Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20050096243 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/957,555
Publication dateMay 5, 2005
Filing dateOct 1, 2004
Priority dateOct 31, 2003
Publication number10957555, 957555, US 2005/0096243 A1, US 2005/096243 A1, US 20050096243 A1, US 20050096243A1, US 2005096243 A1, US 2005096243A1, US-A1-20050096243, US-A1-2005096243, US2005/0096243A1, US2005/096243A1, US20050096243 A1, US20050096243A1, US2005096243 A1, US2005096243A1
InventorsJoel Luckman, Richard Sunshine, Tremitchell Wright, Andrew Leitert
Original AssigneeLuckman Joel A., Sunshine Richard A., Wright Tremitchell L., Andrew Leitert
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Fabric laundering using a select rinse fluid and wash fluids
US 20050096243 A1
Abstract
Methods of laundering fabric with a wash fluid and rinse fluid and methods of recovery of the wash fluid and rinse fluid by selecting rinse wash fluids and rinse fluid with select properties that facilitate removal of the fluids from the fabric and separation of the fluids from each other while providing adequate laundering characteristics.
Images(14)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(103)
1. A process of laundering fabrics comprising the steps of:
(a) Contacting the fabrics with a working fluid;
(b) Contacting the fabrics with a select rinse fluid, said select rinse fluid selected for having a boiling point that is at least 30 F. below the flash point of the working fluid.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein at least one washing additive is added to the working fluid.
3. The method of claim 2 wherein the at least one washing additive is selected from the group including but not limited to: builders, surfactants, enzymes, bleach activators, bleach catalysts, bleach boosters, bleaches, alkalinity sources, antibacterial agents, colorants, perfumes, pro-perfumes, finishing aids, lime soap dispersants, composition malodor control agents, odor neutralizers, polymeric dye transfer inhibiting agents, crystal growth inhibitors, photobleaches, heavy metal ion sequestrants, anti-tarnishing agents, anti-microbial agents, anti-oxidants, linkers, anti-redeposition agents, electrolytes, pH modifiers, thickeners, abrasives, divalent or trivalent ions, metal ion salts, enzyme stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, diamines or polyamines and/or their alkoxylates, suds stabilizing polymers, solvents, process aids, fabric softening agents, optical brighteners, hydrotropes, suds or foam suppressors, suds or foam boosters, fabric softeners, anti-static agents, dye fixatives, dye abrasion inhibitors, anti-crocking agents, wrinkle reduction agents, wrinkle resistance agents, soil release polymers, soil repellency agents, sunscreen agents, anti-fade agents, water and mixtures thereof.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein the working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: terpenes, halohydrocarbons, glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof.
5. The method of claim 5 wherein the working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dodecamethylpentasiloxane, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, decamethyltetrasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB), dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether (DPnP), dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether (DPtB), propylene glycol n-butyl ether (PnB), propylene glycol n-propyl ether (PnP), tripropylene methyl ether (TPM) and/or combinations thereof.
6. The method of claim 1 wherein the working fluid is water.
7. The method of claim 1 wherein the select rinse fluid is miscible with the working fluid and has Hanson Solubility parameters (expressed in joules/cm3) with one of the following criteria:
(a) A polarity greater than 3 and hydrogen bonding less than 9;
(b) Hydrogen bonding less than 13 and dispersion from about 14 to about 17; or
(c) Hydrogen bonding from 13 to about 19 and dispersion from 14 to 22.
8. The method of claim 7 wherein the select rinse fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: perfluorinated hydrocarbons, decafluoropentane, hydrofluoroethers, methoxynonafluorobutane, ethoxynonafluorobutane and mixtures thereof.
9. The method of claim 1 wherein contacting the fabric with a non-aqueous working fluid involves the addition of mechanical energy to provide relative movement between the fabric and working fluid.
10. The method of claim 9 wherein the mechanical energy is added for a time sufficient to remove the soil from the fabric.
11. The method of claim 4 wherein the mechanical energy is added by tumbling, agitating, nutating or impelling the fabric, counter-rotating the drum, liquid jetting the working fluid to rotate the fabric or combinations thereof.
12. The method of claim 1 wherein after contacting the fabric with working fluid, a significant amount of working fluid is removed from the fabric.
13. The method of claim 12 wherein removing working fluid from the fabric comprises a centrifugal force on the fabric of at least 5G.
14. The method of claim 1 wherein contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid comprises the addition of less than 20 liters of select rinse fluid per kilogram of fabric.
15. The method of claim 1 wherein while contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid, mechanical energy is added to the system to provide relative movement between the fabric and the select rinse fluid.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein the mechanical energy is added for a time sufficient to reduce the concentration of working fluid remaining in the fabric to preferably less than 45% by weight of the fabric, more preferably less than 25% and most preferably less than 15%.
17. The method of claim 16 wherein the mechanical energy is added for at least 2 minutes.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein mechanical energy can be added continuously or intermittently.
19. The method of claim 1 wherein after contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid, a significant amount of select rinse fluid and remaining working fluid are removed from the fabric.
20. The method of claim 19 wherein upon removal of the select rinse fluid and remaining working fluid, the mixture is re-circulated back to the fabric.
21. The method of claim 19 wherein the removal of the select rinse fluid and remaining working fluid involves passing a drying gas over the fabric.
22. The method of claim 21 wherein the drying gas is selected from air, nitrogen or carbon dioxide.
23. The method of claim 21 wherein the temperature of the drying gas should be controlled such that the temperature of the fabric does not exceed 140 F.
24. The method of claim 21 wherein the temperature of the drying gas should be controlled such that the temperature of the working fluid does not exceed 30 F. below the flash point of the working fluid.
25. The method of claim 21 wherein the drying gas is passed over a condensing means to remove some of the working fluid and select rinse fluid vapor prior to re-contacting the fabric.
26. A process of laundering fabrics comprising the steps of:
(a) Washing fabrics with a working fluid that attaches to the fiber by osmosis and/or hydrogen bonding;
(b) Removing most of the working fluid from the fabric; and
(c) Removing most of the remaining working fluid by contacting the working fluid-containing fabric with a select rinse fluid in which the working fluid is miscible, said select rinse fluid having a surface tension less than the surface tension of the working fluid under conditions to remove at least some of the working fluid from the fabric.
27. The process of claim 26 wherein the working fluid is selected from the group including but not limited to: glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof.
28. The process of claim 27 wherein the working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dodecamethylpentasiloxane, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, decamethyltetrasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB), dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether (DPnP), dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether (DPtB), propylene glycol n-butyl ether (PnB), propylene glycol n-propyl ether (PnP), tripropylene methyl ether (TPM) and/or combinations thereof.
29. The process of claim 26 wherein the working fluid is water.
30. The process of claim 26 wherein at least one washing additive is added to the working fluid.
31. The process of claim 30 wherein the at least one washing additive is selected from the group including but not limited to: builders, surfactants, enzymes, bleach activators, bleach catalysts, bleach boosters, bleaches, alkalinity sources, antibacterial agents, colorants, perfumes, pro-perfumes, finishing aids, lime soap dispersants, composition malodor control agents, odor neutralizers, polymeric dye transfer inhibiting agents, crystal growth inhibitors, photobleaches, heavy metal ion sequestrants, anti-tarnishing agents, anti-microbial agents, anti-oxidants, linkers, anti-redeposition agents, electrolytes, pH modifiers, thickeners, abrasives, divalent or trivalent ions, metal ion salts, enzyme stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, diamines or polyamines and/or their alkoxylates, suds stabilizing polymers, solvents, process aids, fabric softening agents, optical brighteners, hydrotropes, suds or foam suppressors, suds or foam boosters, fabric softeners, anti-static agents, dye fixatives, dye abrasion inhibitors, anti-crocking agents, wrinkle reduction agents, wrinkle resistance agents, soil release polymers, soil repellency agents, sunscreen agents, anti-fade agents, water and mixtures thereof.
32. The process of claim 26 wherein the select rinse fluid has a Hanson Solubility Parameter selected from one of the following:
(a) Hydrogen bonding from about 13 to about 19 and a dispersion factor from about 14 to about 22;
(b) Hydrogen bonding less than 13 and dispersion from 14 to 17; or
(c) Polarity greater than 3 and hydrogen bonding less than 9.
33. The process of claim 26 wherein the select rinse fluid has a vapor pressure greater than 5 mm Hg.
34. The process of claim 26 wherein the mechanical removal is performed in a perforated drum capable of providing more than 1 G of force to the fabric.
35. The process of claim 26 wherein the removal of the working fluid step is completed while the perforated drum is spinning at a force of at least 1G and the select rinse fluid is sprayed onto the fabrics while the fabrics are spinning at a velocity sufficient to move the fabric toward the wall of the drum.
36. The process of claim 26 wherein after the removal of the working fluid step, a significant amount of select rinse fluid and remaining working fluid are removed by a centrifugal force greater than 5G.
37. The process of claim 36 wherein after the centrifugal spin, a drying gas is passed over the fabrics.
38. The process of claim 37 wherein the drying gas can be selected from air, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and mixtures thereof.
39. The process of claim 37 wherein the temperature of the fabric is controlled so that the temperature thereof does not exceed 140 F.
40. The method of claim 37 wherein the temperature of the drying gas is controlled such that the temperature of working fluid does not exceed 30 F. below the flash point of the working fluid.
41. The process of claim 37 wherein drying gas is passed over the fabrics until select rinse fluid and working fluid concentration is preferably less than 8% by weight of the fabric, more preferably less than 5% and most preferably less than 2%.
42. A process of laundering fabrics with a working fluid wherein the working fluid has an affinity to the fibers of the fabric comprising the steps of:
(a) Removing most of the working fluid from the fabric;
(b) Passing a select rinse fluid through the fabric under conditions which extract at least some of the working fluid from the fibers of the fabric; and
(c) Vaporizing remaining select rinse fluid and working fluid from the fabric and leave the fabric in an essentially dry condition.
43. The process of claim 42 wherein the working fluid is selected from the group including but not limited to: glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof.
44. The process of claim 43 wherein the working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dodecamethylpentasiloxane, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, decamethyltetrasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB), dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether (DPnP), dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether (DPtB), propylene glycol n-butyl ether (PnB), propylene glycol n-propyl ether (PnP), tripropylene methyl ether (TPM) and/or combinations thereof.
45. The process of claim 42 wherein the working fluid is water.
46. The process of claim 42 wherein at least one washing additive is added to the working fluid.
47. The process of claim 46 wherein the washing additive is selected from the group including but not limited to: builders, surfactants, enzymes, bleach activators, bleach catalysts, bleach boosters, bleaches, alkalinity sources, antibacterial agents, colorants, perfumes, pro-perfumes, finishing aids, lime soap dispersants, composition malodor control agents, odor neutralizers, polymeric dye transfer inhibiting agents, crystal growth inhibitors, photobleaches, heavy metal ion sequestrants, anti-tarnishing agents, anti-microbial agents, anti-oxidants, linkers, anti-redeposition agents, electrolytes, pH modifiers, thickeners, abrasives, divalent or trivalent ions, metal ion salts, enzyme stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, diamines or polyamines and/or their alkoxylates, suds stabilizing polymers, solvents, process aids, fabric softening agents, optical brighteners, hydrotropes, suds or foam suppressors, suds or foam boosters, fabric softeners, anti-static agents, dye fixatives, dye abrasion inhibitors, anti-crocking agents, wrinkle reduction agents, wrinkle resistance agents, soil release polymers, soil repellency agents, sunscreen agents, anti-fade agents, water and mixtures thereof.
48. The process of claim 42 wherein the select rinse fluid is selected for having one of the following Hanson Solubility Parameters:
(a) A polarity greater than 3 and hydrogen bonding less than 9;
(b) Hydrogen bonding less than 13 and dispersion from about 14 to 17; or
(c) Hydrogen bonding from 13 to about 19 and dispersion from 14 to 22.
49. The process of claim 48 wherein the select rinse fluid is selected from the group including but not limited to: perfluorinated hydrocarbons, decafluoropentane, hydrofluoroethers, methoxynonafluorobutane, ethoxynonafluorobutane and mixtures thereof.
50. The process of claim 49 wherein the select rinse fluid's vapor pressure is greater than 5 mm Hg.
51. The process of claim 42 wherein mechanical energy is added to the working fluid and fabric to promote soil removal.
52. The process of claim 51 wherein the mechanical energy is added for at least 5 minutes.
53. The process of claim 52 wherein the mechanical energy can be added continuously or intermittently.
54. The process of claim 42 wherein removing the working fluid from the fabric comprises a centrifugal spin of at least 5G.
55. The process of claim 42 wherein less than 20 liters of select rinse fluid per kilogram of cloth should be introduced to extract the working fluid.
56. The process of claim 42 wherein mechanical energy is added while the select rinse fluid is introduced to enhance the extraction capabilities of the select rinse fluid.
57. The process of claim 56 wherein the mechanical energy should be introduced for a time sufficient to lower the concentration of working fluid in the fabric to preferably less than 45% by weight of the fabric, more preferably less than 25% and most preferably less than 15%.
58. The process of claim 42 wherein vaporizing the remaining working fluid and select rinse fluid involves passing a drying gas over the fabrics.
59. The process of claim 58 wherein the drying gas is selected from air, nitrogen or carbon dioxide.
60. The method of claim 59 wherein the temperature of the fabric should not exceed 140 F.
61. The method of claim 59 wherein the temperature of the drying gas should be controlled such that the temperature of the working fluid does not exceed 30 F. below the flash point of the working fluid.
62. A method of laundering fabrics comprising the steps of:
(a) Contacting the fabric with a non-aqueous working fluid selected for having a flash point of at least 100 F.; and
(b) Contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid wherein the select rinse fluid increases the flash point of the working fluid and select rinse fluid mixture to at least 200 F.
63. The method of claim 62 wherein at least one washing additive is added to the non-aqueous working fluid to promote soil removal and fabric cleaning.
64. The method of claim 63 wherein the at least one washing additive is selected from the group including but not limited to: builders, surfactants, enzymes, bleach activators, bleach catalysts, bleach boosters, bleaches, alkalinity sources, antibacterial agents, colorants, perfumes, pro-perfumes, finishing aids, lime soap dispersants, composition malodor control agents, odor neutralizers, polymeric dye transfer inhibiting agents, crystal growth inhibitors, photobleaches, heavy metal ion sequestrants, anti-tarnishing agents, anti-microbial agents, anti-oxidants, linkers, anti-redeposition agents, electrolytes, pH modifiers, thickeners, abrasives, divalent or trivalent ions, metal ion salts, enzyme stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, diamines or polyamines and/or their alkoxylates, suds stabilizing polymers, solvents, process aids, fabric softening agents, optical brighteners, hydrotropes, suds or foam suppressors, suds or foam boosters, fabric softeners, anti-static agents, dye fixatives, dye abrasion inhibitors, anti-crocking agents, wrinkle reduction agents, wrinkle resistance agents, soil release polymers, soil repellency agents, sunscreen agents, anti-fade agents, water and mixtures thereof.
65. The method of claim 62 wherein the non-aqueous working fluid is further characterized by a surface tension less than 35 dynes/cm.
66. The method of claim 65 wherein the working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: terpenes, halohydrocarbons, glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof.
67. The method of claim 66 wherein the working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dodecamethylpentasiloxane, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, decamethyltetrasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB), dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether (DPnP), dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether (DPtB), propylene glycol n-butyl ether (PnB), propylene glycol n-propyl ether (PnP), tripropylene methyl ether (TPM) and/or combinations thereof.
68. The method of claim 62 wherein the select rinse fluid is selected to have the following properties:
(a) a viscosity less than the viscosity of the working fluid; and
(b) a vapor pressure greater than 5 mm Hg at standard conditions.
69. The method of claim 62 wherein the select rinse fluid is non-flammable.
70. The method of claim 68 wherein the select rinse fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: perfluorinated hydrocarbons, decafluoropentane, hydrofluoroethers, methoxynonafluorobutane, ethoxynonafluorobutane and mixtures thereof.
71. The method of claim 62 wherein prior to contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid, a significant amount of the working fluid is separated from the fabric via a mechanical means.
72. The method of claim 62 wherein contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid occurs while mechanical energy is being added to provide relative movement between the select rinse fluid, remaining working fluid and fabric.
73. The method of claim 72 wherein adding mechanical energy involves rotating a perforated drum.
74. The method of claim 62 wherein less than 20 liters of select rinse fluid is added per kilogram of fabric.
75. The method of claim 72 wherein the mechanical energy moves the fabric toward the surface of the drum.
76. The method of claim 73 wherein at least 1G of centrifugal force is added to provide relative movement between the remaining fluids and the fabric.
77. The method of claim 62 wherein after contacting the fabric with a select rinse fluid, a significant amount of select rinse fluid and remaining working fluid are removed from the fabric.
78. The method of claim 77 wherein the removal of the select rinse fluid and remaining working fluid comprises contacting the fabrics with a drying gas.
79. The method of claim 78 wherein contacting the fabric with a drying gas further comprises heating the drying gas.
80. The method of claim 79 wherein temperature of the system is controlled to 30 F. below the flash point of the select rinse fluid and working fluid mixture.
81. A method of laundering fabrics in a drum of a laundering apparatus comprising steps of:
(a) Placing a fabric load of less than 0.10 kg fabric per liter of drum in the drum;
(b) Washing the fabric with a non-aqueous fluid for a first predetermined period of time;
(c) Removing a substantial portion of non-aqueous fluid from the fabric load for a second predetermined period of time;
(d) Washing the fabric and remaining non-aqueous fluid with a select rinse fluid for a third predetermined period of time; and
(e) Removing a substantial portion of said select rinse fluid and remaining non-aqueous fluid from the fabric for a fourth predetermined period of time;
(f) wherein the total cycle time of said first through forth predetermined periods of time is less than 80 minutes.
82. The method of claim 81 wherein the non-aqueous working fluid is selected from the group including but not limited to: terpenes, halohydrocarbons, glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof.
83. The method of claim 81 wherein the non-aqueous working fluid is selected for having a solubility in water less than 20%.
84. The method of claim 83 wherein the non-aqueous fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to terpenes, halohydrocarbons, glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof.
85. The method of claim 84 wherein the non-aqueous working fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dodecamethylpentasiloxane, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, decamethyltetrasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB), dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether (DPnP), dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether (DPtB), propylene glycol n-butyl ether (PnB), propylene glycol n-propyl ether (PnP), tripropylene methyl ether (TPM) and/or combinations thereof.
86. The method of claim 81 wherein the select rinse fluid is miscible with the working fluid and has Hanson Solubility parameters (expressed in joules/cm3) with one of the following criteria:
(a) A polarity greater than 3 and hydrogen bonding less than 9;
(b) Hydrogen bonding less than 13 and dispersion from 14 to 17; or
(c) Hydrogen bonding from 13 to 19 and dispersion from 14 to 22.
87. The method of claim 86 wherein the select rinse fluid is further selected for having a vapor pressure greater than 5 mm Hg at standard conditions and a surface tension less than the surface tension of the working fluid.
88. The method of claim 87 wherein the select rinse fluid is further selected from the group including but not limited to: perfluorinated hydrocarbons, decafluoropentane, hydrofluoroethers, methoxynonafluorobutane, ethoxynonafluorobutane and mixtures thereof.
89. The method of claim 81 wherein said first predetermined period of time is less than 20 minutes.
90. The method of claim 81 wherein said first predetermined period of time is approximately 10 minutes.
91. The method of claim 81 wherein said second predetermined period of time is less than 10 minutes.
92. The method of claim 81 wherein said second predetermined period of time is less than 7 minutes.
93. The method of claim 81 wherein said third predetermined period of time is less than 10 minutes.
94. The method of claim 81 wherein said third predetermined period of time is approximately 5 minutes.
95. The method of claim 81 wherein said forth predetermined period of time is less than 40 minutes.
96. The method of claim 81 wherein said total cycle time is less than 10 minutes.
97. The method of claim 81 wherein the non-aqueous working fluid is selected for having a solubility in water less than 20%.
98. The method of claim 81 wherein removing the non-aqueous fluid from the fabric load comprises by at least one of the following steps: centrifugation, liquid extraction, the application of a vacuum, the application of forced heated air, the application of pressurized air, simply allowing gravity to draw the wash liquor away from the fabric, the application of moisture/wash liquor absorbing materials or mixtures thereof.
99. The method of claim 81 wherein the preferred rinse fluid is selected for having a surface tension less than the surface tension of the non-aqueous fluid.
100. The method of claim 99 wherein the preferred rinse fluid is further selected for having a vapor pressure higher than the vapor pressure of the non-aqueous fluid.
101. The method of claim 81 wherein washing the fabric with a preferred rinse fluid comprises contacting the fabric with less than 10 liters of preferred rinse fluid per kilogram of fabric.
102. The method of claim 81 wherein removing the preferred rinse fluid from the fabric load comprises by at least one of the following steps: centrifugation, liquid extraction, the application of a vacuum, the application of forced heated air, the application of pressurized air, simply allowing gravity to draw the wash liquor away from the fabric, the application of moisture/wash liquor absorbing materials or mixtures thereof.
103. The method of claim 81 wherein removing the preferred rinse fluid and remaining non-aqueous fluid is completed until less than 2% of fluid remains.
Description
    CROSS-REFERENCE
  • [0001]
    This application is a Continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 10/699,159, filed Oct. 31, 2003, and related to patent application docket number US20040171, entitled “A Method for Laundering Fabric with a Non-Aqueous Working Fluid Using a Select Rings Fluid”; US20040172, entitled “A Fabric Laundering Apparatus Adapted for Using a Select Rinse Fluid”; and US20040173, “Method and Apparatus Adapted for Recovery and Reuse of Select Rinse Fluid in a Non-Aqueous Wash Apparatus”, filed concurrently herewith.
  • TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The invention relates to a non-aqueous laundering machine, methods of using the machine, methods of rinsing, drying and recovery as well as apparatuses for the same.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    As defined by Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook, 7th edition, liquid extraction is a process for separating components in solution by their distribution between two immiscible phases. Such a process is also referred to as Solvent Extraction, but Solvent Extraction also implies the leaching of a soluble substance from a solid.
  • [0004]
    The present invention relates to a program of events and ingredients that make it possible to produce a non-aqueous laundering machine that is self contained, automatic and relatively compact that can be used in the home as well as commercially. The machine would offer the consumer the ability not only to launder their traditional fabrics (cotton, polyesters, etc.) at home, but also have the ability to handle delicate fabrics such as dry-clean only fabrics as well. There have been numerous attempts at making a non-aqueous laundering system; however, there have been many limitations associated with such attempts.
  • [0005]
    Traditional dry-cleaning solvents such as perchloroethylene are not feasible for in-home applications because they suffer from the disadvantage of having perceived environmental and health risks. Fluorinated solvents such as hydrofluoroethers have been posed as potential solvents for such an application. These solvents are environmentally friendly and have high vapor pressures leading to fast drying times, but these solvents don't currently provide the cleaning needed in such a system.
  • [0006]
    Other solvents have been listed as potential fluids for such an application. Siloxane-based materials, glycol ethers and hydrocarbon-based solvents all have been investigated. Typically, these solvents are combustible fluids but the art teaches some level of soil removal. However, since these solvents are combustible and usually have low vapor pressures, it would be difficult to dry with traditional convection heating systems. The solvents have low vapor pressures making evaporation slow thus increasing the drying time needed for such systems. Currently, the National Fire Protection Association has product codes associated for flammable solvents. These safety codes limit the potential heat such solvents could see or the infrastructure needed to operate the machine. In traditional washer/dryer combination machines, the capacity or load size is limited based on the drying rate. However, with the present invention, the capacity of the machines will be more dependent upon the size of the drum than the size of the load.
  • [0007]
    The present invention uses some of these aforementioned solvents to clean fabrics without the drying problems associated with these solvents. This is accomplished by using a select rinse fluid that solves many of these drying problems.
  • [0008]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,498,266 describes a method using petroleum-based solvent vapors wherein perfluorocarbon vapors are admixed with petroleum solvent vapors to remove the solvents from the fabrics and provide improvements in safety by reducing the likelihood of ignition or explosion of the vapors. However, the long-term stability of these mixtures is unknown but has the potential of separating due to dissociating the separate components.
  • [0009]
    U.S. Pat. No. 6,045,588 describes a method for washing, drying and recovering using an inert working fluid. Additionally, this application teaches the use of liquid extraction with an inert working fluid along with washing and drying. This new patent application differs from U.S. Pat. No. 6,045,588 in that it describes preferred embodiments to minimize the amount of rinse fluid needed as well as recovery methods, apparatuses and sequences not previously described.
  • [0010]
    U.S. Pat. No. 6,558,432 describes the use of a pressurized fluid solvent such as carbon dioxide to avoid the drying issues. In accordance with these methods, pressures of about 500 to 1000 psi are required. These conditions would result in larger machines than need be for such an operation. Additionally, this is an immersion process that may require more than one rinse so additional storage capacity is needed.
  • [0011]
    US20030084588 describes the use of a high vapor pressure, above 3-mm Hg, co-solvent that is subjected to lipophilic fluid containing fabric articles. While a high vapor pressure solvent may be preferred in such a system, US20030084588 fails to disclose potential methods of applying the fluid, when the fluid should be used and methods minimizing the amount of fluid needed. Finally, this patent fails to identify potential recovery strategies for the high vapor pressure co-solvent.
  • [0012]
    Various perfluorocarbons materials have been employed alone or in combination with cleaning additives for washing printed circuit boards and other electrical substrates, as described for example in U.S. Pat. No. 5,503,681. Spray cleaning of rigid substrates is very different from laundering soft fabric loads. Moreover, cleaning of electrical substrates is performed in high technology manufacturing facilities employing a multi-stage that is not readily adaptable to such a cleaning application.
  • [0013]
    The first object of the present invention is to devise a complete sequence of non-aqueous laundering operations using a combination of materials that can be economically separated and used over and over again in a self contained non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0014]
    It is a further object of the invention to describe specific processes for introducing the select rinse fluid.
  • [0015]
    It is an object of the invention to describe techniques and methods for minimizing the amount of select rinse fluid needed and the time that the select rinse fluid should be in contact with the working fluid and fabric articles.
  • [0016]
    It is a further object of the invention to describe a low temperature drying process that would result in improved fabric care and lower energy requirements for such a non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0017]
    It is still another object of the invention to disclose the advantage of increasing the size of the load to be dried without significantly increasing the drying time as is common with traditional aqueous-based machines and non-aqueous machines using some of these methods.
  • [0018]
    It is another object of the invention to describe recovery methods and techniques not only for the select rinse fluid, but also additionally for the working fluid and wash liquor.
  • [0019]
    It is a further object of the invention to describe apparatuses designed to complete the select rinse fluid application, low temperature drying and recovery methods.
  • [0020]
    It is a further object of the invention that the soils removed are concentrated and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • [0021]
    It is a further object that the materials used are all of a type that avoids explosion and manages flammability hazards.
  • [0022]
    Further objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which this invention relates from the following description of the drawings and preferred embodiments that follow.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0023]
    The present invention provides methods of rinsing, drying and recovery of fluids in a non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0024]
    In one aspect, the present invention provides a process of laundering fabrics wherein the fabrics are contacted with a working fluid and then contacted with a select rinse fluid having a boiling point that is at least 30 F. below the flash point of the working fluid.
  • [0025]
    In another aspect, the present invention provides a process of laundering fabrics wherein the fabrics are washed with a working fluid that attaches to the fiber by osmosis and/or hydrogen bonding; most of the working fluid is removed from the fabrics; and most of the remaining working fluid is removed from the fabrics by contacting the working fluid-containing fabric with a select rinse fluid in which the working fluid is miscible, the select rinse fluid having a surface tension less than the surface tension of the working fluid.
  • [0026]
    In yet another aspect of the present invention, a working fluid is used having an affinity to the fibers of the fabric. At least some of the working fluid is removed from the fabric by passing a select rinse fluid through the fabric and then vaporizing remaining select rinse fluid and working fluid from the fabric.
  • [0027]
    In still another aspect of the present invention, a non-aqueous working fluid is selected for having a flash point of at least 100 F.; and a select rinse fluid is chosen which will increase the flash point of the working fluid and select rinse fluid mixture to at least 200 F.
  • [0028]
    In yet another aspect of the present invention, a fabric load is washed and dried in less than 80 minutes by placing in a laundry drum a fabric load of less than 0.10 kg fabric per liter of drum; washing the fabric load with a non-aqueous fluid for a first predetermined period of time; removing a substantial portion of non-aqueous fluid from the fabric load for a second predetermined period of time; removing the remaining non-aqueous fluid with a select rinse fluid for a third predetermined period of time; and removing a substantial portion of the select rinse fluid and remaining non-aqueous fluid from the fabric for a fourth predetermined period of time.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0029]
    FIG. 1 depicts a wash unit apparatus in which the present invention can be completed.
  • [0030]
    FIG. 2 depicts components for the drying cycle in the present invention.
  • [0031]
    FIG. 3 depicts part of the recovery apparatus for the invention.
  • [0032]
    FIG. 4 depicts another view of the recovery apparatus.
  • [0033]
    FIG. 5 depicts another view of the recovery apparatus.
  • [0034]
    FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of one embodiment of wash and recovery events that with materials described make possible a self-contained non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0035]
    FIG. 7 is a flow diagram of a second embodiment of washing and recovery events that will with materials described make possible a self-contained non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 8 is a flow diagram of another embodiment of washing and recovery events that with materials described make possible a self-contained non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0037]
    FIG. 9 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of washing and recovery events with materials described makes possible another embodiment of self-contained non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0038]
    FIG. 10 is a flow diagram of another embodiment of washing and recovery events that with materials described make possible another embodiment of a self-contained non-aqueous laundering machine.
  • [0039]
    FIG. 11 is an apparatus wherein one of the above methods for washing and drying can be completed. This apparatus describes the components that are critical for the select rinse fluid step.
  • [0040]
    FIG. 12 represents potential recovery methods for a system containing a Select rinse Fluid.
  • [0041]
    FIG. 13 represents the preferred recovery scheme for such an operation.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0042]
    Modifications of the machine shown in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/699,262, “Non-Aqueous Washing Apparatus”, filed Oct. 31, 2003, has been used to test the efficacy of the washing and recovery operations depicted in the drawings and the specification should be incorporated herein for reference.
  • [0043]
    FIG. 1 depicts an embodiment of the wash unit 12, without the outer housing. Shown is a tub assembly 24, which includes a wash chamber 26 that is adapted to receive the contents to be washed, such as a fabric load (not shown). The tub assembly is connected to an outer structure via various suspension arms 25. The wash chamber 26 also includes a flexible boot 28 that circumferentially surrounds the opening 30 of the wash chamber 26. The boot 28 is adapted to provide a seal around the wash chamber 26 opening and also provide a conduit to the access door. The wash chamber 26 also includes a rear section 32. Inside the wash chamber 26 is a basket 34 that includes one or more perforations. The perforations may be uniformly dispersed about the basket 34, randomly dispersed, or dispersed in some other fashion. The perforations provide fluid communication between the interior of the wash basket 34 to the wash chamber 26.
  • [0044]
    FIG. 1 also demonstrates a wash unit re-circulation system. In various embodiments of the invention described herein, wash liquor may be extracted from the wash chamber 26 and re-circulated back into the wash chamber 26. One embodiment is now described. The wash chamber 26 includes a drain outlet (not shown) that is in fluid communication with a wash chamber sump 36. The wash chamber sump 36 may be designed to have a large volume capacity so that it may store the entire volume of wash liquor introduced into the wash chamber 26. For example, in the event of a system failure, the wash liquor can drain into the chamber sump 36. The drain outlet (not shown) may also include a gate or cover that can be sealed. Accordingly, in the event of a system failure, the wash liquor contents may be drained into the sump 36, the drain outlet closed, and the fabric contents can be removed.
  • [0045]
    A simple electric coil heater (not shown) may be optionally associated with sump 36 so that the wash liquor in the sump may be heated. In various embodiments, it may be desirable to re-circulate heated wash liquor back into the fabric so that the fabric maintains an elevated temperature, or because various washing adjuvant(s) work—or work better—in a heated environment. The heater may also heat the wash liquor to deactivate adjuvant(s) in the wash liquor. Accordingly, the heater may be programmed to activate or deactivate based on the intended use. The heating means is not limited to electric coil heaters.
  • [0046]
    Wash chamber sump 36 is in fluid communication with a filter 38, such as a coarse lint filter, that is adapted to filter out large particles, such as buttons, paper clips, lint, food, etc. The filter 38 may be consumer accessible to provide for removal, cleaning, and/or replacement.
  • [0047]
    Accordingly, it may be desirable to locate the filter 38 near the front side of the wash unit 12 and preferably near the bottom so that any passive drainage occurs into the sump 36 and the filter 38. In another embodiment, the filter 38 may also be back-flushed to the reclamation unit 14 so that any contents may be removed from the reclamation unit 14. In another embodiment, the filter can be back-flushed within the wash unit to the sump and then pumped to the reclamation unit. In this regard, consumer interaction with the filter 38 can be intentionally limited.
  • [0048]
    Filtered wash liquor may then be passed to the reclamation unit 14 for further processing or may be passed to a re-circulation pump 40. Although not shown, a multiway valve may also be positioned between the filter 38 and the pump 40 to direct the wash liquor to the reclamation unit 14 for the further processing. After processing, the wash liquor may be returned to the re-circulation loop at an entry point anywhere along the loop. The re-circulation pump may be controlled to provide continuous operation, pulsed operation, or controlled operation. Returning to the embodiment of FIG. 1, re-circulation pump 40 then pumps the wash liquor to a multi-way re-circulation valve 42. Based on various programming, the re-circulation valve 42 may be defaulted to keep the wash liquor in the re-circulation loop or defaulted to route the wash liquor to another area, such as the reclamation unit 14. For example, re-circulation valve 42 may include a re-circulation outlet 44 and a reclamation outlet 46. In the embodiment where re-circulation is desired, wash liquor is shunted via the re-circulation outlet 44 to a dispenser 48.
  • [0049]
    As mentioned above concerning the sump 36, a heater (not shown) may also be associated with the dispenser to modulate the temperature of the dispenser contents. After mixing or heating, if any is to be done, the dispenser contents exit the dispenser via a dispenser outlet 50. Dispenser outlet 50 may be gated to control the outflow of the contents. In this regard, each chamber in the dispenser may be individually gated. The contents exit the dispenser via outlet 50 and enter a fill inlet 52, which is in fluid communication with the wash chamber 26. As shown in FIG. 1, the fill inlet 52 is generally located in the boot 28. The dispenser may be consumer accessible to refill the chambers if desired.
  • [0050]
    Fill inlet may also include one or more dispensing heads (not shown), such as nozzles or sprayers. The head may be adapted to repel wash liquor or a particular adjuvant so that clogging is avoided or minimized.
  • [0051]
    FIG. 2 depicts a view of the drying loop. In one embodiment, air from the chamber 26 is to communicate with the flexible conduit in fluid communication with a lint filter housing 66, which contains a lint filter 68. Large particulates can be captured by the lint filter 68 to avoid the build-up of particulates on the components in the drying loop, such as the blower, the condenser, the heater, etc. The lint filter housing 66 may also include a filter lock that is adapted to lock down the lint filter 68 when the machine is activated to avoid a breach of the closed system. In addition, when the machine is deactivated, the consumer can clean the lint filter 68 as one normally would do in traditional drying machines. The lint filter 68 may also include a gasket at the interface of the lint filer 68 and the wash unit outer housing. While shown as one filter, there may be many lint filters in the air flow path to collect as much particulates as possible and these lint filters may be located anywhere along any path or loop or be incorporated into the condenser design. The lint filter housing 66 is in fluid communication with a blower 72. The use of multiple lint filters before the blower 72 would minimize the amount of particulates entering the remaining portion of the drying cycle.
  • [0052]
    FIG. 2 also shows a condenser system. FIG. 2 shows an illustrative view of the condenser units, in particular showing a first condenser unit 82 and a second condenser unit 84 inside the condenser body 85. FIG. 2 also shows a condenser pan 86 generally located at the bottom of the body 85. In this regard, air is blown from the blower 72 into the condenser system and is passed over the condenser units. In one embodiment, the air inflow may be passed over a diffuser to diffuse the air over the condenser units. In another embodiment, the body 85 is divided into two or more chambers by at least one septum. Accordingly, air is blown from the blower 72 into the system, passes into the body 85, and thereby passes over the first condenser unit 82. Condensation occurs and the condensate drips down into the pan 86. Meanwhile, the air is routed, optionally via a molded piece or a baffle, from the first chamber into a second one and over the second condenser unit 84. Condensation from the second condenser unit 82 drips down into the condenser pan 86. The condensate in the drip pan 86 is routed to a condenser sump 88. The condenser sump can be separate from or integral to the wash chamber sump (not shown). The air that passes the second condenser unit 84 is routed via a heater conduit 90 that ultimately connects to a heater 92. The condenser units 80 may be consumer accessible and may be adapted to be accessed once the machine 10 is deactivated. FIG. 2 shows a condenser unit 82 partially removed from the condenser body 85.
  • [0053]
    Although shown in FIG. 2 as a vertical condenser unit 82, 84, the condenser units may be angled relative to the airflow. In this regard, the individual plates 94 of the unit are in maximum contact with the airflow. In addition, as condensation forms on the plates, the condensation may form droplets that further increase the surface area in contact with the airflow. This stimulates further condensation. In addition, as the droplet size increases beyond the point where the droplet can remain static on the plate 94, it will drip down into the pan. The stream of liquid caused by the droplet movement also increases the surface area exposed to the airflow and thereby stimulates further condensation.
  • [0054]
    In addition, although shown in FIG. 2 as one wash chamber conduit 96, there may be several outlets from the heater into the same conduit 96. Furthermore, there may be one conduit 96 splitting into multiple wash chamber inlets 98. In effect, it may be desirable to have multiple inlets into the wash chamber so that hot airflow may be maximized and that excellent drying achieved.
  • [0055]
    FIG. 3 demonstrates an embodiment of the reclamation unit 14 with the reclamation unit outer housing removed. Fluid returned from the wash unit 12 is preferably routed to an optional waste tank 100. In some instances the waste tank may be replaced with a select rinse fluid storage tank. The optional waste tank 100 includes a waste tank top surface 102, a waste tank bottom area 104, and a waste tank outlet (not shown). The waste tank 100 comprises a material compatible with the working fluid used. Additionally, the tanks should be compatible with the range of working fluids suggested in this specification that may be used in such an application. The tank is preferably clear or semi-opaque so that the fluid level of the tank can be readily determined. In addition, the tank may also include internal or external fluid level indicators, such as graduated markings. The tank volume may be greater than the sum total volume of working fluid plus any adjuvants used such that the entire fluid volume of the machine can be adequately stored in the waste tank. The waste tank bottom area 104 may be shaped as to direct the waste tank contents towards the waste tank outlet (not shown). In one embodiment, the waste tank outlet is generally located at the bottom of the waste tank so that gravity assists the fluid transport through the waste tank outlet. The waste tank may also include a pressure relief valve 106 to relieve accumulated pressures in the tank.
  • [0056]
    With regard to tank construction, if the tank is not uniformly molded, then any seals ought to be tight and resistant to wear, dissolution, leaching, etc. The inside walls of the tank can be microtextured to be very smooth, without substantial surface defects, so that waste fluid entering the tank is easily flowed to the tank bottom. In addition, the inside wall should be easily cleanable. To this end, the tank may include a series of scrapers that periodically scrape the sidewalls and bottom to ensure that little or no waste sticks to the walls and the bottom and that such waste is channeled to the tank outlet. The scrapers may be controlled via programming. Although not shown, the tank outlet may also include a removable particulate filter. Additionally, the tank may include a layer of insulation material that helps sustain the desired temperatures for each systems' heating/cooling mechanisms either within or surrounding the tanks.
  • [0057]
    The tank outlet is in fluid communication with a high pressure pump 108, which pumps the waste tank contents into a chiller 110, which further cools the waste tank contents. The chiller preferably resides in an insulated box to maintain a cooler environment.
  • [0058]
    FIG. 4 demonstrates a partial back end view of the reclamation unit. The cooled waste tank contents are then pumped from the chiller to a chiller multiway valve 112. Between the chiller and the multiway valve 112 is a temperature sensor (not shown). The default position of the valve shunts the cooled waste tank contents back into the waste tank 100. Thus, cooled waste tank contents are returned to the waste tank 100. The waste tank 100 may also include a temperature sensor to measure the temperature of the waste tank contents. When the desired temperature is achieved, for example, less than 0 C., the multiway valve 112 may shunt the cooled waste tank contents into a cross flow membrane 114. A less than zero temperature is desirable as water will freeze and thus not permeate in the cross flow membrane.
  • [0059]
    FIG. 4 also shows the chiller 110 with the back panel removed to show the chiller contents. The chiller 110 may comprise a chilling coil 116 that has a coil inlet (not shown) and a coil outlet 118. The chilling coil 116 may include an outer cover 120 such that the chilling coil 116 and the outer cover 120 form a coaxial arrangement. Disposed between the coil 116 and the outer cover 120 is a coolant. Accordingly, the coolant being carried by the outer cover 120 chills waste tank contents flowing through the coil 116. The coolant is circulated into the chiller 110 via a compressor system, which includes a coolant coil 122 and a coolant compressor 124. Thus, the compressor 124 cools the coolant in the coolant coil 122. This cooled coolant is then pumped into the coaxial space between the outer cover 120 and the chilling coil 116, such that the waste tank contents are ultimately cooled. This default loop continues for as long as necessary.
  • [0060]
    It is also understood that other cooling technologies may be used to cool the waste tank contents as desired. For example, instead of having water cool the compressor system, an air-cooled heat exchanger similar to a radiator can be used. Alternatively, the working fluid may be cooled by moving water through cooling coils, or by thermoelectric devices heaters, expansion valves, cooling towers, or thermo-acoustic devices to, cool the waste tank contents.
  • [0061]
    FIGS. 4 and 5 demonstrate the waste tank content flow. As mentioned above, once the desired temperature is achieved, the multiway valve 112 shunts the flow to the cross flow membrane 114. In an alternate embodiment, a re-circulation loop may be set up such that the waste tank contents are re-circulated through the chiller 110, as opposed to being routed back into the waste tank 100. In this regard, the chiller multiway valve 112 may have an additional shunt that shunts the contents back into the path between the high-pressure pump 108 and the chiller 110. Once the desired temperature is achieved, the multiway valve 112 shunts the flow to the cross flow membrane 114. The cross flow membrane 114 has a proximal end 126 and a distal end 128. As waste tank contents are pumped into the proximal end 126, filtration begins and a permeate and a concentrate waste are formed.
  • [0062]
    The permeate flows down to the bottom of the cross flow membrane and exits the membrane 114 and enters a permeate pump 130. This permeate pump 130 pumps the permeate into a permeate filter 132, such as a carbon bed filter. The permeate enters the permeate filter 132 via the permeate filter proximal end 134, travels across the filter media, and exits via the permeate filter distal end 136. The permeate filter is selected for its ability to filter out organic residues, such as odors, fatty acids, dyes, petroleum based products, or the like that are miscible enough with the bulk solvent to pass through the cross flow membrane. Such filters may include activated carbon, alumina, silica gel, diatomaceous earth, aluminosilicates, polyamide resin, hydrogels, zeolites, polystyrene, polyethylene, divinyl benzene and/or molecular sieves. In any embodiment, the permeate may pass over or through several permeate filters, either sequentially or non-sequentially. In addition, the permeate filter may be one or more stacked layers of filter media. Accordingly, the flow may pass through one or more sequential filters and/or one or more stacked and/or unstacked filters. The preferred geometry for liquid and vapor removal for activated carbon is spherical and cylindrical. These systems may have a density between 0.25 to 0.75 g/cm3 with preferred ranges of 0.40 to 0.70 g/cm3. Surface areas may range from 50 to 2500 m2/g with a preferred range of 250 to 1250 m2/g. The particle size may range from 0.05 to 5001 μm with a preferred range of 0.1 to 100 μm. A preferred pressure drop across the packed bed would range from 0.05 to 1.0106 Pa with a preferred range of 0.1 to 1000 Pa. A porosity may range from 0.1 to 0.95 with a preferred range from 0.2 to 0.6.
  • [0063]
    After the permeate is filtered, the permeate is routed into the clean tank 138, where the permeate, which is now substantially purified working fluid, is stored. The purified working fluid should be greater than 90% free from contaminants with a preferred range of 95% to 99%. As desired, the working fluid is pumped from the clean tank 138 via a fill pump 140 to the wash unit 12.
  • [0064]
    The cross flow membrane 114 is also selected for its ability to filter out the working fluid as a permeate. Cross flow membranes may be polymer based or ceramic based. The membrane 114 is also selected for its ability to filter out particulates or other large molecular entities. The utility of a cross flow membrane, if polymer based, is a function of, inter alia, the number of hollow fibers in the unit, the channel height (e.g., the diameter of the fiber if cylindrical), length of the fiber, and the pore size of the fiber. Accordingly, it is desirable that the number of fibers is sufficient to generate enough flow through the membrane without significant back up or clogging at the proximal end. The channel height is selected for its ability to permit particulates to pass without significant back up or clogging at the proximal end. The pore size is selected to ensure that the working fluid passes out as permeate without significant other materials passing through as permeate. Accordingly, a preferred membrane would be one that would remove all particulate matter, separate micelles, separate water and other hydrophilic materials, separate hydrophobic materials that are outside the solubility region of the working fluid, and remove bacteria or other microbes. Nano-filtration is a preferred method to remove bacteria and viruses.
  • [0065]
    Ceramic membranes offer high permeate fluxes, resistance to most solvents, and are relatively rigid structures, which permits easier cleaning. Polymer based membranes offer cost effectiveness, disposability, and relatively easier cleaning. Polymer based membranes may comprise polysulfone, polyethersulfone, and/or methyl esters, or any mixture thereof. Pore sizes for membranes may range from 0.005 to 1.0 micron, with a preferred range of 0.01 to 0.2 microns. Flux ranges for membranes may range from 0.5 to 250 kg/hour of working fluid with a preferred minimum flux of 30 kg/hour (or about 10-5000 kg/m2). Fiber lumen size or channel height may range from 0.05 to 0.5 mm so that particulates may pass through. The dimension of the machine determines the membrane length. For example, the membrane may be long enough that it fits across a diagonal. A length may, preferably, be between 5 to 75 cm, and more preferably 10 to 30 cm. The membrane surface area may be between 10 to 2000 cm2, with 250 to 1500 cm2 and 300 to 750 cm2 being preferred.
  • [0066]
    The preferred membrane fiber size is dependent upon the molecular weight cutoff for the items that need to be separated. As mentioned earlier, the preferred fiber would be one that would remove all particulate matter, separate micelles, separate water and other hydrophilic materials, separate hydrophobic materials that are outside the solubility region of the working fluid, and remove bacteria or other microbes. The hydrophobic materials are primarily body soils that are mixtures of fatty acids. Some of the smaller chain fatty acids (C12 and C13) have lower molecular weights (200 or below) while some fatty acids exceed 500 for a molecular weight. A preferred surfactant for these systems are silicone surfactants having an average molecular size from 500-20000.
  • [0067]
    For example, in siloxane based working fluid machines, the fiber should be able to pass molecular weights less than 1000, more preferably less than 500 and most preferably less than 400. In addition, the preferred fibers should be hydrophobic in nature, or have a hydrophobic coating to repel water trying to pass. For the contaminants that pass through the fibers, the absorber and/or absorber filters will remove the remaining contaminants. Some preferred hydrophobic coatings are aluminum oxides, silicone nitrate, silicone carbide and zirconium. Accordingly, an embodiment of the invention resides in a cross flow membrane that is adapted to permit a recovery of the working fluid as a permeate.
  • [0068]
    Returning to FIGS. 4 and 5, the permeate took the path that led to a permeate pump. The concentrate, however, takes another path. The concentrate exits the cross flow membrane distal end 128 and is routed to a concentrate multiway valve 142. In the default position, the concentrate multiway valve 142 shunts the concentrate to the waste tank 100. The concentrate that enters the waste tank 100 is then routed back through the reclamation process described above. Once the concentrate multiway valve is activated, the concentrate is routed to a dead end filter 144.
  • [0069]
    The dead end filter 144 may be a container that includes an internal filter 146. As concentrate enters the dead end filter 144, the concentrate collects on the internal filter 146. Based on the type of filter used, permeate will pass through the filter 146 and be routed to the waste tank 100 or eventually into the clean tank. The concentrate will remain in the dead end filter. To assist in drawing out remaining liquids from the concentrate so that it passes to the waste tank, a vacuum may be created inside to draw out more liquid. In addition, the dead end filter 144 may include a press that presses down on the concentrate to compact the concentrate and to squeeze liquids through the internal filter 146. The dead end filter 144 may also include one or more choppers or scrapers to scrape down the sides of the filter and to chop up the compacted debris. In this regard, in the next operation of the press, the press recompacts the chopped up debris to further draw out the liquids. The dead end filter may be consumer accessible so that the dead end filter may be cleaned, replaced, or the like; and the remaining debris removed. In addition, the dead end filter may be completed without the assistance of a vacuum, in a low temperature evaporation step or an incineration step. Capturing the concentrate/retentate and then passing a low heat stream of air with similar conditions to the drying air over the filter will complete the low temperature evaporation step. The working fluid will be removed and then routed to the condenser where it will condense and then return to the clean tank.
  • [0070]
    Another concern that needs to be addressed is the re-use of the filters beds. Some potential means to prevent fouling or to reduce fouling are via chemical addition or cleaning, reducing the temperature and phase changing the water to ice and then catching the ice crystals via a filter mechanism, or coating the membranes with special surfaces to minimize the risk of fouling. A way to regenerate the filters includes but is not limited to the addition of heat, pH, ionic strength, vacuum, mechanical force, electric field and combinations thereof.
  • [0071]
    FIGS. 6-10 illustrate various methods of washing and drying fabrics in accordance with the present invention. In FIGS. 6-10, a first step in practicing the present invention is the loading of the machine 200 or chamber. The next step involves the addition of the wash liquor 202. The wash liquor is preferably a combination of a working fluid and optionally at least one washing additive. The working fluid is preferably non-aqueous, has a surface tension less than 35 dynes/cm and has a flash point of at least 140 F. or greater as classified by the National Fire Protection Association. More specifically the working fluid is selected from terpenes, halohydrocarbons, glycol ethers, polyols, ethers, esters of glycol ethers, esters of fatty acids and other long chain carboxylic acids, fatty alcohols and other long chain alcohols, short-chain alcohols, polar aprotic solvents, siloxanes, hydrofluoroethers, dibasic esters, aliphatic hydrocarbons and/or combinations thereof. Even more preferably, the working fluid is further selected from decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dodecamethylpentasiloxane, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, decamethyltetrasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB), dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether (DPnP), dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether (DPtB), propylene glycol n-butyl ether (PnB), propylene glycol n-propyl ether (PnP), tripropylene methyl ether (TPM) and/or combinations thereof. The washing additive can be selected from the group consisting of: builders, surfactants, enzymes, bleach activators, bleach catalysts, bleach boosters, bleaches, alkalinity sources, antibacterial agents, colorants, perfumes, pro-perfumes, finishing aids, lime soap dispersants, composition malodor control agents, odor neutralizers, polymeric dye transfer inhibiting agents, crystal growth inhibitors, photobleaches, heavy metal ion sequestrants, anti-tarnishing agents, anti-microbial agents, anti-oxidants, linkers, anti-redeposition agents, electrolytes, pH modifiers, thickeners, abrasives, divalent or trivalent ions, metal ion salts, enzyme stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, diamines or polyamines and/or their alkoxylates, suds stabilizing polymers, solvents, process aids, fabric softening agents, optical brighteners, hydrotropes, suds or foam suppressors, suds or foam boosters, fabric softeners, antistatic agents, dye fixatives, dye abrasion inhibitors, anti-crocking agents, wrinkle reduction agents, wrinkle resistance agents, soil release polymers, soil repellency agents, sunscreen agents, anti-fade agents and mixtures thereof. The chamber 26 (as shown in FIG. 1) by its rotation adds mechanical energy 204 to the combination of the working fluid and fabric. The mechanical energy may be of the form of tumbling, agitating, impelling, nutating, counter-rotating the drum or liquid jets that spray fluids thus moving the fabrics. The mechanical energy should be added for a time ranging from 2-20 minutes. The wash liquor is then removed in step 206. Potential methods for removing the wash liquor include but are not limited to centrifugation, liquid extraction, the application of a vacuum, the application of forced heated air, the application of pressurized air, simply allowing gravity to draw the wash liquor away from the fabric, the application of moisture absorbing materials or mixtures thereof. In traditional aqueous machines, the extraction cycle is generally less than 10 minutes total. This time includes 1-3 minutes for the drain and at least 7 minutes for the spinning cycle. The non-aqueous cycle should be similar to the traditional system. In step 208, less than 20 liters per kilogram of cloth of the select rinse fluid is added to the chamber. The select rinse fluid (PRF) is selected based on being miscible with the working fluid and having Hanson solubility parameters (expressed in joules per cubic centimeter) with one of the following criteria: a polarity greater than about 3 and hydrogen bonding less than 9; hydrogen bonding less than 13 and dispersion from about 14 to about 17; or hydrogen bonding from about 13 to about 19 and dispersion from about 14 to about 22. More specifically the PRF will be selected for having the following properties: have a viscosity less than the viscosity of the working fluid, a vapor pressure greater than 5 mm Hg at standard conditions, surface tension less than the surface tension of the working fluid or be non-flammable. Even more specifically, the PRF is selected from the group consisting of perfluorinated hydrocarbons, decafluoropentane, hydrofluoroethers, methoxynonafluorobutane, ethoxynonafluorobutane and/or mixtures thereof. Next, mechanical energy is added to the system for a time from 2-20 minutes to combine the PRF, the remaining wash liquor and the fabric 210. This mechanical energy can be added continuously or intermittently throughout the cycle. Optionally, fabric enhancement agents can be added at step 214 in combination with the PRF or after the PRF has been removed. Some potential fabric enhancement agents include but are not limited to: fabric softeners, viscosity thinning agents such as cationic surfactants, soil repellency agents, fabric stiffening agents, surface tension reducing agents and anti-static agents. The remaining wash liquor and PRF are removed in step 212. A drying gas is introduced in step 216 and the solvent removed from the fabric is routed through a condenser 82 as shown in FIG. 2 and stored for reuse in 218. Preferably, but not limited to, the PRF should be recovered in step 222 and potentially re-used in the same or future process steps. After recovering the PRF, step 224 involves recovering the wash liquor and finally step 226 disposal of the contaminants. Finally, dry fabric 220 can be removed from the chamber at the end of the method. The preferred recovery techniques will be defined later in this specification.
  • [0072]
    FIG. 7 depicts a method similar to FIG. 6 except for that it utilizes an additional step that decreases the amount of PRF that is needed. In this particular embodiment, the PRF is re-circulated in step 228 and introduced back into the wash chamber 26 while the mechanical energy is being added during step 208.
  • [0073]
    A dynamic rinse process is depicted in FIG. 8, where upon removal of the wash liquor and PRF in step 212, the PRF is separated from the wash liquor and re-circulated to the chamber in step 230. There are a variety of separation steps that may be useful including but not limited to: filtration, gravimetric separation, temperature reduction, adsorption, absorption, distillation, flotation, evaporation, third component extraction, osmosis, high performance liquid chromatography and/or a combination thereof.
  • [0074]
    FIG. 9 depicts a preferred embodiment wherein the amount of PRF used is minimized. In this method, after the wash liquor is removed from the fabric in step 206, less than 10 liters of PRF per kilogram of cloth is added in step 232. The drum is spinning at a centrifugal force of greater than at least 1 G in step 234. The drum should be spinning at such a velocity to promote the fabric moving toward the surface of the perforated drum.
  • [0075]
    In the process depicted in FIG. 10, the spray rinsing technology utilizes the addition of the PRF without the added benefit of re-circulating the fluid. In both the spray rinse methods, depicted in FIGS. 9 and 10, the wash liquor is further removed by passing the fluid through the fabric and this benefit is further increased through the use of extracting the fluid with a centrifugal force sufficient to move the fabrics toward the surface of the drum.
  • [0076]
    The processes depicted in FIGS. 9 and 10, the preferred apparatus should include a dispensing device that allows the PRF to be distributed along the entire depth of the fabrics. This is preferably accomplished by spraying the PRF onto the fabrics while they are against the surface of the drum.
  • [0077]
    In FIGS. 6-10, step 210 should be continued for a time which ensures that the wash liquor concentration remaining on the fabric (as defined by kilogram of working fluid per kilogram of cloth) falls to at least 45%, more preferably below 25% and most preferably below 15%.
  • [0078]
    FIG. 11 depicts an apparatus wherein the above methods are accomplished. In FIG. 11, a control means 250 regulates the time in which each step occurs, the tumbling pattern of the drum, the physical parameters are sensed, the methods are selected, etc. A drum 260 is actuated by a motor that provides the mechanical energy in the above methods. A pump 262 removes working fluid, wash liquor and PRF from the system and sends the material to the recovery unit 258. The pump may be a positive displacement type, a kinetic or open screw type mechanical pump. Pumping is not limited to mechanical means and other types of pumps that be utilized such as piezo-electric, electrohydrodynamic, thermal bubble, magnetohydrodynamic and electroosmotic. The PRF and working fluid are stored separately in the storage system 256 and are delivered to the drum through the use of the delivery pump 254. The pump passes the working fluid and/or PRF through the dispensing system 252 where either the washing additive and/or fabric enhancement agents can be added to the system.
  • [0079]
    In some instances the working fluid and the PRF are immiscible and the miscibility gap could be overcome by a change in temperature or the addition of one or more components. In some instances, it is preferred that the molecular weight of the PRF should be less than the molecular weight of the working fluid.
  • [0080]
    In any of the aforementioned figures, heating may be supplied at any time to heat the machine, one or more machine components, the fluids, the fabric, air or a combination thereof.
  • [0081]
    Additionally, apparatuses designed for the PRF should have condensing systems designed to handle multiple fluids. A preferred condensing system will preferentially separate the fluids according to boiling point and vapor pressure. Examples of such condensing systems have been taught in U.S. Pat. No. 2,004,0117919. An example dealing with a PRF would have the PRF condensing, followed by the added water to the system, then a working fluid such as decamethylcyclopentasiloxane or dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether.
  • [0082]
    FIGS. 6-10 depict a system having only one rinse (the PRF rinse). In some embodiments, the system can optionally go through one or multiple rinses in cases where the working fluid is added to remove soil and the washing additives. Optionally, heat and air can be added separately or together to improve the extraction efficiency. Additionally, one or multiple rinses with the PRF may be used. The second PRF rinse could be used to dispense/deliver the fabric enhancement agents to the fabric.
  • [0083]
    FIG. 12 depicts shows other embodiments of the invention generally related to recovery. Although not shown, any loop or path may be repeated. In addition, it should be recognized that any step might be combined with another step or omitted entirely. The mixture of wash liquor, select rinse fluid and contaminants are introduced to the recovery system in step 270. FIG. 12 depicts an embodiments wherein one of the initial steps in the recovery process is to remove large particulates 272. As mentioned herein, any mode of large particulate removal is contemplated, including using the coarse lint filter, filtration, and other separation techniques. Large particulates can be buttons, lint, paper clips, etc., such as those having a size of greater than 50 microns. Small particulates may be less than 50 microns. A method of particulate removal may include a dehydration step in the wash chamber by heating the fabrics so that any residual water is removed. By doing so, the electrostatic bond between the dirt and fabric is broken, thereby liberating the dirt. This dirt can then be recovered. Other methods of particulate removal include but are not limited to vortex separation, flotation, solidification, centrifugation, electrostatic (phoresis), ultrasonic, gas bubbling, high performance liquid chromatography and chemical digestion.
  • [0084]
    The PRF is separated and recovered in step 274. Methods for separating the PRF from the wash liquor include, but are not limited to: fractional distillation, temperature reduction, addition of a flocculating agent, adsorption/absorption, liquid extraction through the use of another additive, filtration, gravimetric separation, osmosis, evaporation, chemisorption or a combination of the aforementioned steps. The final PRF that is recovered and stored for reuse should contain less than 50% by weight of working fluid, more preferably less than 25% and most preferably less than 10%. The PRF and working fluid mixture need not be separated until the concentration of the working fluid exceeds 25% by weight.
  • [0085]
    Dissolved soils include those items that are dissolved in the working fluid, such as oils, surfactants, detergents, etc. Mechanical and chemical methods or both may remove dissolved soils 276. Mechanical removal includes the use of filters or membranes, such as nano-filtration, ultra-filtration and microfiltration, and/or cross flow membranes. Pervaporation may also be used. Pervaporation is a process in which a liquid stream containing two or more components is placed in contact with one side of a non-porous polymeric membrane while a vacuum or gas purge is applied to the other side. The components in the liquid stream sorb into the membrane, permeate through the membrane, and evaporate into the vapor phase (hence the word pervaporate). The vapor, referred to as “the permeate”, is then condensed. Due to different species in the feed mixture having different affinities for the membrane and different diffusion rates through the membrane, a component at low concentration in the feed can be highly enriched in the permeate. Further, the permeate composition may differ widely from that of the vapor evolved in a free vapor-liquid equilibrium process. Concentration factors range from the single digits to over 1,000, depending on the compounds, the membrane and process conditions.
  • [0086]
    Chemical separation may include change of state methods, such as temperature reduction (e.g., freeze distillation), temperature increase, pressure increase, flocculation, pH changes and ion exchange resins.
  • [0087]
    Other removal methods include electric coalescence, absorption, adsorption, endothermic reactions, temperature stratification, third component addition, dielectrophoresis, high performance liquid chromatography, ultrasonic and thermo-acoustic cooling techniques.
  • [0088]
    Insoluble soils 278 may include water, enzymes, hydrophilic soils, salts, etc. Items may be initially insoluble but may become soluble (or vice versa) during the wash and reclamation processes. For example, adding dissolvers, emulsifiers, soaps, pH shifters, flocculants, etc., may change the characteristic of the item. Other methods of insoluble soil removal include filtration, caking/drying, gravimetric, vortex separation, distillation, freeze distillation and the like.
  • [0089]
    The step of concentrating impurities 280 may include any of the above steps done that are done to reduce, and thereby purify, the working fluid recovery. Concentrating impurities may involve the use of multiple separation techniques or separation additives to assist in reclamation. It may also involve the use of a specific separation technique that cannot be done until other components are removed.
  • [0090]
    In some instances, the surfactants may need to be recovered. A potential means for recovering surfactants is through any of the above-mentioned separation techniques and the use of CO2 and pressure.
  • [0091]
    As used herein, the sanitization step 282 will include the generic principle of attempting to keep the unit relatively clean, sanitary, disinfected, and/or sterile from infectious, pathogenic, pyrogenic, etc. substances. Potentially harmful substances may reside in the unit due to a prior introduction from the fabrics cleaned, or from any other new substance inadvertently added. Because of the desire to retrieve clean clothes from the unit after the cycles are over, the amount of contamination remaining in the clothes ought to be minimized. Accordingly, sanitization may occur due to features inherent in the unit, process steps, or sanitizing agents added. General sanitization techniques include: the addition of glutaraldehyde tanning, formaldehyde tanning at acidic pH, propylene oxide or ethylene oxide treatment, gas plasma sterilization, gamma radiation, electron beam, ultraviolet radiation, peracetic acid sterilization, thermal (heat or cold), chemical (antibiotics, microcides, cations, etc.), and mechanical (acoustic energy, structural disruption, filtration, etc.).
  • [0092]
    Sanitization can also be achieved by constructing conduits, tanks, pumps, or the like with materials that confer sanitization. For example, these components may be constructed and coated with various chemicals, such as antibiotics, microcides, biocides, enzymes, detergents, oxidizing agents, etc. Coating technology is readily available from catheter medical device coating technology. As such, as fluids are moving through the component, the fluids are in contact with the inner surfaces of the component and the coatings and thereby achieves contact based sanitization. For tanks, the inner surfaces of tanks may be provided with the same types of coatings thereby providing longer exposure of the coating to the fluid because of the extended storage times. Any coating may also permit elution of a sanitizer into the fluid stream. Drug eluting stent technology may be adapted to permit elution of a sanitizer, e.g., elution via a parylene coating.
  • [0093]
    FIG. 13 represents the preferred recovery method for a select rinse fluid system. A lint filter 38 will remove large particulates as well as lint prior to introduction into the distillation unit. A fractional distillation unit 292 will separate the PRF from the remaining wash liquor. The PRF will be collected and stored for reuse in 294. The wash liquor and contaminants remaining from the distillation unit will undergo a temperature reduction step 110 as described above. Some dissolved contaminants will come out of solution and the entire mixture will pass through a cross flow filter 114. The cross flow filter will concentrate the remaining contaminants in a small amount of working fluid and this stream will pass a concentrate filter 144 and the contaminants collected can the be disposed 302. The permeate stream from the cross flow filtration operation will pass through a carbon adsorption bed 304 and through a sanitization technique in 306 and be stored for reuse 138.
  • [0094]
    As was mentioned earlier, modifications of the machine shown in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/699,262, “Non-Aqueous Washing Apparatus”, filed Oct. 31, 2003, has been used to test the efficacy of the washing and recovery operations depicted in the drawings. Experiments have been conducted to show the power of the operation and details of such an application.
  • [0095]
    In one experiment, decamethylcyclopentasiloxane was used as the wash liquor and a commercially available detergent package was used with a 3-kg load of cotton stuffers. The load was washed in the decamethylcyclopentasiloxane/detergent wash liquor for 10 minutes followed by an extraction at 1150 rpm for 7 minutes. The average retention (kg solvent remaining/kg cloth) was 25%. Ethoxynonafluorobutane, HFE-7200, was added to the system and re-circulated for 4 minutes. Another extraction at 1150 rpm at 7 minutes was completed and the fabrics were dried with a low temperature air stream at 60 C. and 150 ft3/min. The retention and drying time were recorded for each sample. Table 1 summarizes the result.
    TABLE 1
    LCR (Liters HFE/kg
    Load Size (kg) cloth) Retention % Dry Time (min)
    3.0 1.0 14.3 20
    3.0 2.0 11.7 20
    3.0 3.0 8.9 10

    As can be seen in Table 1, the addition of more HFE-7200 improves the extraction efficiency and decreases the drying time needed.
  • [0096]
    Another test was conducted using a decamethylcyclopentasiloxane/water/detergent mixture washed for 10 minutes and extracted at 1150 rpm for 7 minutes. The resulting retention was measured at 30.0%. An HFE-7200 rinse followed for 4 minutes, followed by the 1150 rpm extraction and followed by the above, described heated drying step. The retention and drying times were recorded and summarized below.
    TABLE 2
    LCR (Liters HFE/kg
    Load Size (kg) cloth) Retention % Dry Time (min)
    3.0 2.0 17.8 25
    5.0 2.0 15.2 30
    6.0 2.0 16.3 35

    The interesting information from this chart shows that with a consistent volume of HFE-7200, the drying time is not greatly impacted by the size of the load. In a traditional aqueous wash in the same machine, a 3-kg load would take nearly 60 minutes, a 5-kg load 120 minutes and a 6-kg load almost 180 minutes.
  • [0097]
    Another test was conducted using a spray rinse technique. The fabric load was washed for 10 minutes in the decamethylcyclopentasiloxane/water/detergent mixture followed by a 1150 rpm, 7-minute extraction. HFE-7200 was added to the drum while the clothes were spinning at 300 rpm and the HFE-7200 was re-circulated through the load. A 1150-rpm, 7-minute extraction was completed along with the low temperature drying step described above. The retention and drying times are summarized and recorded below.
    TABLE 3
    LCR (Liters HFE/kg
    Load Size (kg) cloth) Retention % Dry Time (min)
    5.0 1.0 13.5 30
    5.0 1.0 11.2 30

    In this particular test, the amount of HFE needed has been even further reduced. This rinse method would allow for the most cost-effective solution to the consumer.
  • [0098]
    Additional experiments involving different working fluids and PRFs have been made. These tests confirm the data given above.
  • [0099]
    As stated above, the drying temperature for the above operations was around 60 C. In general, fabrics have a tendency to be damaged by temperatures exceeding 60 C. and most inlet air temperatures in traditional dryers may exceed 175 C. In traditional non-aqueous systems, the working fluids of choice usually have flashpoints lower than 100 C. In addition to the high flash points, these working fluids have low vapor pressures and they require higher temperatures for removal from the fabric. The National Fire Protection Association regulates the temperatures to which these working fluids may be heated to 17 C. below the flash point of the solvent.
  • [0100]
    While, all of the above data was compiled for temperatures that did not exceed 60 C. Additional tests indicate that depending upon energy requirements as well as time restrictions, the temperatures can be lowered further. The PRF removes most of the low vapor pressure working fluid and the use of the PRF with still high vapor pressure can lower drying temperatures still further and/or shorten drying times.
  • [0101]
    An additional requirement on the PRF is that the fluid is non-flammable. A non-flammable fluid combined with a flammable fluid increases the flash point of the solvent; thereby, increasing the safety associated with the system. The PRF will volatilize more quickly creating a PRF-rich head space above the working fluid; and this greatly reduces fire and explosion hazards due to the wash medium used. While most of the existing codes are set only for commercial machines, the ability to use this apparatus and method in the home can be more easily adapted with the select rinse fluid method. The select rinse fluid method as the capabilities of mitigating the risk associated with the use of cleaning with a flammable solvent.
  • [0102]
    In preferred embodiments, the working fluid will be selected for being non-aqueous and having the ability to remove soils and clean the fabrics. Such working fluids that fit the criteria are siloxanes and glycol ethers and more specifically decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether, dipropylene glycol tertiary-butyl ether and/or tripropylene glycol methyl ether. Such a fluid will be added to a wash chamber after fabrics have been dispensed for cleaning. The system will run for a time sufficient to clean the fabrics while the working fluid and fabrics are tumbled at a rate sufficient to allow for the clothes to fall on top of one another. The working fluid will be removed from the fabrics through a spin that can range in speed from 600-1700 rpm based on the drum size used. The spin cycle will last for a time sufficient, greater than 2 minutes, where little or no additional working fluid is being removed from the fabrics. A select rinse fluid will be added to the system while the clothes are spinning at a rate of around 300 rpm. The select rinse fluid is selected for its ability to have a lower affinity for the fabrics than the working fluid as well as a lower osmotic force. More specifically, the PRF is a hydrofluoroether, either ethoxynonafluorobutane or methoxynonafluorobutane. The PRF is added while the fabrics are spinning thereby centrifugal force will pull the PRF through the fabrics removing a large portion of the working fluid. This action will take place for a time sufficient to reduce the concentration of working fluid to below 15% by weight of the fabric. The PRF and working fluid are removed by a conventional spinning cycle ranging from 600-1800 rpm. Heated air, preferably less than 80 C., is next introduced into the drum to remove the remaining PRF and working fluid from the fabric. Air is introduced while the fabrics are tumbling in the drum at a rate sufficient to allow air to transport solvent vapors from the surface of the fabrics into the air stream. This air stream is then passed over a condenser medium to remove most of the solvent vapors from the air stream so the air stream can pass over the fabrics again. After the fabrics are dry, they can be removed from the container.
  • [0103]
    The PRF and working fluid are then passed through a recovery system to separate and purify the fluids as much as possible. In the preferred embodiments, large particulates such as lint will be removed from the system. The recovery system will then pass into a distillation unit. It should be noted that the working fluid collected after the initial wash can be cleaned prior to introduction of the PRF. Most of these technologies have been discussed in U.S. 20040117919 and can be extended to glycol ether containing systems. The distillation unit will be heated to the boiling point of the PRF or to 30 F. below the flash point of the working fluid whichever is lower. The vapors created will be condensed and the PRF will be stored for re-use. The remaining working fluid will undergo a temperature reduction step to remove dissolved contaminants. The solution will pass through a cross-flow filtration membrane to concentrate the remaining contaminants in a smaller volume of working fluid. This concentrated solution will pass through an additional filtration means whereby the remaining working fluid can be evaporated, condensed and then re-used. The non-concentrated stream will pass through a series of adsorption/absorption filters to remove remaining contaminants and then through a sanitizing operation. The contaminants removed from the system will be collected and either discarded after each cycle or collected for a series of cycles and then discarded.
  • [0104]
    The preferred apparatus for such an operation should contain a myriad of components and can be modular in nature if need be. The apparatus should contain storage containers for the working fluid as well as the select rinse fluid. The apparatus should contain a drum or container for depositing clothes a means for controlling the drum such as a motor, a means for dispensing the working fluid, PRF, washing additives and the likes into the wash chamber, a blower to move air for drying, a heating means for heating the air, the fluids, the fabrics or the drum, a condensing means to remove the solvent vapors from the air stream, a means to add mechanical energy to the drum, means for sensing and a means for recovery.
  • [0105]
    In a preferred embodiment, the apparatus would be constructed in a manner where the size wouldn't require modifications to place the unit within the home. Additionally, this unit can be constructed and arranged in such a manner to operate as a dual fluid machine (aqueous-based cycles as well as non-aqueous cycles).
  • [0106]
    In the select rinse fluid (PRF) process of the present invention, it has been accomplished stages of separating the working fluid from the fibers in a series of steps.
  • [0107]
    The working fluids that are best suited for cleaning all fabrics still have some disadvantages. Most of these fluids have extremely small vapor pressures and generally have flash points. This makes conventional drying processes rather difficult. Select rinse fluids that are miscible with these working fluids can be added during one of the rinses and can remove a substantial amount of the remaining working fluid. These select rinse fluids can then be more easily removed via traditional convection drying processes.
  • [0108]
    The invention does not stop here; however, in that effective ways of recovery of the PRF are provided. In the preferred embodiments, a combination of working fluids and PRF are selected which are miscible and very different in ways which permit the two to be separated by ways which can be accomplished in simple operations which lend themselves to a complete cycle, which can be performed in the automatic, self-contained non-aqueous laundering machine described.
Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3423311 *Mar 29, 1966Jan 21, 1969Du PontProcess for obtaining complete softening of waters where hardness exceeds alkalinity
US3930998 *Sep 18, 1974Jan 6, 1976Sterling Drug Inc.Wastewater treatment
US4004048 *May 28, 1975Jan 18, 1977E. I. Du Pont De Nemours And CompanyRapid fixation of agents on flexible substrates
US4184950 *Feb 21, 1978Jan 22, 1980Hendrick Manufacturing CompanyMethod and apparatus for dewatering sludge
US4186047 *May 15, 1978Jan 29, 1980Phillips Petroleum CompanySolvent removal from polymer solutions
US4247330 *Jun 20, 1979Jan 27, 1981Sws Silicones CorporationProtective coatings
US4252546 *Apr 23, 1979Feb 24, 1981Krugmann Hans GProcess and apparatus for the recovery of the solvent from the exhaust air of dry cleaning machines
US4434196 *Mar 17, 1982Feb 28, 1984Sandoz Ltd.Method of accelerating the drying of wet hydropohilic substrates
US4444625 *Apr 18, 1983Apr 24, 1984Kleen-Rite, Inc.Method and apparatus for reclaiming drycleaning fluid
US4499621 *Mar 1, 1983Feb 19, 1985Maschinenfabrik Ad. Schulthess & Co. AgMethod for washing laundry in a pass-through washing machine
US4636328 *Jan 7, 1985Jan 13, 1987Purex CorporationMulti functional laundry product and employment of same during fabric laundering
US4802253 *Aug 25, 1987Feb 7, 1989Mitsubishi Jukogyo Kabushiki KaishaDry cleaning method using at least two kinds of solvents
US4808319 *May 9, 1988Feb 28, 1989The Dow Chemical CompanyMethod for removing a slime deposit from packing material inside a tower
US4818297 *Nov 13, 1987Apr 4, 1989Gebruder Lodige Maschinenbau-GesellschaftProcess for removing solvents from bulk material
US4904390 *Apr 4, 1988Feb 27, 1990Siemens AktiengesellschaftMethod for varying the capacity of an ion exchanger for a specific chemical element
US4911761 *Apr 20, 1988Mar 27, 1990Cfm Technologies Research AssociatesProcess and apparatus for drying surfaces
US4912793 *Jul 24, 1989Apr 3, 1990Mitsubishi Jukogyo Kabushiki KaishaDry cleaning method and apparatus
US4919839 *Feb 21, 1989Apr 24, 1990Colgate Palmolive Co.Light duty microemulsion liquid detergent composition containing an aniocic/cationic complex
US4984318 *Jun 28, 1989Jan 15, 1991Coindreau Palau DamasoMethod and system for the recovering of solvents in dry cleaning machines
US4999398 *Jul 24, 1989Mar 12, 1991Dow Corning CorporationMethods for making polydiorganosiloxane microemulsions
US5004000 *Feb 2, 1990Apr 2, 1991Berruex Serge AApparatus for rinsing surfaces with a non-aqueous liquid
US5082503 *Oct 22, 1990Jan 21, 1992Baxter International Inc.Method for removing contaminants from the surfaces of articles
US5091105 *Jan 7, 1991Feb 25, 1992Dow Corning CorporationLiquid detergent fabric softening laundering composition
US5093031 *Oct 14, 1988Mar 3, 1992Isp Investments Inc.Surface active lactams
US5104419 *Feb 28, 1990Apr 14, 1992Funk Harald FSolid waste refining and conversion to methanol
US5104545 *Dec 15, 1989Apr 14, 1992Nalco Chemical CompanyProcess for removing water soluble organic compounds from produced water
US5106507 *May 13, 1991Apr 21, 1992Texaco Inc.Method for recovering hydrocarbon contaminants from wastewater
US5193560 *Jun 24, 1991Mar 16, 1993Kabushiki Kaisha Tiyoda SisakushoCleaning system using a solvent
US5199125 *Apr 2, 1992Apr 6, 1993Milliken Research CorporationMethod for textile treatment
US5284029 *Sep 15, 1992Feb 8, 1994Gas Research InstituteTriple effect absorption heat exchanger combining second cycle generator and first cycle absorber
US5287985 *Apr 16, 1992Feb 22, 1994Morishita Chemical Industry, Co., Ltd.Container for dewatering or packaging and transportation
US5288420 *Jun 22, 1992Feb 22, 1994Fluid Packaging Company, Inc.Solid laundry pre-spotter composition and method of use
US5288422 *Mar 15, 1993Feb 22, 1994Alliedsignal Inc.Azeotrope-like compositions of 1,1,1,3,3,5,5,5-octafluoropentane, chlorinated ethylenes, and optionally nitromethane
US5290473 *Mar 15, 1993Mar 1, 1994Alliedsignal Inc.Azeotrope-like compositons of 1,1,1,3,3,5,5,5-octafluoropentane, C1-C5 alkanol and optionally nitromethane
US5294644 *Feb 12, 1991Mar 15, 1994Isp Investments Inc.Surface active lactams
US5300154 *Apr 22, 1992Apr 5, 1994Bush Boake Allen LimitedMethods for cleaning articles
US5300197 *Dec 10, 1990Apr 5, 1994Hitachi, Ltd.Distillation apparatus with porous membrane and heat pump
US5304253 *Feb 25, 1992Apr 19, 1994Baxter International Inc.Method for cleaning with a volatile solvent
US5304320 *Aug 17, 1992Apr 19, 1994Solvay (Societe Anonyme)Compositions comprising a fluoro ether and use of these compositions
US5377705 *Sep 16, 1993Jan 3, 1995Autoclave Engineers, Inc.Precision cleaning system
US5392480 *Jul 25, 1994Feb 28, 1995Mitsubishi Jukogyo Kabushiki KaishaWashing method by a continuous washing machine
US5404732 *Oct 15, 1993Apr 11, 1995Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Automatic washing machine using ozone
US5405542 *Dec 27, 1990Apr 11, 1995The Procter & Gamble CompanyRinse-added fabric conditioning compositions containing fabric softening agents and cationic polyester soil release polymers and preferred cationic soil release polymers therefor
US5405767 *Apr 8, 1992Apr 11, 1995Solvay Enzymes, Inc.Purified enzyme concentrate and method of preparation
US5407446 *Oct 6, 1993Apr 18, 1995Sando Iron Works Co., Ltd.Method and apparatus for the pretreatment of a cloth
US5480572 *May 13, 1994Jan 2, 1996E. I. Du Pont De Nemours And CompanyCompositions including a three carbon cyclic fluoroether
US5488842 *Aug 24, 1994Feb 6, 1996Ebara CorporationMethod for deodorizing and refreshing for dry cleaning and dry cleaning apparatus using such method
US5490894 *Apr 7, 1995Feb 13, 1996Canon Kabushiki KaishaCleaning method using azeotropic mixtures of perfluoro-n-hexane with diisopropyl ether or isohexane and cleaning apparatus using same
US5492138 *Nov 8, 1994Feb 20, 1996Taricco; ToddPressure controlled cleaning system
US5493743 *Jul 22, 1994Feb 27, 1996Tri-O-Clean Laundry, Inc.Ozone assisted laundry wash process and waste water treatment system
US5494526 *May 4, 1995Feb 27, 1996Texas Instruments IncorporatedMethod for cleaning semiconductor wafers using liquified gases
US5494600 *Jul 28, 1993Feb 27, 1996The Procter & Gamble CompanyDetergent additive absorbed into a porous hydrophobic material having a hydrophobic coating
US5498266 *Jun 9, 1994Mar 12, 1996Mitsubishi Jukogyo Kabushiki KaishaMethod of washing and drying clothes
US5500096 *Jun 7, 1995Mar 19, 1996Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp.Method of concentrating less volatile liquids
US5501811 *Apr 24, 1995Mar 26, 1996Dow Corning CorporationAzeotropes of octamethyltrisiloxane and aliphatic or alicyclic alcohols
US5503681 *Jan 4, 1994Apr 2, 1996Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaMethod of cleaning an object
US5503756 *Sep 20, 1994Apr 2, 1996The Procter & Gamble CompanyDryer-activated fabric conditioning compositions containing unsaturated fatty acid
US5504954 *Aug 25, 1994Apr 9, 1996Daewoo Electronics Co., Ltd.Washing method for washing clothes made of wool or silk
US5505985 *Jan 20, 1995Apr 9, 1996Idemitsu Kosan Company LimitedProcess for producing an organic electroluminescence device
US5511264 *Jun 7, 1995Apr 30, 1996Ebara CorporationMethod for deodorizing and refreshing for dry cleaning
US5591236 *Oct 17, 1995Jan 7, 1997The Procter & Gamble CompanyPolyacrylate emulsified water/solvent fabric cleaning compositions and methods of using same
US5593598 *Apr 20, 1994Jan 14, 1997Mcginness; Michael P.Method and apparatus for closed loop recycling of contaminated cleaning solution
US5604145 *Jun 6, 1995Feb 18, 1997Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki KaishaMethod of manufacturing DRAM capable of randomly inputting/outputting memory information at random
US5605882 *Mar 5, 1993Feb 25, 1997E. I. Du Pont De Nemours And CompanyAzeotrope(like) compositions of pentafluorodimethyl ether and difluoromethane
US5712240 *Oct 1, 1996Jan 27, 1998Reckitt & Colman Inc.Aqueous cleaning compositions providing water and oil repellency to fiber substrates
US5858240 *Sep 25, 1996Jan 12, 1999Chemetics International Company Ltd.Nanofiltration of concentrated aqueous salt solutions
US5865851 *Jun 18, 1996Feb 2, 1999Reckitt & Colman Inc.Home dry cleaning compositions
US5865852 *Aug 22, 1997Feb 2, 1999Berndt; Dieter R.Dry cleaning method and solvent
US5868937 *Feb 13, 1996Feb 9, 1999Mainstream Engineering CorporationProcess and system for recycling and reusing gray water
US5876461 *Mar 17, 1997Mar 2, 1999R. R. Street & Co. Inc.Method for removing contaminants from textiles
US5876685 *Sep 11, 1996Mar 2, 1999Ipec Clean, Inc.Separation and purification of fluoride from industrial wastes
US5885366 *Aug 12, 1996Mar 23, 1999Hakuyosha Co., Ltd.Method for washing oily soil from objects
US5888250 *Apr 4, 1997Mar 30, 1999Rynex Holdings Ltd.Biodegradable dry cleaning solvent
US6010621 *Mar 11, 1998Jan 4, 2000Pattee; Harley J.Oil filter for absorbing free oil from laundry water
US6013683 *Dec 17, 1998Jan 11, 2000Dow Corning CorporationSingle phase silicone and water compositions
US6027651 *Oct 26, 1998Feb 22, 2000Cash; Alan B.Process for regenerating spent solvent
US6029479 *Mar 11, 1998Feb 29, 2000Pattee; Harley J.Fine particle lint filter
US6042617 *May 3, 1999Mar 28, 2000Greenearth Cleaning, LlcDry cleaning method and modified solvent
US6042618 *May 3, 1999Mar 28, 2000Greenearth Cleaning LlcDry cleaning method and solvent
US6168714 *May 17, 1999Jan 2, 2001North Carolina A&T UniversityFlux-enhanced cross-flow membrane filter
US6171346 *Mar 18, 1997Jan 9, 2001The Procter & Gamble CompanyDual-step stain removal process
US6177399 *Sep 20, 1999Jan 23, 2001Dow Corning Taiwan, Inc.Process for cleaning textile utilizing a low molecular weight siloxane
US6190556 *Oct 12, 1998Feb 20, 2001Robert A. UhlingerDesalination method and apparatus utilizing nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes
US6207634 *Jun 25, 1998Mar 27, 2001The Procter & Gamble CompanyNon-aqueous, particulate-containing detergent compositions containing bleach
US6348441 *Nov 15, 2000Feb 19, 2002The Procter & Gamble CompanyMethod of laundering soiled fabrics by non-aqueous detergent formulated to control dye transfer and sudsing in high efficiency washing machines
US6350377 *Nov 10, 1998Feb 26, 2002Gebr Bellmer Gmbh & Co. Kg. Maschinen-FabrikDevice for thickening liquids or sludges
US6691536 *May 4, 2001Feb 17, 2004The Procter & Gamble CompanyWashing apparatus
US6855173 *May 4, 2001Feb 15, 2005Procter & Gamble CompanyUse of absorbent materials to separate water from lipophilic fluid
US6860998 *Aug 4, 2000Mar 1, 2005Naturol LimitedProcess and apparatus for preparing extracts and oils from plants and other matter
US20020004950 *May 4, 2001Jan 17, 2002The Procter & Gamble CompanyBleaching in conjunction with a lipophilic fluid cleaning regimen
US20020004952 *May 4, 2001Jan 17, 2002The Procter & Gamble CompanyProcess for treating a lipophilic fluid
US20020007519 *May 4, 2001Jan 24, 2002The Procter & Gamble CompanyDomestic fabric article refreshment in integrated cleaning and treatment processes
US20020010964 *May 4, 2001Jan 31, 2002Deak John ChristopherMethod for the use of aqueous vapor and lipophilic fluid during fabric cleaning
US20020013234 *May 4, 2001Jan 31, 2002Severns John CortFabric care compositions and systems for delivering clean, fresh scent in a lipophilic fluid treatment process
US20020017493 *May 4, 2001Feb 14, 2002The Procter & Gamble CompanyUse of absorbent materials to separate water from lipophilic fluid
US20020029427 *May 4, 2001Mar 14, 2002The Procter & Gamble CompanyVisual properties for a wash process
US20030046963 *Sep 9, 2002Mar 13, 2003Scheper William MichaelSelective laundry process using water
US20050037938 *Aug 2, 2004Feb 17, 2005Unilever Home & Personal Care Usa, Division Of Conopco, Inc.Dry cleaning process
US20050043196 *Oct 1, 2004Feb 24, 2005Wright Tremitchell L.Non-aqueous washing apparatus and method
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7462203Dec 23, 2003Dec 9, 2008Whirlpool CorporationMethod of disposing waste from in-home dry cleaning machine using disposable, containment system
US7497877Dec 11, 2003Mar 3, 2009Whirlpool CorporationSolvent cleaning process
US7695524Oct 31, 2003Apr 13, 2010Whirlpool CorporationNon-aqueous washing machine and methods
US7739891Oct 1, 2004Jun 22, 2010Whirlpool CorporationFabric laundering apparatus adapted for using a select rinse fluid
US7837741Apr 12, 2005Nov 23, 2010Whirlpool CorporationDry cleaning method
US7966684May 23, 2005Jun 28, 2011Whirlpool CorporationMethods and apparatus to accelerate the drying of aqueous working fluids
US8262741Nov 19, 2008Sep 11, 2012Whirlpool CorporationNon-aqueous washing apparatus and method
US20050126606 *Dec 11, 2003Jun 16, 2005Unilever Home & Personal Care Usa, Division Of Conopco, Inc.Solvent cleaning process
US20050133462 *Dec 23, 2003Jun 23, 2005Unilever Home & Personal Care Usa, Division Of Conopco, Inc.Method of disposing waste from in-home dry cleaning machine using disposable, containment system
US20050257812 *May 23, 2005Nov 24, 2005Wright Tremitchell LMultifunctioning machine and method utilizing a two phase non-aqueous extraction process
US20060260064 *May 23, 2005Nov 23, 2006Luckman Joel AMethods and apparatus for laundering with aqueous and non-aqueous working fluid
US20080256821 *Apr 19, 2007Oct 23, 2008Jordan Janice ADisposable lint catcher for electric or gas clothes dryers
US20110268431 *May 2, 2011Nov 3, 2011Rick SpitzerContaminated fluid treatment system and apparatus
EP1726701A1 *Mar 22, 2006Nov 29, 2006Whirlpool CorporationMultifunctioning laundry machine and method utilizing a two-phase non-aqueous extraction process
EP1726704A1 *Mar 22, 2006Nov 29, 2006Whirlpool CorporationMethods and apparatus for laundering with aqueous and non-aqueous working fluid
EP1726707A3 *Mar 22, 2006Dec 10, 2008Whirlpool CorporationMethods and apparatus to accelerate the drying of aqueous working fluids
Classifications
U.S. Classification510/285
International ClassificationB08B3/14, D06F43/00, D06F43/08
Cooperative ClassificationD06F43/08, D06F43/00, D06F43/085, D06F43/007
European ClassificationD06F43/00D, D06F43/00, D06F43/08B4, D06F43/08
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 1, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:LUCKMAN, JOEL A.;SUNSHINE, RICHARD A.;WRIGHT, TREMITCHELL L.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015868/0997
Effective date: 20040930