The present invention relates to a device for spot cleaning of a fabric and use of that device in a method of spot cleaning.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
In recent years, there has been interest in providing products for spot removal of stains on fabrics, particularly garments. This may for example be for removal of stains due to food spillage or other stains which are stained during wear, as well as the localised cleaning of collars and cuffs prior to a main wash. As used herein, in the broadest sense, “spot cleaning” refers to cleaning of any part of a fabric other than the whole item.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,122,158 discloses a method and device for accelerating cleaning of soiled parts of clothes by rub coating with an enzyme-containing liquid detergent. An applicator device comprises a container closed by a porous body made of a heated and sintered synthetic plastics material. This is used to rub the garment to apply the liquid composition.
WO-A-97/20099 discloses a method of treating a spot or stain on a textile by applying a detergent composition, then placing an absorbent layer adjacent to one side of the textile fabric in the region of the spot or stain and applying heat, pressure or both to the opposing side. The detergent composition is applied in the form of a liquid composition, preferably comprising an organic solvent, optionally also containing a surfactant. The composition is dispensed from a container closed by an applicator device such as a porous plug with fabric or brush texturing, or a roller-ball device.
WO-A-99/02769 discloses a method for spot cleaning a stain spot on a fabric by wiping with an applicator impregnated with a cleaning solution comprising water, an alcohol, glycol, glycol-ether or glycerine and from 0.0001-1% by weight of surfactant. The applied solution is allowed to migrate outwardly from the spot and the volatile components evaporate. The wiping applicator is preferably stored in an airtight container and is preferably a polymer towelette. The cleaning solution may also contain enzyme. This product has a disadvantage of felting of the wipe if too much pressure is applied. Further, outward migration of the solvent tends to produce a “halo” effect on drying.
WO-A-01/04260 discloses a fabric treatment applicator which is constructed in a form generally analogous to a felt-tipped pen. A synthetic fibre nib is used to apply a liquid composition contained in the body of the pen-like device. The liquid composition must contain at least one bleach and at least one surfactant. The absence of means to absorb the applied solution means that soil is largely redistributed rather than removed.
WO-A-01/04407 discloses and claims an applicator for applying a spot-treatment stain removal aqueous solution to a textile fabric. The liquid composition preferably contains a bleach and the application device is preferably a nib. The application device must have a frictional stress of from 0.05 N mm−2 to 10 N mm−2. Again, the absence of means to absorb the applied solution means that soil is largely redistributed rather than removed.
However, none of the prior proposals teaches an apparatus whereby a cleaning composition can be applied to a spot or stain on a textile fabric in optimal manner and then absorbed, together with stain material, using the same device and without the need for a separate absorbent pad or cloth which is not convenient for cleaning garments whilst being worn. The present invention solves the problem of providing these functions in a single device.
DEFINITION OF THE INVENTION
Thus, in a first aspect, the present invention provides a device for spot cleaning a fabric with a liquid cleaning composition, the device comprising a reservoir for holding the composition, an applicator for applying the composition from the reservoir to the fabric and absorbent means for absorbing at least some of the composition from the fabric.
We may also claim the device of the first aspect of the invention in the form where the reservoir actually contains the liquid cleaning composition.
A second aspect of the present invention provides a method of spot cleaning a fabric by applying a liquid cleaning composition to the fabric with an applicator or a device according to the first aspect of the present invention, and absorbing at least some of the composition so applied with the absorbent means of said device.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The body of the device may be in any convenient shape, eg. elongated, spherical or partly spherical or having any aesthetically appealing or novelty shape. However, most preferably, the device is in the form of a member having a first end and a second end, wherein the reservoir is located within or forms at least part of the member. Thus, the first and second ends may be respective ends of a tubular or other elongated member having any cross-section. It may also have one or more bends or angles therein, eg. so that one part can act as a handle whilst the other end is being applied to the fabric.
In a preferred embodiment, one of the applicator and the absorbent means is located at the first end of the member and the other is located at the second end of the member. Alternatively, in another preferred embodiment, both the applicator and the absorbent means are located at the same first end or second end of the member. In that case, one of the applicator and the absorbent means may be arranged concentric to the other, and preferably also with at least the adjacent part of the reservoir member, for simplicity of use. Each of the applicator and absorbent means may be protected by removable cap.
Preferably, mesh means is also provided for rubbing the fabric so that the liquid absorbed by the absorbent means from the fabric passes through the mesh means. The absorbent member is conveniently held in a holding means such as a chamber having an opening covered by a mesh means. Alternatively, the absorbent means may be mounted on a support member and covered by the mesh means. In a coaxial form of such an arrangement, an outlet of the applicator may pass through the support and absorbent means. The mesh can assist soil removal by rubbing.
The loosened soil then passes through the mesh to be absorbed by the absorbent means, before it can be redistributed on the fabric. Further, hydrophobic soil such as lipstick can be removed by adhering directly to the mesh means. If a mesh means is not present, such hydrophobic soil will be directly absorbed by the absorbent means and/or adhere to it. Preferably, the device also comprises a holding means to hold the absorbent means. The absorbent means may for example be held in a chamber, compartment, recess, on support member or a surface of the device by any suitable means. The absorbent means may be glued, simply wedged or held by any other suitable manner in the holding means. The holding means for the absorbent means is preferably a non detachable part of the device. The absorbent means will usually be much smaller than the device. So small that the absorbent means itself may be difficult to hold when it is rubbed against the stain. One advantage according to this aspect of the invention is that the absorbent means is held in place by the holding means of the device and the user can still transfer an effective force to remove the stain by holding the device and rubbing the absorbent means, optionally covered by mesh means, against the stain.
The applicator closes the reservoir but allows the liquid composition to flow-out in controlled manner. It may for example, comprise a simple slot or hole of dimensions such that the out-flow of the liquid composition is restricted. It can also comprise a nib of metal or plastics construction, or a permeable member such as of foam or sintered composition or a fibre member. Optionally, a snap-off, pull-off or cut-off seal or else a cap or plug may be provided for sealing before first use. After opening, a removable cap may be provided for covering the applicator before repeat use, so that liquid cannot evaporate or escape.
To assist removal of the composition from the reservoir, the reservoir may in whole or in part, be formed of a flexible material so that it may be squeezed. The reservoir may also be provided with a plunger (e.g. rod and piston) arrangement to assist dispensing of the liquid.
The mesh means is preferably a mesh of natural or synthetic polymer eg. made of polyethylene, polyester or nylon The mesh size is to be understood as the opening or clear space between the wires. Preferably the average mesh size is greater than 200, preferably greater than 250, more preferably greater than 300 micrometers. The average mesh size is preferably smaller than 2000, more preferably smaller than 1500 and even more preferably smaller than 1000 micrometers. A mesh thickness of from 50 micrometers to 500 micrometers is typical and is preferably of from 150 micrometers to 400 micrometers. The wire diameter is preferably from 50 micrometers to 500 micrometers and is more preferably from 150 micrometers to 400 micrometers. The mesh means may even be a coarsely woven fabric.
The absorbent means must be capable of absorbing liquid composition from the fabric, having at least some of the stain absorbed or dispersed therein. It may for example be of cotton or synthetic fibre absorbent wool, woven or non-woven natural or synthetic fabric, or it may be a super absorbent polymer such as Hysorb™ (ex BASF) or OASIS™ fibre (ex Courtaulds).
The liquid composition is preferably aqueous, although the present invention also extends to compositions wherein a substantially non-aqueous liquid composition is applied, eg. having less than 25% by weight or less, preferably 20% by weight or less, more preferably 15% by weight or less, eg. 10% by weight or less, most preferably 5% by weight or less of water.
In the case of the aqueous compositions, it is also preferred to have at least one organic solvent present, which preferably should be water-miscible. It is also preferred in some embodiments for the composition to contain a surfactant component comprising one or more surfactants selected from an ionic, cationic, zwitterionic and amphoteric surfactant. If present, preferably the organic solvent content is from 0.1 to 75% by weight of the composition, more preferably from 1% to 110% by weight. When present, the surfactant component is preferably present from 0.00001% to 10%, more preferably from 0.0001% to 1% by weight of the composition. The presence of surfactant is beneficial for removing oily stains from hydrophobic fabrics such as polyester. However, in the case of oily stains on hydrophilic fabrics such as cotton, it may be preferably to avoid surfactant, i.e. to have less than 1 wt %, preferably less than 0.1 wt %, most preferably no surfactant by weight of the liquid cleaning composition.
Preferred organic solvents are selected from alcohols, ketones, esters, glycol ethers and mixtures thereof.
For optional cleaning, it is advantageous for the viscosity of the liquid composition to be preferably from 0.1 mPaS to 1000 mPaS, more preferably from 10 mPaS to 500 mPaS. If the inherent viscosity of the composition is not already within such a range, a thickener e.g. of polymeric type may be included. For the avoidance of doubt, in the case of non-Newtonian liquid compositions (which is preferable), the viscosity is that measured at a shear rate of 100 s31 1.
Optionally, other components may be dissolved or dispersed in the liquid compositions, eg. selected from detergency builders, bleaches and bleach systems, enzymes, fluorescers and other materials which are conventional in laundry wash compositions for hand or machine washing.
The amount of liquid cleaning composition in the reservoir means is preferably from 0.001 to 10 ml, more preferably from 0.1 ml to 1 ml.
According another aspect of the present invention a device is provided for spot cleaning a fabric with a liquid cleaning composition, the device comprising a reservoir for holding the composition, an applicator for applying the composition from the reservoir to the fabric and chemical heating means, wherein the chemical heating means comprises at least one substance which produces heat when wetted by liquid composition from the fabric.
Yet another aspect of the present invention provides a method of spot cleaning a fabric by applying a liquid cleaning composition to the fabric with an applicator or a device according to the first aspect of the present invention, and contacting at least some of the composition so applied and the chemical means of said device.
The chemical heating means produces heat when wetted by the liquid cleaning composition from the fabric.
One class of suitable substance for producing heat when wetted comprises anhydrous substances which exhibit an exothermic effect when wetted. Preferred anhydrous substances are anhydrous aluminosilicates, metal oxides, and the like. Examples of aluminosilicates include anhydrous Molecular Sieves (ex Aldrich), zeolite type A (having sodalite cages), zeolite type X. chabazite, and the like. Suitable examples of metal oxides include calcium oxide or magnesium oxide. Other metal salts may be employed as well, e.g. (partially) dehydrated calcium sulphate (gypsum). It is preferred that these compounds are in a suitable granular form so that the compound can be easily retained by a matrix and not dust or powder escapes from the device during use or storage. The compounds may be employed as such or as mixtures.
Alternatively, the material for producing the heat may comprise at least two different chemical species which undergo an exothermic chemical reaction when wetted, for solid acids and solid bases, such as sodium hydrogen sulphate and sodium carbonate or citric acid and sodium carbonate. Preferably, these solids are intimately admixed.
As used herein, reference to “wetting” refers to hydration with water, other aqueous solutions or dispersions, and equivalent wetting semi-aqueous liquids or non-aqueous liquids which form the liquid composition and which trigger the exothermic on. However, water and aqueous liquid solutions or dispersions will be the liquid of choice in most cases.
It is also preferred if the device can physically absorb a significant quality of liquid composition from the fabric, together with at least some stain or soil. Many materials which produce heat when wetted are also absorbent, especially if provided in finely powdered or sintered form. However, if the chemical heating means is not in itself very absorbent, separate absorbent means may also be provided. Separate absorbent means may also be provided, even if the chemical heating means is quite absorbent in itself.
According to yet another aspect, the present invention provides a device for spot cleaning a fabric using a first liquid composition and a second liquid composition, the device comprising reservoir means which comprises a first reservoir for holding the first liquid composition and a second reservoir for holding the second liquid composition, the device further comprising applicator means for applying the first and second liquid compositions from the reservoir means to the fabric.
For the avoidance of doubt, any optional or preferable feature of any aspect of the present invention may be utilised in any other aspect of the invention.
The present invention will now be explained in more detail by way of the following description of preferred embodiments, and with reference to the accompanying drawings.