Title:
DRAIN STRAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stopper assembly for a drain system of a fluid basin, components thereof and related methods are provided. The stopper head assembly includes a stopper head and a strainer to strain fluid passing through the drain system when the stopper head is in a drain position. The stopper head and the strainer may be selectively removable from the drain system as a strainer cartridge or unit by manipulating the stopper head relative to the drain system or a component installed in the drain system.



Inventors:
Ali, Naushad (Woodinville, WA, US)
Application Number:
15/012705
Publication Date:
09/01/2016
Filing Date:
02/01/2016
Assignee:
Ali Naushad
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03C1/262; E03C1/23
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROS, NICHOLAS A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SEED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW GROUP LLP (SEATTLE, WA, US)
Claims:
1. 1-23. (canceled)

24. A stopper assembly for a drain system of a fluid basin having a drain body with an internally threaded hub, the stopper assembly comprising: a stopper head to sealingly engage the drain system of the fluid basin when the stopper assembly is moved from a drain position to a plug position; a strainer detachably coupled to the stopper head to strain at least a portion of a flow of fluid passing through the drain system of the fluid basin when the stopper assembly is installed and the stopper head is in the drain position; and an adapter coupled to the drain body and detachably coupleable to a portion of the stopper head to enable selective removal of the stopper head and the strainer as a unit from the adapter while the adapter remains installed for use and coupled to the drain body.

25. The stopper assembly of claim 24 wherein the strainer is detachably coupled to the stopper head via a user actuatable release mechanism to facilitate replacement of the strainer with a replacement strainer.

26. The stopper assembly of claim 24 wherein the stopper head and the strainer form a strainer cartridge that is selectively detachable from the adapter coupled to the threaded hub of the drain body.

27. The stopper assembly of claim 26 wherein the strainer cartridge is detachable from the adapter by rotating the strainer cartridge about a central axis such that a coupling member of the strainer cartridge is released from the adapter.

28. The stopper assembly of claim 24 wherein the stopper head includes a pair of actuatable elements to selectively release the strainer from the stopper head, the actuatable elements including strainer engagement portions biased outwardly away from each other.

29. The stopper assembly of claim 28 wherein the actuatable elements of the stopper head are configured to move in in response to insertion of an upper end of the strainer into the stopper head.

30. The stopper assembly of claim 24 wherein a stem portion of the stopper head includes an adapter coupling member to detachably couple the stopper head to the adapter, the adapter coupling member configured to enable selective detachment of the stopper head and the strainer as a unit from the adapter while the adapter remains installed in the drain system.

31. The stopper assembly of claim 24 wherein the stopper head comprises a telescoping shaft assembly.

32. The stopper assembly of claim 31 wherein the telescoping shaft assembly includes an inner shaft, an outer shaft and a friction member provided therebetween to assist in holding an upper portion of the stopper head in a desired position.

33. The stopper assembly of claim 24 wherein the adapter comprises a telescoping shaft assembly that enables movement of the stopper head between the drain position and the plug position while the stopper head is attached to the adapter.

34. The stopper assembly of claim 33 wherein the adapter further comprises a compression spring positioned around the telescoping shaft assembly to bias the strainer cartridge upward.

35. A method of using a stopper assembly to remove debris from a drain system of a fluid basin having a drain body with an internally threaded hub, the method comprising: coupling an adapter to the internally threaded hub of the drain body; detaching a strainer cartridge having a stopper head and a strainer holding the debris from the adapter within the drain system of the fluid basin by rotating the stopper head to detach the strainer cartridge from engagement with the adapter; actuating a release mechanism on the stopper head of the strainer cartridge to release the strainer and the debris from the stopper head; attaching a replacement strainer to the stopper head to form a replacement strainer cartridge by inserting a stem portion of the strainer into the stopper head; and attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the adapter installed within the drain system of the fluid basin.

36. The method of claim 35 wherein detaching the strainer cartridge from the adapter installed within the drain system of the fluid basin includes rotating the stopper head of the strainer cartridge about a central axis until a coupling device of the stopper head is freely withdrawable from the adapter.

37. The method of claim 35 wherein attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the adapter installed within the drain system of the fluid basin includes rotating the replacement strainer cartridge about a central axis until a coupling device of the stopper head is locked together with a corresponding coupling device of the adapter.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Technical Field

The present disclosure relates to a stopper assembly for a drain system of a fluid basin, and in particular, a stopper assembly with a replaceable strainer element.

2. Description of the Related Art

Conventional bathroom sinks typically include a stopper that serves to selectively seal or open a drain in a sink basin. The stopper is mounted to the top of a plunger seated in a drain pipe that extends below the sink basin. The stopper can be moved between open and closed positions by actuating a lever located near the sink faucet. The lever is typically mechanically linked to a horizontal rod that extends below the sink and transmits motion imparted on the lever to the plunger. The horizontal rod typically extends through a pivot seat in the drain pipe to achieve the desired lifting and lowering motion of the plunger. By actuating the lever, a user is able to raise and lower the stopper, and thereby select whether to open or close the sink drain.

The conventional drain and stopper mechanisms described above, however, can be problematic. For example, the horizontal rod tends to become misaligned relative to the plunger or the lever after a relatively short period of use, resulting in the stopper sagging or tilting in the open position or failing to close properly. In addition, hair and foreign objects that pass through the drain can clog up the sink, making it necessary to either disassemble the pipes located beneath the sink in order to unclog the drain, or to call a plumber. There is also a risk that valuable items, such as rings and contact lenses, can fall into the sink drain and potentially be lost. It is known to include a strainer beneath a stopper in a bathroom sink, tub or other fluid basin. However, conventional strainer assemblies for bathroom sinks, tubs or other fluid basins can be difficult to access for cleaning and replacement.

BRIEF SUMMARY

Embodiments described herein provide systems and methods that enable a strainer element to be installed in a drain of a fluid basin and selectively replaced as desired in a particularly efficient and sanitary manner. Systems include, for example, a stopper assembly with a removable strainer cartridge having a replaceable strainer element. In some instances, the replaceable strainer element can be released from the strainer cartridge without contacting the strainer element, which may be full of collected debris.

According to one embodiment, a stopper assembly for a drain system of a fluid basin may be summarized as including a stopper head having a seal to sealingly engage a drain system of the fluid basin when the stopper assembly is moved from a drain position to a plug position; a strainer coupled to the stopper head to strain at least a portion of a flow of fluid passing through the drain system of the fluid basin when the stopper assembly is installed and the stopper head is in the drain position; and a stopper body operably coupleable to a control element of the drain system and detachably coupleable to a portion of the strainer to enable selective removal of the stopper head and the strainer as a unit from the stopper body while the stopper body remains installed for use and coupled to the control element. The strainer may be detachably coupled to the stopper head via a user actuatable release mechanism to facilitate replacement of the strainer with a replacement strainer. The stopper head may be coupled to the stopper body via the intermediary of the strainer. The stopper head and the strainer may form a strainer cartridge that may be detachable from the stopper body. The strainer cartridge may be detachable from the stopper body by rotating the strainer cartridge about a central axis such that resilient coupling members of the stopper body are released from apertures in a stem portion of the strainer. The stopper head may include a pair of actuatable elements to selectively release the strainer from the stopper head, the actuatable elements including strainer engagement portions biased inwardly toward each other. The actuatable elements of the stopper head may be configured to move in in response to insertion of an upper end of the strainer into a cavity of the stopper head. A stem portion of the strainer may include a stopper body engagement feature to detachably couple the strainer to the stopper body, the engagement feature configured to enable selective detachment of the strainer and the stopper head as a unit from the stopper body while the stopper body remains installed in the drain system. The stopper body may include a strainer platform portion to serve as a stop for the strainer when installed onto the stopper body. The strainer platform portion of the stopper body may include a key feature to engage a correspondingly sized notch in the strainer when the strainer is moved into an engaged position with the stopper body. The key feature may include a ramp portion to assist in slightly lifting the strainer as the strainer is moved from the engaged position with the stopper body to a disengaged position. The stopper body may include a slender, elongated shaft extending along a central axis of the stopper assembly to receive the strainer. The slender, elongated shaft may include resilient coupling members at an upper end thereof for selectively engaging apertures in a stem portion of the strainer. The resilient coupling members may include cam portions configured to interact with the stem portion of the strainer to assist in transitioning the strainer from an engaged position with the stopper body to a disengaged position.

According to one embodiment, a strainer cartridge for a drain system may be summarized as including a stopper head having a seal device to sealingly engage the drain system when the strainer cartridge is moved from a drain position to a plug position and a strainer to strain at least a portion of a flow of fluid passing through the drain system when the strainer cartridge is installed and the stopper head is in the drain position, the strainer having an elongated stem portion that extends into a cavity of the stopper head and is detachably coupled to the stopper head to facilitate replacement of the strainer with a replacement strainer. The stopper head may include a pair of actuatable elements to selectively release the strainer from the stopper head, the actuatable elements including strainer engagement portions biased inwardly toward each other. The actuatable elements of the stopper head may be configured to move in in response to insertion of an upper end of the strainer into the cavity of the stopper head.

According to one embodiment, a replaceable strainer of a strainer cartridge for a drain system may be summarized as including: a body portion defining a receptacle, the receptacle including a base and a sidewall extending from a periphery of the base, each of the base and the sidewall including a plurality of apertures to form a strainer structure to strain a flow of fluid passing through the receptacle during operation of the drain system; and a stem portion extending beyond an end of the receptacle and including a stopper head engagement feature to detachably couple the replaceable strainer to a stopper head to form the strainer cartridge, and including at least one aperture in an upper end of the stem portion to receive resilient coupling members of a stopper body when the replaceable strainer is installed for use. The receptacle may include one or more notches at a lower peripheral edge thereof for engaging a corresponding portion of the stopper body when the replaceable strainer is installed for use. The stem portion may include an upstream end and a downstream end, the upstream end resembling an arch or bridge structure.

According to one embodiment, a method of using a stopper assembly to remove debris from a drain system of a fluid basin may be summarized as including: detaching a strainer cartridge having a stopper head and a strainer holding the debris from a stopper body installed within the drain system of the fluid basin by rotating the stopper head to detach the strainer from engagement with the stopper body; actuating a release mechanism on the stopper head of the strainer cartridge to release the strainer and the debris from the stopper head; attaching a replacement strainer to the stopper head to form a replacement strainer cartridge by inserting a stem portion of the strainer into a cavity of the stopper head; and attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the stopper body installed within the drain system of the fluid basin. Detaching the strainer cartridge from the stopper body installed within the drain system of the fluid basin may include rotating the stopper head of the strainer cartridge about a central axis until resilient coupling members of the stopper body are withdrawn from apertures in the stem portion of the strainer. Attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the stopper body installed within the drain system of the fluid basin may include rotating the replacement strainer cartridge about a central axis until resilient coupling members of the stopper body at least partially protrude into apertures in the stem portion of the strainer. Attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the stopper body installed within the drain system of the fluid basin may include rotating the replacement strainer cartridge about a central axis until a notch in a lower edge of the strainer engages a corresponding portion of the stopper body.

According to one embodiment, a stopper assembly for a drain system of a fluid basin having a drain body with an internally threaded hub may be summarized as including: a stopper head to sealingly engage the drain system of the fluid basin when the stopper assembly is moved from a drain position to a plug position; a strainer detachably coupled to the stopper head to strain at least a portion of a flow of fluid passing through the drain system of the fluid basin when the stopper assembly is installed and the stopper head is in the drain position; and an adapter coupled to the drain body and detachably coupleable to a portion of the stopper head to enable selective removal of the stopper head and the strainer as a unit from the adapter while the adapter remains installed for use and coupled to the drain body. The strainer may be detachably coupled to the stopper head via a user actuatable release mechanism to facilitate replacement of the strainer with a replacement strainer. The stopper head and the strainer may form a strainer cartridge that may be selectively detachable from the adapter coupled to the threaded hub of the drain body. The strainer cartridge may be detachable from the adapter by rotating the strainer cartridge about a central axis such that a coupling member of the strainer cartridge may be released from the adapter. The stopper head may include a pair of actuatable elements to selectively release the strainer from the stopper head, the actuatable elements including strainer engagement portions biased outwardly away from each other. The actuatable elements of the stopper head may be configured to move in in response to insertion of an upper end of the strainer into the stopper head. A stem portion of the stopper head may include an adapter coupling member to detachably couple the stopper head to the adapter, and the adapter coupling member may be configured to enable selective detachment of the stopper head and the strainer as a unit from the adapter while the adapter remains installed in the drain system. The stopper head may include a telescoping shaft assembly. The telescoping shaft assembly may include an inner shaft, an outer shaft and a friction member provided therebetween to assist in holding an upper portion of the stopper head in a desired position. The adapter may comprise a telescoping shaft assembly that enables movement of the stopper head between the drain position and the plug position while the stopper head is attached to the adapter. The adapter may further comprise a compression spring positioned around the telescoping shaft assembly to bias the strainer cartridge upward.

According to one embodiment, a method of using a stopper assembly to remove debris from a drain system of a fluid basin having a drain body with an internally threaded hub may be summarized as including: coupling an adapter to the internally threaded hub of the drain body; detaching a strainer cartridge having a stopper head and a strainer holding the debris from the adapter within the drain system of the fluid basin by rotating the stopper head to detach the strainer cartridge from engagement with the adapter; actuating a release mechanism on the stopper head of the strainer cartridge to release the strainer and the debris from the stopper head; attaching a replacement strainer to the stopper head to form a replacement strainer cartridge by inserting a stem portion of the strainer into the stopper head; and attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the adapter installed within the drain system of the fluid basin. Detaching the strainer cartridge from the adapter installed within the drain system of the fluid basin may include rotating the stopper head of the strainer cartridge about a central axis until a coupling member of the stopper head is freely withdrawable from the adapter. Attaching the replacement strainer cartridge to the adapter installed within the drain system of the fluid basin may include rotating the replacement strainer cartridge about a central axis until a coupling device of the stopper head is locked together with a corresponding coupling device of the adapter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a stopper assembly, according to an example embodiment, shown with a strainer cartridge thereof in an engaged configuration with a stopper body.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of the stopper assembly of FIG. 1 shown with the strainer cartridge in a disengaged configuration.

FIG. 3 is an isometric view of the stopper assembly of FIG. 1 shown with the strainer cartridge separated from the stopper body.

FIG. 4 is an isometric view of the strainer cartridge of the stopper assembly of FIG. 1 shown with a stopper head thereof separated from a strainer thereof.

FIG. 5 is a partially exploded isometric view of the stopper head of the stopper assembly of FIG. 1 showing internal components thereof.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the strainer cartridge of the stopper assembly of FIG. 1 taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is an isometric cross-sectional view of a portion of a stopper assembly, according to another embodiment, having a stopper head coupled to a strainer with a seal positioned therebetween.

FIG. 8 is an isometric view of the seal of the stopper assembly of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 provides comprehensive views of the strainer of the stopper assembly of FIG. 7.

FIG. 10 is an exploded isometric view of a stopper assembly, according to another embodiment, with a stopper head thereof shown in cross-section.

FIG. 11 is an isometric view of a stopper assembly, according to an example embodiment, shown with a strainer cartridge thereof in an engaged configuration with a tub drain assembly and in a plug position.

FIG. 12 is an isometric view of the stopper assembly of FIG. 11 shown with the strainer cartridge thereof in the engaged configuration and in an unplugged or drain position.

FIG. 13 is an isometric view of the stopper assembly of FIG. 11 shown with the strainer cartridge in a disengaged configuration.

FIG. 14 is an isometric view of the stopper assembly of FIG. 11 shown with the strainer cartridge separated from the tub drain assembly.

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of the strainer cartridge of the stopper assembly of FIG. 11 shown with a stopper head thereof separated from a strainer thereof.

FIG. 16 is a view of the strainer cartridge of the stopper assembly of FIG. 11 shown with a stopper head thereof separated from a strainer thereof, and with a cap of the stopper head removed to reveal internal components thereof.

FIG. 17 is a view of latch members of the stopper head of the stopper assembly of FIG. 11.

FIG. 18 is a cross-sectional view of the stopper assembly taken along line 18-18 of FIG. 11.

FIG. 19 is a cross-sectional view of the stopper assembly taken along line 19-19 of FIG. 12.

FIG. 20 is a partial cross-sectional view of a stopper assembly, according to another example embodiment, shown with a strainer cartridge thereof in an engaged configuration with a tub drain assembly and in a plug position.

FIG. 21 is a partial cross-sectional view of the stopper assembly of FIG. 20, shown with a strainer cartridge thereof in an engaged configuration with the tub drain assembly and in unplugged or drain position.

FIG. 22 is a skewed isometric view of the tub drain assembly with the strainer cartridge removed and with a drain body thereof shown transparent to provide visibility of other components.

FIG. 23 is a side elevational view of a stopper head portion of the strainer cartridge attached to an upper end of the tub drain assembly with the strainer removed to provide visibility of the connection.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following description, certain specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of various disclosed embodiments. However, one of ordinary skill in the relevant art will recognize that embodiments may be practiced without one or more of these specific details. In other instances, well-known features or structures associated with fluid basins, drain systems, drain stoppers and strainers may not be shown or described in detail to avoid unnecessarily obscuring descriptions of the embodiments.

Unless the context requires otherwise, throughout the specification and claims which follow, the word “comprise” and variations thereof, such as, “comprises” and “comprising” are to be construed in an open, inclusive sense, that is as “including, but not limited to.”

Reference throughout this specification to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment. Thus, the appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment” or in an “embodiment” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments.

FIGS. 1 through 6 show a stopper assembly 10 for a drain system of a fluid basin according to one example embodiment. The stopper assembly 10 is configured to be installed in a fluid basin (e.g., a sink basin) with the stopper assembly 10 movable between an unplugged or drain position and a plug position. In the unplugged or drain position, fluid (e.g., water) may drain out of the fluid basin via the drain system. The drain system may include a drain pipe that extends below the fluid basin and that includes an upper portion having a sink flange that is received within a drain opening of the basin. The upper end of the drain system may be shaped to closely receive an upper end 30 of the stopper assembly 10 when the stopper assembly 10 is moved downward from the drain position to the plug position. The upper end 30 of the stopper assembly 10 may include a seal device 32 (FIG. 6), such as, for example, a gasket or an o-ring to sealingly engage the drain system when the stopper assembly 10 is moved into the plug position to prevent fluid (e.g., water) from draining out of the basin. In other instances, a seal device 32, such as a bead or lip, may be formed integrally with the upper end 30 of the stopper assembly 10. The stopper assembly 10 may be conveniently moved between the drain position and the plug position by a conventional control rod which transmits motion imparted by a user on a lever located remotely from the drain system to a lower end 34 of the stopper assembly 10. For this purpose, the lower end 34 of the stopper assembly 10 may include one or more control apertures 36 or other feature for coupling to the control rod.

With reference to FIGS. 1 through 4, the stopper assembly 10 comprises a stopper head 40, a strainer 44 and a stopper body 42. The stopper head 40 is provided at the upper end 30 of the stopper assembly 10 and is selectively attachable to the stopper body 42 via the intermediary of the strainer 44. The strainer 44 is coupled beneath the stopper head 40 and to the stopper body 42 to trap debris or other matter as fluid passes through the strainer 44 during use. In some embodiments, the strainer 44 may be detachably coupled to the stopper head 40, as discussed in further detail below. In other embodiments, the strainer 44 may be fixedly attached or permanently attached to the stopper head 40 or integrally formed therewith. Advantageously, when the strainer 44 is detachably coupled to the stopper head 40, the strainer 44 may be removed with the stopper head 40 and selectively replaced with a replacement strainer 44 in a particularly convenient manner. In other instances, the strainer 44 may be removed with the stopper head 40 and cleaned for reuse in the drain system. In some embodiments, the strainer 44 may be held or otherwise provided between a portion of the stopper body 42 and the stopper head 40 without fixedly attaching to either component. In this case, the strainer 44 may be withdrawn from the drain system separately from the stopper head 40.

The stopper head 40 may have a generally circular profile similar to conventional stoppers, or may have other shapes. As shown in FIGS. 1 through 6, the stopper head 40 may have a general mushroom shape with an enlarged head portion 50 and a reduced neck portion 52 (FIG. 6). The seal device 32 described above may be positioned around the reduced neck portion 52.

The stopper head 40 may further include features for selectively engaging the strainer 44, as discussed in greater detail elsewhere, and the strainer 44 may also include features for selectively engaging the stopper body 42 such that the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 may be selectively secured as a unit or cartridge 46 to the stopper body 42. In some instances, for example, the strainer 44 may include an upper portion 82 having a stopper body engagement feature 87, such as an aperture, notch, ledge, detent, or latch recess or receptacle, which is engageable by or with a portion of the stopper body 42. For example, the upper portion 82 of the strainer 44 may include a central stem or elongated member 86 that extends in the direction of the central axis A from a bottom end of the strainer to an upper end of the strainer 44. The stem or elongated member 86 may partially or completely surround a shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 when the strainer cartridge 46 is attached to the stopper body 42. In this manner, the stem or elongated member 86 may have a central cavity or passage 88 through which the shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 may be insertably received during use. The shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 may be slender and extend along the central axis A of the stopper assembly 10 to receive the strainer 44 thereabout. The shaft 90 may further include resilient coupling members 92 or other coupling devices that are configured to mate with the stopper body engagement feature 87 to temporarily secure the stopper head 40 and strainer 44 to the stopper body 42. For instance, according to the example embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 through 6, the upper end of the shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 includes a pair of resilient coupling members 92 that are shaped to engage corresponding apertures 87 in the upper end of the stem 86 of the strainer 44 when the strainer 44 and stopper body 42 are rotated into the position shown in FIG. 1. The resilient coupling members 92 may further include one or more cam portions 93 that serve to direct the resilient coupling members 92 inwardly as the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 are rotated as a unit in the direction indicated by the arrow labeled 110 in FIG. 2 so as to unlock the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 from the stopper body 42.

Rotating the stopper head 40 and strainer 44 about ninety degrees or more may transition the stopper head 40 and strainer 44 from an engaged position, as shown in FIG. 1, in which the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 are securely attached to the stopper body 42, to a disengaged position, as shown in FIG. 2, in which the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 are detached or freely separable as a unit from the stopper body 42. To further facilitate transitioning the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 between the engaged position, as shown in FIG. 1, and the disengaged position, as shown in FIG. 2, the strainer 44 may include one or more notches 78 to engage a correspondingly shaped key 98, tab or other structure of the stopper body 42 which serves as a stop when the strainer 44 and the stopper head 40 are rotated into the engaged position shown in FIG. 1. The key 98, tab or other structure may be part of a platform portion 94 of the stopper body 42 which supports the strainer cartridge 46 when installed. Moreover, the key 98, tab or other structure may include a ramp or cam portion that cooperates with the corresponding notch 78 of the strainer to slightly lift the strainer 44 and the stopper head 40 as a unit as they are rotated from the engaged position to the disengaged position, which can also serve to move the resilient coupling members 92 of the stopper body 42 partially into the cavity 88 of the stem 86 of the strainer 44 to assist in maintaining the strainer 44 and stopper head 40 combination in a condition in which it is freely separable from the stopper body 42. The key 98, notch 78, cam portions 93 of the resilient coupling members 92, and the stopper body engagement feature 87 made be configured to temporarily lock the strainer 44 and the stopper head 40 in the engaged position in a coordinated manner, and to release the strainer 44 and the stopper head 40 from the engaged position in a coordinated manner.

In other embodiments, the stopper head 40, the strainer 44 and/or the stopper body 42 may include other features for facilitating selective engagement and disengagement of the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 as a unit with the stopper body 42, such as, for example, a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fasteners. Irrespective of the particular fastening device, the stopper head 40, the strainer 44 and/or the stopper body 42 are configured to enable separation of the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 as a unit from the stopper body 42 while the stopper body 42 remains installed in the drain system by twisting, pulling, manipulating or otherwise interacting with the stopper head 40 from within the interior of the fluid basin. Advantageously, the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 attached thereto can therefore be removed from the drain system without removing or disengaging the control rod from the stopper body 42.

As previously indicated, the stopper head 40 may include coupling devices for selectively engaging the strainer 44. For instance, the example embodiment includes a release mechanism 60 that may be actuated to release a pair of spring-biased latch members 62 from engagement with a stopper head engagement feature 84 of the strainer 44. The strainer 44 may be released, separated or detached from the stopper head 40 by actuating the release mechanism 60 toward the central axis A.

In some embodiments, the release mechanism 60 may be substantially contained within the stopper head 40, as shown best in the partially exploded view of the stopper head 40 of FIG. 5 and the cross-sectional view of FIG. 6, with ends of the spring-biased latch members 62 being accessible to a user at the periphery of the stopper head 40. The spring-biased latch members 62 may be configured relative to a spring element 64 such that latching ends 63 of the latch members 62 are biased inwardly toward the central axis A. A user may actuate the latch members 62 by pressing exposed portions of the latch members 62 inwardly against the bias of the spring element 64 to release the stopper head engagement feature 84 of the strainer 44 from the latch members 62 as the latching ends 63 of the latch members 62 move away from the central axis A. The stopper head engagement feature 84 may comprise a bridge structure or platform supported by opposing ears or supports 89. The latching ends 63 may include sloped or ramped surfaces such that the stopper head engagement feature 84 may be pressed into a cavity of the stopper head 40 and cause the latching ends of the latch members 62 to move outwardly and then back inwardly to retain the stopper head engagement feature 84 without use of the user-manipulable portions of the latch members 62. Advantageously, a user can quickly snap the stopper head 40 onto a replacement strainer 44 as needed. The release mechanism 60 may be substantially contained within the stopper head 40 between a cap portion 43 and a bottom housing member 41, a portion of which may define the reduced neck portion 52 and provide a mounting arrangement for the seal device 32. The cap portion 43 may include recesses 45 for providing access to the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 60. Although the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 60 are shown as extending through the periphery of the cap portion 43, in some embodiments, the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 60 may be concealed beneath a cap or cover that reflects those of conventional drain stoppers.

In other embodiments, the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 may include other features for facilitating selective engagement and disengagement of the same, such as, for example, a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fasteners. Irrespective of the particular release mechanism 60, in some embodiments, the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 are configured to enable separation of the stopper head 40 from the strainer 44 after the stopper head 40 and strainer 44 are removed as a cartridge 46 from the drain system. For example, in accordance with the example embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 through 6, the strainer 44 is selectively detachable from the stopper head 40 without requiring a user to touch or otherwise contact the strainer 44. This may be particularly advantageous when replacing a strainer 44 that is soiled with debris, such as, for example, hair and other matter that collects in the strainer 44 during use.

In some embodiments, the strainer 44 may include a body portion defining a receptacle 70. The receptacle 70 may include a sidewall 72 extending from a periphery of a base 74. Each of the sidewall 72 and the base 74 may include a plurality of apertures 76 to form a strainer structure to strain fluid passing through the receptacle 70 during operation of the drain system. The receptacle 70 may be generally cylindrical and may encircle a portion of the stopper body 42 when installed for use. In some embodiments, the strainer 44 may taper in a downstream direction such that, when the strainer 44 is in position for use within the drain system and a lower portion of the strainer 44 is blocked with collected debris, fluid can bypass the debris in the strainer 44 via the apertures in the sidewall 72 and a gap between the strainer 44 and the drain pipe of the drain system.

An upstream end of the strainer 44 may include a plurality of flexible fingers 80 that splay outward from the central axis A of the strainer 44. The fingers 80 may flex in response to contact with the drain pipe as the stopper assembly 10 is drawn into the plug position. In the drain position, the fingers 80 may extend near or in close proximity to the drain pipe or may contact the drain pipe. In this manner, most of the fluid and any matter passing into the drain system inevitably passes through the receptacle 70 of the strainer 44.

The strainer 44 may include an upper portion 82 having a stopper head engagement feature 84 to detachably couple the strainer 44 to the stopper head 40 to form the strainer cartridge 46. The stopper head engagement feature 84 may include, for example, a structure engageable by the spring-biased latch members 62 of the stopper head 40. In other embodiments, the engagement feature may include a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fastener devices. The upper portion 82 may be part of a central stem or elongated member 86 that extends in the direction of the central axis A from a bottom end of the strainer to an upper end of the strainer 44. The stem or elongated member 86 may partially or completely surround a shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 when the strainer cartridge 46 is attached to the stopper body 42. The stem or elongated member 86 may have a central cavity or passage 88 through which the shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 may be insertably received during use. The shaft 90 of the stopper body 42 may be slender and extend along the central axis A of the stopper assembly 10 to receive the strainer 44 thereabout.

With reference to FIGS. 1 through 4, a method of using the stopper assembly 10 to remove debris from a drain system of a fluid basin will now be described. The method may begin with installing the stopper assembly 10 in the drain system and coupling the stopper body to a control rod so that the stopper body 42 may be selectively moved between an unplugged or drain position and a plug position. Coupling the stopper body 42 to the control rod may include, for example, passing the control rod through a control aperture 36 or other coupling feature of the stopper body 42.

Fluid and debris may then be intermittently passed through the drain system as the fluid basin is used on a daily or periodic basis. As the fluid and debris flows through the drain system, a substantial portion passes through the strainer 44 of the stopper assembly 10 and at least some or a significant portion of the debris will become trapped in the strainer 44. Debris may therefore accumulate in the strainer 44 over time. The strainer 44 may then be removed and cleaned or replaced as desired to clear the drain system of the collected debris.

In particular, and with reference to FIG. 2, the strainer cartridge 46, which comprises the stopper head 40 and the strainer 44 holding the debris, may be detached from the stopper body 42, which remains installed within the drain system of the fluid basin. Detaching the strainer cartridge 46 may include, for example, rotating the strainer cartridge 46 about the central axis A, as represented by the arrow labeled 110, such that corresponding engagement features 87, 90 provided between the strainer cartridge 46 and the stopper body 42 disengage. For instance, the strainer cartridge 46 may be rotated about ninety degrees or more relative to the stopper body 42 such that the engagement between apertures 87 in the stem 86 of the strainer 44 and the resilient coupling members 92 at an upper end of the shaft 90 disengage. In other instances, the strainer cartridge 46 and the stopper body 42 may be provided with a detent mechanism, a clip, a snap or other fastener device, such that the strainer cartridge 46 may be released after overcoming a threshold force, such as by pulling the strainer cartridge 46 upwardly with sufficient force to overcome the threshold force provided by the detent mechanism, clip, snap or other fastener device.

With reference to FIG. 3, after detaching the strainer cartridge 46, the strainer cartridge 46 may be removed from the drain system and separated from the stopper body 42 in the direction indicated by the arrow labeled 112, while the stopper body 42 remains conveniently installed in the drain system. In this manner, the strainer cartridge 46 can be quickly removed from the drain system with minimal effort and without disassembling the drain system.

With reference to FIG. 4, after removing the strainer cartridge 46 from the drain system, the strainer 44 and the debris collected therein can be released from the stopper head 40 by actuating a release mechanism 60 on the stopper head 40 of the strainer cartridge 46. Actuating the release mechanism may include, for example, actuating a pair of opposing spring-biased latch members 62 to release the strainer 44, as indicated by the arrows labeled 114. Once released, the strainer 44 may fall under the influence of gravity into a waste or compost receptacle, as represented by the arrow labeled 116. Next, a replacement strainer 44 may be attached to the stopper head 40 to form a replacement strainer cartridge 46, and the replacement strainer cartridge 46 may be attached to the stopper body 42 in the drain system. Alternatively, the debris collected in the strainer 44 may be emptied into a waste or compost receptacle and the strainer 44 reattached to the stopper head 40 for reuse.

Other methods of removing debris or otherwise reducing clogging of a drain system of a fluid basin may be provided in view of the stopper assemblies 10, components and systems described herein. For example, a method of reducing clogging may include installing a strainer cartridge 46, comprising a stopper head 40 and a strainer 44 coupled to the stopper head 40, into the drain system of the fluid basin; operating the drain system with the strainer cartridge 46 in position; removing the strainer cartridge 46 from the drain system after the strainer 44 has captured debris; operating a release mechanism 60 of the strainer cartridge 46 to release the strainer 44 and debris from the stopper head 40; attaching a replacement strainer 44 to the stopper head 40 to form a replacement strainer cartridge 46; and installing the replacement strainer cartridge 46 into the drain system of the fluid basin.

In addition, it is appreciated that some methods may include detaching the stopper head 40 from the strainer 44 while the strainer 44 is still securely attached to the stopper body 42 within the drain, such as by actuating the release mechanism 60 while the strainer 44 remains engaged with the stopper body 42. The user may then grab and manipulate the upper portion 82 of the strainer 44 to disengage it from the stopper body 42 separately of the stopper head 40, such as by twisting or rotating the strainer 44 to disengage it from the stopper body 42, and remove the strainer 44 from within the drain. The user may then dispose of the strainer 44 or clean the strainer 44 to be used in the drain again. The strainer 44 or a replacement strainer 44 may then be positioned back into the drain and moved into engagement with the stopper body 42. Finally, the stopper head 40 can be reconnected to the strainer 44 such as by pressing the stopper head 40 into engagement with the upper portion 82 of the strainer 44 until the stopper head engagement feature 84 of the strainer 44 is securely received by the spring-biased latch members 62 of the release mechanism 60. In other instances, the release mechanism 60 may be omitted and the stopper head 40 may be attached to the strainer 44 by other devices, such as, for example, threading the stopper head 40 onto a threaded stem of the strainer 44.

FIG. 7 shows an isometric cross-sectional view of a portion of a stopper assembly, according to another embodiment, having a strainer detachably coupled to a stopper head with a seal positioned therebetween. Further details of the seal are shown in FIG. 8. Advantageously, the seal is coupled to the stopper head and sized and shaped to interface with corresponding features (e.g., shoulder, shelf, or other sealing surface or feature) of the strainer when the strainer is attached to the stopper head. This provides additional assistance in sealing water within the basin in which the stopper assembly is installed.

FIG. 9 provides comprehensive views of the strainer of the stopper assembly of FIG. 7. Notably, the stem of the strainer includes an upper end that is sized and shaped to be detachably received by the stopper head and a shoulder to engage the seal that is coupled to the stopper head. The receptacle portion of the strainer includes a plurality of elongated relief features in a sidewall thereof to enable the receptacle to flex and conform to the shape of a drain within which the stopper assembly is installed.

FIG. 10 shows a stopper assembly 110 for a drain system of a fluid basin according to another example embodiment. The stopper assembly 110 comprises a stopper head 140, a strainer 144 and a stopper body 142. The stopper head 140 is provided at an upper end of the stopper assembly 110 and is selectively attachable to the stopper body 142 with the strainer 144 positioned therebetween to trap debris or other matter as fluid passes through the strainer 144 during use. In some embodiments, the strainer 144 may be trapped or sandwiched between the stopper head 140 and a portion of the stopper body 142. The strainer 144 may include an upper stem end 184 that is insertably receivable in a corresponding aperture 185 of the stopper head 140, such as a slot-shaped aperture. In this manner, rotation of the stopper head 140 may be imparted to the strainer 144 when the stopper head 140 is positioned thereon. Accordingly, the strainer 144 may be rotated with the stopper head 140 similar to the aforementioned example stopper assembly 10 to move the stopper head 140 and strainer 144 from an engaged position with the stopper body 142 (which may be the same or similar to stopper body 42 described earlier) to a disengaged positioned in which the stopper head 140 and the strainer 144 may be removed separately from the drain. For this purpose, the upper stem end 184 of a stem portion 186 of the strainer 144 may include an arch or bridge or other structure that extends significantly beyond an upper end of a receptacle portion 170 of the strainer 144 to serve as a grip for removing the strainer 144 from within the drain.

After replacing the strainer 144 or otherwise cleaning it, the replacement strainer 144 or cleaned strainer 144 may be positioned onto a shaft 190 of the stopper body 142 to be supported by a platform portion 194 thereof or other stop. The stopper head 140 may then be placed back onto the upper stem end 184 of the strainer 144 and used to turn the strainer 144 and stopper head 140 together as a unit until resilient coupling members 192 at the end of the shaft 190 engage corresponding coupling structures, such as recesses 187, in a base of the stopper head 140. In this way, the upper end of the stopper body 142 may snap into or otherwise engage the stopper head 140 to temporarily lock the strainer 144 in a position between the stopper head 140 and the platform portion 194 of the stopper body 142. Other features and structures of the stopper assembly 110 may include those that are the same or similar to aspects and features of the aforementioned example embodiment of the stopper assembly 10.

Although the stopper assemblies 10, 110 and components thereof described herein are described as interfacing with a conventional sink arrangement with a control rod for moving the stopper assemblies between an unplugged or drain position and a plug position, it is appreciated that the stopper assemblies 10, 110, components thereof and aspects of the same may be used with a variety of different fluid basins and control elements to provide the various functionalities described herein. For example, the stopper assemblies 10, 110, components thereof and aspects of the same may be used with a tub or other fluid basin other than a sink.

FIGS. 11 through 19 show a stopper assembly 210 for a drain system 200 of a fluid basin according to another example embodiment. The stopper assembly 210 is configured to be installed in a fluid basin (e.g., a bathtub) with the stopper assembly 210 movable between an unplugged or drain position, such as shown in FIGS. 12 and 19, and a plug position, as shown in FIGS. 11 and 18. In the unplugged or drain position, fluid (e.g., water) may drain out of the fluid basin via the drain system 200. The drain system 200 may include a drain body 202 that extends below the fluid basin and that includes an upper portion having a flange 204 that is received within a drain opening of the basin. The drain body 202 may include a lower grate structure 206 that supports a central hub 208 having internal threads to receive various drain stoppers. The upper end of the drain system 200 may be shaped to closely receive or nest with an upper end 230 of the stopper assembly 210 when the stopper assembly 210 is moved downward from the drain position shown in FIGS. 13 and 19 to the plug position shown in FIGS. 11 and 18. The upper end 230 of the stopper assembly 210 may include a seal device 232, such as, for example, a gasket or an o-ring to sealingly engage the drain system 200 when the stopper assembly 210 is moved into the plug position to prevent fluid (e.g., water) from draining out of the basin. In other instances, a seal device 232, such as a bead or lip, may be formed integrally with the upper end 230 of the stopper assembly 210. The stopper assembly 210 may be conveniently moved between the drain position and the plug position by a user, such as by pulling on the upper end 230 as indicated by the arrow labeled 231 in FIG. 12.

With reference to FIGS. 11 through 15, the stopper assembly 210 comprises a stopper head 240, a strainer 244 and an adapter body 242. The stopper head 240 is provided at the upper end 230 of the stopper assembly 210 and is selectively attachable to the adapter body 242 with the intermediary of the strainer 244 positioned therebetween. The strainer 244 is detachably coupled beneath the stopper head 240 to trap debris or other matter as fluid passes through the strainer 244 during use. In other embodiments, the strainer 244 may be fixedly attached or permanently attached to the stopper head 240 or integrally formed therewith. Advantageously, when the strainer 244 is detachably coupled to the stopper head 240, the strainer 244 may be removed with the stopper head 240 and selectively replaced with a replacement strainer 244 in a particularly convenient manner. In other instances, the strainer 244 may be removed with the stopper head 240 and cleaned for reuse in the drain system. In some embodiments, the strainer 244 may be held or otherwise provided between the adapter body 242 and the stopper head 240 without fixedly attaching to either component. In this case, the strainer 244 may be withdrawn from the drain system 200 separately from the stopper head 240.

The stopper head 240 may have a generally circular profile similar to conventional stoppers, or may have other shapes. As shown in FIGS. 13 through 15, 18 and 19, the stopper head 240 may have a general mushroom shape with an enlarged head portion 250 and a reduced neck or stem portion 252. The seal device 232 described above may be positioned around the reduced neck or stem portion 252. The stopper head 240 may further include features for selectively engaging the strainer 244, as discussed in greater detail elsewhere, and may also include features for selectively engaging the adapter body 242 such that the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 may be selectively secured as a unit or cartridge 246 to the adapter body 242.

In some instances, the stopper head 240 may include features for selectively engaging the adapter body 242 such that the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 may be selectively secured as a unit or cartridge 246 to the adapter body 242. For example, the stopper head 240 may include a shaft assembly 253, 254 have a coupling member 255 (e.g., pin, rod, key) for engaging a corresponding coupling feature of the adapter body 242, such as, for example, a coupling passage or keyway 256 provided in the adapter body 242 for receiving the coupling member 255. The coupling passage or keyway 256 may be shaped to receive the coupling member 255 in a vertical direction aligned with the central axis A2 and to enable the stopper head 240 to rotate about the central axis A2 (e.g., about 90 degrees) until the coupling member 255 is restrained from being withdrawn vertically from the adapter body 242, as can be appreciated best from

FIGS. 14 and 15 wherein the coupling passage or keyway 256 (FIG. 14) and the coupling member 255 (FIG. 15) are visible. In this manner, the stopper head 240 can be selectively detached and reattached to the adapter body 242 as desired to gain access to the strainer 244 and/or the drain system 200. More particularly, rotating the stopper head 240 and strainer 244 about ninety degrees or more may transition the stopper head 240 and strainer 244 from an engaged position, as shown in FIGS. 11 and 12, in which the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 are securely attached to the adapter body 242, to a disengaged position, as shown in FIG. 13, in which the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 are detached or freely separable as a unit from the adapter body 242.

In other embodiments, the stopper head 240, the strainer 244 and/or the adapter body 242 may include other features for facilitating selective engagement and disengagement of the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 as a unit with the adapter body 242, such as, for example, a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fasteners. Irrespective of the particular fastening device, the stopper head 240, the strainer 244 and/or the adapter body 242 are configured to enable separation of the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 as a unit from the adapter body 242 while the adapter body 242 remains installed in the drain system by twisting, pulling, manipulating or otherwise interacting with the stopper head 240 from within the interior of the fluid basin. Advantageously, the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 attached thereto can therefore be removed as a unit by a user for cleaning or servicing as desired, as illustrated by the arrow labeled 212 in FIG. 14.

As previously indicated, the stopper head 240 may include coupling devices for selectively engaging the strainer 244. For instance, the example embodiment includes a release mechanism 260 that may be actuated to release a pair of spring-biased latch members 262 from engagement with a stopper head engagement feature 284 of the strainer 244. The strainer 244 may be released, separated or detached from the stopper head 240 by actuating the release mechanism 260 toward the central axis A2, for example, as represented by the arrows labeled 261 in FIG. 15.

In some embodiments, the release mechanism 260 may be substantially contained within the stopper head 240, as shown best in FIG. 16 and the cross-sectional views of FIGS. 18 and 19, with ends of the spring-biased latch members 262 being accessible to a user at the periphery of the stopper head 240. The spring-biased latch members 262 may be configured relative to a spring element 264 such that latching ends 263 of the latch members 262 are biased outwardly away from the central axis A2. A user may actuate the latch members 262 by pressing exposed portions of the latch members 262 inwardly against the bias of the spring element 264 to release the stopper head engagement feature 284 of the strainer 244 from the latch members 262 as the latching ends 263 of the latch members 262 move toward the central axis A2. The latching ends 263 may include sloped or ramped surfaces such that the stopper head engagement feature 284 may be pressed into the stopper head 240 and cause the latching ends 263 of the latch members 262 to move inwardly and then back outwardly to retain the stopper head engagement feature 284 without use of the user-manipulable portions of the latch members 262. Advantageously, a user can quickly snap the stopper head 240 onto a replacement strainer 244 as needed. The release mechanism 260 may be substantially contained within the stopper head 240 between a cap portion 243 and a bottom housing member 241. The cap portion 243 may include recesses for providing access to the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 260. Although the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 260 are shown as extending through the periphery of the cap portion 243, in some embodiments, the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 260 may be concealed beneath a cap or cover that reflects those of conventional drain stoppers.

In other embodiments, the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 may include other features for facilitating selective engagement and disengagement of the same, such as, for example, a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fasteners. Irrespective of the particular release mechanism 260, in some embodiments, the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 are configured to enable separation of the stopper head 240 from the strainer 244 after the stopper head 240 and strainer 244 are removed as a cartridge 246 from the drain system. For example, in accordance with the example embodiment shown in FIGS. 8 through 16, the strainer 244 is selectively detachable from the stopper head 240 without requiring a user to touch or otherwise contact the strainer 244. This may be particularly advantageous when replacing a strainer 244 that is soiled with debris, such as, for example, hair and other matter that collects in the strainer 244 during use.

In some embodiments, the strainer 244 may include a body portion defining a receptacle 270. The receptacle 270 may include a sidewall 272 extending from a periphery of a base 274. Each of the sidewall 272 and the base 274 may include a plurality of apertures 276 to form a strainer structure to strain fluid passing through the receptacle 270 during operation of the drain system 200. The receptacle 270 may be generally cylindrical and may encircle a portion of the stopper head 240 and/or adapter body 242 when installed for use. In some embodiments, the strainer 244 may taper in a downstream direction such that, when the strainer 244 is in position for use within the drain system 200 and a lower portion of the strainer 244 is blocked with collected debris, fluid can bypass the debris in the strainer 244 via the apertures in the sidewall 272 and a gap between the strainer 244 and the drain body 202 of the drain system 200.

An upstream end of the strainer 244 may include a plurality of flexible fingers 280 that splay outward from the central axis A2 of the strainer 244. The fingers 280 may flex in response to contact with the drain body 202 as the stopper assembly 210 is drawn into the plug position. In the drain position, the fingers 280 may extend near or in close proximity to the drain body 202 or may contact the drain body 202. In this manner, most of the fluid and any matter passing into the drain system 200 inevitably passes through the receptacle 270 of the strainer 244.

The strainer 244 may include a stem 283 having a stopper head engagement feature 284 at an upper end thereof to detachably couple the strainer 244 to the stopper head 240 to form the strainer cartridge 246. The stopper head engagement feature 284 may include, for example, a structure engageable by the spring-biased latch members 262 of the stopper head 240, such as, for example, opposing ear members with coupling apertures 285 provided therein to receive latching ends 263 of the spring-biased latch members 262. In other embodiments, the engagement feature may include a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fastener devices. The stem 283 may extend in the direction of the central axis A2 from a bottom end of the strainer 244 to an upper end of the strainer 244. The stem or elongated member 283 may partially or completely surround the shaft assembly 253, 254 of the stopper head 240 when the strainer cartridge 246 is attached to the adapter body 242. The stem or elongated member 283 may have a central cavity or passage 288 through which the shaft assembly 253, 254 of the stopper head 240 may be insertably received during use. The shaft assembly 253, 254 of the stopper head 240 may be slender and extend along the central axis A2 of the stopper assembly 210 to receive the strainer 244 thereabout.

With reference to FIGS. 18 and 19, the shaft assembly 253, 254 of the stopper head 240 may be configured to telescope between the plug position shown in FIG. 18 and the unplugged or drain position shown in FIG. 19. For example, the shaft assembly 253, 254 may include an inner shaft 253 and an outer shaft 254 wherein the inner shaft 253 is extendable from the outer shaft 254 to facilitate movement between the plug position shown in FIG. 18 and the unplugged or drain position shown in FIG. 19. The outer shaft 254 may include a stop member 257 or other stop feature that rides in a slot or aperture 258 in the inner shaft 253 to limit the travel of the inner shaft 253 relative to the outer shaft 254, or vice versa. A friction member 259 may also be provided between the inner shaft 253 and the outer shaft 254 to assist in holding the upper end of the stopper head 240 at a desired position. As an example, the friction member 259 may comprise an annular spring clip that is coupled to the inner shaft 253 and applies a bias to the outer shaft 254.

With reference now to FIGS. 11 through 15, a method of using the stopper assembly 210 to remove debris from a drain system of a fluid basin will now be described. The method may begin with installing the stopper assembly 210 in the drain system 200. Fluid and debris may then be intermittently passed through the drain system 200 as the fluid basin is used on a daily or periodic basis. As the fluid and debris flows through the drain system 200, a substantial portion passes through the strainer 244 of the stopper assembly 210 and at least some or a significant portion of the debris will become trapped in the strainer 244. Debris may therefore accumulate in the strainer 244 over time. The strainer 244 may then be removed and cleaned or replaced as desired to clear the drain system 200 of the collected debris.

In particular, and with reference to FIG. 13, the strainer cartridge 246, which comprises the stopper head 240 and the strainer 244 holding the debris, may be detached from the adapter body 242, which remains installed within the drain system 200 of the fluid basin. Detaching the strainer cartridge 246 may include, for example, rotating the strainer cartridge 246 about the central axis A2, as represented by the arrow labeled 211, such that corresponding engagement features provided between the strainer cartridge 246 and the adapter body 242 disengage. For instance, the strainer cartridge 246 may be rotated about ninety degrees or more relative to the adapter body 242 such that the engagement between the coupling member 255 of the shaft assembly 253, 254 of the stopper head 240 and the coupling passage or keyway 256 of the adapter body 242 is released. In other instances, the strainer cartridge 246 and the adapter body 242 may be provided with a detent mechanism, a clip, a snap or other fastener device, such that the strainer cartridge 246 may be released after overcoming a threshold force, such as by pulling the strainer cartridge 246 upwardly with sufficient force to overcome the threshold force provided by the detent mechanism, clip, snap or other fastener device.

With reference to FIG. 14, after detaching the strainer cartridge 246, the strainer cartridge 246 may be removed from the drain system 200 and separated from the adapter body 242 in the direction indicated by the arrow labeled 212, while the adapter body 242 remains conveniently installed in the drain system 200. In this manner, the strainer cartridge 246 can be quickly removed from the drain system 200 with minimal effort and without disassembling the drain system 200.

With reference to FIG. 15, after removing the strainer cartridge 246 from the drain system 200, the strainer 244 and the debris collected therein can be released from the stopper head 240 by actuating a release mechanism 260 on the stopper head 240 of the strainer cartridge 246. Actuating the release mechanism 260 may include, for example, actuating a pair of opposing spring-biased latch members 262 to release the strainer 244, as indicated by the arrows labeled 261. Once released, the strainer 244 may fall under the influence of gravity into a waste or compost receptacle, as represented by the arrow labeled 265. Next, a replacement strainer 244 may be attached to the stopper head 240 to form a replacement strainer cartridge 246, and the replacement strainer cartridge 246 may be attached to the adapter body 242 in the drain system 200. Alternatively, the debris collected in the strainer 244 may be emptied into a waste or compost receptacle and the strainer 244 reattached to the stopper head 240 for reuse.

Other methods of removing debris or otherwise reducing clogging of a drain system of a fluid basin may be provided in view of the stopper assemblies, components and systems described herein. For example, a method of reducing clogging may include installing a strainer cartridge 246, comprising a stopper head 240 and a strainer 244 coupled to the stopper head 240, into the drain system 200 of the fluid basin; operating the drain system with the strainer cartridge 246 in position; removing the strainer cartridge 246 from the drain system after the strainer 244 has captured debris; operating a release mechanism 260 of the strainer cartridge 246 to release the strainer 244 and debris from the stopper head 240; attaching a replacement strainer 244 to the stopper head 240 to form a replacement strainer cartridge 246; and installing the replacement strainer cartridge 246 into the drain system 200 of the fluid basin.

FIGS. 20 through 23 show a stopper assembly 310 for a drain system 300 of a fluid basin according to another example embodiment. The stopper assembly 310 is configured to be installed in a fluid basin (e.g., a bathtub) with the stopper assembly 310 movable between an unplugged or drain position, such as shown in FIG. 21, and a plug position, as shown in FIG. 20. In the unplugged or drain position, fluid (e.g., water) may drain out of the fluid basin via the drain system 300. The drain system 300 may include a drain body 302 that extends below the fluid basin and that includes an upper portion having a flange 304 that is received within a drain opening of the basin. The drain body 302 may include a lower grate structure 306 that supports a central hub 308 having internal threads to receive various drain stoppers or other components. The upper end of the drain system 300 may be shaped to closely receive or nest with an upper end 330 of the stopper assembly 310 when the stopper assembly 310 is moved downward from the drain position shown in FIG. 21 to the plug position shown in FIG. 20. The upper end 330 of the stopper assembly 310 may include a seal device 332, such as, for example, a gasket or an o-ring to sealingly engage the drain system 300 when the stopper assembly 310 is moved into the plug position to prevent fluid (e.g., water) from draining out of the basin. In other instances, a seal device 332, such as a bead or lip, may be formed integrally with the upper end 330 of the stopper assembly 310. The stopper assembly 310 may be conveniently moved between the drain position and the plug position by a user, such as by pulling on the upper end 330.

With reference to FIGS. 20 through 23, the stopper assembly 310 comprises a stopper head 340, a strainer 344 and an adapter assembly 342. The stopper head 340 is provided at the upper end 330 of the stopper assembly 310 and is selectively attachable to the adapter assembly 342 with the intermediary of the strainer 344 positioned therebetween. The strainer 344 is detachably coupled beneath the stopper head 340 to trap debris or other matter as fluid passes through the strainer 344 during use. In other embodiments, the strainer 344 may be fixedly attached or permanently attached to the stopper head 340 or integrally formed therewith. Advantageously, when the strainer 344 is detachably coupled to the stopper head 340, the strainer 344 may be removed with the stopper head 340 and selectively replaced with a replacement strainer 344 in a particularly convenient manner. In other instances, the strainer 344 may be removed with the stopper head 340 and cleaned for reuse in the drain system. In some embodiments, the strainer 344 may be held or otherwise provided between the adapter assembly 342 and the stopper head 340 without fixedly attaching to either component. In this case, the strainer 344 may be withdrawn from the drain system 300 separately from the stopper head 340.

The stopper head 340 may have a generally circular profile similar to conventional stoppers, or may have other shapes. As shown in FIGS. 13 through 15, 18 and 19, the stopper head 340 may comprise a general mushroom shape with an enlarged head portion 350 and a reduced neck or stem portion 352. The seal device 332 described above may be positioned around the reduced neck or stem portion 352. The stopper head 340 may further include features for selectively engaging the strainer 344, as discussed in greater detail elsewhere, and may also include features for selectively engaging the adapter assembly 342 such that the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 may be selectively secured as a unit or cartridge 346 to the adapter assembly 342.

In some instances, the stopper head 340 may include features for selectively engaging the adapter assembly 342 such that the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 may be selectively secured as a unit or cartridge 346 to the adapter assembly 342. For example, the stem portion 352 of the stopper head 340 may comprise a coupling device or feature (e.g., keyway, aperture) for engaging with a corresponding coupling device or feature of the adapter assembly 342, such as, for example, a coupling members 356 provided at an upper end of the adapter assembly 342 for engaging the coupling device or feature of the stem portion 352 of the stopper head 340. The coupling device or feature of the stem portion 352 of the stopper head 340 may be shaped to receive the coupling members 356 of the adapter assembly 342 in a vertical direction aligned with the central axis A3 and to enable the stopper head 340 to rotate about the central axis A3 (e.g., about 90 degrees) until the coupling members 356 engage the stem portion 352 of the stopper head 340 and restrain it from being withdrawn vertically from the adapter assembly 342, as can be appreciated best from

FIG. 22 wherein the coupling members 356 of the adapter assembly 342 are most visible. In this manner, the stopper head 340 can be selectively detached and reattached to the adapter assembly 342 as desired to gain access to the strainer 344 and/or the drain system 300. More particularly, rotating the stopper head 340 and strainer 344 about ninety degrees or more may transition the stopper head 340 and strainer 344 from an engaged position, as shown in FIGS. 20 and 21, in which the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 are securely attached to the adapter assembly 342, to a disengaged position in which the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 are detached or freely separable as a unit from the adapter assembly 342.

In other embodiments, the stopper head 340, the strainer 344 and/or the adapter assembly 342 may include other features for facilitating selective engagement and disengagement of the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 as a unit with the adapter assembly 342, such as, for example, a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fasteners. Irrespective of the particular fastening device, the stopper head 340, the strainer 344 and/or the adapter assembly 342 are configured to enable separation of the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 as a unit from the adapter assembly 342 while the adapter assembly 342 remains installed in the drain system 300 by twisting, pulling, manipulating or otherwise interacting with the stopper head 340 from within the interior of the fluid basin. Advantageously, the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 attached thereto can therefore be removed as a unit by a user for cleaning or servicing as desired.

As previously indicated, the stopper head 340 may include coupling devices for selectively engaging the strainer 344. For instance, the example embodiment includes a release mechanism 360 that may be actuated to release a pair of spring-biased latch members 362 from engagement with a stopper head engagement feature 384 of the strainer 344. The strainer 344 may be released, separated or detached from the stopper head 340 by actuating the release mechanism 360 toward the central axis A3, for example.

In some embodiments, the release mechanism 360 may be substantially contained within the stopper head 340, as shown in the cross-sectional views of FIGS. 20 and 21, with ends of the spring-biased latch members 362 being accessible to a user at the periphery of the stopper head 340. The spring-biased latch members 362 may be configured relative to a spring element (not visible) such that latching ends (not visible) of the latch members 362 are biased outwardly away from the central axis A3. A user may actuate the latch members 362 by pressing exposed portions of the latch members 362 inwardly against the bias of the spring element to release the stopper head engagement feature 384 of the strainer 344 from the latch members 362 as the latching ends of the latch members 362 move toward the central axis A3. The latching ends may include sloped or ramped surfaces such that the stopper head engagement feature 384 may be pressed into the stopper head 340 and cause the latching ends of the latch members 362 to move inwardly and then back outwardly to retain the stopper head engagement feature 384 without use of the user-manipulable portions of the latch members 362. Advantageously, a user can quickly snap the stopper head 340 onto a replacement strainer 344 as needed. The release mechanism 360 may be substantially contained within the stopper head 340 between a cap portion 343 and a bottom housing member 341. The cap portion 343 may include recesses for providing access to the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 360. Although the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 360 are shown as extending through the periphery of the cap portion 343, in some embodiments, the user-manipulable portions of the release mechanism 360 may be concealed beneath a cap or cover that reflects those of conventional drain stoppers.

In other embodiments, the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 may include other features for facilitating selective engagement and disengagement of the same, such as, for example, a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fasteners. Irrespective of the particular release mechanism 360, in some embodiments, the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 are configured to enable separation of the stopper head 340 from the strainer 344 after the stopper head 340 and strainer 344 are removed as a cartridge 346 from the drain system 300. For example, in accordance with the example embodiment shown in FIGS. 20 through 23, the strainer 344 is selectively detachable from the stopper head 340 without requiring a user to touch or otherwise contact the strainer 344. This may be particularly advantageous when replacing a strainer 344 that is soiled with debris, such as, for example, hair and other matter that collects in the strainer 344 during use.

In some embodiments, the strainer 344 may include a body portion defining a receptacle 370. The receptacle 370 may include a sidewall 372 extending from a periphery of a base 374. Each of the sidewall 372 and the base 374 may include a plurality of apertures 376 to form a strainer structure to strain fluid passing through the receptacle 370 during operation of the drain system 300. The receptacle 370 may be generally cylindrical and may encircle a portion of the stopper head 340 and/or adapter body 342 when installed for use. In some embodiments, the strainer 344 may taper in a downstream direction such that, when the strainer 344 is in position for use within the drain system 300 and a lower portion of the strainer 344 is blocked with collected debris, fluid can bypass the debris in the strainer 344 via the apertures in the sidewall 372 and a gap between the strainer 344 and the drain body 302 of the drain system 300.

An upstream end of the strainer 344 may include a plurality of flexible fingers 380 that splay outward from the central axis A3 of the strainer 344. The fingers 380 may flex in response to contact with the drain body 302 as the stopper assembly 310 is drawn into the plug position. In the drain position, the fingers 380 may extend near or in close proximity to the drain body 302 or may contact the drain body 302. In this manner, most of the fluid and any matter passing into the drain system 300 inevitably passes through the receptacle 370 of the strainer 344. The strainer 344 may include a stem 383 having a stopper head engagement feature 384 at an upper end thereof to detachably couple the strainer 344 to the stopper head 340 to form the strainer cartridge 346. The stopper head engagement feature 384 may include, for example, a structure engageable by the spring-biased latch members 362 of the stopper head 340, such as, for example, opposing ear members with coupling apertures provided therein to receive latching ends of the spring-biased latch members 362. In other embodiments, the engagement feature may include a detent mechanism, clips, snaps or other fastener devices. The stem 383 may extend in the direction of the central axis A3 from a bottom end of the strainer 344 to an upper end of the strainer 344. The stem or elongated member 383 may partially or completely surround an elongated portion of the adapter assembly 342 when the strainer cartridge 346 is attached to the adapter assembly 342. The stem or elongated member 383 may have a central cavity or passage 388 through which the elongated portion of the adapter assembly 342 may be insertably received during use. The elongated portion of the adapter assembly 342 may be slender and extend along the central axis A3 of the stopper assembly 310 to receive the strainer 344 thereabout.

With reference to FIGS. 20 and 21, the adapter assembly 342 may comprise a telescoping shaft assembly 353, 354 having a threaded end 351 to engage the internal threaded hub 308 of the drain body 302. The telescoping shaft assembly 353, 354 of the adapter assembly 342 may be configured to telescope between the plug position shown in FIG. 20 and the unplugged or drain position shown in FIG. 21. For example, the shaft assembly 353, 354 may include an inner shaft 353 and an outer shaft 354 wherein the inner shaft 353 is extendable from the outer shaft 354 to facilitate movement between the plug position shown in FIG. 20 and the unplugged or drain position shown in FIG. 21. The outer shaft 354 may include a stop member 357 or other stop feature that rides in a slot or aperture 358 in the inner shaft 353 to limit the travel of the inner shaft 353 relative to the outer shaft 354, or vice versa. A friction member 359 may also be provided between the inner shaft 353 and the outer shaft 354 to assist in holding the upper end of the stopper head 340 at a desired position. As an example, the friction member 359 may comprise an annular spring clip that is coupled to the inner shaft 353 and applies a bias to the outer shaft 354. In other instances, the friction member 359 may be an o-ring or other device. As shown in FIGS. 20 and 21 the adapter assembly 342 may further include a compression spring 364 or other spring element positioned around the telescoping shaft assembly 353, 354 to bias the strainer 344 and hence strainer cartridge 346 upward to provide tension in the assembly.

With reference now to FIGS. 20 through 23, a method of using the stopper assembly 310 to remove debris from a drain system of a fluid basin will now be described. The method may begin with installing the stopper assembly 310 in the drain system 300. Fluid and debris may then be intermittently passed through the drain system 300 as the fluid basin is used on a daily or periodic basis. As the fluid and debris flows through the drain system 300, a substantial portion passes through the strainer 344 of the stopper assembly 310 and at least some or a significant portion of the debris will become trapped in the strainer 344. Debris may therefore accumulate in the strainer 344 over time. The strainer 344 may then be removed and cleaned or replaced as desired to clear the drain system 300 of the collected debris.

In particular, and with reference to FIGS. 20 and 21, the strainer cartridge 346, which comprises the stopper head 340 and the strainer 344 holding the debris, may be detached from the adapter assembly 342, which remains installed within the drain system 300 of the fluid basin. Detaching the strainer cartridge 346 may include, for example, rotating the strainer cartridge 346 about the central axis A3 such that corresponding engagement features provided between the strainer cartridge 346 and the adapter assembly 342 disengage. For instance, the strainer cartridge 346 may be rotated about ninety degrees or more relative to the adapter assembly 342 such that the engagement between the coupling members 356 of the adapter assembly 342 and the corresponding coupling device or feature of the stem portion 352 of the stopper head 340 is released. In other instances, the strainer cartridge 346 and the adapter assembly 342 may be provided with a detent mechanism, a clip, a snap or other fastener device, such that the strainer cartridge 346 may be released after overcoming a threshold force, such as by pulling the strainer cartridge 346 upwardly with sufficient force to overcome the threshold force provided by the detent mechanism, clip, snap or other fastener device.

After detaching the strainer cartridge 346, the strainer cartridge 346 may be removed from the drain system 300 and separated from the adapter assembly 342, while the adapter assembly 342 remains conveniently installed in the drain system 300. In this manner, the strainer cartridge 346 can be quickly removed from the drain system 300 with minimal effort and without disassembling the drain system 300.

After removing the strainer cartridge 346 from the drain system 300, the strainer 344 and the debris collected therein can be released from the stopper head 340 by actuating the release mechanism 360 on the stopper head 340 of the strainer cartridge 346. Actuating the release mechanism 360 may include, for example, actuating a pair of opposing spring-biased latch members 362 to release the strainer 344. Once released, the strainer 344 may fall under the influence of gravity into a waste or compost receptacle. Next, a replacement strainer 344 may be attached to the stopper head 340 to form a replacement strainer cartridge 346, and the replacement strainer cartridge 346 may be attached to the adapter assembly 342 in the drain system 300. Alternatively, the debris collected in the strainer 344 may be emptied into a waste or compost receptacle and the strainer 344 reattached to the stopper head 340 for reuse.

Other methods of removing debris or otherwise reducing clogging of a drain system of a fluid basin may be provided in view of the stopper assemblies, components and systems described herein. For example, a method of reducing clogging may include installing a strainer cartridge 346, comprising a stopper head 340 and a strainer 344 coupled to the stopper head 340, into the drain system 300 of the fluid basin; operating the drain system with the strainer cartridge 346 in position; removing the strainer cartridge 346 from the drain system after the strainer 344 has captured debris; operating a release mechanism 360 of the strainer cartridge 346 to release the strainer 344 and debris from the stopper head 340; attaching a replacement strainer 344 to the stopper head 340 to form a replacement strainer cartridge 346; and installing the replacement strainer cartridge 346 into the drain system 300 of the fluid basin.

Moreover, aspects and features of the various embodiments described above can be combined to provide further embodiments. All of the U.S. patents, U.S. patent application publications, U.S. patent applications, foreign patents, foreign patent applications and non-patent publications referred to in this specification and/or listed in the Application Data Sheet, including U.S. provisional patent application No. 62/110,364, filed Jan. 30, 2015, are incorporated herein by reference, in their entirety. Aspects of the embodiments can be modified, if necessary to employ concepts of the various patents, applications and publications to provide yet further embodiments.

These and other changes can be made to the embodiments in light of the above-detailed description. In general, in the following claims, the terms used should not be construed to limit the claims to the specific embodiments disclosed in the specification and the claims, but should be construed to include all possible embodiments along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.