The present invention relates to a device for cleaning or treating surfaces or for applying media to surfaces, especially for cleaning toilet bowls and the like. The invention further relates to a cleaning pad that may be attached to said device to effect cleaning operations and be removed easily after use.
Cleaning a toilet bowl is typically one of the most undesirable jobs for most persons. Nevertheless, toilet bowls must be kept clean in order to prevent sanitary problems, the potential for irritable smells, and the possibility of harmful bacteria build up.
Conventional cleaning brushes or sponges are unpleasant to use because of the excessive dripping of water from the cleaning surfaces, which may result in unsanitary storage between use.
However, the use of cleaning compositions which are dispensed as a dosage upon flushing of a toilet, generally are not as effective as manual scrubbing.
To overcome these shortcomings in conventional cleaning devices and compositions, many proposals have been made for cleaning devices which employ disposable cleaning pads. Such devices generally consist of a handle having a trigger mechanism at one end and a head at the other. The head is provided as a pair of opposable jaws which may be opened and closed using the trigger mechanism to engage and disengage a disposable cleaning pad. One problem with the opposable jaw arrangement is that the cleaning pad is only held by the jaws at the point at which they clamp together such that some of the cleaning pad hangs limply from the head. As a result, cleaning force applied through the head is not communicated efficiently to the cleaning pad. Furthermore, those parts of the pad not firmly held by the head will be prone to fold, slip or roll thereby compromising cleaning performance.
Another prior art cleaning device is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,225,375. This cleaning device has a handle and a head portion, the latter being adapted to receive a disposable cleaning pad in the form of a slipper. The head is bulbous and is adapted to have a slipper placed over it such that the slipper closely conforms to the shape of the head. Accordingly, when the user applies force to the head, the force is efficiently communicated to the surface of the slipper in contact with the surface to be cleaned to exert cleaning pressure. Further, as the slipper conforms to the contours of the head, there is a reduced tendency for the slipper to fold or roll. Because the slipper is simply slipped over the head and not clamped by opposable jaws, the head is provided with fixing means in the form of barbs that are upstanding from the head and project rearwardly towards the direction of the handle such as to oppose removal of the slipper once attached to the head. A problem with having such fixing means on the head is that they are provided on the bottom surface of the head through which frictional forces are directed such that during a cleaning operation the fixing means may be compromised, that is, loosened or even torn from the cleaning pad. Still further, if the fixing means remains engaged on the slipper during the cleaning process then it may snag the slipper during its removal, particularly as the slipper will be sodden with water and will already have a tendency to cling to the head during a cleaning operation.
We have now found a cleaning device that is substantially free of the disadvantages of the prior art.
Accordingly, the invention provides in a first aspect a cleaning device comprising a handle having towards one end a grip portion and trigger means, and at the other end a head adapted to receive a cleaning pad in the form of a slipper, the head comprising a bottom surface which bears against a surface to be cleaned in frictional engagement; and fixing means actuated by the trigger means to releasably fix the cleaning pad to the head wherein fixing means are provided on the device other than on said bottom surface.
The device according to the invention is possessed of numerous advantages: The cleaning pad may be releasably fixed to the head by operation of the trigger means at a position remote from the head. Attachment and release of the cleaning pad may therefore be conducted without the need for a user to touch either the head or the cleaning pad by hand. Furthermore, given that the fixing means are not provided on a surface of the head that is subject to cleaning frictional forces, the attachment of the cleaning pad to the head is not compromised during a cleaning operation.
The handle may be formed as an elongate member that is of a length such that a user's hand is sufficiently removed from the head to permit sanitary cleaning of a surface. The handle should permit the user to exert cleaning pressure along its length and through the cleaning head in order to provide sufficient frictional force to provide the desired cleaning action, and the handle should therefore be formed of a sufficiently rigid material, e.g. rigid plastics materials, for this purpose.
The handle may consist of a single elongate member and it may be hollow or channelled longitudinally. The hollow or channel may house a portion of the trigger means. In the alternative, the handle may comprise two handle sections which are configured in a complementary manner such that when they are brought together in opposed relationship they form conjointly the handle. In such an embodiment, at the end of each handle section is a head section, which head sections are likewise configured in a complementary manner such that when they are brought together in opposed relationship they form conjointly the head. The two handle sections are joined pivotally such that they may open and close about the pivot in a scissor-like manner. The two sections may be pivotally connected at any point along their length although for ease of leverage for the user, the pivot should be as far away from the grip portion of the handle as is practical. This provides that the pivot may be at the tip of the head sections, however, it is preferred that the pivot is formed further up the handle in the direction of the grip portion in order that this pivot is clear of the water in, e.g. a toilet bowl in normal use, in order to prevent the build up of germs in the pivot joint. For ease of manufacture, the pivot connection may be formed by an integrally moulded stud on one handle section that snaps into, and rotates freely within, a recess or hole formed in the opposing handle section when the two handle sections are connected.
The two handle sections may be longitudinally recessed in a complementary fashion such that when they are closed together the handle takes the form of a longitudinally hollow member. The two sections may be locked together in a closed position using suitable locking means, for example, one section may be provided with a tongue and the other section provided with a co-operating recess for receiving the tongue. The tongue being adapted to snap into the recess in locking relationship and be easily opened when the user provides gentle pressure to urge the handle sections apart.
The head consists of a body having a bottom surface which is adapted to bear against a surface to be cleaned in frictional engagement. Because surfaces to be cleaned will often have some curvature, it is preferred if the head is either formed of a resilient material such that the bottom surface will conform to curved surfaces under pressure, and/or is jointed or articulated such that certain portions of the bottom surface may deform to conform to the curved surface. The head additionally comprises side walls. The cleaning pad extends upwardly of the bottom surface over the side walls which support it. In this way, movement of the cleaning head is communicated to the cleaning pad such that it is held in tight conformance with the head as it moves forward and from side to side on a surface to be cleaned. Further, as the pad does not present a free or exposed edge to a frictionally engaging surface, the pad resists folding or rolling during cleaning operations.
The head may be of any desirable shape. It may be an essentially flat body, or it may be bulbous, e.g. in the form of an ellipsoid. The latter configuration is advantageous not only in the cleaning of curved surfaces, which may be typically encountered with toilet bowls and baths, but also because of its relatively bulky form will promote a cleaning pad in the form of a slipper, to form a tight relationship with the head.
Preferably, the head is rather smooth and lacking in surface detail or contours in order that germs cannot easily gather on its surface. It may be of solid construction or in the form of a hollow body in which case the hollow head may communicate with the longitudinal hollow in the handle.
The head may be formed of a variety of materials. Preferably it is formed of a resilient material that allows it to deform under pressure to adopt the contours of the surface to be cleaned. The head and handle may be integrally formed, for example by a moulding or extrusion process.
The fixing means ensures the secure fitting of the cleaning pad to the head such that the cleaning pad remains firmly in contact with the contours of the head during the cleaning process and cannot move backwards off the head during the cleaning process. Further, after cleaning, the fixing means is readily disengaged in order to permit removal of the cleaning pad. Both the fixing and the disengagement procedures may be actuated from the grip portion of the handle using the trigger means such that both procedures may be conducted in a sanitary way. The fixing means may take any of a variety of forms to achieve this dual purpose.
Thus, the fixing means may be provided as a clamp provided on the handle proximally to the point at which head and handle meet. The clamp may be actuated using the trigger means and which may be operated from the grip portion of the handle. Conveniently, the trigger means may comprise a rod, located in the hollow handle or in the longitudinal channel, which projects outwardly of the handle in the form of a button which can be operated from the grip portion, and is connected to the clamp. Thus the user may open the clamp to disengage the cleaning pad simply by depressing the button. The rod may be spring-loaded, the spring being biased against this movement such that when the button is released, the spring returns the clamp to its closed position.
Other fixing means are contemplated by the present invention. Thus, a cleaning pad may be slipped onto the head in a manner described above, and a portion of the cleaning pad may be adapted to hook onto or snag a portion of the handle and thereby fix the cleaning pad to the head. In particular, the cleaning pad may comprise an elongate tab portion that extends outwardly of the slipper generally in the direction of the handle. This tab may terminate in an approximately T-shaped portion. The handle may be provided with a bore running through the handle in a direction essentially normal to its length which is adapted to receive the elongate tab portion of the cleaning pad such that when it has passed through the bore, the T-shaped portion snags or catches the handle such that the tab portion cannot return through the bore under the normal forces experienced during the cleaning process. Accordingly, the cleaning pad is held firmly in place during the cleaning process.
If the handle is comprised of two handle sections pivotally connected as hereinabove described, each handle section may have a complementary recess such that when the handle is closed, the two recesses cooperate to form the bore through the handle.
In a similar manner, the handle may contain a slot or groove and a portion of the cleaning pad simply slides into the slot or groove, is held in frictional engagement with the handle an thereby fixes the cleaning pad to the head. Still further, when the handle is comprised of two opposable sections, a portion of cleaning pad may simply be gripped between the two sections when they are closed together.
Still further fixing means may be provided by simply inserting the cleaning pad over the head and fixing a portion of the cleaning pad to the handle, for example with a suitable adhesive, e.g. a silicone-based adhesive. In particular, an elongate tab portion as hereinabove described may be provided with an adhesive surface which enables the tab to be stuck directly onto the handle. Alternatively, if the tab terminates in a T-shaped portion as aforementioned, the ends of the T may be provided with adhesive surfaces such that the tab may be looped around the handle and connected together to form a collar around the handle and thereby fixing the cleaning pad to the head.
In yet another embodiment, the fixing means may be provided on the head in the form of one or more retractable pins which may be actuated by the trigger means. In such an embodiment, the pins are retracted by depressing the button portion projecting outwards of the handle at the grip portion (a spring may be provided on the trigger means that is biased against this movement), a cleaning pad is then slipped over the head and the button thereafter release to urge the pins into fixing contact with the cleaning pad. The pins are held in contact with the pad under tension of the spring. Once a cleaning operation is completed, the pins may be retracted to disengage the cleaning pad to permit its removal.
The trigger means has been described above in terms of a rod, secreted in a hollow provided in the handle, which connects a button projecting from the handle, to a clamp. However, in a device comprising pivotally-movable handle sections, the trigger means may be provided by the relative movement of the handle sections which movement may, for example, cause the aforementioned bore to open and close to permit attachment or disengagement of the elongate tab portion of the cleaning pad. Alternatively, opening the handle sections may cause the elongate tab portion that is fixed on or around the handle sections to tear away from the handle thereby to disengage the cleaning pad from the head.
A device according to the present invention may additionally be provided with ejection means which assists in the removal of a cleaning pad from the cleaning head after a cleaning operation is complete. Ejection means, upon actuation, either remove a cleaning pad entirely from the cleaning head or disrupt, e.g. rupture or tear the cleaning pad to an extent that its removal from the cleaning head is rendered facile. In addition to its disrupting the cleaning pad, it is a characteristic of the ejection means that it actively disengages the cleaning pad from the fixing means.
Ejection means may play an important role in the removal of a cleaning pad from a cleaning head. In particular, when a cleaning pad is sodden after use it tends to cling to the head even after the fixing means are disengaged from the pad. Removal may only be effected by tearing the pad off by hand, or if the device is vigorously agitated. Ejection means provide additional impetus to remove the pad by disrupting it such that it no longer can cling firmly to the head and its removal may be effected entirely or may be substantially facilitated. The prior art device disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,225,375 contains means for tearing a used cleaning pad, however, these means are unable to actively disengage the cleaning pad from the fixing means as this term is meant in the present invention. This is because the fixing means are provided as upstanding barbs on the head which are reverse directed such that even a torn pad must still be slid across the barbs to effect removal which may be substantially hindered as a result.
In one embodiment of the present invention, the ejection means may be actuated by pulling the handle sections open about the axis of the pivot connection which causes the head sections to open and in the process rupture a cleaning pad attached thereto. In such an embodiment, ejection means are effectively provided by the relative movement of the head sections. For optimal ejection, movement of the handle sections should translate as movement in the head sections to the greatest extent possible. To this end, it is less preferred if the pivot of is provided at the tip of the head section. In such an arrangement handle movement will translate to considerably less head movement than would be the case if the handle sections were pivotally connected higher up the handle towards the grip portion.
In another embodiment, the ejection means may be provided by a retractable member, e.g. a rod, that may be located in the hollow provided in the handle and head. At the grip portion end of the handle the retractable member may project outwards of the handle to terminate in a button portion; whereas the other end of the retractable member may terminate in an abutment portion which may be flush with and form part of a surface of the head. Actuation of the retractable member by depressing the button will cause the abutment portion to move out of the plane of the head surface to bear against a cleaning pad to urge the latter off the head.
In another aspect of the invention there is provided a cleaning pad suitable for use with a cleaning device as hereinabove described.
The cleaning pad must be capable of being firmly attached to the head of a cleaning device, conform with the contours of the head and be capable of withstanding disintegration as a result of the frictional forces associated with the cleaning process. Additionally, it should be easily flushable in a toilet bowl after use. It should be inexpensive to manufacture on a large scale.
The cleaning pad may be manufactured from a water-dispersible or water soluble, preferably biodegradable material, that has sufficient mechanical strength when wet for a normal period of use to permit of the cleaning process. Suitable materials include paper, cardboard, pressed paper pulp and the like. To add stiffness and a better cleaning action, surface structure may be added to the pad, for example ridges, dots or dimples. Cleaning compositions may be secreted in the cleaning pads in a manner known per se. Cleaning pads are well known in the art and the skilled person would appreciate other types of materials that would be suitable for the intended purpose.
In one embodiment, the cleaning pad comprises a pad of material that is folded and seamed to form a slipper open at one to receive the head. The other end of the slipper may be closed such that the front end of the head abuts the end of the slipper to prevent further movement in the direction of entry of the head. The cleaning pad thereby conforms to the shape of the head and grips the head firmly. Projecting outwards from the aforementioned open end of the slipper, the cleaning pad may be provided with an elongate tab portion. At the end of the tab portion remote from the pocket, the tab may be adapted to co-operate with the fixing means to releasably secure the cleaning pad to the head of the cleaning device. As discussed hereinabove, the end of the tab portion may contain an adhesive surface which may be stuck to the handle; or it may terminate in a T-shaped projection which may be wrapped around the handle and the ends stuck together to form a collar; or it may contain a T-shaped projection which passes through a bore in the handle and thereby catches or snags the handle to secure the cleaning pad onto the head.
In an alternative embodiment, the cleaning pad may be in the form of a slipper consisting of an essentially flat body that fits over the bottom surface of the head. In such an embodiment, the pad additionally comprises a circumferential raised surface which is in frictional contact with the side walls of the head when the flat body of the pad is placed in contact with said bottom surface. Additional fixing means may be provided on the head, for example the retractable pins has hereinabove described for further securing the cleaning pad to the head.
Specific embodiments of cleaning pads of the present invention are shown in the figures below.
Cleaning pads may be stored in a suitable container and may be provided in a stacked arrangement such that the top most cleaning pad may be easily slipped onto the cleaning head without any direct hand contact.