Title:
DISPOSABLE SANITARY COVER FOR A TOILET AND RELATED METHODS OF USE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A disposable sanitary cover for a toilet and methods of using the cover. The cover includes a continuous single sheet dimensioned to cover a seat of the toilet and has a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of the sheet. The sheet may comprise a material which substantially dissolves in response to being placed in a water-based liquid having a temperature within a pre-selected temperature range. The cover may be secured to the seat by means of first and second side overhanging portions of the sheet which are operable to be tucked underneath the seat. The sheet may have a front overhanging portion enveloping front portions of the seat and toilet and connected to the first and second side overhanging portions to form a pocket. The sheet may have at least one protrusion oriented to protrude in a direction away from the toilet, and operable to be used as a sanitary grip to facilitate removal of the sheet from the toilet seat.



Inventors:
Stewart, Margarita Egle (Roslin) (Vancouver, CA)
Application Number:
12/301012
Publication Date:
07/23/2009
Filing Date:
05/15/2006
Assignee:
SSS Ventures International Corporation (Vancouver, B.C., CA)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PHILLIPS, CHARLES E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOLISCH HARTWELL, P.C. (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
1. 1-28. (canceled)

29. A disposable sanitary cover for a toilet, comprising: a continuous single sheet of material dimensioned to cover a seat of the toilet when deployed thereon and comprising a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of said sheet, said central opening being operable to be registered with an opening in said seat, said sheet having at least one protrusion operable to be used as a grip to facilitate removal of said sheet from the toilet seat, said at least one protrusion being oriented to protrude in a direction away from the toilet when said sheet is deployed on the seat.

30. The cover of claim 29 wherein some portions of said sheet are disposed adjacent said at least one protrusion so as to be interposed between a user and the toilet to protect the user from accidental contact with the toilet in the vicinity of said at least one protrusion when the user reaches to grasp said at least one protrusion.

31. The cover of claim 29 wherein said at least one protrusion is formed by cooperation of said front portion and at least one of said first and second side portions.

32. The cover of claim 31 wherein said at least one protrusion comprises a heat seam connecting said front portion to said at least one of said first and second side portions.

33. The cover of claim 32 wherein said at least one protrusion comprises a generally right-angled corner.

34. The cover of claim 29 wherein said at least one protrusion is integral with the cover.

35. The cover of claim 29 wherein said at least one protrusion comprises two generally parallel layers of said sheet.

36. The cover of claim 29 wherein said at least one protrusion is operable to be disposed adjacent a front portion of the toilet seat when said central opening of said sheet is registered with said opening in the toilet seat.

37. The cover of claim 29 wherein said continuous single sheet substantially dissolves in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a pre-selected temperature range.

38. The cover of claim 37 wherein the entire said continuous single sheet has a substantially uniform solubility.

39. The cover of claim 37 wherein the entire said sheet substantially dissolves within about 90 seconds of being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 degrees Celsius and about 30 degrees Celsius.

40. The cover of claim 37 wherein the entire said sheet dissolves sufficiently within about 15 to about 30 seconds of being placed in said water-based liquid, to permit said sheet to be deformed in response to flushing of the toilet such that the entire said sheet may be flushed down the toilet without clogging the toilet.

41. The cover of claim 37 wherein said continuous single sheet of material comprises polyvinyl alcohol.

42. The cover of claim 29 wherein said sheet is free of adhesive.

43. The cover of claim 29 wherein said sheet of material has a top surface and bottom surface and wherein entire said bottom surface has a higher coefficient of friction than said top surface.

44. A disposable sanitary cover for a toilet comprising a sheet dimensioned to cover a seat of the toilet when deployed thereon and comprising a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of said sheet, said central opening being operable to be registered with an opening in said seat, the cover comprising at least one protrusion oriented in an outward direction from the toilet when the cover is deployed on the toilet, said at least one protrusion being operable to be grasped and pulled to facilitate removal of the cover from said seat.

45. The cover of claim 44 wherein said front portion of said sheet includes a front overhanging portion for enveloping front portions of both the seat and toilet, said front overhanging portion being connected to at least one of said first and second side portions to form a pocket operable to help secure the sheet to the seat when the front portion of the toilet is inserted into said pocket, said at least one of said first and second side portions also cooperating with said front portion to provide said at least one protrusion oriented in said outward direction from the toilet and operable to be grasped and pulled by a user to facilitate removal of the cover from said seat.

46. The cover of claim 45 wherein said sheet comprises a continuous single sheet of film having a substantially uniform solubility such that when the cover is immersed in water-based liquid in the toilet, the entire cover tends to dissolve at a substantially uniform rate in the water-based liquid.

47. The cover of claim 45 wherein said sheet of material has a top surface for contacting a user and a bottom surface for contacting the toilet and wherein the entire said bottom surface has a higher coefficient of friction than said top surface.

48. A disposable sanitary cover for a toilet, comprising a continuous single sheet of water-soluble material dimensioned to cover a seat of the toilet when deployed thereon and comprising a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of said sheet, said central opening being operable to be registered with an opening in said seat, said first and second side portions including respective first and second side overhanging portions operable to be tucked underneath respective first and second side portions of the seat when it is lifted, said front portion including a front overhanging portion for enveloping front portions of both the seat and toilet, said front overhanging portion being folded back and connected to said first and second side overhanging portions so as to form a pocket operable to receive the front portion of the toilet when the cover is deployed on the toilet, said first and second side overhanging portions cooperating with said front overhanging portion, when the front portion of the toilet is received in said pocket, to provide at least one protrusion integral with the cover, disposed adjacent a front portion of the seat, and oriented in an outward direction from the toilet, said protrusion being operable to be grasped and pulled by a user to remove the cover from the seat, said at least one protrusion being surrounded by adjacent portions of the sheet, said adjacent portions of the sheet being interposed between the user and the toilet to protect the user from accidental contact with the toilet in the vicinity of said at least one protrusion when the user reaches to grasp said at least one protrusion, wherein the entire cover including said at least one protrusion substantially dissolves in response to being placed in a water-based liquid.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of Invention

This invention relates generally to sanitation and the protection of health, and more particularly, to a disposable sanitary cover for a toilet and to methods of using the cover.

2. Description of Related Art

Many public toilet facilities are dirty and offensive. Moreover, it is well known that physical contact with such toilet facilities can be hazardous to one's health. Germs and viruses have been spread in the past through contaminated public toilet facilities. For example, some researchers believe that SARS, the West Nile virus, and the Norwalk virus have been spread at least in part by shared toilet facilities. Therefore, many companies produce sanitary covers, most often made from paper, for use as a physical barrier to protect the user from inadvertent contact with contaminated toilet facilities. Typical sanitary covers are called “toilet seat covers” since they are intended to cover only the toilet seat itself, and not any other portion of the toilet.

Unfortunately, prior art sanitary covers are typically deficient in a number of respects. Prior art sanitary covers offer only partial protection if they cover only the toilet seat itself, but do not protect the user from inadvertent contact with the front, side or inside portions of the toilet bowl, which may also be contaminated. While a few larger covers have been made available, they too do not necessarily protect the user, since they tend to cling to the user, and may slip and slide on the top of the toilet seat during use, thereby creating a risk of unwanted contact with the toilet facility. One approach to the problem of slippage has been to add adhesive on the bottom surface of the cover to help secure it to the toilet seat. However, this often causes adhesive residue to be left behind on the top of the toilet seat. In some cases, the cover may be torn if the adhesive does not properly release from the toilet seat during removal, leaving an unsanitary mess for someone to scrape off the toilet seat. In any event, using adhesive adds to the cost and complexity of manufacturing and packaging the sanitary cover.

After use, a toilet seat cover should be removed so as to accommodate the next person using the toilet. However, the act of removing the toilet seat cover also incurs the risk of unwanted contact with the toilet since most toilet seat covers do not include any provisions to facilitate removal of the cover. Although some toilet seat covers have provided flaps which may be grasped during removal, these flaps may be unsanitary if they have been in direct contact with the toilet facility or with effluent. Moreover, existing flaps are often disposed at locations that expose the user to the risk of unwanted contact with the toilet facility as he or she reaches for the flap. If the sanitary cover has been left on the toilet by a previous user, then the user is faced with the additional problem of finding a portion of the toilet seat cover which has not touched the previous user.

Once a sanitary cover has been removed by a user, there remains a need to dispose of it. The paper and plastic-based covers of the prior art are typically unsuitable for disposal in the toilet itself because they comprise material which cannot readily disintegrate or dissolve in water. Despite this, in their desire to quickly and conveniently dispose of used sanitary covers, users often throw the covers into the toilet, thereby causing clogging and overflow of the toilet when it is flushed. Some prior art sanitary covers have attempted to address this problem by providing a cover which disintegrates into two or more sub-pieces when placed in toilet bowl water. While it is expected that the sub-pieces will be further disintegrated or dissolved by the higher-temperature water and waste-treatment action of an effluent treatment plant, it will be appreciated that the cover may nonetheless cause plumbing problems enroute if the sub-pieces are relatively large. Also, sanitary cover designs which use multiple parts, layers, or materials, are more complex and costly to manufacture. Covers made from material akin to toilet tissue may disintegrate into small pieces in water, but they also tend to be porous and lack structural integrity, therefore they fail to provide adequate protection. Therefore, the prior art has not adequately addressed the need to quickly and conveniently dispose of used sanitary toilet covers without clogging the toilet.

Thus, there is a need for an improved disposable sanitary cover for a toilet, and for methods of using such a cover.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of the invention, there is provided a disposable sanitary cover for a toilet, wherein the cover includes a continuous single sheet dimensioned to cover a seat of the toilet when deployed thereon and comprising a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of the sheet, the central opening operable to be registered with an opening in the seat, the continuous single sheet comprising a material which substantially dissolves in response to being placed in a water-based liquid having a temperature within a pre-selected temperature range.

The entire continuous single sheet may have a substantially uniform solubility.

The material may substantially dissolve within about 90 seconds of being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 degrees Celsius and about 30 degrees Celsius.

The entire continuous sheet may be capable of substantially dissolving within about 90 seconds in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 degrees Celsius and about 30 degrees Celsius.

The entire continuous sheet may be capable of substantially dissolving within about 60 seconds in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 degrees Celsius and about 30 degrees Celsius.

The continuous single sheet may dissolve sufficiently within about 15 to about 30 seconds of being placed in the water-based liquid, to permit the entire continuous single sheet to be deformed in response to flushing of the toilet such that the entire continuous single sheet may be flushed down the toilet without clogging the toilet.

The entire continuous single sheet may consist essentially of a single material.

The continuous single sheet of material may include polyvinyl alcohol.

The entire continuous single sheet of material may have been formed by a wet casting process.

The continuous single sheet of material may include MonoSol™ M2631A film.

The continuous single sheet of material may have a thickness of between about 0.5 mils to about 2.5 mils.

The continuous single sheet of material may have a thickness of between about 1 to about 2 mils.

The continuous single sheet of material may have a thickness of between about 1.3 to about 1.6 mils.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention there is provided a disposable sanitary cover for a toilet which includes a liftable toilet seat, wherein the cover includes a continuous single sheet of material dimensioned to cover the seat when deployed thereon, the sheet of material including a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of the sheet, the central opening being operable to be registered with an opening in the seat, the first and second side portions including respective first and second side overhanging portions operable to be tucked underneath respective first and second side portions of the seat when it is lifted, the front portion including a front overhanging portion for enveloping front portions of both the seat and toilet, the front overhanging portion being connected to the first and second side overhanging portions to form a pocket, the first and second side portions being operable to cooperate with the front portion to secure the sheet to the seat when the front portion of the toilet is inserted into the pocket and at least some of the first and second side portions are tucked underneath the respective first and second side portions of the seat.

The sheet may be free of adhesive.

The sheet of material may have a top surface and a bottom surface wherein the entire bottom surface has a higher coefficient of friction than the top surface.

The entire bottom surface may have a coefficient of friction sufficiently high to substantially interfere with sliding movement of the sheet on the seat.

The entire top surface may have a coefficient of friction sufficiently low for the top surface to substantially avoid clinging to a user upon contact of the user therewith.

The sheet may have a protrusion oriented in an outward direction from the toilet and operable to be used as a grip to facilitate removal of the sheet from the toilet seat.

The front and side portions may cooperate to provide the protrusion.

The continuous single sheet may substantially dissolve in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a pre-selected temperature range.

The entire continuous single sheet may have a substantially uniform solubility.

The entire sheet may substantially dissolve within about 90 seconds of being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 degrees Celsius and about 30 degrees Celsius.

The entire sheet may dissolve sufficiently within about 15 to about 30 seconds of being placed in the water-based liquid, to permit the sheet to be deformed in response to flushing of the toilet such that the entire the sheet may be flushed down the toilet without clogging the toilet.

The continuous single sheet of material may include polyvinyl alcohol.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of securing a disposable sanitary cover to a toilet. The method involves covering a seat of the toilet with a continuous single sheet of material dimensioned to cover the seat, the sheet comprising a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of the sheet aligned to register with an opening in the seat, the first and second side portions including respective first and second side overhanging portions dimensioned to hang over respective first and second side portions of the seat. The method also involves tucking the first and second side overhanging portions under respective first and second side portions of the seat such that the first and second side overhanging portions are held between bottom surface portions of the seat and corresponding top surface portions of an underlying toilet bowl of the toilet, to cause the sheet to be secured to the toilet.

The method may involve tucking at least some of the front portion of the sheet under a front portion of the seat such that the front portion of the sheet is held between a bottom surface of the seat and a top surface of the toilet bowl.

The method may involve inserting a front portion of the toilet into a pocket formed by at least some of the front portion of the sheet enveloping a front portion of the toilet and being connected to the first and second side overhanging portions of the sheet, the first and second side portions of the sheet cooperating with the front portion of the sheet to secure the sheet to the seat when the front portion of the toilet is inserted into the pocket and the first and second side portions of the sheet are tucked underneath the respective first and second side portions of the seat.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, there is provided a disposable sanitary cover for a toilet, wherein the cover includes a continuous single sheet of material dimensioned to cover a seat of the toilet when deployed thereon and comprising a front portion, first and second side portions, and a rear portion, all surrounding a generally central opening of the sheet, the central opening being operable to be registered with an opening in the seat, the sheet having at least one protrusion operable to be used as a grip to facilitate removal of the sheet from the toilet seat, the at least one protrusion being oriented to protrude in a direction away from the toilet when the sheet is deployed on the seat.

Some portions of the sheet may be disposed adjacent the at least one protrusion so as to be interposed between a user and the toilet to protect the user from accidental contact with the toilet in the vicinity of the at least one protrusion when the user reaches to grasp the at least one protrusion.

The at least one protrusion may be formed by cooperation of the front portion and at least one of the first and second side portions.

The at least one protrusion may include a heat seam connecting the front portion to at least one of the first and second side portions.

The at least one protrusion may include a generally right-angled corner.

The at least one protrusion may be integral with the cover.

The at least one protrusion may include two generally parallel layers of the sheet.

The at least one protrusion may be operable to be disposed adjacent a front portion of the toilet seat when the central opening of the sheet is registered with the opening in the toilet seat.

The continuous single sheet may substantially dissolve in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a pre-selected temperature range.

The entire continuous single sheet may have a substantially uniform solubility.

The entire sheet may substantially dissolve within about 90 seconds of being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 degrees Celsius and about 30 degrees Celsius.

The entire sheet may dissolve sufficiently within about 15 to about 30 seconds of being placed in the water-based liquid, to permit the sheet to be deformed in response to flushing of the toilet such that the entire sheet may be flushed down the toilet without clogging the toilet.

The continuous single sheet of material may include polyvinyl alcohol.

The sheet may be free of adhesive.

The sheet of material may have a top surface and bottom surface wherein the entire bottom surface has a higher coefficient of friction than the top surface.

Other aspects and features of the present invention will become apparent to those ordinarily skilled in the art upon review of the following description of specific embodiments of the invention in conjunction with the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In drawings which illustrate embodiments of the invention,

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a disposable sanitary cover for a toilet according to one embodiment of the invention, wherein the cover is shown in a non-deployed configuration;

FIG. 2 is a top view of the cover shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a bottom view of the cover shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the cover shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a front view of the cover shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a rear view of the cover shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the cover of FIG. 1 shown deployed in a first configuration, in which a front portion of the toilet is inserted into a pocket formed by the front and side portions of the cover, with side overhanging portions of the cover not being tucked under respective side portions of the toilet seat;

FIG. 8 is a side view of the cover and toilet shown in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a front view of the cover and toilet shown in FIG. 7;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the cover and toilet of FIG. 7, deployed in a second configuration, in which side overhanging portions of the cover are tucked underneath corresponding side portions of the toilet seat;

FIG. 11 is a side view of the cover and toilet seat shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is a front view of the cover and toilet seat shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of the cover and toilet shown in FIG. 10, deployed in a third configuration, in which at least some of the front portion of the cover is tucked in under a corresponding front portion of the toilet seat;

FIG. 14 is a side view of the cover and toilet shown in FIG. 13; and

FIG. 15 is a front view of the cover and toilet shown in FIG. 13.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 7, a disposable sanitary cover for a toilet is shown generally at 20. The cover 20 comprises a continuous single sheet 24 dimensioned to cover a seat 26 of a standard toilet 22 when deployed thereon. The sheet 24 includes a front portion 28, first and second side portions 30 and 32, and a rear portion 34, all surrounding a generally central opening 36 of the sheet 24. The central opening 36 is operable to be registered with an opening 38 in the seat 26 when the sheet 24 is deployed and suitably aligned on the toilet 22, as shown in FIGS. 7, 10 and 13. In this embodiment, the sheet 24 may include an inner flap portion 25 operable to be hung down inside the toilet bowl adjacent the front of the toilet 22 to protect male users from contact therewith, although in some embodiments this feature may be omitted. Generally, the sheet 24 has a top surface 76 for contacting a user and a bottom surface 78 for contacting the toilet 22 and forms a sanitary physical barrier between the user and the toilet.

In one embodiment, the disposable sanitary cover 20 shown in FIGS. 1 and 7 includes provisions for securing the cover to the toilet 22. In this embodiment, the first and second side portions 30 and 32 include respective first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 which are dimensioned to hang over the sides of the toilet 22 and are operable to be tucked underneath respective first and second side portions 64 and 66 of the seat 26 when the seat is lifted. Furthermore, the front portion 28 in this embodiment includes a front overhanging portion 68 dimensioned to envelop front portions of both the seat and toilet (e.g., 52 and 70 in FIG. 7). The front overhanging portion 68 is connected to the first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 to form a pocket 72 operable to receive the front portion 70 of the toilet 22. In this embodiment, the front overhanging portion 68 is connected to the first and second side portions 30 and 32 by respective heat seams 48 and 50.

Generally, the sheet 24 used in this embodiment may be about 19 to 21 inches wide and about 26 to 27 inches long, however, when about 6 inches of the front overhanging portion 68 of the sheet are folded back and connected by the heat seams 48 and 50 to the first and second side portions 30 and 32 to form the pocket 72, the length of the sheet 24 becomes about 20 to 21 inches. The generally central opening 36 of the sheet 24 may have a size of about 9 to 10 inches high by about 6 to 7 inches wide. While these dimensions appear to provide adequate protection for most public toilet facilities, other sizes may be chosen for the sheet 24 and/or the opening 36 for specific applications. Although in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-15, the perimeter of the opening 36 is shown as being comprised of a plurality of consecutive straight edges, it should be appreciated that the perimeter may have a different shape in another embodiment, for example, it may be curved.

In this embodiment, the disposable sanitary cover 20 is secured to the toilet seat 26 by the following method. The user opens the pocket 72 and inserts the front portion 70 of the toilet 22 therein thus enveloping the front portion of the toilet. The user covers the seat 26 with the sheet 24, registering the generally central opening 36 of the sheet 24 with the opening 38 in the seat 26. At this point, the first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 hang over the sides of the seat 26, as shown in FIG. 7. The user then tucks the first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 under respective first and second side portions 64 and 66 of the seat 26 such that the first and second side overhanging portions are held between bottom surface portions of the seat and corresponding top surface portions of an underlying toilet bowl 74 of the toilet, as shown in FIGS. 10 to 12.

In this configuration, the front overhanging portion 68, which forms the pocket 72, engages the front portion 70 of the toilet 22, thus restricting the sheet 24 from sliding backward. In addition, the first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 of the first and second side portions 30 and 32 are held between bottom surface portions of the seat 26 and corresponding top surface portions of an underlying toilet bowl 74 of the toilet 22, thus restricting the sheet 24 from sliding from side to side (and, to some extent, forward and backwards). Effectively, in this embodiment, the first and second side portions 30 and 32 cooperate with the front portion 28 to secure the sheet 24 to the seat 26 when the front portion 70 of the toilet 22 is inserted into the pocket 72 and at least some of the first and second side portions 30 and 32 are tucked underneath the respective first and second side portions 64 and 66 of the seat 26. Thus, the front pocket 72 both protects the user from contact with the front of the toilet 22 and helps to secure the cover 20 to the toilet.

To secure the cover 20 even more strongly to the toilet 22, the user may optionally also tuck at least some of the front portion 28 of the sheet 24 under a front portion 52 of the seat 26 so that the front portion of the sheet is held between a bottom surface of the seat and a top surface of the toilet bowl 74, as shown in FIGS. 13 to 15. While this has the effect of raising the pocket 72 somewhat, the pocket nevertheless continues to offer substantial protection against user contact with the front portion 70 of the toilet 22.

In some cases, however, the toilet 22 may lack a liftable toilet seat 26, or the user may wish not to tuck portions of the sheet 24 under the toilet seat 26. For example, the user may want to use the first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 to provide protection from contact with the sides of the toilet 22. An embodiment suitable for such applications employs a sheet 24 which is inherently less susceptible to slippage on the toilet seat 26. In this embodiment, the sheet 24 may be formulated such that the entire bottom surface 78 of the sheet has a higher co-efficient of friction than its top surface 76, even though the bottom surface is free of adhesive. In one such embodiment, the sheet 24 is made from MonoSol™ M2631A film (produced by MonoSol LLC of Portage, Ind.), which has a notably higher coefficient of friction on one surface than the other, unlike many other films of this type. When the surface with the higher coefficient of friction is used as the bottom surface 78 of the sheet 24, effectively the entire bottom surface 78 of the sheet 24 has a co-efficient of friction sufficiently high to substantially interfere with sliding movement of the cover 20 on the seat 26. Compared to ordinary paper toilet seat covers, the sheet 24 is substantially less likely to slip on a toilet seat. Conversely, the entire top surface 76 of the sheet 24 has a coefficient of friction sufficiently low such that, unlike paper-based toilet seat covers, the top surface substantially avoids clinging to the user upon contact of the user with the top surface.

Thus, it will be appreciated that the above embodiment provides the user with a substantial amount of flexibility in securing the cover 20 to the toilet 22. Not only is the risk reduced of the cover 20 sliding around and exposing the user to contact with the toilet 22, but this embodiment and the above methods of use obviate the use of adhesive on the bottom surface 78 of the cover.

One of the problems of providing sanitary covers in a public toilet facility is that users often fail to remove the sanitary covers from a toilet after use. This leaves the next user of the public toilet facility with the distasteful and unsanitary task of removing the cover from the toilet. With a typical toilet seat cover, there is usually no portion that is both easily graspable and that has not been contaminated by contact with the toilet facility. Although some sanitary covers include flaps that the user might use to remove the cover from the toilet, these flaps have typically been in contact with the toilet or with the previous user and thus are not hygienic for use as a grip to remove the cover. Moreover, such flaps are often disposed in a location which requires the user to risk touching the toilet if he or she reaches for the flaps.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, the cover 20 of the present embodiment includes provisions for removing it from a toilet. In this embodiment, the sheet 24 includes at least one protrusion (e.g., 40 or 42 as shown in FIG. 7) for use as a grip to facilitate removal of the sheet 24 from the toilet seat 26. The protrusions 40 and 42 in this embodiment are oriented to protrude in a direction away from the toilet 22 (i.e., outwardly, as shown by arrows 44 and 46, respectively, in FIGS. 7 and 9, for example), when the sheet 24 is deployed on the seat 26.

In this embodiment, each protrusion 40 and 42 is formed by cooperation of the front portion 28 and at least one of the side portions (30 or 32) of the sheet 24. Specifically, protrusion 40 is formed by a heat seam 48 connecting the front portion 28 to the first side portion 30 and the protrusion 42 is formed by a heat seam 50 connecting the front portion and the second side portion 32. As can be seen in FIGS. 7 to 9, each protrusion 40 and 42 in this embodiment is integral with the cover 20 and effectively comprises two generally parallel layers of the sheet 24 which are heat sealed in the shape of a generally right-angled corner. It will be appreciated that, in this embodiment, at least some portions of the sheet 24 are disposed adjacent each protrusion 40 and 42 so as to be interposed between a user and the toilet 22 to protect the user from accidental contact with the toilet in the viscinity of each protrusion when the user reaches out to grasp the protrusion in order to remove and dispose of the cover 20 from the toilet. Thus, the risk of a user accidentally touching the toilet 22 is greatly reduced.

In this embodiment, each protrusion 40 and 42 is operable to be disposed adjacent a front portion 52 of the toilet seat 26 when the central opening 36 of the sheet 24 is registered with the opening 36 in the toilet seat. This is a particularly convenient position for the protrusion since it facilitates the user simply grasping a protrusion with each hand and pulling the entire cover 20 forward and off the toilet 22. Even if the cover 20 has been secured to the toilet seat 26 by tucking portions of the sheet 24 under the toilet seat, pulling on the protrusions 40 and 42 will still be effective to remove the cover 20.

Given their frontal position and outward orientations, each protrusion (40 and 42) is convenient to grasp and, because it is surrounded by portions of the sheet 24, facilitates removal of the cover 20 from the toilet 22 without incurring the risk of contact with the toilet. Moreover, in the case where a new user of a public toilet facility must remove a cover 20 left by a previous user, because of the specific position and orientation of the protrusions 40 and 42, the new user has the consolation that the previous user was unlikely to have contacted the protrusions 40 and 42 during use of the toilet 22. Thus, each outwardly oriented protrusion may be safely used to remove the cover 20.

Once the cover 20 is removed, there is a need to conveniently dispose of it.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, in this embodiment, the continuous single sheet 24 is dissolvable and includes a material which substantially dissolves in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a pre-selected temperature range. For example, the sheet 24 in this embodiment is operable to substantially dissolve in response to being placed in water or effluent within the toilet 22. The sheet 24 does not merely disintegrate into multiple smaller pieces, like bathroom tissue paper and some prior art covers do, when thrown into the toilet—the sheet 24 actually dissolves. A dissolving cover tends to be less unsightly than one that merely disintegrates and is less likely to clog the plumbing.

In this embodiment, the entire continuous single sheet 24 consists essentially of a single material, namely, a uniform film including polyvinyl alcohol. Because the entire continuous single sheet 24 consists essentially of a single material, the entire sheet has a substantially uniform solubility, and therefore, all parts of the sheet tend to dissolve at nearly a uniform rate when immersed in water-based liquid in a toilet. One type of film that has been found to be particularly suitable is MonoSol™ M2631A film (manufactured by MonoSol LLC of Portage, Ind.), although it should be appreciated that an equivalent material could be substituted. The substantially homogenous film used in the sheet 24 of this embodiment may be manufactured by a wet casting process. An example of a polyvinyl alcohol film manufacturing process is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,374,195.

The sheet 24 may have a thickness of between about 0.5 mils to about 2.5 mils, although a more preferred range of thicknesses is between about 1 to 2 mils. (A “mil” is unit of length equal to one thousandth of an inch.) If the sheet 24 is thinner, it is at greater risk of being substantially weakened due to residual moisture (e.g., condensation) on the toilet 22 or toilet seat 26. However, if the sheet 24 is thicker, it tends to take longer to dissolve when placed in water-based liquid. Also, thicker sheets are more costly. Thus, a balance must be struck between resistance to residual moisture, rate of dissolution, and cost. It has been found that a thickness of between about 1.3 to about 1.6 mils for the sheet 24 strikes an appropriate balance. (The thickness of the sheet 24 in the Figures has been exaggerated somewhat to better illustrate how the front overhanging portion 68 is folded back and joined by heat seams 48 and 50 to the first and second side overhanging portions 60 and 62 so as to form the pocket 72. Also, note that the pocket 72 has been shown in the Figures as being partially visible through the top surface 76 of the sheet 24 because the sheet 24 in this embodiment is semi-transparent.)

When the film used in the sheet 24 has a thickness of between about 1.3 to 1.6 mils, the sheet substantially dissolves in about 60 to about 90 seconds in response to being placed in water-based liquid having a temperature within a temperature range of between about 10 to about 30 degrees Celsius. (The temperature of water in a toilet would usually fall within this temperature range.) It will be appreciated that the precise solubility of the sheet 24 of this embodiment will vary depending on film manufacturing tolerances and the temperature of the toilet water. In addition, film solubility is affected by the amount of other materials which are dissolved in the water-based liquid. The material tends to dissolve faster in warmer and purer water and more slowly in colder and less pure water.

Even where the cover 20 of this embodiment does not dissolve completely when placed in cold or impure toilet water, it is substantially degraded in strength after a short period of immersion and therefore may readily be flushed. Specifically, this embodiment is operable to dissolve sufficiently within about 15 to about 30 seconds of being placed in water-based liquid, to permit the entire continuous single sheet 24 to be deformed in response to flushing of the toilet 22 such that the entire continuous single sheet may be flushed down the toilet without clogging the toilet. Thus, the cover 20 may be easily disposed of by placing it in the toilet 22 to at least partially dissolve and then flushing it down the toilet.

Thus, the cover 20 of this embodiment may be conveniently and easily disposed of without the need to use special waste disposal bins and without incurring a substantial risk of clogged plumbing. It should also be noted that when the cover 20 dissolves, its byproducts are innocuous and do not pollute the environment.

In general, the cover in its various embodiments may be used on a toilet as a sanitary protective barrier by a wide range of users, including vulnerable persons—such as those with immune system disorders, the handicapped, the elderly, and children—who might be particularly susceptible to toilet-borne germs such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, for example.

While specific embodiments of the invention have been described and illustrated, such embodiments should be considered illustrative of the invention only and not as limiting the invention as construed in accordance with the accompanying claims.





 
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