Title:
FLEXIBLE CLEANING TOOL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cleaning tool comprises a soft, flexible body. A resilient backbone is located inside of the flexible body. The backbone may be insert molded in the body. The backbone may be formed of a plurality of branches where the branches extend from a center core to the edge of the body. The backbone may be formed with an arched shape in its undeformed state such that the body has an arched shape in its undeformed state and a cleaning surface of the body has a concave shape such that pressure may be applied to the body opposite the cleaning surface to flatten out the body. The body may have a first straight edge and an opposite convex edge where the concave edge may terminate at a corner having an acute included angle. The backbone may be pivotably connected to a handle.



Inventors:
Pho, Ashley Perry Zang Wentz (Winchester, VA, US)
Batsa, Stephen M. (Stephens City, VA, US)
Application Number:
12/410901
Publication Date:
10/01/2009
Filing Date:
03/25/2009
Assignee:
RUBBERMAID COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS, LLC (Winchester, VA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47L13/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HALL JR, TYRONE VINCENT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MOORE & VAN ALLEN PLLC (Charlotte, NC, US)
Claims:
1. A cleaning tool comprising: a flexible body; a resilient backbone insert molded inside of said flexible body.

2. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the body is made of a low durometer material.

3. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the body is made of EVA foam.

4. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the body is made of rubber.

5. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is located entirely inside of the body.

6. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone comprises a resilient material that is able to flex under the application of a force and return to its original shape once the force is removed.

7. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is made of nylon.

8. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is made of spring steel.

9. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is made of plastic.

10. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is provided with nubs that position the backbone relative to the body.

11. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein at least a portion of the backbone is exposed.

12. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is formed of a plurality of branches.

13. The cleaning tool of claim 12 wherein the body includes an edge and at least one of the plurality of branches extend from a center core to the edge of the body.

14. The cleaning tool of claim 12 wherein at least one branch of said plurality of branches extends to a corner of the body.

15. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is formed with an arched shape in its undeformed state such that the body has an arched shape in its undeformed state.

16. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein a cleaning surface of the body has a concave shape.

17. The cleaning tool of claim 16 wherein pressure may be applied to the body opposite the cleaning surface to flatten the body.

18. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein said body has a first straight edge and an opposite convex edge.

19. The cleaning tool of claim 18 wherein the concave edge terminates at a corner having an acute included angle.

20. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is connected to a knuckle.

21. The cleaning tool of claim 20 wherein said knuckle protrudes from the body.

22. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the body includes corners and the backbone is shaped to provide even pressure at the corners of the body when the body is flattened.

23. The cleaning tool of claim 20 wherein a handle is connected to said knuckle such that the handle can pivot about two axes.

24. The cleaning tool of claim 23 wherein the two axes are perpendicular to one another.

25. The cleaning tool of claim 23 wherein said handle includes an internal receptacle that is sized and shaped to receive a mating handle extension.

26. The cleaning tool of claim 1 wherein the backbone is formed with an upside down V shape in its undeformed state.

27. A cleaning tool comprising: a soft, flexible body; a resilient backbone having an undeformed state and located at least partially inside of said flexible body, said backbone being able to flex to a deformed state under the application of a force and return to the undeformed state upon removal of the force, said backbone being formed with an arched shape in its undeformed state such that the body has an arched shape where a cleaning surface of the body has a concave shape such that pressure may be applied to the body opposite the cleaning surface to flatten the body.

Description:

This application claims benefit of priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to the filing date of to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/040,033, as filed on Mar. 27, 2008, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to cleaning tools and, more particularly, to a flexible cleaning tool suitable for use as a wiping, cleaning, mopping or scrubbing tool.

BACKGROUND

Cleaning tools such as mops are known comprising an elongated handle that is attached to a cleaning tool head at a pivot joint. The cleaning tool head may include a base and a removable pad that can be replaced or cleaned after use. The pad may comprise a variety of materials suitable for cleaning or dusting a surface. Flexible cleaning tool heads are also known that allow the cleaning tool head to deform when cleaning shaped surfaces. Other cleaning tools such as dusters and brushes are also known.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A cleaning tool comprises a soft, flexible body. A resilient backbone is located inside of the flexible body. The backbone may be insert molded in the body. The backbone may be formed of a plurality of branches where the branches extend from a center core to the edge of the body. The backbone may be formed with an arched shape in its undeformed state such that the body has an arched shape in its undeformed state and a cleaning surface of the body has a concave shape such that pressure may be applied to the body opposite the cleaning surface to flatten out the body. The body may have a first straight edge and an opposite concave edge where the concave edge may terminate at a corner having an acute included angle. The backbone may be pivotably connected to a handle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the cleaning tool of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a back view of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a top view of the cleaning head of the embodiment of FIG. 1 showing the internal structure of the cleaning tool head in phantom line.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the internal resilient member shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a side view of an alternate embodiment of the internal resilient member.

FIG. 9 is a top view showing the resilient member bonded to the top outer surface of the body.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

An embodiment of the cleaning tool of the invention is shown generally at 1 in the figures and comprises a cleaning tool head 2 connected to a handle 4 such that the handle can pivot relative to the cleaning tool head. The handle 4 is shown as a relatively short elongated member adapted to be attached to a handle extension; however, handle 4 may be made as a full length handle fixed to cleaning tool head 2. In the illustrated embodiment the handle 4 has an axially extending internal receptacle 6 that is sized and shaped to receive a mating handle extension. Handle 4 is formed with through holes 8 that communicate the internal receptacle 6 with the exterior of the handle. Locking members on the handle extension may engage the holes 8 to lock the handle extension to the handle 4. In one embodiment the locking members comprise spring loaded members that are extended to engage the holes 8 and are retracted to disengage from holes 8.

The handle 4 is pivotably secured to the cleaning tool head 2 such that the cleaning tool head can pivot about two axes relative to the handle 4. A knuckle 10 extends from the top surface of cleaning tool head 2 as will hereinafter be described. A hinge member 12 engages knuckle 10 such that hinge member 12 can pivot relative to knuckle 10 about axis A-A (FIG. 2). In one embodiment hinge member includes a pair of pins that extend along axis A-A and into mating apertures 18 (FIG. 7) formed in the knuckle 10 such that the pins can pivot in the holes to allow hinge member 12 to pivot relative to knuckle 10. Other constructions of the joint are also possible such as using a separate axle that extends through the knuckle and hinge member. The handle 4 is pivotably connected to the hinge member 12 such that handle 4 can rotate about axis B-B (FIG. 4). In the illustrated embodiment handle 4 terminates in a fork 15 that receives hinge member 12. A pin 16 extends through aligned apertures formed in the hinge member 12 and handle 4 such that one or both of the handle 4 and hinge member 12 may pivot relative to the pin allowing the handle to rotate relative to the hinge member about axis B-B.

The cleaning tool head 2 is a generally flexible member comprising a resilient backbone 22 surrounded by an outer soft, flexible body 20. The outer body 20 of the cleaning tool head being made of a flexible, low durometer material such as closed cell EVA foam, EVA foam, elastomer, rubber or other relatively soft flexible material. The backbone 22 is located inside of the body and comprises a resilient material that is able to flex under the application of a force and return to its original shape once the force is removed. The backbone may be made of nylon, spring steel, resilient plastic such as polystyrene or other resilient material. In one embodiment a backbone 22 of nylon is insert molded into the body 20 during molding of the body 20 such that the body and backbone form an integral unit. The backbone 22 may be provided with nubs 23 to ensure that the backbone 22 remains centered vertically within the body 20 during the injection molding process. The body 20 may also be made in sections with the backbone 22 located between the sections after the sections are formed. The sections may then be bonded, fused or adhered to one another to complete the cleaning tool head 2. While the backbone 22 is shown being located entirely internally of the body 20 it is possible that portions of the backbone 22 may be exposed or the entire backbone 22 may be exposed and bonded to the top of body 20 as shown in FIG. 9.

Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, the backbone 22 is formed of a plurality of branches that extend from a center core to the edges and corners of the body 20. In the illustrated embodiment four main branches 24, 26, 28 and 29 extend from the center core 31 to each of the four corners 20a, 20b, 20c and 20d of body 20. Extending from each of the main branches are secondary branches 30 and 32 that extend to the side edges of the body 20 such that the side edges of the body are supported along their length at intermediate locations thereof. The shape of the backbone 22 provides an even pressure at the four corners of body 20 when the body 20 is flattened. Specifically, the longer legs 24 and 28 are made wider than the shorter legs 26 and 30 such that the pressure exerted at each end of the legs is evenly applied. Moreover the curved shape of backbone 22 spreads the compression loading more equally from the front to back as well as from side to side across body 20. By extending the backbone 22 to the corners and side edges of the body 20 the backbone 22 will return the body 20 to original shape. The backbone 22 may be formed integrally with the knuckle 10 such that when the body 20 is formed around the backbone 22 the knuckle 10 protrudes through hole 37 in body 20 from the top surface 33 of the cleaning tool head 2 where it can engage the hinge member 12. In one embodiment the knuckle 10 is connected to the backbone at the center of body 20. The knuckle and backbone may be made of one one-piece or the knuckle and backbone may be made of separate parts securely joined to one another.

Referring to FIGS. 2, 6 and 7 the backbone 22 is formed with an arched shape in its normal undeformed state such that the cleaning tool head 2 has an arched shape in its undeformed state. Specifically, the ends of the backbone 22 extend out of the plane of core 31 such that the cleaning surface 37 of the cleaning tool head 2, the surface opposite to the knuckle 10, has a concave or arched shape. In use, pressure may be applied to the top of cleaning tool head 2 such as by applying downward pressure to handle 4. This pressure forces the backbone 22 and body 20 to flatten out enabling the cleaning tool to clean flat surfaces and allows the cleaning tool head to exert pressure on the surface being cleaned for more effective cleaning and scrubbing. The head 2 returns to the undeformed state when the force is removed. Alternatively, the backbone 122 may have an upside down “V” shape, as shown in FIG. 8, in its undeformed state where the ends 122a of the backbone 122 extend from a raised peak 122b formed in the center of the backbone. With the upside down “V” shape the branches may be formed straight.

The cleaning tool head 2, being formed of a flexible body and a resilient backbone 22 is also able to deform when pressed against curved surfaces, such as a bath tub or the like, and to return to its original shape when pressure is removed from the cleaning tool head. The edges of head 2 can flex up such that the cleaning tool head can clean in corners or the like. The structure of the cleaning tool head 2 allows the cleaning tool head to flex without the edges bowing over time or after repeated use.

The cleaning tool head 2 has a shape particularly suited to cleaning. Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, the body 20 has a first straight long edge 40 and an opposite convex long edge 42. Curved concave shorter side edges 44 and 46 join long edges 40 and 42. The curved side edges 44 and 46 meet the straight edge at corners 20a and 20b where the corners 20a and 20b have an obtuse included angle. The curved side edges 44 and 46 meet the concave edge 42 at corners 20c and 20d having an acute included angle such that these corners have a relatively sharp pointed corner. Because the handle can pivot about axes A-A and B-B any of the edges 40, 42, 44 or 46 may be a leading edge during use. The straight edge 40 has particular use cleaning along straight edges such as base boards. The curved convex edge 42 has particular use for gathering loose debris because the convex curve prevents the dirt and debris from rolling off the edges of the side. The pointed corners 20d and 20c have particular use in digging dirt out of corners or other tight places.

One or more socks may be fit over the head 2 for particular cleaning applications. The socks may include microfiber material such as a standard pile microfiber, a window cleaning microfiber or a scrubber microfiber. Other materials may also be used on the socks.

Specific embodiments of an invention are described herein. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the invention has other applications in other environments. In fact, many embodiments and implementations are possible. The following claims are in no way intended to limit the scope of the invention to the specific embodiments described above.