cleaning implement in a cleaning operation and visually inspecting the use indicator material. The method may include the step of determining the end-of-life of the cleaning implement based on the color of the use indicator material. Alternatively, the method may include the step of determining the debris removal effectiveness of the cleaning implement based on the appearance of debris retained on the use indicator material.

These, and other aspects and objects of the present invention will be better appreciated and understood when considered in conjunction with the following description and the accompanying drawings. It should be understood, however, that the following description, while indicating preferred embodiments of the present invention, is given by way of illustration and not of limitation. Many changes and modifications may be made within the scope of the present invention without departing from the spirit thereof, and the invention includes all such modifications.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A clear conception of the advantages and features constituting the present invention, and of the construction and operation of typical mechanisms provided with the present invention, will become more readily apparent by referring to the exemplary, and therefore non-limiting, embodiments illustrated in the drawings accompanying and forming a part of this specification, wherein like reference numerals designate the same elements in the several views.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view illustrating the dark colored rollers of a prior art cleaning implement labeled “PRIOR ART”;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a fabric sweeper according to one preferred embodiment of the present invention, viewed from in front of, above, and from the right side of the fabric sweeper;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view along line 3-3 of FIG. 2; and

FIG. 4 is a bottom plan view of the fabric sweeper of FIG. 2 showing light colored rollers.

In describing the preferred embodiment of the invention which is illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be resorted to for the sake of clarity. However, it is not intended that the invention be limited to the specific terms so selected and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents which operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention and the various features and advantageous details thereof are explained more fully with reference to the non-limiting embodiments described in detail in the following description. With reference now to the drawing figures in which like reference numerals designate like parts throughout the disclosure, a fabric cleaning or sweeping device constructed according to the present invention is indicated generally by the reference number 10 in FIGS. 2-4. The preferred fabric sweeper or cleaning implement 10 includes a housing 11 with a base portion 12 and a handle portion 14 connected to and extending upwardly from the base portion 12. The handle portion 14 preferably has grooves 16 for receiving a user's hand and fingers. The grooves 16, along with grip points 18, allow the user to comfortably and securely grip the handle portion 14.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the fabric sweeper 10. FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the fabric sweeper 10. As shown, the base portion 12 is configured to receive two cleaning members, or rollers 20, 22. The rollers 20, 22 are covered with a indicating layer, i.e., fabric cleaning material 24, such as velour or similar type fabric having unidirectional bristles, piles or tufts 26. The fabric material 24 has unique characteristics, such as a color, preferably including light colors such as white, yellow, pink, light blue, orange or the like. The fabric material 24 and bristles 26 may be the same color or they may be different, even contrasting, colors. Other characteristics of the fabric material 24 may include stiffness of the bristles 26, length of the bristles 26 and so on.

In operation, the device 10 is placed against and moved across a fabric surface 28. Both rollers 20, 22 begin to rotate in a clockwise direction when the device 10 is moved in a direction indicated by arrow A in FIG. 2. As the rollers 20, 22 rotate in the clockwise direction, a portion of the layer of fabric material 24 on each roller 20, 22 comes into contact with particulate debris 30 on the fabric surface 28 and picks up the debris 30 such that the debris 30 is retained on the fabric material 24. After a certain amount of travel, the device 10 is moved in the opposite direction indicated by arrow B in FIG. 2, such that rollers 20, 22 begin to rotate in a counterclockwise direction. In doing so, a portion of fabric material 24 of roller 20 comes into contact with a portion of the fabric material 24 of roller 22. As the rollers 20, 22 contact and brush against each other, an amount of the debris 30 on the first roller 20 is transported by the fabric material 24 on the second roller 22. The debris 30 is pushed into a collection chamber 32 defined by the housing 11.

As the back and forth cleaning operation continues, additional debris 30 is loaded onto the fabric material 24 of rollers 20, 22 and continually urged upwardly into the chamber 32, and cannot fall back on the fabric surface 28 being cleaned due to the close spacing of the rollers 20, 22. This process can be repeated as many times as necessary in order for the fabric sweeper 10 to remove all of the debris 30 from the fabric surface 28.

Although designed to be disposable, the fabric sweeper 10 can be used numerous times until the sweeper 10 reaches the end of its useful life. This end can occur for a number of reasons. For example, the handle portion 14 could become deformed and therefore no longer be easy or comfortable to grasp. Alternatively, the collection chamber 32 could become filled with particulate debris 30 such that further debris 30 pickup is not feasible or efficient. Alternatively, the fabric on the rollers 20, 22 could become discolored and/or dirty due to contact with dirty surfaces, such as highly traveled portions of carpeting. Alternatively, the fabric 24 on the rollers 20, 22 could lose its ability to retain and transport particulate debris 30. This may occur when the bristles 26 become worn down or lose their stiffness. Therefore, in one aspect of the present invention, a fabric sweeper 10 having light colored fabric 24 covering the rollers 20, 22 was developed, preferably to help determine the end of the useful life of a fabric sweeper 10.

As further explained in Precise Color Communication, Color Control From Perception to Instrumentation, published by Konica Minolta Sensing, Inc., No. 9242-4820-91, p. 1-59 (1998), the entirety of which is incorporated by reference herein, color is a mixture of three components: hue (H), saturation (S) and brightness (B). This is commonly known as the HSB color space. Hue is a term used for the classification of red, yellow, green, blue and so on. Hue is expressed as the degrees of a circle from 0 to 359°, wherein 0°=red, 60°=yellow, 120°=green, 180°=cyan, 240°=blue and 300°=magenta. Saturation is a measurement ranging from vivid to dull colors, i.e., the intensity of the color. Saturation (S) is expressed over a spectrum with 100% being the most vivid and 0% being an analogous tone of gray. Brightness is used to distinguish between light and dark colors. Brightness (B) is also expressed over a spectrum, with 0% at one end representing black and 100% at the other end representing white.

Furthermore, industry color standards have been developed to provide uniform and accurate color communication between designers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. For example, the PANTONE Matching System® developed by Pantone, Inc. is universally recognized as the standard language for color in the printing, publishing and packaging industries. The PANTONE Textile Color System® was developed for selecting, specifying and matching colors for fabrics. The PANTONE Plastics Color System™ provides a comprehensive palette of over 1,700 opaque and transparent references.

In a preferred embodiment, the light color of the fabric material 24 is Pantone 2975C, also known as light blue or spa blue. Alternatively, the fabric material 24 may be a gray color similar to Pantone 7544. However, the light color could be selected from any number of colors having a hue within the range of about 8-340°, a saturation within the range of 0-100% and a brightness within the range of about 28-100%. Preferably, the hue is within the range of about 40-306°, the saturation is within the range of about 4-67% and the brightness is within the range of about 55-98%. Even more preferably, the hue of the material is within the range of about 172-224° or 54-71°, the saturation is within the range of about 8-50% and the brightness is within the range of about 76-95%. Fabric 24 on the rollers 20, 22 having a HSB within these ranges may adequately provide visual indication of the cleaning effectiveness and cleanliness of a fabric sweeper 10. In one preferred embodiment, the material 24 is a velour supplied by the J B Martin Company or T.C.H. Suminoe Company Limited. Alternatively, the material 24 is a velour fabric supplied by the Ningbo Easy Cleaning Limited Company.

During a cleaning operation, a user may look at the rollers in an effort to determine whether or not the velour material 24 of a fabric sweeper 10 is effectively loading and transporting debris 30. The light color of the material 24 provides a visual contrast between the generally dark color of the particulate debris 30. In other words, the expected darker debris 30 will be easy to see on a contrasting, i.e., light, colored material 24. By quickly and easily determining the amount of debris 30 loaded and retained on the rollers 20, 22, along with the subsequent transport of the debris 30 towards the collection chamber 32, the user will be able to quickly and easily determine the cleaning effectiveness of the fabric sweeper 10. If debris 30 is retained on the rollers 20, 22 and moves towards the collection chamber 32 on subsequent sweeping motions, the user will know the fabric sweeper 10 is working properly. If the converse is true, the user will know to dispose of the fabric sweeper 10 and begin using a new unit. In one embodiment with the fabric material 24 and bristles 26 having different colors, if the bristles 26 become worn down, the underlying fabric material 24 color will be more prominently displayed, further helping a user determine if the fabric material 24 is still effective or not.

In another preferred embodiment of the present invention, the light colored fabric material 24 on the rollers 20, 22 also provides a visual indication of the cleanliness of the material 24. Prior art devices have a dark fabric material color, and therefore do not show dirt buildup due to the lack of contrast between the fabric 24 and the dirt. According to a preferred aspect of the present invention, a light color material 24 affixed to the rollers 20, 22, causes the mostly dark debris 30 and dirt to be more readily discernible upon visual inspection due to the contrasting nature of the light and dark colors. When the discoloration becomes such that the fabric material 24 of the fabric sweeper 10 is noticeably dirty, i.e., the calorimetric indication crosses a certain visual threshold, the user may desire to dispose of the unit 10 and begin using a new unit.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the fabric sweeper 10 may also comprise a clear housing portion 14 enabling a user to see the amount of debris 30 retained in the collection chamber 32 and discard the sweeper 10 when appropriate.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention, a method for detecting debris removal effectiveness of a cleaning implement such as a fabric sweeper 10 comprises the steps of: a) providing a visual use indicator comprising a selected, e.g., fabric 24, material having a selected characteristic, e.g., a color such as light blue, white, gray and off-white; b) providing a cleaning implement, e.g., fabric sweeper 10, wherein the cleaning implement is partially comprised of the selected material such that, during a cleaning operation, at least a portion of the selected material comes in contact with a surface 28 to be cleaned; c) using the cleaning implement in a cleaning operation; and d) visually inspecting the use indicator material. The method may further comprise the step of e) determining the end-of-life of the cleaning implement 10 based on the color of the use indicator material 24. Alternatively, the method may further comprise the step of e) determining the debris 30 removal effectiveness of the cleaning implement 10 based on the appearance of debris 30 retained on the use indicator material 24.

In another aspect of the present invention, the fabric material 24 affixed to the rollers 20, 22 may be treated with an anti-static agent in an attempt to control static electricity. A static electric charge is known to make debris 30, i.e., dust, lint and hair, difficult to control during pick-up. Anti-static agents are known to act to reduce the build up of static charge on an article. The addition of anti-static agents to various components of the fabric sweeper 10 may reduce the build-up of static charge on the unit 10. This has the effect of eliminating the scattering of dust due to repelling electrostatic forces and/or the attraction of hair/lint/dust to the velour fabric surfaces. In other words, with the addition of anti-static agents, the effectiveness of a fabric sweeper 10 becomes strictly a function of the mechanical actions, rather than a combination of mechanical actions and the effects of static electricity.

Treatments of anti-static agents can be applied to the various components of a fabric sweeper 10 to reduce this triboelectric charging. One treatment method is a surface-applied agent that forms a conductive surface layer. Molecules such as aliphatic quaternary amines and similar materials are commonly used in fabric softeners and the like. These agents may be sprayed on to the fabric material 24 on the rollers 20, 22 and/or sprayed on to the rollers 20, 22 before or after adhering the fabric material 24. Alternatively, another method of imparting anti-static properties would be to include an additive into the polymers which will bloom to the surface. One potential additive could be selected from the family of Akzo Nobel's Armostat® anti-static additives. Another potential additive could be one of Croda's Incrostat™ anti-static agents. However, the exact additive used must be tailored to the polymer material composition.

All the disclosed embodiments are useful in conjunction with devices such as are used for the purpose of removing debris from fabric surfaces, or the like. As such, there are virtually innumerable uses for the present invention, all of which need not be detailed here. All the disclosed embodiments can be practiced without undue experimentation.

Although the best mode contemplated by the inventors of carrying out the present invention is disclosed above, practice of the present invention is not limited thereto. It will be manifest that various additions, modifications and rearrangements of the features of the present invention may be made without deviating from the spirit and scope of the underlying inventive concept. In addition, the individual components need not be fabricated from the disclosed materials, but could be fabricated from virtually any suitable materials. Moreover, the individual components need not be formed in the disclosed shapes, or assembled in the disclosed configuration, but could be provided in virtually any shape, and assembled in virtually any configuration.

It is intended that the appended claims cover all such additions, modifications and rearrangements. Expedient embodiments of the present invention are differentiated by the appended claims. Various other features, embodiments and advantages of the present invention are contemplated as being within the scope of the following claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter regarded as the invention.