US 20020054784 A1
A cleaning tool formed of a water soluable material includes a handle and a cleaning head. The cleaning tool is configured to permit the user to perform a cleaning operation and thereafter dispose of the cleaning tool by placing it in a toilet bowl where the interaction of the water resident in the bowl with the cleaning tool causes the tool to dissolve sufficiently to permit the cleaning tool to be flushed away. The cleaning tool may include a quantity of cleanser contained within the handle of the tool or alternatively disposed on the cleaning head itself.
1. A disposable cleaning tool comprising:
a cleaning head fabricated from a liquid soluble material; and
a handle, connected to said cleaning head.
2. The cleaning tool of
3. The cleaning tool of
4. The cleaning tool of
5. The cleaning tool of
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application serial No. 60/245,833 filed Nov. 3, 2000.
 1. Field of the Invention
 This invention relates to cleaning tools. The invention is specifically directed to cleaning tools adapted for cleaning germ infested areas.
 2. Statement of the Art
 Health and sanitation concerns require that many physical environments be periodically cleaned and sanitized in order to preclude the spread of disease and infection. Residential bathrooms and commercial restrooms are examples of these type of environments. While many conventional approaches have been developed to address these concerns, there still remains a considerable belief that the conventional approaches do not provide an adequate level of sanitation.
 It has been found that the use of cleaning tools to effect a cleaning operation and the subsequent transportation of those cleaning tools to other cleaning environments may be a source of contamination to the areas to be subsequently cleaned. For example, toilet bowls require frequent cleaning. When dirty such bowls require a certain amount of physical contact scrubbing to remove stains and effectively clean them. Chemical processes of cleaning products cannot produce the same level of cleanness as does scrubbing. For this purpose, brushes, rags and other cleaning tools are often used to clean such bowls. Once the bowl has been cleaned, the individual cleaning the bowl will oftentimes simply carry the cleaning tool, together with any germs which may be on the tool, to another location where further cleaning is to be done. It is believed that this process inherently leads to the transportation of germs, via the cleaning tool, from the first cleaning site to subsequent cleaning sites as the cleaning tool is taken from location to location. Generally such brushes are not discarded after use but are stored in bathrooms near or behind toilet bowls.
 There exists a need for a cleaning tool which inhibits, if not restricts, the transportation of germs from one cleaning site to another.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cleaning tool of the instant invention;
FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the tool of FIG. 1 taken along section lines 2-2;
FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of a bristle of the brush of FIG. 1; and
FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of an alternative tool of FIG. 1 taken along section line 2-2.
 The desirable quality of this invention is that it permits the user to remove a dirty, germ-laden cleaning tool from a cleaning site, subsequent to the use of the tool, while simultaneously minimizing the unsanitary transmission of any germs which may be residing on the cleaning tool.
 In the present description reference will be made to a specific type of cleaning tool, namely a cleaning brush 2. However, it should be appreciated that the invention is equally employable with other types of cleaning tools other than brushes.
 According to the instant invention, a cleaning tool is provided which is useable to effect a cleaning operation of a specified physical environment. The cleaning tool is fabricated, either in whole or in part, from a liquid, e.g. water, soluble material. Various liquid soluble materials are contemplated. In a preferred embodiment the cleaning tool is manufactured from wheat paste of the type that is conventionally used in the manufacture of “packaging peanuts.” These peanuts are biodegradable as well as water-soluble. The material used in these “peanuts” is a modified wheat paste that is processed, heated and then extruded into the peanut shape. Several factors are used to control the shape, size, and density of the “peanuts.” This same material, and conceivably the same manufacturing process, may be used to fabricate the cleaning tool of the instant invention.
 The tool may be of a molded design. In these embodiments, a polymeric plasticizer may be added to the material to achieve a more pliant and moisture resistant material. By manipulating the fabricating material, the material becomes subject to breaking down in the presence of moisture. Being subject to breaking down, the material is suitable for fabricating a brush which may be deposited into the toilet bowl after use and subsequently flushed away. Properties of the wheat paste can produce a brush with its handle rigid enough for scrubbing operations.
 Subsequent to the cleaning operation being completed, the cleaning tool may be placed into contact with a quantity of liquid, such as water. The cleaning tool, being fabricated from a liquid soluble material, decomposes upon being brought into contact with the liquid. It follows that in the case of a cleaning brush of the invention being used for cleaning toilet bowls, after the cleaning of the bowl is completed, the user simply deposits the brush in the toilet bowl. The water in the bowl then causes the brush to decompose sufficiently that the brush, together with any germs residing thereon, may be discharged to the conventional sewer system interconnected to the toilet by simply flushing the toilet.
 It follows that with the particular cleaning brush of the invention, the brush, together with any germs residing thereon soon dissolves so that the remains of the brush together with the germs can be flushed away. By not removing the brush from the cleaning site, the brush together with the unhealthy environment of germs associated with the storage of a used brush is eliminated. The unpleasantness and health risk of such practice may be of particular interest to parents of infant and toddler children who often are in close proximity to such a brush while in the bathroom.
 To make a more complete product, cleaning agents may be made conveniently available in the bristles 3 of the brush itself. The brush could be designed so cleaning agents would be released immediately upon use. Such agents may be incorporated into the very bristles of the brush.
 The flushable toilet brush itself would ideally be of a molded one-piece design. The brush would be shaped to resemble a bristled brush 3 with a handle 4 of sufficient length and sturdiness to effectively clean a toilet bowl. The entire brush 3 and handle 4 would dissolve shortly after use into a condition where the brush could be flushed. The brush may contain cleaning agents such 6 as cleanser and disinfectant that would be released immediately upon coming in contact with the toilet bowl water. In alternative constructions, the handle of the brush may define an internal compartment 5 configured to store a quantity of cleanser. The compartment 5 may be accessed through a cap 7 fitted opening 9 defined on the end of the handle.
FIG. 4 illustrates an alternative embodiment wherein a compartment 5A is shown disposed in the brush end of the handle 4. In this construction, the end 9A of the compartment is formed by a liquid soluable wall which will dissolve upon the wall be immersed in a liquid such as water. Once the wall dissolves the cleanser 6 will flow out of its compartment on onto the surface to be cleaned.
 The brush itself should not be limited to the aforementioned design but may also one or more of the following properties. The brush may be of a bristled design but could also appear as a mop or any shape that could be used to scrub the surfaces of a toilet bowl.
 The one-piece handle and brush design could be altered whereby only the brush head is fabricated from a liquid soluble material. A detachable handle with replaceable brush heads that dissolve can be used. The handle would not dissolve nor would it come into contact with water or toilet surfaces. Other replaceable brush heads could be attached to a conventional handle, a handle that does not dissolve. This is not the ideal design since it requires the removal and storage of part of the brush and defeats, in part, the desired purpose of the product which is to not remove or store any part of the brush.
 The cleaning agents may be introduced into the structure of the brush during the molding process, or may be coated onto the brush after the molding phase. Other natural fibers and starches could be included in the process of producing this brush. In one embodiment it is contemplated that the cleanser 10 would be coated onto the exterior surface of the individual bristles 12 of the brush and thereafter a protective coating 14, which is water soluable would be placed over the cleanser coating 10 to protect it from inadvertently being removed prior to the placement of the brush into a cleaning environment.
 Fibers and materials (e.g., wood, paper, recycled fibers) other than the wheat paste indicated above may also be used to fabricate a cleaning tool of the invention provided that they are liquid soluble.