Title:
Stain removal system and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stain removal system and method for use thereof is described. A stain removal system can utilize two primary components to remove stains from fabrics: a receiving component and a cleaning solution component. The receiving component comprises a means for producing a negative pressure (or pressure differential) relative to the second component which contains a cleaning solution. Once the components are properly positioned around a stain in a fabric, a pressure differential can be used to force a cleaning solution through the stained fabric. As the cleaning solution passes through, it acts upon the stain, breaking it down or otherwise effectively removing the stain. The used cleaning solution is then contained within the receiving component for later disposal.



Inventors:
Myhra, Coleen Crowley (Broomfield, CO, US)
Myhra, Kyle (Broomfield, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/075191
Publication Date:
09/18/2008
Filing Date:
03/10/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/320
International Classes:
D06L1/00; A47L5/00; A47L7/00; A47L9/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HAMMER, KATIE L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAW OFFICES OF DALE B. HALLING (COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A stain removal system, comprising: a receiving component; a cleaning solution component, wherein the receiving component is not permanently affixed to the cleaning solution component; a cleaning solution pad containing a cleaning solution; a means for producing a pressure differential between the receiving component and the cleaning solution component; and wherein the pressure differential causes the cleaning solution to pass from the cleaning solution pad and through a stain in a fabric.

2. The stain removal system of claim 1 wherein the receiving component contains the means for producing a pressure differential and the cleaning solution collects in the receiving component after passing through the stain in the fabric.

3. The stain removal system of claim 1 wherein the cleaning solution component contains the means for producing a pressure differential and the cleaning solution collects in the receiving component after passing through the stain in the fabric.

4. The stain removal system of claim 1 wherein the cleaning solution collects in the cleaning solution component after passing through the stain in the fabric.

5. The stain removal system of claim 2 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is a squeeze bulb.

6. The stain removal system of claim 2 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is an electrical vacuum device.

7. The stain removal system of claim 2 further comprising: a means of producing a substantially air-tight seal between the receiving component and the cleaning solution component.

8. The stain removal system of claim 3 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is a squeeze bulb.

9. The stain removal system of claim 3 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is an electrical vacuum device.

10. The stain removal system of claim 3 further comprising: a means of producing a substantially air-tight seal between the receiving component and the cleaning solution component.

11. A stain removal system, comprising: a receiving component; a cleaning solution component, wherein the receiving component is not permanently affixed to the cleaning solution component; the cleaning solution component containing a means for selectively holding and dispensing a cleaning solution; a means for producing a pressure differential between the receiving component and the cleaning solution component; and wherein the pressure differential causes the cleaning solution to pass from the cleaning solution component and through a stain in a fabric.

12. The stain removal system of claim 11 wherein the receiving component contains the means for producing a pressure differential and the cleaning solution collects in the receiving component after passing through the stain in the fabric.

13. The stain removal system of claim 11 wherein the cleaning solution component contains the means for producing a pressure differential and the cleaning solution collects in the receiving component after passing through the stain in the fabric.

14. The stain removal system of claim 11 wherein the cleaning solution collects in the cleaning solution component after passing through the stain in the fabric.

15. The stain removal system of claim 12 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is a squeeze bulb.

16. The stain removal system of claim 12 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is an electrical vacuum device.

17. The stain removal system of claim 12 further comprising: a means of producing a substantially air-tight seal between the receiving component and the cleaning solution component.

18. The stain removal system of claim 17 further comprising: an intake port that collects the cleaning solution after it passes through the stain in the fabric; and wherein the means for producing the pressure differential is a squeeze bulb.

19. A method of removing a stain from a fabric, comprising: placing a receiving component in proximity to the stain on the fabric; selecting a presoaked cleaning pad containing a stain-specific cleaning solution; placing a cleaning solution component containing the cleaning pad in proximity to the stain; aligning the receiving component with the cleaning solution component so that the stain in the fabric is between the components; and initiating creation of a pressure differential between the receiving component and the cleaning solution component, thereby causing the cleaning solution to move from the cleaning pad through the stain in the fabric and into the receiving component.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising: removing the cleaning solution form the receiving component; and disposing of the cleaning solution.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/894,687, entitled “Spot Sucker Cleaning System” and filed on Mar. 14, 2007, which is specifically incorporated herein by reference for all that it discloses and teaches.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates generally to the field of cleaning devices and more particularly to a system for the removal of stains from fabrics.

BACKGROUND

As long as there have been clothing, rugs, tablecloths, curtains, linens, or any permeable materials that could become stained or otherwise soiled (collectively, “fabrics”) there have been stains and devices for removing those stains from fabrics. Such devices span the gamut from large, washing machine appliances to small hand-held “stain sticks.” However, as stains continue to proliferate and current stain removal technologies fall short, there is a need for a device to more effectively remove stains from fabrics.

Washing machine appliances are one of the more effective technologies used to remove stains. However, they require that the stained fabric be placed within them in order to initiate cleaning. For some fabrics, this is simply not possible (e.g., wall hangings, dry-clean only fabrics, etc.). Furthermore, a washing machine cleaning cycle can take thirty minutes or more and require an additional block of time for drying the fabric after it is removed from the washing machine. This time commitment can be difficult to meet as stains often occur on fabrics during meals and the person who has the offending stain does not have time to run home or go to a laundry facility to have the stain removed. Another drawback to using a washing machine is that the entire fabric has to be subjected to the cleaning process instead of targeting just the stained portion. This causes unnecessary wear and degradation of the fabric.

Stain sticks and other portable stain removal devices have therefore become popular. Such sticks often incorporate a stain-removal liquid or gel that a person can rub into a stained fabric in an attempt to remove the stain. However, this process often causes the stain to be smudged or spread out onto a larger area of the fabric. Furthermore, the action of rubbing the stained fabric with the stick can cause the stain to be pushed deeper into the fibers of the fabric, causing further soiling that can be extremely difficult to remove.

Recently, portable stain removal devices that avoid this rubbing action have been developed (see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 7,225,502 to Shenouda). The devices comprise two joined handle-components that are placed on either side of a stain. A cleaning solution from a reservoir in one handle is forced through the stain and into the other handle. These devices, although an improvement over other portable stain removing tools that use a rubbing action, have a number of drawbacks. First, since the two handles of the devices are coupled together, a stained fabric must often be removed in order to be placed in the device. Additionally, the stain itself must be near an edge of the fabric or the devices will not be able to reach the stain. Fabrics that are especially thick and bulky can quickly fill the space between the handles and cause such devices to be unable to close and thus, unable to draw any cleaning solution through the fabric. Furthermore, the devices have only a single, fixed cleaning solution receptacle. Different types of stains may necessitate different types of cleaning solutions; changing cleaning solutions in the two-handled devices can be cumbersome and difficult, if it is possible at all.

Therefore, there is a need for a stain removal system that is portable, acts directly upon the stained portion of a fabric, requires no rubbing action, reaches stains in the middle of fabrics, acts on fabrics without requiring removal thereof, and provides a simple means to utilize various cleaning solutions to target the type of stain to be removed.

SUMMARY

Embodiments described and claimed herein address the foregoing problems by providing a stain removal system and method. The stain removal system utilizes two primary components to remove stains from fabrics: a receiving component and a cleaning solution component. The two components can be separated from one another so that they can be easily placed on both sides of a stained fabric without removing the fabric.

The receiving component comprises a means for producing a negative pressure relative to the second component which contains a cleaning solution. This pressure differential can be used to force a cleaning solution through the stain in the fabric. As the cleaning solution passes through the stained fabric, it acts upon the stain, breaking it down or otherwise effectively removing the stain. The used cleaning solution is then contained within the receiving component for later disposal.

The cleaning solution component can hold different types or kinds of cleaning solutions. The solutions can be liquids, gels, etc. and are preferably supplied via a selection of presoaked cleaning pads which can be readily inserted or exchanged depending on need.

A user of the system employs the following method to remove a stain from a fabric. The user places the receiving component on one side of the stain in the fabric (preferably the side on which the stain entered the fabric). The user selects a cleaning pad which has been presoaked with a cleaning solution, places the pad in the cleaning solution component and then positions the cleaning solution component on the opposite side of the stain in the fabric. The user then activates the receiving component, thereby effecting a negative pressure between the two components which causes a cleaning solution to leave the cleaning pad and pass through the stained fabric. The cleaning solution acts upon the stain and removes it as it passes through the fabric. The used cleaning solution then enters the receiving component and is stored for later disposal.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The aforementioned and other features and objects of the present invention and the manner of attaining them will become more apparent and the invention itself will be best understood by reference to the following description of a preferred embodiment and other embodiments taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates a side view of an exemplary embodiment of a stain removal system.

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a stain removal system.

FIG. 3 illustrates a close up view of an exemplary embodiment of a cleaning solution component of a stain removal system.

FIG. 4 illustrates exemplary operations for utilizing a stain removal system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A stain removal system is preferably sized to be hand-held and portable. In one embodiment, a stain removal system utilizes two primary components to remove stains from fabrics: a receiving component and a cleaning solution component. The receiving component comprises a means for producing a negative pressure (or a pressure differential) relative to the second component which contains a cleaning solution. The two components can be separated from one another so that they can be easily placed on both sides of a stained fabric without removing the fabric. Once the components are properly positioned around the stain in the fabric, the pressure differential can be used to force a cleaning solution through the stained fabric. As the cleaning solution passes through, it acts upon the stain, breaking it down or otherwise effectively removing the stain. The used cleaning solution is then contained within the receiving component for later disposal.

It is important to note that the pressure differential that is used in the system can be negative, positive or both. For example, as discussed above, a negative pressure can be utilized to pull a cleaning solution out of the cleaning solution component, through the fabric, and into the receiving component. In another embodiment, a positive pressure can be created and used to push a cleaning solution out of the cleaning solution component, through the fabric, and into the receiving component. Alternatively, both a positive and negative pressure can be employed. The pressure differential can be created in a variety of ways. For example, hand pumps, squeeze bulbs, vacuums, pressurized air canisters, pressurized vacuum canisters, chemical vacuums, tanks, etc. could all be utilized separately or in combination. These pressure differential sources are preferably enclosed within one or more components in one embodiment. In an alternate embodiment, the invention incorporates one or more interfaces that allow the connection of pressure differential sources that are external devices (for example, a household vacuum cleaner).

The selections of cleaning solutions that are utilized in the present invention can vary considerably in the various embodiments. The cleaning solutions may comprise any number of now known or as yet unknown cleaning agents, laundry detergents, or other stain removing compounds. For example, a cleaning solution may comprise solvents, water, various surfactant blends, enzymes, and/or bleaches. In one embodiment, one or more suitable anionic, nonionic, ampholytic, zwitterionic, cationic or other surfactant or surfactant mixture may be used. As described in the prior art, it is often preferable that a cleaning solution have a low volatility and have a molecular weight within the range of from about 100 to about 250. The cleaning solution may be formed of any suitable glycolic, alcoholic or esteric, etheric hydrocarbon. A cleaning solution may also contain a liquid carrier; that carrier often being water. Alternatively, other suitable liquid carriers may be used including glycerin, propylene glycol, or other aforementioned glycol ethers or blends thereof. Enzymes may also be added to a cleaning solution. Various enzymes can enhance the cleaning properties of a cleaning solution and/or they may enhance the fabric care benefits thereof.

The above described embodiments and other embodiments of the present invention can be better understood by reference to the following detailed descriptions of the drawings.

FIG. 1 illustrates a side view of an exemplary embodiment of a stain removal system 100. As shown in FIG. 1, a stain removal system 100 has two primary components: a receiving component 110 and a cleaning solution component 120. The receiving component 110 is placed on one side of a fabric 130 that has a stain 140. It is preferable for the receiving component 110 to be placed on the side of the fabric 130 from which the stain 140 entered the fabric 130. The cleaning solution component 120 should be placed on the opposite side of the fabric 130 from the receiving component 110 such that the two components 110 and 120 are directly opposite one another with the stained portion of the fabric 130 between them. The two components 110 and 120 can be separated from one another so that they can be easily placed on both sides of a stained fabric 130 without removing the fabric 130 from its original location.

The receiving component 110 can be shaped and sized to comfortably fit into a user's hand. Ergonomic finger grooves and other design features can be incorporated. Similarly, the cleaning solution component 120 can each be shaped and sized to comfortably fit into a user's hand as well.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the receiving component 110 has a flexible and resilient squeeze bulb 112. The bulb 112 can be squeezed by a user of the system which causes air to be pushed from within the bulb and through an exhaust port 114. Then, when the user releases the bulb 112, the bulb 112 attempts to return to its original size and shape and a negative pressure (relative to the cleaning solution component) results. The negative pressure is directed towards the cleaning solution component 120 by an intake port 116 on the receiving component 110. In an alternate embodiment, the receiving component 110 uses a small vacuum pump to produce a negative pressure. In yet another embodiment, some other means of producing a negative pressure is utilized.

The negative pressure between the two components 110 and 120 acts upon the cleaning solution component 120 and causes a cleaning solution stored in a cleaning pad 122 to be sucked out of the pad 122, through the stain 140 in the fabric 130, and into the receiving component 110. As the cleaning solution passes through the stained fabric 130, it acts upon the stain 140, breaking it down or otherwise effectively removing the stain 140. The used cleaning solution is then contained within the receiving component 110 for later disposal.

The cleaning solution component 120 can hold different types or kinds of cleaning solutions. The solutions can be liquids, gels, etc. and are preferably supplied via a selection of presoaked cleaning pads. The selection of cleaning pads can contain stain-specific cleaning solutions, for example, a cleaning pad for coffee stains, a cleaning pad for red wine stains, etc. The pads can be supplied in individual containers having a seal of some type (for example, foil or plastic) to keep the pads moist. In an alternate embodiment, the container in which a cleaning pad is supplied can also double as the cleaning solution component 120 itself. In yet another embodiment, a single cleaning pad 122 can be selected and placed within the cleaning solution component 120. In one embodiment, a cleaning pad 122 can be selected and placed within the cleaning solution component 120. In another embodiment, a replaceable cleaning solution component 120 is supplied with an integrated cleaning pad 122 and the user simply selects the appropriate one for the type of stain 140. Alternatively, a combination of pads can be used. In yet another embodiment, a device that functions similarly to the pad 122 is used in place thereof. For example, a sponge, or other porous material that can hold a cleaning solution temporarily and then release all or a portion of that solution when subjected to a pressure differential can be utilized in an alternate embodiment. In yet another embodiment, the cleaning solution component 120 has a number of miniature tanks which can feed one or more cleaning solutions through a plurality of tubes upon demand.

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a stain removal system. As shown in FIG. 2, a stain removal system 200 has two primary components: a receiving component 210 and a cleaning solution component 220. The receiving component 210 is placed on one side of a fabric 230 that has a stain 240. It is preferable for the receiving component 210 to be placed on the side of the fabric 230 from which the stain 240 entered the fabric 230. The cleaning solution component 220 should be placed on the opposite side of the fabric 230 from the receiving component 210 such that the two components 210 and 220 are directly opposite one another with the stained portion of the fabric 230 between them.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, the receiving component 210 contains an electronic vacuum device 215. The embodiment shown in FIG. 2 differs from that illustrated in FIG. 1 in that the means of producing the pressure differential is a vacuum device 215 in FIG. 2; while in FIG. 1, the means is a bulb 112. Also shown in FIG. 2 is an on/off switch to activate the electronic vacuum device 215.

The electronic vacuum device 215 can be activated by a user of the system. Activation of the vacuum device 215 causes a pressure differential to be created between the receiving component 210 and the cleaning solution component 220. In one embodiment, the pressure differential is a negative pressure. The negative pressure is directed towards the cleaning solution component 220 by an intake port 216 on the receiving component 210. In an alternate embodiment, some other means of producing a pressure differential is utilized. In yet another embodiment, the pressure differential is positive or is a combination of both positive and negative pressures.

The pressure differential between the two components 210 and 220 acts upon the cleaning solution component 220 and causes a cleaning solution to be forced out of the cleaning pad 222, through the stain 240 in the fabric 230, and into the receiving component 210. As the cleaning solution passes through the stained fabric 230, it acts upon the stain 240, breaking it down or otherwise effectively removing the stain 240. The used cleaning solution is then contained within the receiving component 210 for later disposal.

The system 200 can be configured so that a user can activate the means of producing a pressure differential multiple times without modifying the cleaning solution component 220. In an alternate embodiment, a user can add or change the cleaning solution used in the cleaning solution component 220 between activations of the means of producing a pressure differential. Similarly, in one embodiment, the system 200 can require that the used cleaning solution be removed from the receiving component 210 between uses. Alternatively, in another embodiment, the system 200 can be used multiple times before removal of the used cleaning solutions is necessary.

FIG. 3 illustrates a close up view of an exemplary embodiment of a cleaning solution component 320 of a stain removal system 300. As shown in FIG. 3, both the cleaning solution component 320 and the receiving component 310 are round in shape. However, in alternate embodiments, the shape, size, and appearance of the components 310 and 320 can differ greatly from that shown in FIG. 3.

A cleaning pad 322 can be seen in FIG. 3. The pad 322 is infused with one or more cleaning solutions and serves as a means of holding the cleaning fluid until the system 300 is activated. As mentioned above, alternate cleaning solution holding means are contemplated. Also shown in FIG. 3 is a selection of cleaning pads 324. The user of the system can choose the appropriate cleaning pad based upon the nature of the stain that is to be removed.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the cleaning solution component 320 is configured to mate with the receiving component 310. The components 310 and 320 fit together such that stained fabric can be pressed between them and yet when a pressure differential is created, the resulting forces draw the cleaning solution from the cleaning pad 322. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, a channel 328 is incorporated into the cleaning solution component 320. The channel 328 receives the bottom portion 311 of the receiving component and sandwiches the stained fabric between the channel 328 and the bottom portion 311. In alternate embodiments, other shapes and features of the components 310 and 320 are employed to enhance the seal between the components 310 and 320, for example, one or more notches and tabs could be included on the components 310 and 320 and the tabs could fit into the notches when the components 310 and 320 are placed together.

FIG. 4 illustrates exemplary operations for utilizing a stain removal system. The method illustrated in FIG. 4 has a Receiving Component Placement operation 480. In this operation, the user places the receiving component in proximity to the stain to be cleaned, preferably on the side of the fabric on which the stain entered the fabric.

In the Cleaning Solution Selection operation 482, the user selects a cleaning solution to utilize in the system. This can be accomplished by selecting a presoaked cleaning pad containing a stain-specific cleaning solution, or by another means in accordance with the various embodiments described above. The user places the selected cleaning solution pad into the cleaning solution component or otherwise activates the selected cleaning solution.

In the Cleaning Solution Component Placement operation 484, the user places the cleaning solution component in proximity to the stain to be cleaned, preferably on the opposite side of the fabric from the receiving component. The two components are thereby aligned so that a pressure differential can be created between the two.

The user initiates the Pressure Differential Creation operation 486 by activating the means of creating the pressure differential between the two components. As described above, the means could be a squeeze bulb, a vacuum pump, or some other means. Once the pressure differential is created, it causes a cleaning solution to leave the cleaning solution component and pass through the stained fabric. The cleaning solution acts upon the stain and works to remove the stain as the cleaning solution passes through the fabric.

The Used Cleaning Solution Storage operation 488 begins when the used cleaning solution exits the fabric and is forced into the receiving component by the pressure differential. When the used cleaning solution enters the receiving component, it can be caught by a filter, diverted by a trap, or in some other way stored for later disposal. For example, an absorbent pad could soak up the incoming used cleaning solution and the user could later remove the absorbent pad and dispose of it. In yet another embodiment, the receiving component could inject the used cleaning solution back into the original cleaning pad and the used pad could then be thrown out with the used solution.

It should be understood that the above operations may be performed in any order, unless explicitly claimed otherwise or a specific order is inherently necessitated by the claim language.

The above specification, examples and data provide a description of the structure and use of exemplary embodiments of the described articles of manufacture and methods. Many embodiments can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.