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Publication numberUS20050183208 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/051,013
Publication dateAug 25, 2005
Filing dateFeb 4, 2005
Priority dateFeb 20, 2004
Also published asCA2556391A1, CN1922352A, EP1716280A1, WO2005083168A1
Publication number051013, 11051013, US 2005/0183208 A1, US 2005/183208 A1, US 20050183208 A1, US 20050183208A1, US 2005183208 A1, US 2005183208A1, US-A1-20050183208, US-A1-2005183208, US2005/0183208A1, US2005/183208A1, US20050183208 A1, US20050183208A1, US2005183208 A1, US2005183208A1
InventorsWilliam Scheper, John Haught, Arseni Radomyselski, Kenneth Price, Christiaan Arthur Thoen
Original AssigneeThe Procter & Gamble Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Dual mode laundry apparatus and method using the same
US 20050183208 A1
Abstract
An apparatus and a method for treating, cleaning or refreshing fabric articles. Specifically, the apparatus is dual mode apparatus capable of both washing and drying operations wherein a lipophilic fluid is used in at least one step of the fabric treatment process in the apparatus. A kit containing replaceable/consumable components is also provided.
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Claims(24)
1. A dual mode fabric treatment apparatus comprising:
a chamber for receiving a fabric article;
a first reservoir for storing a lipophilic fluid;
a second reservoir for storing a fabric finishing composition;
a dispensing device configured to dispense the fabric finishing composition in the form of droplets;
optionally, a heating device for heating the chamber; and
optionally, a gas sensor for monitoring the concentration of lipophilic fluid vapors in the chamber;
wherein the apparatus is configured to provide a fabric treatment operation comprising a washing cycle and a drying cycle; to dispense the lipophilic fluid into the chamber during the washing cycle; and to dispense the fabric finishing composition via the dispensing device into the chamber during a drying cycle, thereby at least a portion of the dispensed fabric finishing composition contacts the fabric article in the chamber.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the dispensing device and the second reservoir are removably attached to the apparatus.
3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the dispensing device and the second reservoir is an integral unit.
4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed in the form of droplets having an average particle size in the range of from about 0.1 to about 1200 microns.
5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the dispensing device comprises a component selected from the group consisting of a spraying nozzle, a sonicator, a nebulizer, an electrostatic charger, and combinations thereof.
6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed into the chamber when the chamber is at a temperature of up to about 100° C.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed into the chamber when the chamber is at a temperature of from about 20° C. to about 80° C.
8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed into the chamber during the cool down operation of the drying cycle.
9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the fabric finishing composition comprises a fabric care agent selected from the group consisting of finishing polymers, fabric softening agents, anti-static agents, odor control agent, odor neutralizers, perfume, insect and/or moth repelling agents, and mixtures thereof.
10. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a third reservoir for storing a detergent composition.
11. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein the third reservoir is removably attached to the apparatus.
12. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein the detergent composition comprises a cleaning agent selected from the group consisting of soil release polymers, surfactants, bleaches, enzymes, perfumes, water, and mixtures thereof.
13. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein the detergent composition is dispensed directly into the chamber during the washing cycle, whereby the dispensed composition contacts the fabric article in its undiluted form.
14. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein the detergent composition is dispensed in the form of droplets having an average particle size in the range of from about 0.1 to about 1200 microns.
15. A method of treating a fabric article in the dual mode fabric treating apparatus of claim 1, the method comprising the steps of:
placing a fabric article in the chamber;
dispensing the lipophilic fluid into the chamber such that the fabric article is contacted by the lipophilic fluid;
removing at least a portion of the lipophilic fluid from the chamber; and
dispensing the fabric finishing composition into the chamber in the form of droplets such that the fabric article is contacted by the fabric finishing composition.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed into the chamber while the chamber is at a temperature of from about 20° C. to about 80° C.
17. The method of claim 15 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed into the chamber while the fabric article is in motion.
18. The method of claim 15 wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed in the form of droplets having an average particle size from about 0.1 to about 1200 microns.
19. The method of claim 15 further comprising the step of attaching the dispensing device and/or the second reservoir to the apparatus.
20. The method of claim 19 further comprises the step of replacing the dispensing device and/or the second reservoir, after the composition therein is partially or completely dispensed, with a new dispensing device and/or a new second reservoir..
21. The method of claim 15 further comprising the step of attaching a third reservoir containing a detergent composition to the apparatus.
22. The method of claim 21 further comprising the step of dispensing the detergent composition directly into the chamber during the washing cycle, whereby the detergent composition contacts the fabric article in its undiluted form.
23. The method of claim 22 further comprising the step of replacing the third reservoir, after the composition therein is partially or completely dispensed, with a new third reservoir.
24. A kit comprising:
(a) a detergent composition, a fabric finishing composition, or both; and at least one of the following components:
(b) a reservoir for storing the composition;
(c) a dispensing device for dispensing the composition;
(d) attachment means for removably attaching the reservoir and/or the dispensing device to a fabric treatment apparatus;
(e) optionally, packaging for containing components (a-d); and
(f) optionally, a set of instructions in association with the reservoir or the packaging, the instructions direct the user to attach and to detach the reservoir and/or the dispensing device to the fabric treatment apparatus, and optionally, to assemble the components of the kit such that the dispensing device is in fluid communication with the composition in the reservoir.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/546,668, filed Feb. 20, 2004.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an apparatus and a method for treating, cleaning or refreshing fabric articles. Specifically, the apparatus is dual mode apparatus capable of both washing and drying operations wherein a lipophilic fluid is used in at least one step of the fabric treatment process in the apparatus. A kit containing replaceable/consumable components is also included.

BACKGROUND

For the cleaning of fabric articles consumers have the choice of conventional aqueous immersive wash laundry cleaning or dry cleaning.

Conventional laundry cleaning is carried out with relatively large amounts of water, typically in a washing machine at the consumer's home, or in a dedicated place such as a coin laundry. Although washing machines and laundry detergents have become quite sophisticated, the conventional laundry process still exposes the fabric articles to a risk of dye transfer and shrinkage. A significant portion of fabric articles used by consumers are not suitable for cleaning in such a conventional laundry process. Even fabric articles that are considered “washing machine safe” frequently come out of the laundry process badly wrinkled and require ironing.

Most dry cleaning processes rely on non-aqueous solvents for cleaning. By avoiding water, these processes minimize the risk of shrinkage and wrinkling. The need for handling and recovering large amounts of solvents makes these dry cleaning processes unsuitable for use in the consumers' homes. The need for dedicated dry cleaning operations makes this form of cleaning inconvenient and expensive for the consumers.

More recently, dry cleaning processes have been developed which make use of compressed gases, such as supercritical carbon dioxide, as a dry cleaning medium. Unfortunately these processes have many disadvantages, for example, they require very high pressure equipment.

Other dry cleaning processes have recently been described which make use of nonsolvents such as perfluorobutylamine. These also have multiple disadvantages, for example, the nonsolvent fluid cannot adequately dissolve body soils and is extremely expensive.

Accordingly there are unmet needs for new apparatus, methods, and compositions for cleaning or treating fabric articles that are safe for a wide range of fabric articles, minimize shrinkage and wrinkling, and can be adapted to a cost effective use in the consumers' homes and/or in service businesses and commercial establishments.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a dual mode fabric treatment apparatus comprising:

    • a chamber for receiving a fabric article;
    • a first reservoir for storing a lipophilic fluid;
    • a second reservoir for storing a fabric finishing composition;
    • a dispensing device configured to dispense the fabric finishing composition in the form of droplets;
    • optionally, a heating device for heating the chamber; and
    • optionally, a gas sensor for monitoring the concentration of lipophilic fluid vapors in the chamber;
      wherein the apparatus is configured for a fabric treatment operation comprising a washing cycle and a drying cycle; for dispensing the lipophilic fluid into the chamber during the washing cycle; and for dispensing the fabric finishing composition via the dispensing device into the chamber during a drying cycle, thereby at least a portion of the dispensed composition contacts the fabric article in the chamber

The present invention also relates to a method of treating a fabric article in the dual mode fabric treating apparatus of the present invention. The method comprising the steps of:

    • placing a fabric article in the chamber;
    • dispensing the lipophilic fluid into the chamber such that the fabric article is contacted by the lipophilic fluid;
    • removing at least a portion of the lipophilic fluid from the chamber; and
    • dispensing the fabric finishing composition into the chamber in the form of
    • droplets such that the fabric article is contacted by the fabric finishing composition;
      wherein the fabric finishing composition is dispensed into the chamber while the chamber is at a temperature of from about 20° C. to about 80° C.

A kit containing replaceable/consumable components is also provided.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the present invention, it is believed the present invention will be better understood from the following description in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic view of an apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of this invention;

FIG. 2 is a cut away side view of an apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of this invention;

FIG. 3 is a front view of an apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of this invention.

It should be understood that the drawings are not necessarily to scale and that the embodiments are sometimes illustrated by graphic symbols, phantom lines, diagrammatic representations and fragmentary views. In certain instances, details which are not necessary for an understanding of the present invention or which render other details difficult to understand may have been omitted. It should be understood, of course, that the invention is not limited to the particular embodiments illustrated herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Definitions

The term “fabric article” used herein is intended to mean any article that is customarily cleaned in a conventional laundry process or in a dry cleaning process. As such the term encompasses articles of clothing, linen and drapery, clothing accessories, and floor coverings. The term also encompasses other items made in whole or in part of fabric, such as tote bags, furniture covers, tarpaulins and the like.

The term “lipophilic fluid” used herein is intended to mean any non-aqueous solvent capable of removing sebum, as described in more detail hereinbelow. “Lipophilic fluid” as defined herein generally does not include materials such as compressible gases, such as carbon dioxide or the like. The present lipohilic fluids are at least partially liquid at ambient temperature and pressure.

The phrase “dry weight of a fabric article” as used herein means the weight of a fabric article that has no intentionally added fluid weight.

The phrase “absorption capacity of a fabric article” as used herein means the maximum quantity of fluid that can be taken in and retained by a fabric article in its pores and interstices. Absorption capacity of a fabric article is measured in accordance with the following Test Protocol for Measuring Absorption Capacity of a Fabric Article.

These and other aspects, features and advantages will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art from a reading of the following detailed description and the appended claims. All percentages, ratios and proportions herein are by weight, unless otherwise specified. All temperatures are in degrees Celsius (° C.) unless otherwise specified. All measurements are in SI units unless otherwise specified.

Test Protocol for Measuring the Absorption Capacity of a Fabric Article

Step 1: Rinse and dry a reservoir or other container into which a lipophilic fluid will be added. The reservoir is cleaned to free it from all extraneous matter, particularly soaps, detergents and wetting agents.

Step 2: Weigh a “dry” fabric article to be tested to obtain the “dry” fabric article's weight.

Step 3: Pour 2 L of a lipophilic fluid at ˜20 C. into the reservoir.

Step 4: Place fabric article from Step 2 into the lipophilic fluid-containing reservoir.

Step 5: Agitate the fabric article within the reservoir to ensure no air pockets are left inside the fabric article and it is thoroughly wetted with the lipophilic fluid.

Step 6: Remove the fabric article from the lipophilic fluid-containing reservoir.

Step 7: Unfold the fabric article, if necessary, so that there is no contact between same or opposite fabric article surfaces.

Step 8: Let the fabric article from Step 7 drip until the drop frequency does not exceed 1 drop/sec.

Step 9: Weigh the “wet” fabric article from Step 8 to obtain the “wet” fabric article's weight.

Step 10: Calculate the amount of lipophilic fluid absorbed for the fabric article using the equation below.
FA=(W−D)/D*100
where:

  • FA=fluid absorbed, % (i.e., the absorption capacity of the fabric article in terms of % by dry weight of the fabric article)
  • W=wet specimen weight, g
  • D=initial specimen weight, g

By the term “non-immersive” it is meant that essentially all of the fluid is in intimate contact with the fabric articles. There is no more than a minimal amount of “free” wash medium. It is unlike an “immersive” process where the washing fluid is a bath in which the fabric articles are either submerged, as in a conventional vertical axis washing machine, or plunged into, as in a conventional horizontal washing machine. The term “non-immersive” is defined in greater detail according to the following Test Protocol for Non-Immersive Processes. A process in which a fabric article is contacted by a fluid is a non-immersive process when the following Test Protocol is satisfied.

Test Protocol for Non-Immersive Processes

Step 1: Determine absorption capacity of a fabric specimen using Test Protocol for Measuring Absorption Capacity of a Fabric Article, described above.

Step 2: Subject a fabric article to a fluid contacting process such that a quantity of the fluid contacts the fabric article.

Step 3: Place a dry fabric specimen from Step 1 in proximity to the fabric article of Step 2 and move/agitate/tumble the fabric article and fabric specimen such that fluid transfer from the fabric article to the fabric specimen takes place (the fabric article and fabric specimen must achieve the same saturation level).

Step 4: Weigh the fabric specimen from Step 3.

Step 5: Calculate the fluid absorbed by the fabric specimen using the following equation:
FA=(W−D)/D*100
where:

  • FA=fluid absorbed, %
  • W=wet specimen weight, g
  • D=initial specimen weight, g

Step 6: Compare the fluid absorbed by the fabric specimen with the absorption capacity of the fabric specimen. The process is non-immersive if the fluid absorbed by the fabric specimen is less than about 0.8 of the absorption capacity of the fabric specimen.

The lipophilic fluid may be used alone or with the optional liquid (such as water and/or polar solvents) and/or any compositions described hereinafter, to form the fabric treating medium and/or wash liquor used in the fabric treating process. It is understood that that the fabric treating encompasses cleaning, conditioning, sizing and refreshing. The lipophilic fluid typically comprises at least about 50% by weight of the fabric treating medium. In one embodiment, the fabric treating medium contains less than about 30%, or less than about 10% by weight of water.

In the present appliance and process, it is not recommended to clean or treat fabric articles which are soaking wet. However, most fabric articles contain varying amounts of water absorbed from the air or from contact with the wearer. Such articles as well as the occasional water wet article, e.g., swimwear, can be treated in the present appliance and process.

Apparatus

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of apparatus for carrying out the fabric treating process in accordance with the present invention. This and other embodiments of apparatus for carrying out the fabric treating process in accordance with the present invention are described in details in WO 01/94675 (P&G Case 8119M).

The apparatus 70 comprises a chamber 1 capable of receiving a fabric article to be treated and a cleaning fluid comprising a lipophilic fluid, wherein when a fabric article to be treated is present in the chamber and a cleaning fluid comprising a lipophilic fluid is introduced into the fabric-treating chamber 1, the chamber 1 retains an amount of the lipophilic fluid up to the absorptive capacity of the fabric contained therein. Additionally, the chamber 1 can be a lipophilic fluid pervious chamber.

The apparatus 70 further comprises an outer chamber 2 capable of receiving the lipophilic fluid from the fabric-treating chamber 1 that is not retained in said fabric-treating chamber. The outer chamber 2 is configured to house the chamber 1. The outer chamber 2 typically comprises an exit port or drain 7 through which the lipophilic fluid received by the outer chamber 2 exits the outer chamber 2. It is desirable that the exit of the lipophilic fluid from the outer chamber 2 is at a rate such that the amount of lipophilic fluid in the fabric-treating chamber 1 does not exceed the absorptive capacity of the fabrics contained within the fabric-treating chamber 1.

In one embodiment, chamber 1 and outer chamber 2 are of cylindrical construction and have a horizontal access opening 58, as shown in FIG. 2. The horizontal center line of the outer chamber, which is typically stationary with respect to the chamber 1 coincides with the axis of rotation 100 of the movable chamber 1 movably mounted within the outer chamber 2. The chamber 1 can in general have any suitable pattern of perforations or openings and is designed consistently with design principles for maximizing fluid flow through its perforated surface without weakening it to an unacceptable extent. The chamber 1 is designed to remain fully rigid when rotated at a high speed in the presence of a load of lipophilic fluid-containing fabric articles. Chamber 1 may contain strengthening elements, such as struts, not shown, and has a back face not visible in FIG. 1, which is typically flat, and may be perforated or non-perforated. The appliance is configured to preferentially direct lipophilic fluid toward the lipophilic fluid-pervious surfaces of chamber 1, rather than toward the back face of the chamber 1.

As is more clearly illustrated in the cross-sectional views of FIG. 2, outer chamber 2 comprises a peripheral wall 62, a back wall 63 secured to one edge of the peripheral wall, a front wall 64 secured to the opposite edge of the peripheral wall; said front wall has a tubular-shaped extension 55 having an access opening 58 used to load and unload laundry from the apparatus 70. This flexible tubular-shaped extension 55 connecting the stationary drum 2 minimizes transmission of vibrations which occur during operation of the machine. Access opening 58, forms a gas seal with front door 59 which is secured about its outermost periphery to the front wall 56 of the washing machine cabinet. Front door 59 optionally includes additional means for assuring a good seal, such as rubber, synthetic rubber, or elastomeric sealing material formed into any suitable shape for assuring the seal. When the fabric treating apparatus 70 is in operation, the access door 59 is in the closed position shown in FIG. 2 and forms a “gas-tight” seal against the outermost portion of flexible tubular-shaped extension 55. The quality of the seal is sufficient to permit overpressures or reduced pressures in the appliance, but need not be of the quality required for extreme pressure, e.g., supercritical carbon dioxide operation. These latter elements are illustrated only in the cross-section of FIG. 2 to ensure maximum clarity in the remaining drawing figures.

As can be seen in FIG. 2, outer chamber 2 is supported by means of four suspension springs 47 (only two of which are shown) which are connected at one end to the uppermost portion of the outer chamber 2 and at their other end are secured to the fabric treating apparatus cabinet. The top spring 47 a is connected to a load sensor 48 interfaced with controller. In variations of the appliance not shown, any desirable high-speed suspension, load balancing or stabilizer system, for example of types known or disclosed for modern European front-loader washing machines, can be adapted for use in the present apparatus.

In one embodiment, chamber 1 comprises a lipophilic fluid-pervious (e.g., perforated) peripheral wall 65, a substantially imperforate back wall 66 secured to said peripheral wall and a substantially imperforate front wall 67, secured to the opposite edge of said peripheral wall. Said front wall 67 has a tubular-shaped extension 55 with an access opening 58, which is used to load and unload laundry from the fabric treating apparatus 70, and is concentrically aligned with the access opening 58 in outer chamber 2. Equally spaced on the inner circumference of peripheral wall 65 are three lifting vanes 60, having cross-section that are substantially triangular or other shapes. In a specific embodiment, each of the vanes is symmetrically-shaped about a radially extending line originating at the axis of rotation 100 of chamber 1 and passing through its altitude. This permits rotation of chamber 1 in opposite directions with equal lifting effect on the articles being laundered. It should be understood and appreciated that most conventional laundering machines do not have lifting vanes, while tumble-dryers have lifting vanes designed for low-speed and/or unidirectional “tumbling” operation. Further, the chamber 1 may comprise baffles or other structures a long its interior surface to aid in repositioning the fabrics contained therein.

Chamber 1 is rotatably secured to outer chamber 2 by means of drive shaft 49. Power to rotate chamber 1 is transmitted by means of a concentrically mounted driven pulley 50. The drive system comprises a variable speed drive motor 54 secured to peripheral wall 62 of outer chamber 2. Any movement of outer chamber 2 does not affect the speed of rotation of chamber 1. The output shaft 53 of drive motor 54 has a secured drive pulley 52. Pulley 52 is connected to pulley 50 by means of conventional drive belt 51. A possible alternative drive system, not shown in the figures, has instead of a single drive pulley 52, two drive pulleys, one eccentrically mounted and one concentrically mounted. In this alternative drive system power to rotate chamber 1 is transmitted to the external portion of drive shaft 49 either by means of an eccentrically mounted driven pulley or by means of a concentrically mounted driven pulley which are both secured in fixed relation to drive shaft. The eccentrically mounted driven pulley would be used to vary the speed of rotation of the chamber 1 throughout each revolution of the chamber, while the concentrically mounted driven pulley would be used to drive the chamber 1 at a constant speed of rotation throughout each revolution.

In an embodiment of the present invention, drive motor 54 is not only variable speed, but is also reversible so that chamber 1 may be rotated first in one direction and then in the opposite direction during specific portions of the laundering cycle. Reversing the direction of chamber rotation several times during stages of fluid application/removal provide more uniform agitation and more uniform heat transfer to the fabric articles being treated, and hence more effective removal of soil and/or lipophilic fluid.

At least one of large storage tanks 19 and 20 will contain the lipophilic fluid; the other large storage tank may contain a mixture of lipophilic fluid and a detergent composition or a fabric finishing composition, which can be applied to fabric articles in the apparatus 70 during the fabric treatment process. In another embodiment, the composition may be combined with the lipophilic fluid prior to being applied to fabric articles in the apparatus 70 during the fabric treatment process. These compositions may be in any readily dispensable or flowable form, such as, thixotropic gel, shear thinning liquid, liquid, gel, powder, granule, paste, flake, micropaticles, nanoparticles, suspensions, etc. In yet another embodiment, both of large storage tanks 19 and 20 will contain the lipophilic fluid, wherein one tank contains the fresh lipophilic fluid and the other tank contains the used or recycled lipophilic fluid. In still another embodiment, the composition is present in one or both of large storage tanks 19 and 20 along with the lipophilic fluid. This can eliminate the need for any mixing prior to delivery of the contents of the tank to the chamber 1 via the applicator 26. Alternatively, the lipophilic fluid from the large storage tanks 19 and 20, may be mixed with detergent or fabric finishing compositions that are stored in small storage tanks 27 and 28, e.g., prior to application on to the discrete fabric load present in the apparatus 70 during the fabric treating process. Alternatively, additional storage tanks or sources are included in apparatus 70 to provide the fluids (including lipophilic fluids, water, or other polar solvents, such as lower alcohols or diols) for the washing or rinsing cycle. Bi-modal fabric treating process using lipophilic fluids, water, polar solvents, or mixtures thereof is disclosed in WO 01/94678 (P&G Case 8121).

In one embodiment, the large tanks 19 and 20, and the small tanks 27 and 28 may optionally be detachable from the apparatus 70. The tank along with its content may then be recycled or refilled and reattached to the apparatus. Various known “quick-connect” devices, not shown in the Figures, are known in the art and may be employed to assure quick or convenient release or connection of the tanks. In a specific embodiment, each tank comprises a physical configuration such that it is attachable and detachable from the apparatus 70 in a “lock and key” manner. In other words, each tank fits selectively into an intended “receiving port” or receptacle of the apparatus 70. This “lock and key” system is useful when a tank comprises a consumable, such as a detergent composition or a fabric finishing composition. In an alternative embodiment, one or more of the tanks may be replaceable or disposable cartridges. In another embodiment, a large tank can be permanently attached to the appliance, or removable only by a trained serviceman, while a small tank can be a consumer-replaceable cartridge, which is sold individually or as part of a kit; the kit may optionally include usage instructions, e.g., instructions for the removal of the spent tanks, and the installation of the new tanks filled with the desired liquid and/or composition. In the permanently attached mode, the content of the large tank can be periodically replenished or flushed out and replaced with fresh liquid or composition of the same or different types. In the detachable or replaceable mode, once the content of the tank is partially or completely consumed, the tank, with its used/dirty content or with its empty content, is removed and replaced with a new tank similarly configured for the “lock and key” connection and containing the desired content which may be the same or different from the previous content. The replaced tank can be either disposed of by the consumer or returned for refilling by a third party, such as a retailer, a wholesaler, or a manufacturer. The number of tanks, both large and small, can be varied depending on the benefits desired. Any large or small tank permanently affixed to the apparatus will have means (for example, a pierceable seal or a re-sealable lid) for their refilling with the desired fluid and/or compositions.

In one embodiment, the desired fluid and/or compositions are delivered into the applicator 26 by pumping with pump 24. The fluid and/or compositions stored in the large storage tanks 19 and 20 are pumped from conduits 22 and 21 respectively, first passing through valve 23, then through pump 24, then finally conduit 25 to applicator 26. The fluid and/or compositions stored in the small storage tanks 27 and 28 are pumped from conduits 29 and 30 respectively, first passing through valve 23, then through pump 24, then finally conduit 25 to applicator 26. Various types of pumps may be used herein, including gear pumps, centrifugal pumps, diaphragm pumps, piston pumps, or peristaltic pumps. A gear pump is used because it generally generates higher pressure than any other type of pump and it produces pulseless flow, which is desired for a good spraying pattern. Other means of conveying fluids may be used, such as an air compressor, which pushes the fluid out the storage tanks by applying an overhead pressure in the tanks. In one embodiment, a gear pump 24, capable of providing a maximum flow rate of about 0.5 GPM (about 1.87 liters per minute) and a maximum pressure of about 110 psi (758 kPa), is used to deliver fluids and/or compositions to the applicator 26 via a ¼″ (6 mm) diameter flexible delivery conduit 25.

The fluid and/or compositions stored in both the large tanks 19 and 20 and small tanks 27 and 28 are mixed by opening valves in 4-to-1 valve manifold 23 corresponding to conduits connected to corresponding tanks containing fluid and/or compositions. For example, it is possible to mix lipophilic fluid stored in large tank 19 with a composition stored in large tank 20 by valve manifold 23. Alternatively, it is possible to mix lipophilic fluid stored in large tank 19 with compositions stored in small tanks 27 and 28 by valve manifold 23. In another embodiment, fluid and/or compositions are delivered separately, i.e. without pre-mixing.

Pump 24 is connected to applicator 26 via conduit 25 in order to introduce fluids into interior of chamber 1. The applicator 26 may be of any suitable configuration. In one embodiment, applicator 26 is configured to deliver a flat fan spray and/or a conical fan spray. A flat fan spray produces a liquid sheet parallel to the major axis of the orifice. The spray is in the shape of a sector of a circle of about 75° angle, elliptical in cross section. The particular flat fan spray is useful because it produces droplets which are large enough not to be carried away by circulating air stream resulting from the spinning or tumbling movement of the chamber 1 in the washing and/or drying cycle or from airflow resulting from the venting operation in the drying cycle.

A spray nozzle typically provides an average droplet size that is less than about 1200 microns, typically from about 100 to about 1000 microns, or from about 120 to about 500 microns, or from about 150 to about 300 microns. This average droplet size is measured by either a Malvern particle analyzer or high speed photography. When a spray nozzle is covered with a fine grid or a membrane to produce a finer mist of droplets with an average particle size of less than 100 microns, the spray pattern is typically disturbed by air movement in chamber 1. Higher rotation speed of the chamber 1, typically above 735 m/s2, requires larger droplets in spray pattern.

The pressure in the delivery conduit 25 should be high enough to produce a substantially flat fan-shaped spray of the fluid through the applicator 26 to cover the entire depth of the chamber 1. Suitable pressures in delivery conduit 25 will vary depending upon what is being passed along the delivery conduit 25 to the applicator 26. For example, a paste typically requires different pressure to a thixotropic gel, or a liquid. Similarly, lipophilic fluid which is mixed with a composition may require a different pressure to a lipophilic fluid without any compositions. By adjusting the spray pressure and optionally by changing the temperature with a heater, the present apparatus is capable of applying all types of fluids, gels and other materials, including Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids, shear-thinning and non-shear thinning fluids, multiphase mixtures, emulsions, micro-emulsions, and dynamically changing emulsion systems.

In one embodiment, the lipophilic fluid is delivered via multiple spray nozzles; each spray nozzle is positioned such that the lipophilic fluid is sprayed from the multiple spray nozzles in a fashion to evenly distribute the fluid on the fabric articles being treated. In another embodiment, the apparatus has one nozzle for delivering the lipophilic fluid and other nozzles for delivering the rinse fluid, the detergent composition and/or the fabric finishing compositions. Such other spray nozzles can operate at any suitable cycle (such as washing, rinsing, extracting or drying) in a fabric treating process and can be sequential with or concurrent with lipophilic fluid application and/or removal.

In an alternative embodiment, instead of spraying, the lipophilic fluid is pumped into the chamber 1 at a rate of from about 1 to about 20 liters/minute, or from about 1 to about 10 liters/minute, or about 2-5 liters/minute.

In a typical embodiment of the present invention, pump 24 and valve 23 can be located below tanks 19, 20, 28, and 27 to provide gravity priming.

FIG. 2 shows the internal configuration of applicator 26, as a spray nozzle in the following embodiments. The applicator 26 is shown in FIG. 2 as parallel to the axis of rotation 100 of the chamber 1. In another embodiment the applicator 26 is located on the axis of rotation 100 of the chamber 1. The applicator 26 is supported by a spraying arm 57 secured to the front door 59. The fluids are delivered to the nozzle 26 via conduct 61 connecting fluid delivery conduit 25 to the nozzle 26. Applicator 26 is located parallel to the axis of rotation 100, so that it directs a flat, fan-shaped spray to strike peripheral wall 65, front wall 67, and back wall 66 of the chamber 1. Spray arm 57 allows spraying onto the front wall of the chamber 1 without any of the garments in the discrete fabric articles been wrapped around the spray arm 57 during tumbling cycle and consequently inhibit or possibly even prevent efficient cleaning of the discrete fabric articles.

In an alternative embodiment, not illustrated in the FIG. 2, the applicator 26 can be directly secured to flexible tubular-shaped extension 55, eliminating the need for spray arm 57 and conduct 61. Thus, applicator 26 can be directly linked to fluid delivery conduit 25. Applicator 26 can be located in a position on the flexible tubular-shaped extension 55 which can allow it to direct a flat, fan-shaped spray to strike peripheral wall 65, front wall 67, and back wall 66 of the chamber 1. Different location and/or configuration of the applicator 26 and/or the spray arm 57 are also suitable so long as the applicator nozzle or plurality of nozzles is not located where the fabric articles in the chamber can get tangled with or wrapped around the spray arm 57, applicator 26, or any other structure associated with the applicator 26, during an operating cycle (e.g., a tumbling cycle). In one embodiment of the invention, the location and/or configuration of the applicator 26 (in the form of a spray nozzle or a plurality of such nozzles) is selected such that the applicator 26 directs a flat, fan-shaped spray to strike preferentially at the fluid-pervious peripheral wall 65, and optionally, to the front wall 67 and/or the back wall 66 as well.

The spray nozzle suitable for use in the present invention is rated to deliver 0.5 gallons per minute (about 1.87 liters per minute) at 40 psi (about 275 kPa) fluid pressure, maximum pressure 100 psi (about 690 kPa), and forms a spray angle of 80°.

In the non-immersive embodiment of the invention, the extent of accumulation of fluids on the bottom of the outer chamber 2 inside surface is insufficient to form an immersion bath for the fabric articles because they are removed by pump 3 through valve 5 and conduit 7. Pump 3 is able to handle lint and particulate matter without clogging and may be able to run dry without damage over time. Centrifugal pumps and gear pumps are suitable pumps for use in the present invention. Centrifugal pump is useful because such pump has a large moving part (propeller or impeller) which is not easily clogged by undissolved solids and contains no rubbing parts that can be damaged by abrasion. Pump 3 is located below outer chamber 2 for gravity priming. To assure good pumping, air in conduit 7 needs to be substantially eliminated. Therefore, length of conduit 7 may be minimized to decrease the amount of fluids required to replace air in conduit 7. In a particular non-immersive embodiment, the fluid level on the bottom of the outer chamber 2 is below the bottom level of chamber 1 so that the fluid level in chamber 1 does not rise to the level of submerging the fabric articles inside the chamber 1. In a particular immersive embodiment, pump 3 may be idled to allow the fluid to accumulate such that the excess fluid in chamber 1 may rise to the level of submerging the fabric articles therein.

Due to gravity, fluids removed from chamber 1 can pass through the perforations 46 of chamber 1, and gravity pulls the liquids down the outer surface of the chamber 1 until they reach the bottom (i.e., the lowest point) of the outer surface of the chamber 1, pass through the perforations in chamber walls, then to the bottom of the inner surface of the outer chamber 2. Conduit 7 is located at this bottom (i.e., lowest point). The inner surface of the outer chamber is designed to direct all fluids/droplets into conduit 7. Fluids in conduit 7, as well as those from conduit 37, described in more detail hereinafter, are then fed into the filter 6 and tank 8 by means of a pump 3 having a maximum rated capacity of 3 gallons per minute and maximum pressure 50 psi (345 kPa). The delivery conduit 7 typically has a diameter of ½″ (127 mm).

Prior to delivering fluids into recovery tank 8, fluids are filtered in filter 6 after passing 3-way valve 5. In its first position, valve 5 connects conduits 4 with 7, allowing fluids to be pumped by pump 3 into tank 8 through filter 6. In its second position, valve 5 allows fluids to be pumped from conduit 37 to conduit 4. And in its third position, valve 5 is closed. Filter 6 removes lint, fabric fibers and large particulate soil, so they don't settle on the tank 8 bottom and clog downstream conduits. Also, filter 6 assures reliable operation of pump 10, since pump 10 is a typically higher pressure pump which generally is of a type more easily damaged by solids and particulate matters. Also, filter 6 will extend lifetime of recovery system 15. Filter 6 may be any conventionally used filter and includes, but is not limited to Fulfo® basket strainers or pleated cartridges such as those manufactured by Parker Filtration, e.g. US mesh 20 to 100 (840 micron to 149 micron filters) cartridge filter. In one embodiment, the filter 6 may be periodically removed from the apparatus for cleaning, such as removal of lint, fabric fibers and large particulate soil and the cleaned filter is reinstall in the apparatus. In another embodiment, the filter 6 can be replaced with a new identical, but unused, filter and the used filter can be discarded or recycled by a third party for resale and reuse. In another embodiment the filter 6 can be self-cleaning. The removed lint and large particulate soil can then be disposed via domestic garbage, or can be brought to a collection facility for disposal.

Recovery tank 8 is used for fluids separation. The fluid comes out of the chamber 1 is collected in tank 8. Typically, a sufficient amount of fluids is collected in tank 8 before further processing is performed on the collected fluids therein. Tank 8 is equipped with a fluid level sensor, 44, such as conductive, capacitive or optical sensor, located along the inside wall of the tank 8, at an appropriate location, to determine when to start emptying tank 8. The sensor is connected to the controller described later.

Recovery tank 8 performs gravity separation or any other type of separation to separate different fluids as well as any suspended solids present. These solids will be typically, soil removed from the textiles by the cleaning process. In this case, when using fluids with different densities, they will separate in tank 8 by gravity, and can be removed sequentially. In such case, the bottom fluid would be pumped first by pump 10 conduit 11 through 3-way valve 12 and conduit 14 into recovery system 15 and conduit 16. Then, depending on where this particular fluid was originally stored, e.g in tank 19, 2-valve manifold directs the bottom fluid into conduit 18. After all the bottom fluid has been removed from tank 8, and the phase separation conduit reached valve 17 that is equipped with a sensor to distinguish fluids, such as conductivity, optical or capacitive sensor, valve 17 opens and closes conduit 18 to deliver the top fluid into tank 20. If needed or desired, the invention can further employ adjuncts specifically designed to assist in emulsion breaking, thereby providing additional assistance to separation operations.

Valve 12 has two positions. In its first position, valve 12 connects conduits 11 and 13 allowing to drain contents of tank 8. Conduit 13 may be a direct conduit to domestic sewerage or to a stand alone separate fluid container, not shown. In its second position, valve 12 connects conduit 11 and 14 to direct fluids into recovery system 15.

Pump 10 creates higher pressures, typically 10-100 psi (69-689 kPa) to push dirty fluids through recovery system 15. Recovery system 15 removes fine soil particulate and has means of separating out dissolved non-cleaning fluid components such as soils, surfactants, water etc. by means of fine filtering/separation such as molecular sieve filtration etc. One possible way to remove contaminants from the solvent is by an electrostatic fluid filtration system such as described in U. S. Pat. No. 5,958,205 to Ingalls et. al., issued on Sep. 28, 1999. Other possible ways to remove contaminants are by, for example, membrane evaporation technologies, or the PACE ultrafiltration system as manufactured by Smith and Loveless Inc. In one embodiment the recovery system 15 may be periodically removed to facilitate removal of the collected dissolved non-cleaning fluid components. In another embodiment, the recovery system 15 can be replaced with a new, but unused, identical recovery system 15 and the removed recovery system 15 discarded or recycled by a third party for resale and reuse. In another embodiment, the recovery system 15 can be self-cleaning. The collected dissolved non-cleaning fluid components can either then be disposed of by removal to domestic sewerage or by collection in a separate location where the collected dissolved non-cleaning fluid components may conveniently be disposed of by the consumer.

In one embodiment, fluids are fed into the recovery system 15 by means of a pump 10 having a maximum rated capacity of 2.8 liters per minute at maximum pressure 250 psi (1724 kPa) via a ¼ (6 mm) diameter stainless steel delivery conduits 11 and 14.

It is also possible in the recovery system 15 to use means other than fine filtering/separation to separate out dissolved non-cleaning fluid components from the fluid. One exemplary alternative system is one in which the recovery system 15 comprises a distillation system. Suitable distillation systems include the distillation solvent recycling system as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,876,567 to Yamamoto et. al., issued on Mar. 2, 1999. When the recovery system 15 is a distillation system, pump 10 need not be a higher pressure pump, as higher pressures are typically not required. However, the higher cost of distillation or vacuum devices render such recovery system

It should of course be understood that depending on the intended use of the apparatus,. For example, a service or commercial operation will be able to afford an appliance having a more expensive distillation or vacuum system, whereas other simpler, more convenient, or lower cost recovery system will be most desirable and affordable for in- home appliances.

Fluid valves 12, 5, 7, and 23 are actuated using solenoids or ball valve motors similar to drive apparatus well known in the art.

The apparatus 70 illustrated in FIGS. 1-3 typically includes an air circulation system. The air circulation system comprises suction blower 31 and air duct 32 connecting the blower to a heater 33. The heater 33 can be an electric heater, includes a heating element over which the air must pass prior to entering connecting duct 34, which conveys heated air from the heater 33 to an inlet opening located in the door 59 of the apparatus. Alternatively, the air may enter the inner drum by an opening in the rear wall of the outer drum 63 and the rear wall of the inner drum 66. This latter arrangement is typical of those found in conventional tumble-dryers and location of the connecting duct would be readily apparent. Typically, blower 31 is of centrifugal type powered by variable speed drive motor. A suitable heating element is a resistive coil, the temperature of which is adjusted by regulating coil voltage. Alternative heating means may also be used, for example, an infrared radiation source, or a microwave radiation source. In an alternative embodiment, the air can be supplemented with steam, whereby the use of heated air becomes optional, with the steam providing part or all of the heated gas.

In one alternative embodiment, not shown in the figures, the air may be ionized before it contacts the fabric articles, for example by corona discharge.

In one alternative embodiment, not shown in the figures, ozone may be added to the air before it contacts the fabric articles. Alternatively, the ozone may be added to the chamber 1 through a system of conduits which is independent of the air circulation system.

In the embodiment disclosed in FIG. 2, heated air is introduced in the interior of the chamber 1 to remove residual fluid from the cleaned articles. The chamber 1 is rotated at varying speed and direction during a drying cycle. Since the articles being dried are normally located at or adjacent the innermost surface of peripheral surface of the chamber 1 during the drying cycle, the heated air introduced in the interior of movable drum is caused to penetrate the textiles being dried on its way to return to opening to a duct 35 located in the stationary drum peripheral surface.

In the apparatus illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, the air circulating blower 31 utilized to recirculate air during drying and vapor treatment cycles has rated capacity 160 cfm (272 m3/hr) and 5500 lfm (27.9 m/s) velocity at the outlet. Typically in a domestic apparatus, i.e., one designed for home or the like use, would have an air flow rate of from about 15 L/s (35 cfm) to about 272 l/s (160 cfm). Commercial or industrial scale apparatus go up to about 1200 l/s (2542 cfm). The connecting ducts used to construct circulation loop are sized to permit circulation of air at the rated flow. The heater 33 contains a heating element 33 comprising 115 V AC, 2300 watt, spiral wound, nichrome coil. The temperature sensing element 45 comprises a thermistor inserted into duct 34. A voltage regulating rheostat, 0-120 V AC, is utilized to regulate variable speed motor of the blower 31 and temperature of the heating element 33.

In an alternative embodiment, gas, such as air, nitrogen, ozone, argon, helium, neon, xenon, and mixtures thereof, is introduced in the interior of the inner chamber 1 to remove particulate soil from textiles prior to treating with the lipophilic fluid. Optionally, these gases may be heated. The inner chamber 1 is rotated at varying speed and direction during this optional pretreatment cycle. More detailed disclosure of apparatus, components, elements and exemplification of this optional pretreatment step can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,564,591.

The duct 35 is connected to a condenser 36. Condenser 36 removes all the vapors and undissolved solids picked up by the heated air from the dried textiles, so that duct 38 contains no other vapors but air. Condenser 36 subjects the moving air to filtering and cooling in order to condense the vapors into a conduit 37. The vapors condensed in conduit 37 then pass to the three way valve 5 where mixing occurs with the fluid removed from the outer chamber 2 via conduit 7. A water-cooled condenser or a refrigerated condenser as described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,807,948 to Moore issued on Apr. 30 1974; U.S. Pat. No. 4,086,705 to Wehr issued on May 2, 1978 and U.S. Pat. No. 4,769,921 to Kabakov et. al., issued on Sep. 13, 1988 can suitably be used. The condenser may also be connected with a columnar body of an adsorbent such as a molecular sieve or activated carbon, in one or more layers to collect non-condensed organic solvents. Examples of such absorption devices are described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,955,946 to Fuhring et. al., issued on May 11, 1976; U.S. Pat. No. 3,883,325 to Fuhring et. al., issued on May 13, 1975; U.S. Pat. No. 4,440,549 to Girard et. al., issued on Apr. 3, 1984; U.S. Pat. No. 4,583,985 to Preisegger issued on Apr. 22, 1986; U.S. Pat. No. 4,788,776 to Fuhring et. al., issued on Dec. 6, 1988; U.S. Pat. No. 4,622,039 to Merenda issued on Nov. 11, 1986, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,277,716 to Boppart et. al., issued on Jan. 11, 1994. The absorbent can be desorbed by passing a “blanket” of steam through the bed. Other solvent recovery systems are described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,467,539 to Hahn issued on Nov. 21, 1995 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,195,252 to Yamada et. al., issued on Mar. 23, 1993.

In another embodiment, vapors of lipophilic fluid, are prevented from being vented from the appliance by contacting them with an additional filter element or cartridge comprising a catalyst; the filter element may be complemented or supported by a porous material, or alternatively, a filter element or cartridge comprising at least one highly effective chemisorption or physical adsorption agent. Such a system essentially reduces the vapor pressure of the vapor to zero, and can even, for example, polymerize and/or solidify one or more components of the lipophilic fluid. More particularly, for example, a suitable catalytic converter cartridge can include a porous material or support, and a catalyst supported thereon. Such a catalyst can include any known ring-opening polymerization catalyst for cyclic silicones; including but not limited to phosphazene or phosphazene base catalysts; hindered amine base catalysts; electron-deficient silane catalysts; sulfonium or iodonium derivatives; alkali metal silanoates; Pt, Rh and Co hydrosilation catalysts; SiH-containing co-catalysts; Li and K silanolates. The catalysts can be modified in any manner, for example by clathration, absorption on the support, etc., such that they have no or very low intrinsic volatility and good stability for the usage lifetime. Exemplary supports include those having a high void volume while having low resistance to flow. The supports can be homogeneous or heterogeneous, for example including a primary support material, such as a mesoporous silica, affixed to a mechanical supporting structure, such as a synthetic plastic.

It should be understood and appreciated that this aspect of the invention is independently useful and can be used to safely control venting in any application, including immersive and non-immersive processes for cleaning any material, whether a fabric article or a hard surface, especially wherever a linear or cyclic siloxane is part of the solvent system.

The combination of the ring-opening polymerization catalyst and the storage capacity of a high void volume porous material, such as a mesoporous silica, makes it possible to eliminate lipophilic fluid and prevent any venting to the outside atmosphere. The cartridge can be removed periodically, for disposal and replacement with a fresh cartridge, or alternatively for removal of the polymerized lipophilic fluid, and, optionally, regeneration of the catalyst for reuse.

The apparatus 70 may also remove residual fluid in much the same fashion as a conventional clothes drying apparatus. This is done by actuating the diverter valve 40 into its first position connecting duct 43 to duct 41 and duct 38 to duct 42. In its second position, diverter valve 40 permits fresh air to be drawn into connecting duct 43 through connecting duct 41 and into the inlet of the blower 31, heated to a predetermined temperature by heater 33, circulating through the dried textiles contained in the movable chamber 1, cleaned of vapors picked during contact with the textiles, and vented to the atmosphere via duct 42. When the vapors are vented to the atmosphere via duct 42 it is preferable to treat the vapors in some fashion so that only air, water vapor and similar materials, are passed into the atmosphere via duct 42. This can include passing the vapors through a scrubber, or a cartridge which includes a supported catalyst as disclosed herein above. The catalyst could include a polymerization catalyst which would polymerize the lipophilic fluid to produce a solid polymer which would the deposit on the support. The cartridge would allow air, water vapor and similar materials to pass through easily while retaining vapors such as the lipophilic fluid. The cartridge could be removed periodically, for disposal and replacement with a fresh cartridge, or alternatively for removal of the polymerized lipophilic fluid, and regeneration of the catalyst for reuse.

In its second position, connecting ducts 43 and 42 are blocked off and all of the vapor-air mixture withdrawn from the stationary chamber 1 is returned to the suction side of the blower 31 via connecting duct 41. In this position the apparatus 70 may also be used for vapor treatment of the textiles by recirculating heated air through the inner chamber 1 containing textiles which have been contacted with the lipophilic fluid.

The temperature of the air is sensed by in connecting duct 34 by means of sensing element 45, which can be a thermistor type sensor, sends a signal to the heater. This ensures continuous monitoring of the temperature of heated air, air/ozone, air/vapor or air/ozone/vapor mixture during any cycle and can be maintained at predetermined level or varied, depending on what stage of the cleaning cycle the apparatus 70 is presently in. For example, one temperature may be used for pretreatment, and another temperature is used for assisting in removing the lipophilic fluid.

Diverter valve 40 may be automatically actuated. This may be accomplished utilizing solenoids or similar to drive apparatus well known in the art.

Connecting duct 35 is equipped with a gas sensor to monitor vapor concentration in air stream exiting the stationary chamber 2. Gas sensor transmits signal proportional to vapors concentration to the machine controller. Depending on magnitude of the signal, the controller either continues, stops, or selects a new cycle. Gas sensor may be a metal oxide type, but other alternative sensors based on infrared, capacitive, or conductive sensing, can be used. In a particular embodiment, when at some point in a drying cycle, gas sensor signal reaches some minimal value that indicates low amounts of vapors present at the exhaust, the controller stops the drying cycle by deactivating heater 33, and continuing with a cooling cycle.

Another gas sensor may be included in the apparatus to monitor the solvent vapor concentration in chamber 1, especially during the drying cycle. The gas sensor may be operatively linked to a controller. When the gas sensor detects that the solvent vapor concentration exceeds a threshold value, the controller may interrupt the drying cycle temporarily by shutting down the heat, increasing the air flow, or both. When the gas sensor detects that the solvent vapor concentration drops below a minimal level, the controller signals the user that it is safe to open the apparatus to remove the fabric articles.

In another embodiment, weight of the fabric articles and the lipophilic fluid thereon, as well as any compositions, is measured from load characteristics of electrical motor 54, such as voltage across motor terminals. In another embodiment, a device system for determining the load of fabric articles and the lipophilic fluid thereon, as well as any compositions, in the chamber 1, includes one capable of determining the moment of inertia of the mass of load of fabric articles and the lipophilic fluid thereon, as well as any compositions, in the chamber 1, from data relating the drive torque of the chamber 1, the friction torque of the chamber 1, the moment of inertia of this chamber and the acceleration of the chamber.

An out-of-balance control for the described apparatus is incorporated via monitoring a current signal which is proportionate to the current drawn by the motor 54. When the chamber 1 is accelerated, the current signal variations reflect torque required to rotate the chamber 1. The magnitude of the variations is proportional to load unbalance which causes excessive vibrations of the machine. When the unbalance signal magnitude exceeds the maximum permissible value, the machine controller executes re-balancing cycle by slowing the rotation, reorganizing the fabric load by tumbling, and accelerating to a set speed again. Alternative means of sensing unbalanced state can be use of a tachometer or a static switch.

In alternate embodiments, the apparatus of the present invention may optionally be operated at reduced or elevated pressure, typically achieved via a vacuum pump or by supplying a gas, such as nitrogen, to the apparatus thereby increasing the pressure in the washing chamber. Such embodiments can even include modifications of appliances designed for supercritical or dense gas cleaning.

FIG. 3 shows a front view of the apparatus 70. The apparatus 70, has front panel 71, two side panels 72 (only one of which is shown), and top panel 73. Door 59 contains spray nozzle cover 76, which covers conduit 25, which delivers the fluids to spray head 26; gas cover 77, which covers the 33 which delivers gas to the chamber 1 via connecting duct 34; and handle 75. Door 59 may be made of any suitable material and at least a portion of door 59 can be opaque to enable the operator to watch the apparatus in operation.

Also on front panel 71 is the apparatus controller 81. The apparatus controller 81 is the controller responsible for the timing and sequencing of the various process steps involved in using the apparatus. For example, apparatus controller 81 controls the amount of lipophilic fluid delivered to the fabric articles, and at what speed the drum is spun at, how long are the fabric articles tumbles for etc. The apparatus controller 81 also has provision for the consumer/operator to enter directly relevant information about the fabric articles being cleaned and/or the type of cleaning desired.

Access door 80 is also located on front panel 71. Access door 81 enables the operator/consumer to access the inner workings of the apparatus to remove and replace any consumables, such as filters, fluids, adjuncts etc., Access door 81 more specifically allows access to small tanks 27 and 28 and large tanks 19 and 20, for removal and replacement if they are replaceable or for re-filling. Access door 81 also allows easy access for any needed maintenance or repairs.

Panels 78 and 79 are access ports for the easy removal and cleaning or replacement by the operator/consumer of filters. Panel 79 provides access to the recovery system 15 and panel 79 provides access to filter 6.

Located on the side panel 72 shown in FIG. 3 are fluid outlet 85 and gas outlet 84. Fluid outlet 85 is connected to conduit 13 and is then connected to the domestic sewerage, another fluid storage container or both. Gas outlet 84 is linked to duct 42. The optional scrubber, baffle or cartridge, referred to previously, may be located between gas outlet 84 and duct 42 or it may be linked to gas out let 84. That is any gas or vapor first passes through duct 42, then gas outlet 84 then to the optional scrubber, baffle or cartridge.

Located on to panel 73 are air inlet 83, which provide an additional source of air to the apparatus via duct 43, and access port 82 which allows for the easy removal and cleaning or replacement by the operator/consumer of any filter associated with the air system 35, 36, 38, and 40-43.

The apparatus also includes components for recovery and reuse of the lipophilic fluid. Specifically, the lipophilic fluids removed from the treated fabric articles typically comes as a mixtures of lipophilic fluids and contaminants acquired during the fabric treatment process. Contaminants include, but are not limited to, water, laundry soils, surfactants, bleaches, enzymes, and other fabric cleaning adjuncts that are used in the detergent compositions. The contaminants can be separated from the mixture using various recovery methods, and the recovered lipophilic fluid can be stored in the apparatus and reused in s fabric treatment processes. Suitable recovery methods are described in U.S. Pat. Publications US 2002/0004952A1 (P&G Case 8483M), US 2003/0069159A1 (P&G Case 8689M); U.S. Provisional Pat. Application No. 60/483,290 (P&G Case 9289P), filed on Jun. 27, 2003, and co-filed provisional patent applications titled “Process for Purifying A Lipophilic Fluid Employing A Functionalized Fabric Treating Agent” and “Process for Recovering A Lipophilic Fluid From A Mixture By Modifying The Mixture”; both of which are filed on Feb. 24, 2004 (P&G Cases 9542P and 9543P).

In one embodiment of the present invention, the apparatus is a modified domestic appliance. Conventional aqueous-based laundry appliances, such as top-loading washers, horizontal axis washers, low wash volume washers, dryers, and washer/dryer combination machines can be modified for the processes or the apparatus of the present invention. In one example, a modified washer retains the ability to wash and/or dry clothes as they did before modification. This would include all the associated connections and/or plumbing, such as, connection to a water supply, and sewage for waste wash water, etc. For example, the non-aqueous method of the present invention can be included as a set of additional cycles on a conventional laundry appliance. Either the consumer or a controller built into the appliance would select the appropriate wash cycle, depending on the fabric articles to be washed and the soils present. In another example, a modified dryer or washer/dryer combination would retain all associated connections and/or plumbing, such as air inlet and outlet, heater, etc. in addition to connections to a water supply, a solvent supply, and a drain.

In another embodiment of the present invention the apparatus is not a modification of the existing apparatus, rather, it is built specifically to conduct the process of the present invention.

The apparatus of the present invention may optionally have dimensions similar to those of a domestic washer or dryer. That is, the external dimensions and/or the internal dimensions are similar to those of a domestic washer or dryer. Alternatively, apparatus of the present invention may have dimensions similar to those of a commercial dry-cleaning machine or industrial scale laundering apparatus, such as those used in commercial laundry services or laundromats.

The apparatus of the present invention may further comprise at least one trap comprising a filter element; the filter element can be contained in a cartridge that is detachably mounted in said laundering apparatus. The trap may be located in any part of the apparatus. There may be more than one trap, each designed for filtering fluids or air/gases.

The filter element, may be a lint filter for removing any loose particles, lint, fabric fibers and the like, which are dislodged form the fabric articles during the treatment process.

A water hardness remover or filter may also be present to remove any water hardness causing ions (e.g., calcium, magnesium) from any water used in the apparatus or process of the present invention. This water hardness filter would only be present where water is used in some fashion, such as an adjunct in the lipophilic fluid, or as part of an independent water wash or pretreat cycle. Such apparatus would be connected to a main water source, or another convenient water supply. Water for washing or pretreating would pass through the water hardness filter prior to its use in the apparatus or methods of the present invention. The water hardness filter, may be in the form of a cartridge, which may be detachable for easy cleaning or disposal and replaceable with a fresh unused water hardness filter.

Soil filter may be present in the apparatus of the present invention to remove any soil removed from the fabric articles. A solvent filter may also be present to remove spent ingredients of the treatment compositions, such as water, surfactants, enzymes, etc., during the treatment process. This would enable the lipophilic fluid and/or the treatment composition to be regenerated and reused.

The apparatus used in the process and the apparatus of the present invention will typically contain a program selector control system, accessible by a user via dials, buttons, touch panels or the like. The control system can be a “smart control system”, that is, the appliance acts autonomously in response to a signal from a sensor; or the control system can be a manual system or traditional electro-mechanical system. The control systems can enable the user to select the size of the fabric load to be cleaned, the type of soiling, the extent of the soiling, the time for the cleaning cycle, and the type of cycle (for example cleaning or garment treatment, dry-cleaning or water cleaning, etc.) Alternatively, the user can select pre-set cleaning and/or refreshing cycles. In another alternative, the apparatus can control the length of the cycle, based on any number of ascertainable parameters. For example, when the collection rate of lipophilic fluid reaches a steady rate the apparatus can be configured to switch off after a fixed period of time, or initiate another application of the lipophilic fluid.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the apparatus of the present invention may comprise a program selector. This selector may be in any suitable form, such as a dial, buttons, touch pads, panel (which would typically include buttons or assorted selection means) or combinations thereof. Furthermore, the apparatus of the present invention may include multiple selectors. For example, a user may use one selector to input load size, and another selector to input the predominate type of fabric to be treated (such as, “dry-clean”, to indicate the presence of dry clean only garments in the wash load). Alternatively, all these functions could be done on one multi-position selector. Such selector would have at least two selector positions. Possible combinations of selector positions include:

    • 1. at least one selected from “dry-clean”, “delicate care label” and “light soil” and at least one selected from “water wash”, “normal”, and “high soil”;
    • 2. at least one selected from “dry-clean”, “delicate care label” and “light soil” and at least one selected from “refresh”, “deodorize”, “fabric treatment” and “rinse/soften”;
      In one embodiment any programmable selector would have at least three selector positions including at least one selected from “dry-clean”, “delicate care label” and “light soil”, at least one selected from “water wash”, “normal”, and “high soil”, and at least one selected from “refresh”, “deodorize”, “fabric treatment” and “rinse/soften”.

The term “machine washable fabric articles”, as used herein, means those fabric articles readily identified by the fabric industry and consumers as safe for laundering by a conventional aqueous automatic home laundry process. The term “dry clean only fabric articles”, as used herein, means those fabric articles readily identified by the fabric industry and consumers as unsafe for laundering by a conventional aqueous immersive wash automatic home laundry process, and instead requiring special handling with a conventional non-aqueous solvent such as Perc (perchloroethylene). Manufacturer's tags on the fabric article labeling the article as “machine washable”, “dry clean only”, or similar description, are helpful in identifying the fabric types and selecting the proper laundry process accordingly.

Additionally, the apparatus of the present invention may include a control system that is a so called “smart device”. This smart device can include functions/devices such as self diagnostic system, load type and cycle selection, link to the Internet, remote access to start the apparatus, signal to inform the user when the apparatus has finished a fabric article treatment process, or remote access to diagnose apparatus malfunction by the supplier or manufacturer when the apparatus breaks down. Furthermore, the apparatus of the present invention can also be a part of a cleaning system, the so called “smart system”, in which the present apparatus has the capability to communicate with another laundry apparatus which performs a complimentary operation (such as a washing machine or a dryer) to complete the remainder of the cleaning process.

The fluid pervious movable chamber in one embodiment of the present invention has a curved cylindrical surface and a back wall, and is substantially horizontally mounted. The fluid pervious movable chamber is a drum, which may be any shape which will allow for free tumbling and high speed spinning of fabric articles. This includes, but is not limited to, hexagonal-section “cylinders”, octagonal-section “cylinders” and true cylinders. The drums can be made of any suitable material. For example, suitable material includes aluminum, stainless steel, polymeric material and combinations thereof. The drum may have a uniformly even surface internally, however, it may also have a variety of raised or recessed sections on the internal surface of the drum. The raised sections can include ridges or bumps regularly placed on the internal surface of the drum. The regular placement is highly desired as it aids in the rotation of the drum. These ridges or bumps may optionally run the length of the drum. An illustrative example of such a drum can be found in FIGS. 1 and 2.

In another aspect of one embodiment of the present invention the quantity of the lipophilic fluid within the fluid-pervious movable chamber at any point in time does not exceed about 5 times the dry weight of the fabric articles, alternatively, does not exceed about 1.5 times the dry weight, of said fabric articles.

In another embodiment of the present invention that any detachably mounted components, such as traps, filters, storage means (both cartridge and non-cartridge storage means) are accessible from positions selected from the top and front faces of said appliance. An illustration of such an arrangement is illustrated in FIG. 3.

The apparatus of the present invention may optionally contain one or more of:

    • (a) at least one trap comprising a filter element, such as, those traps described previously;
    • (b) one or more adjunct storage means for storing composition(s), optionally, capable of being detachably mounted on the apparatus;
    • (c) a connection to a drain, air outlet or combinations thereof;
    • (d) at least one gas inlet, capable of providing air, optionally with ozone and/or electrostatic ally treated air, of a suitable humidity and temperature;
    • (e) an ozone source;
    • (f) a lipophilic fluid recovery system;
    • (g) an outlet vent gas treatment/VOC control system;
    • (h) physical static control means; (e.g., corona discharge)
    • (i) an electric motor, such as variable speed, fixed speed (a clutch and gearing would be used to achieve the different speeds as required), brushless motor;
    • (j) a heater, for heating the gas or heating the lipophilic fluid;
    • (k) a compressor;
    • (l) a vacuum pump;
    • (m) an inert gas supply means, such as argon, helium, xenon, etc;;
    • (n) a safety interlock, such as locks on any access door to prevent opening the apparatus while it was in use;
    • (o) steam inlet; and
    • (p) sensor means, including but not limited to VOC, vibration, ozone, humidity, temperature and pressure sensor means.

In another aspect of the present invention, the apparatus includes at one least sensor for garment tag detection, for example, the garment tag detector may be a radio frequency detector. In this embodiment the fabric articles have a machine-detectable tag, which is detected by the apparatus enabling the apparatus to select an appropriate treatment cycle/process based on the fabric articles fabric type, e.g., silk, denim, wool, rayon, cotton, “dry-clean only”, etc., present in the fabric articles to be treated.

The present invention can be performed in an apparatus capable of “dual mode” functions. A “dual mode” apparatus is one capable of both washing and drying fabrics within the same drum, i.e., a dry-to-dry operation. Dual mode apparatuses for conventional aqueous laundry process are commercially available particularly in Europe.

Methods

One aspect of the method of the present invention involves multiple spin, spray and tumble cycles in apparatus 70. The chamber 1 is capable of tumbling, agitating, rotating, or otherwise applying mechanical energy to its content, including the fabric articles, the lipophilic fluid, and detergent and fabric finishing compositions, and is capable of evenly distributing the lipophilic fluid and the compositions onto all the fabric articles in the chamber 1.

The amount of lipophilic fluid which is dispensed into the chamber 1 is typically, less than about 5 times the dry weight of the fabric articles to be cleaned, or less than about 2 times the dry weight of the fabric articles, or less than about 1 ½ times (i.e., 3/2 times) to about 0.2 times the dry weight of the fabric articles, or from about 20% to about 150%, or about 20% to about 90%, by weight of the dry fabric load. In one embodiment, the quantity of lipophilic fluid is such, that there is none or minimal amounts of lipophilic fluid in excess of absorption capacity of the garments, which is typically about 150%, by weight of the dry fabric. For example, in a single application of lipophilic fluid to clean a typical 5 kilogram load of assorted soiled fabric articles, the apparatus of the present invention can use as little as from about 5 kg to about 10 kg of lipophilic fluid. It is understood that the fluid reservoirs in the appliance can in general be stocked with much more fluid than is used in a single treatment cycle, and the apparatus may fully or partially recycle fluid from cycle to cycle and/or have multiple cycles). Typically, in a domestic situation the amount of fluid is based on weight, type of garments, soil amount, and can be controlled by user-selectable interface choosing the most appropriate cycle, much in the same fashion as a consumer would on a conventional washing machine.

It is understood that the present invention also includes the “immersive” washing method wherein a large quantity of a lipophilic fluid is pumped into the chamber 1 such that the fabric articles are submerged in the wash liquor. The total amount of lipophilic fluid can be from about 550% to about 1500% by weight of the dry fabric in the chamber.

The time taken for applying the lipophilic fluid will depend upon the precise method(s) used for applying the lipophilic fluid and on the number of cycles of lipophilic cleaning fluid through the fabric articles and can vary quite widely. For example, this can take from about 30 seconds to about 30 minutes. More generally, a complete cleaning or fabric treatment operation from start to end (at which time the fabric articles are ready to wear with the exception of optional ironing) can take from about 5 minutes to about three hours, or even longer, for example, if a low-energy overnight mode of operation is contemplated or if a cleaning operation is to be followed by additional fabric treatment. The total processing time will also vary with the precise appliance design, for example appliance variations having reduced pressure (vacuum) means can help reduce cycle time. Typical operations, including the wash and rinse cycles and the drying cycle, would take about 20 minutes to about two hours in total. Fabric treatment operations involving longer times may be less desirable for the consumer but may be imposed by energy-saving requirements, which can very from country to country.

The lipophilic fluid is then at least partially removed from the fabric articles by non-distillative removal. One example of non-distillative removal employs, an inflatable bladder, not shown in the figures, which expands from the back wall of the inner drum 66, along the axis of rotation of the inner drum 100, and presses the fabric load against the inner wall of the chamber 1. The pressure applied by the inflated bladder forces the lipophilic fluid out of the fabric through the perforations in the inner drum 46 into the outer chamber 2 and collected in tank 8 via conduit 7. During this non-distillative removal the chamber 1 may be stationary, rotating at speed sufficient to tumble the fabrics or rotating at sufficient speed to fix the fabrics in place on the inner wall of the chamber 1. The expansion and deflation of the bladder may be performed and in combination with redistributing the fabric load by rotating the chamber 1.

Another example of non-distillative removal involves the use of capillary action, such as that supplied by a sponge or the like. In this embodiment, the lipophilic fluid treated fabric articles are pressed against a sponge or the like to remove the lipophilic fluid. The sponge may be, for example, located in the rear wall 66 of the inner chamber 1, or in one of the lifting vanes 60. The sponge would be prevented from contacting the fabric until appropriate by means of a movable cover.

Yet another example of non-distillative removal involves high speed rotation of chamber 1, which is referred to as the spin cycle in a conventional appliance. The lipophilic fluid treated fabric articles are subjected to high centrifugal acceleration, typically of the order of about 4,450 m/s2 (about 450G). Typically, the fabric load is subjected to the high centrifugal acceleration for about 30 seconds to about 5 minutes. The lipophilic fluid removed by the high centrifugal acceleration is collected in tank 8, and the assorted pumps and delivery conduits 3-7 as shown in FIG. 1 illustrates one possible way of recovering the fluid removed from the fabric articles.

Following the partial removal of lipophilic fluid by non-distillative methods, air is introduced to the chamber 1 to complete the drying of the fabric articles without the need for an additional or separate drying apparatus. Alternatively, the fabric articles can be transferred to another compartment or chamber within the same apparatus for the drying cycle. A suitable transfer means is exemplified in a “tunnel-type” washing machine, wherein fabric articles are transferred internally from one compartment to another compartment via a conveyor device. Examples of tunnel-type washing machines are disclosed in EP 0,914,511 B1 and WO 98/48094 (to Electrolux).

Typically, the non-distillative step removes at least about 70 wt %, or at least about 80 wt % of the lipophilic fluid. The removal of the remaining lipophilic fluid is achieved in the drying step, during which the fabric articles is tumbled in the chamber under moving air. The air is optionally heated to less than about 100° C., or between from about 30 to about 80° C., or between from about 40 to about 65° C., and at a flow rate of about 15 l/s to about 272 l/s, or from about 20 l/s to about 200 /s. Alternatively, a gas (e.g., nitrogen) may be used in place of air. In another alternative, gases (such as steam, ozone) could be added to the air. Optionally, the air may be ionized.

In another optional embodiment, surface actives or inert fabric care substances can be added to the air or gas stream to obtain additional fabric care benefits, such as static removal, pleasant odor, disinfection, softening etc.

Exhaust air can be filtered or cleaned by other means to ensure that minimal amount of solvent vapor is discharged from the system, for example, through the exhaust systems. A gas sensor may be located near the exhaust to monitor the solvent vapor concentration in air stream exiting the apparatus. Another gas sensor may be included in the apparatus to monitor the solvent vapor level in chamber 1. In another aspect of the method of the present invention, a fabric finishing step is included in the drying cycle. After the lipophilic fluid is at least partially removed from the treated fabric article, a fabric finishing composition is delivered into the chamber 1 such that it contacts the fabric article and delivers fabric finishing benefits, such as fabric softness, fluffiness, odor, anti-static, wrinkle resistance, and the like.

In one embodiment, the finishing composition is applied to the fabric articles via spraying, while the fabric articles are in motion such as tumbling or low speed rotation (e.g., spun at a centrifugal acceleration about 9.8 m/s2, which is just enough force to hold the garments against the chamber 1. Alternatively, the finishing agent is applied to the fabric articles by spraying in multiple stages with tumbling of the fabric articles in between to achieve more uniform distribution of the composition on the fabric surface.

In another embodiment, the fabric finishing composition is applied in the drying cycle when the chamber 1 is at a temperature of less than about 100° C., or from about 20° C. to about 80° C., or from about 35° C. to about 60° C. In yet another embodiment, in order to deliver enduring perfume odor to the treated fabric article, a fabric finishing composition comprising perfume as the primary ingredient (i.e., no other ingredient has a higher percentage in the composition) is applied during the cool-down operation of the drying cycle. As used herein, the “cool-down operation” refers to the part of the drying cycle when heat is no longer supplied to the chamber 1, though heat may continue to be applied to the finishing composition to help dispensing the composition.

Suitable finishing compositions comprise fabric care agents, including but not limited to, finishing polymers, fabric softening agents, perfumes, wrinkle control agents, anti-static agents, water and mixtures thereof. In a specific embodiment, water vapor or water mist can be used as the finishing composition. The composition can be a liquid or gel at room temperature, and can be heat activated. That is, the viscosity of the composition needs to drop to less than about 50 centipoises (50 mPa-s) at a temperature of 100° C. or lower. In a typical embodiment, the viscosity of the composition is from about 0.5 to about 20 centipoises (about 0.5 to about 20 mPa-s) at about 37° C. Viscosity measurements can be determined with a Brookfield LVF viscometer.

Other applicators or dispensing devices, for example, atomizers, nebulizers, and like devices, can also be used. A typical applicator of this type is capable of providing droplets having average particle size less than about 100 microns, typically from about 0.1 to about 60 microns, or from about 0.5 to about 40 microns, or from about 1 to about 20 microns. Due to the small particle size, the droplets are more susceptible to air movement in the chamber 1. An air circulation device, such as a fan, may be used to direct the droplets towards the walls 65, 66, 67. Alternatively, the air circulation system or the gas/air vent can be closed while the finishing composition is being dispensed into the chamber, thus, the droplets of the finishing composition are not lost through the vent. Optionally, to ensure contact between the dispensed finishing composition and the fabric article, the air circulation system or the vent can remain closed for about 5 minutes to about 30 minutes after the finishing composition is completely dispensed.

Nebulizers, atomizers and like devices are well known to those skilled in the art. A suitable device for use herein is a nebulizer that has at least one ultrasonic sonotrode, or ultrasonic vibrating cell. Typical of such nebulizer is commercially available under the tradename Acu Mist® from Sono Tek Corporation, Milton, N.Y. Still other examples of such devices are available from Omron Health Care, GmbH, Germany; and from Flaem Nuove, S.P.A, Italy. Likewise, aerosol delivery systems, which are well known to the art, can be used to deliver the detergent and/or finishing compositions. Electrostatic dispensing devices can also be used to dispense the compositions to the chamber 1. Exemplary of such electrostatic dispensing devices are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/418,595 (P&G Case 8903) and PCT Publication WO 03/02291.

Other dispensing devices can be removably attached to the front door 59 are described in U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 10/697,735; 10/697,685; and 10/697,736 (P&G Cases 9397, 9398, and 9400); U.S. Patent Application No. 2003/0200674A1; PCT publications WO 03/087285 and WO 03/087461. It is understood that these dispensing devices can be used to deliver the detergent composition, the finishing composition, and even the lipophilic fluid.

In another aspect of the method of the present invention, a detergent composition is mixed with the lipophilic fluid to form a diluted wash liquor, prior to contacting the fabric articles. The mixing can take place outside the apparatus, and the diluted wash liquor is stored in one of the tanks of the apparatus. Alternatively, the detergent composition and the lipophilic fluid are stored in separate tanks and mixed in the apparatus to form the wash liquor. After the wash liquor is dispensed into the chamber 1, the fabric articles are tumbled for about 1 to about 20 minutes to redistribute the fabric articles and to ensure an even distribution of the lipophilic fluid on the fabric articles. A further portion of lipophilic fluid is applied to the fabric article, which are optionally tumbled for about 1 to about 20 minutes. The final portion of the lipophilic fluid is applied to the fabric articles while the fabric articles are tumbled or spun at a low speed (about 9.8 m/s2). The lipophilic fluid used in different steps herein may include the same or different compositions, the same or different lipophilic fluids, in the same or different amounts, or combinations thereof.

The lipophilic fluid used in different steps herein may also include water or other polar solvents (e.g., diols, glycols); methods that uses mixed fluids in the wash liquor (referred to as the “bi-modal” cleaning methods) are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/612,106 (P&G Case 8121C). In one embodiment of the bi-modal cleaning method, at least one step therein uses the lipophilic fluid as the dominant fluid. The dominant fluid is the fluid that is present at a level higher than any other fluid in the wash liquor. The dominant fluid is typically at least about 50% by weight of the wash liquor, though it is not required to be. For example, component A in a wash liquor comprising a liquid mixture of A:B:C at 45:30:25 weight ratio is a dominant fluid. In another embodiment, instead of a mixture, the lipophilic fluid, water and/or polar solvents are applied individually, in a concurrent or sequential manner.

In yet another aspect of the method of the present invention, a detergent composition may be applied directly (i.e., without being diluted into a wash liquor) to the fabric article in the washing cycle. The detergent composition can be delivered by a spray nozzle, an atomizer, a nebulizer, and the like. The fabric articles may be tumbled while the detergent composition is being applied; this tumbling redistributes the fabric articles and ensures an even deposition of the detergent composition on the fabric article. Since the cleaning agents are not loss due to dilution in a wash liquor, this direct deposit method of undiluted composition is more effective in delivering cleaning agents to the fabric article and a smaller amount of cleaning agent is used to deliver the same benefit. Additional portions of lipophilic fluids can be applied to the fabric articles and the fabric articles are tumbled or spun at low speed; and the steps can be repeated, if desired.

Optionally, a finishing composition can be applied to the fabric article in the washing cycle in any step of the washing cycle. The finishing composition can be applied directly to the fabric article or as a premix with a lipophilic fluid and/or a detergent composition. In a specific embodiment, the finishing composition and the detergent composition are premixed and applied to the fabric article as a “two-in-one” composition.

In another aspect of the present invention, the consumable and/or recyclable lipophilic liquids, detergent compositions and/or finishing compositions are provided in a tank, a container, a cartridge or the like, that is removably attachable to the apparatus via a “lock and key” system such that they can be easily and conveniently replaced by the user.

The method of the present invention may optionally comprise the step of forming in-situ an emulsion or micro emulsion comprising two or more fluid streams, such as the lipophilic fluid and water (optionally, fabric treating agents, polar solvents) immediately prior to evenly distributing the lipophilic fluid on a retained load of fabric articles within the apparatus of the present invention.

Oil-in-water emulsion formation can be brought about by any number of suitable procedures. For example, the aqueous phase containing an effective amount of surfactant package can be contacted with the solvent phase by metered injection just prior to a suitable mixing device. Metering can be maintained such that the desired solvent/water ratio remains relatively constant. Mixing devices such as pump assemblies or in-line static mixers, a centrifugal pump or other type of pump, a colloid mill or other type of mill, a rotary mixer, an ultrasonic mixer and other means of dispersing one liquid in another, non-miscible liquid can be used to provide sufficient agitation to cause emulsification.

These static mixers are devices through which the emulsion is passed at high speed and in which said emulsion experiences sudden changes in direction and/or in the diameter of the channels which make up the interior of the mixers. This results in a pressure loss, which is a factor in obtaining a correct emulsion in terms of droplet size and stability.

In one embodiment of the method of the invention, the mixing steps are sequential. The procedure consists in mixing the solvent and emulsifier in a first stage, the premix being mixed and emulsified with the water in a second stage. In another embodiment of the invention, provision is made for carrying out the above mixing steps in a continuous mode. The mixing typically takes place at room temperature, with the fluids, water and cleaning agent supplied at room temperature as well.

A batch process such as an overhead mixer or a continuous process such as a two fluid coextrusion nozzle, an in-line injector, an in-line mixer or an in-line screen can be used to make the emulsion. The size of the emulsion composition in the final composition can be manipulated by changing the mixing speed, mixing time, the mixing device and the viscosity of the aqueous solution. In general, by reducing the mixing speed, decreasing the mixing time, lowering the viscosity of the aqueous solution or using a mixing device that produces less shear force during mixing, one can produce an emulsion of a larger droplet size.

In a further aspect of the present invention, the lipophilic fluid or the wash liquor are at least a portion of the extraction process is conducted concurrently with fluid/wash liquor distribution. In this embodiment, the even distribution is accomplished by spraying said lipophilic fluid or wash liquor through at least one spray nozzle while the fabric articles are moving in said fluid-pervious movable chamber at the time of spraying. Some lipophilic fluid can be extracted by centrifugal forces or gravity. In a further embodiment, P&G Case 9540 37 a pattern of speed changes and/or reversal in the movement direction is used to redistribute the fabric in the fluid-pervious movable chamber, thereby achieving even wetting.

Another embodiment of the present invention method for treating fabric articles in an apparatus of the present invention. In one embodiment of this aspect of the present invention the method comprises

    • (I) one or more steps of prespotting, soaking or pretreating a fabric article or a load of fabric articles by any conventional process; and
    • (II) at least one step of treating said fabric article or load of fabric articles in an appliance according to any of the foregoing appliance claims.

By “one or more steps of prespotting, soaking or pretreating a fabric article or a load of fabric articles by any conventional process” it is meant that the fabric article or load is pretreated, prespotted or soaked exactly as if they were to be treated before being cleaned or treated either a conventional domestic or commercial aqueous laundry apparatus, or commercial dry cleaning apparatus. For example, the fabric article or load is let soak overnight immersed in an aqueous bath containing a bleach solution and then treated in the apparatus of the present invention; or a pretreated solution is applied to stain on a fabric article which is then treated in the apparatus of the present invention, etc.

In another embodiment of this aspect of the present invention the method comprises

    • (I) at least one step of treating a fabric article or load of fabric articles in an appliance according to any of the foregoing appliance claims and
    • (II) one or more steps of posttreating said fabric article or a load of fabric articles by any conventional process.
      By “one or more steps of posttreating the fabric article or a load of fabric articles by any conventional process” it is meant that the fabric article or load is posttreated exactly as if they were to be posttreated after being cleaned or treated in a conventional domestic or commercial water laundry apparatus, or commercial dry cleaning apparatus. For example, the fabric article is contacted with a fabric softener after being treated in the apparatus of the present invention, etc.

The apparatus of the present invention may be used for refreshing and/or cleaning a fabric article. Furthermore, the apparatus of the present invention may be used for alternately cleaning loads of fabric articles in any of said garment cleaning or garment treatment modes.

The apparatus of the present invention may be used in a service, such as a dry cleaning service, diaper service, uniform cleaning service, or commercial business, such as a Laundromat, dry cleaner, linen service which is part of a hotel, restaurant, convention center, airport, cruise ship, port facility or casino.

In another embodiment of the present invention the apparatus of the present invention may be used for treating an unsorted load of fabric articles without substantial damage or dye-transfer between said articles. By “unsorted fabric articles” it is meant that the fabric articles to be treated comprise two or more articles selected from the group consisting of articles having “dry clean only” care labels. In other words, it is one embodiment of the present invention that an apparatus and method of treating using the same apparatus, which clean dry clean only fabrics at the same time, and in the same apparatus, as fabrics which can be water washed.

In another embodiment of the present invention is directed to a fabric article which has been treated in an apparatus according to the present invention. Typically, any such treated fabric article comprise an analytically detectable amount of at least one compound (e.g., an organosilicone) having a surface energy modifying effect but no antistatic effect; or an analytically detectable amount of at least one compound having a surface energy modifying and/or feel-modifying and/or comfort-modifying and/or aesthetic effect and at least one antistatic agent other than said at least one compound.

Water, if any, used in the apparatus and methods of the present invention can be treated to soften, filter, disinfect, heat, cool, and the like prior to being used in the apparatus and in the methods.

Lipophilic Fluid

“Lipophilic fluid” as used herein means any liquid or mixture of liquid that is immiscible with water at up to 20% by weight of water. In general, a suitable lipophilic fluid can be fully liquid at ambient temperature and pressure, can be an easily melted solid, e.g., one that becomes liquid at temperatures in the range from about 0° C. to about 60° C., or can comprise a mixture of liquid and vapor phases at ambient temperatures and pressures, e.g., at 25° C. and 1 atm. pressure.

Typically, the suitable lipophilic fluid is non-flammable or, has relatively high flash points and/or low VOC characteristics, these terms having conventional meanings as used in the dry cleaning industry, to equal to or exceed the characteristics of known conventional dry cleaning fluids.

Non-limiting examples of suitable lipophilic fluid materials include siloxanes, other silicones, hydrocarbons, glycol ethers, glycerine derivatives such as glycerine ethers, perfluorinated amines, perfluorinated and hydrofluoroether solvents, low-volatility nonfluorinated organic solvents, diol solvents, other environmentally-friendly solvents and mixtures thereof.

“Siloxane” as used herein means silicone fluids that are non-polar and insoluble in water or lower alcohols. Linear siloxanes (see for example U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,443,747, and 5,977,040) and cyclic siloxanes are useful herein, including the cyclic siloxanes selected from the group consisting of octamethyl-cyclotetrasiloxane (tetramer), dodecamethyl-cyclohexasiloxane (hexamer), decamethyl-cyclopentasiloxane (pentamer, commonly referred to as “D5”) and mixtures thereof. In one embodiment, the siloxane comprises more than about 50% cyclic siloxane pentamer, or more than about 75% cyclic siloxane pentamer, or at least about 90% of the cyclic siloxane pentamer. In another embodiment, the suitable siloxane is a mixture of cyclic siloxanes having at least about 90% (or at least about 95%) pentamer and less than about 10% (or less than about 5%) tetramer and/or hexamer.

The lipophilic fluid can include any fraction of dry-cleaning solvents, especially newer types including fluorinated solvents, or perfluorinated amines. Some perfluorinated amines such as perfluorotributylamines, while unsuitable for use as lipophilic fluid, may be present as one of many possible adjuncts present in the lipophilic fluid-containing composition.

Other suitable lipophilic fluids include, but are not limited to, diol solvent systems e.g., higher diols such as C6 or C8 or higher diols, organosilicone solvents including both cyclic and acyclic types, and the like, and mixtures thereof.

Non-limiting examples of low volatility non-fluorinated organic solvents include for example OLEAN® and other polyol esters, or certain relatively nonvolatile biodegradable mid-chain branched petroleum fractions.

Non-limiting examples of glycol ethers include propylene glycol methyl ether, propylene glycol n-propyl ether, propylene glycol t-butyl ether, propylene glycol n-butyl ether, dipropylene glycol methyl ether, dipropylene glycol n-propyl ether, dipropylene glycol t-butyl ether, dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether, tripropylene glycol methyl ether, tripropylene glycol n-propyl ether, tripropylene glycol t-butyl ether, tripropylene glycol n-butyl ether.

Non-limiting examples of other silicone solvents, in addition to the siloxanes, are well known in the literature, see, for example, Kirk Othmer's Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, and are available from a number of commercial sources, including GE Silicones, Toshiba Silicone, Bayer, and Dow Corning. For example, one suitable silicone solvent is SF-1528 available from GE Silicones.

Non-limiting examples of suitable glycerine derivative solvents for use in the methods and/or apparatuses of the present invention have the following structure:


wherein R1, R2 and R3 are each independently selected from: H; branched or linear, substituted or unsubstituted C1-C30 alkyl, C2-C30 alkenyl, C1-C30 alkoxycarbonyl, C3-C30 alkyleneoxyalkyl, C1-C30 acyloxy, C7-C30 alkylenearyl; C4-C30 cycloalkyl; C6-C30 aryl; and mixtures thereof. Two or more of R1, R2 and R3 together can form a C3-C8 aromatic or non-aromatic, heterocyclic or non-heterocyclic ring.

Non-limiting examples of suitable glycerine derivative solvents include 2,3-bis(1,1-dimethylethoxy)-1-propanol; 2,3-dimethoxy-1-propanol; 3-methoxy-2-cyclopentoxy-1-propanol; 3-methoxy-1-cyclopentoxy-2-propanol; carbonic acid (2-hydroxy-1-methoxymethyl)ethyl ester methyl ester; glycerol carbonate and mixtures thereof.

Non-limiting examples of other environmentally-friendly solvents include lipophilic fluids that have an ozone formation potential of from about 0 to about 0.31, lipophilic fluids that have a vapor pressure of from about 0 to about 0.1 mm Hg, and/or lipophilic fluids that have a vapor pressure of greater than 0.1 mm Hg, but have an ozone formation potential of from about 0 to about 0.31. Non-limiting examples of such lipophilic fluids that have not previously been described above include carbonate solvents (i.e., methyl carbonates, ethyl carbonates, ethylene carbonates, propylene carbonates, glycerine carbonates) and/or succinate solvents (i.e., dimethyl succinates).

“Ozone Reactivity” as used herein is a measure of a VOC's ability to form ozone in the atmosphere. It is measured as grams of ozone formed per gram of volatile organics. A methodology to determine ozone reactivity is discussed further in W. P. L. Carter, “Development of Ozone Reactivity Scales of Volatile Organic Compounds”, Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, Vol. 44, Pages 881-899, 1994. “Vapor Pressure” as used can be measured by techniques defined in Method 310 of the California Air Resources Board.

In one embodiment, the lipophilic fluid comprises more than 50% by weight of the lipophilic fluid of cyclopentasiloxanes, (“D5”) and/or linear analogs having approximately similar volatility, and optionally complemented by other silicone solvents.

Compositions

The cleaning agents and the fabric care agents can vary widely and can be used at widely ranging levels. Typically, for a given fabric treating agent, when present in the composition, comprises from about 0.1% to about 80%, or from about 1% to about 60%, or from about 5% to about 50% by weight of the composition. In some embodiments, water is included in the composition as the carrier; water can be present at a level from about 0.1% to about 99%, or from about 1% to about 90%, or from about 10% to about 80% by weight of the composition.

When the composition is diluted with the lipophilic fluid, water and/or polar solvents to form the wash liquor, a given fabric treating agent, when present, typically comprises from about 0.01% to about 50%, or from about 0.1% to about 30%, or from about 1% to about 20% by weight of the wash liquor.

However, certain agents are used in much lower level in the compositions. For example, detersive enzymes such as proteases, amylases, cellulases, lipases and the like as well as bleach catalysts including the macrocyclic types having manganese or similar transition metals all useful in laundry and cleaning products are typically used in a composition at very low levels, typically from about 0.01% to less than about 5%, by weight of the composition.

Some suitable cleaning agents include, but are not limited to, soil release polymers, surfactants, bleaches, enzymes, perfumes, and mixtures thereof.

Suitable fabric care agents include, but are not limited to, finishing polymers, softening agents, perfumes, finishing agents, wrinkle control agents, shrinkage reducing agents, anti-static agents, and mixtures thereof.

Some of these cleaning or fabric care agents are described in detail below.

One class of suitable soil release polymers includes fluorine-containing soil release polymer (fluoro-SRPs), specifically, copolymers derived from perfluoroalkyl monomers and alkyl methacylate monomers, commercially available under the tradename ZONYL® from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company of Wilmington, Del. Also commercially available is REPEARL F35®, which contains fluoro-SRP in an aqueous suspension form from Mitsubishi. Other suitable fluoro-SRPs are disclosed in WO 01/98384, WO 01/81285; JP 10-182814; JP 2000-273067; WO 98/4160213, and WO 99/69126.

Another class of suitable soil release polymers includes silicone-containing soil release polymer (Si-SRPs). Exemplary Si-SRPs are commercially available as DF104, DF1040, SM2125, SM2245, SM2101, SM2059 from GE, and Dow Corning 75SF® Emulsion.

Also suitable for use as soil release polymer in the present invention are water soluble modified celluloses which include, but are not limited to: carboxymethylcellulose, hydroxypropylcellulose, methylcellulose, and like compounds. These compounds, and other suitable compounds, are described in Kirk Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 4th Edition, vol. 5, pages 541-563, under the heading of “Cellulose Ethers”, and in the references cited therein.

Another class of suitable soil release polymers may comprise block copolymers of polyalkylene terephthalate and polyoxyethylene terephthalate, and block copolymers of polyalkylene terephthalate and polyethylene glycol. These compounds are disclosed in details in are discussed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,358,914 and 4,976,879.

Another class of soil release polymer is a crystallizable polyester comprising ethylene terephthalate monomers, oxyethylene terephthalate monomers, or mixtures thereof. Examples of this polymer are commercially available as Zelcon 4780® (from DuPont) and Milease T® (from ICI). A more complete disclosure of these soil release agents is contained in EP 0 185 427 A1.

The surfactant suitable for use in the present invention has the general formula:
Yu-(Tt-Xv)x-Y′w  (I)
Ty-(Xv-Yu)x-T′z  (II)

and mixtures thereof;

wherein T and T′ are solvent compatibilizing (or lipophilic) moieties, which are independently selected from:

    • (a) C1-C22 alkyl or C4-C12 alkoxy, linear or branched, cyclic or acyclic, saturated or unsaturated, substituted or unsubstituted;
    • (b) siloxanes having the formula:
      MaDbD′cD″d  (III)
      wherein a is 0-2; b is 0-1000; c is 0-50; d is 0-50, provided that a+c+d is at least 1;

M of formula (III) is R3-e 1XeSiO1/2 wherein R1 of formula (III) is independently H, or an alkyl group, X of formula (III) is hydroxyl group, and e is 0 or 1;

D of formula (III) is R2 4SiO2/2 wherein R4 of formula (III) is independently H or an alkyl group;

D′ of formula (III) is R2 5SiO2/2 wherein R5 of formula (III) is independently H, an alkyl group, or (CH2)f(C6Q4)gO—(C2H4O)h-(C3H6O)i(CkH2k)j-R3, provided that at least one R5 of formula (III) is (CH2)f(C6Q4)gO—(C2H4O)h—(C3H6O)i(CkH2k)j-R3, wherein R3 of formula (III) is independently H, an alkyl group or an alkoxy group, f of formula (III) is 1-10, g of formula (III) is 0 or 1, h of formula (III) is 1-50, i of formula (III) is 0-50, j of formula (III) is 0-50, k of formula (III) is 4-8; C6Q4 of formula (III) is unsubstituted or substituted with Q of formula (III) is independently H, C1-10 alkyl, C1-10 alkenyl, and mixtures thereof.

D″ of formula (III) is R2 6SiO2/2 wherein R6 of formula (III) is independently H, an alkyl group or (CH2)l(C6Q4)m(A)n-[(L)o-(A′)p-]q-(L′)rZ(G)s, wherein l of formula (U') is 1-10; m of formula (III) is 0 or 1; n of formula (III) is 0-5; o of formula (III) is 0-3; p of formula (III) is 0 or 1; q of formula (III) is 0-10; r of formula (III) is 0-3; s of formula (III) is 0-3; C6Q4 of formula (III) is unsubstituted or substituted with Q of formula (III) is independently H, C1-10 alkyl, C1-10 alkenyl, and mixtures thereof; A and A′ of formula (Ell) are each independently a linking moiety representing an ester, a keto, an ether, a thio, an amido, an amino, a C1-4 fluoroalkyl, a C1-4 fluoroalkenyl, a branched or straight chained polyalkylene oxide, a phosphate, a sulfonyl, a sulfate, an ammonium, and mixtures thereof; L and L′ of formula (III) are each independently a C1-30 straight chained or branched alkyl or alkenyl or an aryl which is unsubstituted or substituted; Z of formula (III) is a hydrogen, carboxylic acid, a hydroxy, a phosphato, a phosphate ester, a sulfonyl, a sulfonate, a sulfate, a branched or straight-chained polyalkylene oxide, a nitryl, a glyceryl, an aryl unsubstituted or substituted with a C1-30 alkyl or alkenyl, a carbohydrate unsubstituted or substituted with a C1-10 alkyl or alkenyl or an ammonium; G of formula (III) is an anion or cation such as H+, Na+, Li+, K+, NH4 +, Ca+2, Mg+2, Cl, Br, I, mesylate or tosylate;

Y and Y′ are hydrophilic moieties, which are independently selected from hydroxy; polyhydroxy; C1-C3 alkoxy; mono- or di- alkanolamine; C1-C4 alkyl substituted alkanolamine; substituted heterocyclic containing O, S, N; sulfates; carboxylate; carbonate; and when Y and/or Y′ is ethoxy (EO) or propoxy (PO), it must be capped with R, which is selected from the group consisting of:

    • (i) a 4 to 8 membered, substituted or unsubstituted, heterocyclic ring containing from 1 to 3 hetero atoms; and
    • (ii) linear or branched, saturated or unsaturated, substituted or unsubstituted, cyclic or acyclic, aliphatic or aromatic hydrocarbon radicals having from about 1 to about 30 carbon atoms;

X is a bridging linkage selected from O; S; N; P; C1 to C22 alkyl, linear or branched, saturated or unsaturated, substituted or unsubstituted, cyclic or acyclic, aliphatic or aromatic, interrupted by O, S, N, P; glycidyl, ester, amido, amino, PO4 2−, HPO4, PO3 2−, HPO3 , which are protonated or unprotonated;

u and w are integers independently selected from 0 to 20, provided that u+w>1;

t is an integer from 1 to 10;

v is an integer from 0 to 10;

x is an integer from 1 to 20; and

y and z are integers independently selected from 1 to 10.

Nonlimiting examples of surfactants having the above formula include alkanolamines; phophate/phosphonate esters; gemini surfactants including, but are not limited to, gemini diols, gemini amide alkoxylates, gemini amino alkoxylates; capped nonionic surfactants; capped silicone surfactants such as nonionic silicone ethoxylates, silicone amine derivatives; alkyl alkoxylates; polyol surfactants; and mixtures thereof.

Yet another class of suitable surfactants are organosulfosuccinates, with carbon chains of from about 6 to about 20 carbon atoms. In one embodiment, the organosulfosuccinates contain dialkly chains, each with carbon chains of from about 6 to about 20 carbon atoms. IN another embodiment, the organosulfosuccinates have chains containing aryl or alkyl aryl, substituted or unsubstituted, branched or linear, saturated or unsaturated groups. Nonlimiting commercially available examples of suitable organosulfosuccinate surfactants are available under the trade names of Aerosol OT® and Aerosol TR-70® (ex. Cytec).

Nonlimiting examples of suitable bleaches are selected from the group consisting of catalytic metal complexes, activated peroxygen sources, bleach activators, bleach boosters, photobleaches, free radical initiators and hyohalite bleaches.

Examples of suitable catalytic metal complexes include, but are not limited to, manganese-based catalysts such as Mn2 IV (u-O)3(1,4,7-trimethyl-1,4,7-triazacyclononane)2(PF6)2 disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,576,282, cobalt based catalysts disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,597,936 such as cobalt pentaamine acetate salts having the formula [Co(NH3)5OAc] TY, wherein “OAc” represents an acetate moiety and “TY” is an anion; transition metal complexes of a macropolycyclic rigid ligand—abbreviated as “MRL”. Suitable metals in the MRLs include Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Cr, V, Mo, W, Pd, and Ru in their various oxidation states. Examples of suitable MRLs include: dichloro-5,12-diethyl-1,5,8,12-tetraazabicyclo[6.6.2]hexadecane manganese(II), dichloro-5,12-diethyl-1,5,8,12-tetraazabicyclo[6.6.2]hexadecane manganese(III) hexafluorophosphate and dichloro-5-n-butyl-12-methyl-1,5,8,12-tetraaza-bicyclo[6.6.2]hexadecane manganese(II). Suitable transition metal MRLs are readily prepared by known procedures, such as taught for example in WO 00/332601, and U.S. Pat. No. 6,225,464.

Suitable activated peroxygen sources include, but are not limited to, preformed peracids, a hydrogen peroxide source in combination with a bleach activator, or a mixture thereof. Suitable preformed peracids include, but are not limited to, compounds selected from the group consisting of percarboxylic acids and salts, percarbonic acids and salts, perimidic acids and salts, peroxymonosulfuric acids and salts, and mixtures thereof. Suitable sources of hydrogen peroxide include, but are not limited to, compounds selected from the group consisting of perborate compounds, percarbonate compounds, perphosphate compounds and mixtures thereof. Suitable types and levels of activated peroxygen sources are found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,576,282, 6,306,812 B1 and 6,326,348 B1 that are incorporated by reference.

Suitable bleach activators include, but are not limited to, perhydrolyzable esters and perhydrolyzable imides such as, tetraacetyl ethylene diamine, octanoylcaprolactam, benzoyloxybenzenesulphonate, nonanoyloxybenzenesulphonate, benzoylvalerolactam, dodecanoyloxybenzenesulphonate.

Suitable bleach boosters include, but are not limited to, those described U.S. Pat. No. 5,817,614.

Nonlimiting examples of suitable enzymes include proteases, amylases, cellulases, lipases, and others. Suitable proteases include subtilisins from Bacillus [e.g. subtilis, lentus, licheniformis, amyloliquefaciens (BPN, BPN′), alcalophilus,] under the tradenames of Esperase®, Alcalase®, Everlase® and Savinase® (from Novozymes), BLAP and variants (from Henkel). Other suitable proteases are described in EP130756, WO 91/06637, WO 95/10591 and WO 99/20726. Suitable amylases (α and/or β) are described in WO 94/02597 and WO 96/23873. Nonlimiting examples of commercially available amylases include Purafect Ox Am® (from Genencor) and Termamyl®, Natalase ®, Ban®, Fungamyl® and Duramyl® (from Novozymes). Suitable cellulases include bacterial or fungal cellulases, such as those produced by Humicola insolens, particularly DSM 1800 [commercially available as Carezyme®]. Other suitable cellulases are the EGIII cellulases produced by Trichoderma longibrachiatum. Suitable lipases include those produced by Pseudomonas and Chromobacter groups. Nonlimiting examples of commercially available lipases include Lipolase®, Lipolase Ultra®, Lipoprime® and Lipex® from Novozymes. Also suitable for use herein are cutinases [EC 3.1.1.50]; esterases; carbohydrases such as mannanase (U.S. Pat. No. 6,060,299); pectate lyase (WO 99/27083) cyclomaltodextringlucanotransferase (WO 96/33267); and xyloglucanase (WO 99/02663). Additionally, nonlimiting examples of bleaching enzymes include peroxidases, accases, oxygenases, (e.g. catechol 1,2 dioxygenase, lipoxygenase (WO 95/26393), (non-heme) haloperoxidases.

As used herein the term “perfume” refers to any odoriferous material. Suitable perfumes include but are not limited to one or more aromatic chemicals, naturally derived oils and mixtures thereof. Chemical classes for such aromatic chemicals and essential oils include but are not limited to alcohols, aldehydes, esters, ketones. Perfume is commonly provided with a perfume delivery system.

Suitable perfume delivery systems include but are not limited to perfume loaded cyclodextrins, amine assisted delivery compositions, polymer-assisted perfume systems, reactive/pro-perfume systems and inorganic carrier systems. Perfume loaded cyclodextrin delivery compositions comprise perfume materials or blends complexed with cyclodextrin type materials—a majority of the cyclodextrin may be alpha-, beta-, and/or gamma-cyclodextrin, or simply beta-cyclodextrin. Processes for producing cyclodextrins and cyclodextrin delivery compositions are further described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,812,011, 4,317,881, 4,418,144 and 5,552,378.

Amine assisted delivery systems comprise one or more perfumes and a polymeric and/or non-polymeric amine material that is added separately from the perfume to the finished products. Such systems are described in WO 03/33635 and WO 03/33636.

Polymer-assisted delivery systems use physical bonding of polymeric materials and perfumes to deliver perfume materials. Suitable polymer assisted systems, include but not limited to, reservoir systems (coacervates, microcapsules, starch encapsulates), and matrix systems (polymer emulsions, latexes). Such systems are further described in WO 01/79303, WO 00/68352, WO 98/28339, and U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,188,753 and 4,746,455.

Reactive/pro perfumes systems include, but are not limited to, polymeric pro-perfumes that comprise perfume materials, typically aldehyde or ketone perfumes, reacted with polymeric carriers, typically nitrogen based carriers, prior to addition to a product; non-polymeric pro-perfume systems that comprise perfume materials reacted with non-polymeric materials for example, Michael adducts (β-amino ketones), Schiff bases (imines), oxazolidines, β-keto esters, orthoesters and photo pro-perfumes. Such systems are further described in WO 00/24721, WO 02/83620 and U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,013,618 and 6,451,751.

Inorganic carrier systems that comprise inorganic materials (porous zeolites, silicas, etc.) that are loaded with one or more perfume materials. Such systems are further described in U.S. Pat. Nos.: 5,955,419, 6,048,830 and 6,245,732.

Suitable odor control agents include agents include, cyclodextrins, odor neutralizers, odor blockers and mixtures thereof. Suitable odor neutralizers include aldehydes, flavanoids, metallic salts, water-soluble polymers, zeolites, activated carbon and mixtures thereof.

Other cleaning agents suitable for use herein include, but are not limited to, builders including the insoluble types such as zeolites including zeolites A, P and the so-called maximum aluminum P as well as the soluble types such as the phosphates and polyphosphates, any of the hydrous, water-soluble or water-insoluble silicates, 2,2′-oxydisuccinates, tartrate succinates, glycolates, NTA and many other ethercarboxylates or citrates; chelants including EDTA, S,S′-EDDS, DTPA and phosphonates; water-soluble polymers, copolymers and terpolymers; soil release polymers; optical brighteners; processing aids such as crisping agents and/fillers; anti-redeposition agents; hydrotropes, such as sodium, or calcium cumene sulfonate, potassium napthalenesulfonate, or the like, humectant; other perfumes or pro-perfumes; dyes; photobleaches; thickeners; simple salts; alkalis such as those based on sodium or potassium including the hydroxides, carbonates, bicarbonates and sulfates and the like; and combinations of one or more of these compositions.

Suitable finishing aids includes, but are not limited to, finishing polymers, fabric softening agents, anti-static agents, odor control agent, odor neutralizers, perfume, insect and/or moth repelling agents and mixtures thereof.

The finishing polymers can be natural, or synthetic, and can act by forming a film, and/or by providing adhesive properties. For example, the present invention can optionally use film-forming and/or adhesive polymer to impart shape retention to fabric, particularly clothing. By “adhesive” it is meant that when applied as a solution or a dispersion to a fiber surface and dried, the polymer can attach to the surface. The polymer can form a film on the surface, or when residing between two fibers and in contact with the two fibers, it can bond the two fibers together.

Nonlimiting examples of the finishing polymer that are commercially available are: polyvinylpyrrolidone/dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate copolymer, such as Copolymer 958®, molecular weight of about 100,000 and Copolymer 937, molecular weight of about 1,000,000, available from GAF Chemicals Corporation; adipic acid/dimethylaminohydroxypropyl diethylenetriamine copolymer, such as Cartaretin F-4® and F-23, available from Sandoz Chemicals Corporation; methacryloyl ethyl betaine/methacrylates copolymer, such as Diaformer Z-SM®, available from Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation; polyvinyl alcohol copolymer resin, such as Vinex 2019®, available from Air Products and Chemicals or Moweol®, available from Clariant; adipic acid/epoxypropyl diethylenetriamine copolymer, such as Delsette 101®, available from Hercules Incorporated; polyamine resins, such as Cypro 515®, available from Cytec Industries; polyquaternary amine resins, such as Kymene 557H®, available from Hercules Incorporated; and polyvinylpyrrolidone/acrylic acid, such as Sokalan EG 310®, available from BASF.

Additional examples of suitable finishing polymers include but are not limited to starch carboxymethyl cellulose, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose, and mixtures thereof.

Suitable fabric softening agents or actives typically comprise a cationic moiety, such as a quaternary ammonium salt, which may be selected from the group consisting of: N,N-dimethyl-N,N-di(tallowyloxyethyl) ammonium methylsulfate, N-methyl-N-hydroxyethyl-N,N-di(canoyloxyethyl) ammonium methylsulfate and mixtures thereof. Additional examples of fabric softening agents include but are not limited to silicone or silicone emulsions (e.g., aminosilicones, cationic silicones), polyol polyesters (e.g., sucrose ester derivatives, and mixtures thereof.

Exemplary anti-static agents include fabric softeners which have a fatty acyl group which has an iodine value of above 20, such as N,N-di(tallowoyl-oxy-ethyl)-N,N-dimethyl ammonium methylsulfate. However, it is to be understood that the term antistatic agent is not to be limited to just this subset of fabric softeners and includes all antistatic agents.

Exemplary insect and moth repellent agents useful in the present invention can include perfume ingredients, such as citronellol, citronellal, citral, linalool, cedar extract, geranium oil, sandalwood oil, 2-(diethylphenoxy)ethanol, 1-dodecene, etc. Other examples of insect and/or moth repellents useful in the composition of the present invention are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,449,987; 4,693,890; 4,696,676; 4,933,371; 5,030,660; 5,196,200; and in “Semio Activity of Flavor and Fragrance Molecules on Various Insect Species”, B. D. Mookherjee et al., published in Bioactive Volatile Compounds from Plants, ASC Symposium Series 525, R. Teranishi, R. G. Buttery, and H. Sugisawa, 1993, pp. 35-48, all of said patents and publications being incorporated herein by reference.

Kit

A kit comprising a plurality of components is another aspect of the present invention. The components of the kit include, but are not limited to:

    • (a) a fabric finishing composition and/or a detergent composition as described herein;
    • (b) a reservoir for storing the composition;
    • (c) a dispensing device for dispensing the composition;
    • (d) attachment means for removably attaching the reservoir and/or the dispensing device to a fabric treatment apparatus;
    • (e) packaging or container for containing components (a-d).

The kit may further comprise a set of instructions, in association with the reservoir or the packaging, on how to use the kit. In one embodiment, the instruction may comprise two subsets of instructions. One subset instructs the user to assemble the components of the kit such that the dispensing device is in fluid communication with the composition in the reservoir. The other subset instructs the user how to attach and detach the reservoir and/or the dispensing device to the fabric treatment apparatus. In another embodiment where the dispensing device and the reservoir form an integral unit, the instructions need only to instruct the user how to attach and detach the integral unit to the fabric treatment apparatus.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been illustrated and described, it would be apparent to those skilled in the art that various other changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended to cover in the appended claims all such changes and modifications that are within the scope of this invention.

All percentages stated herein are by weight unless otherwise specified. It should be understood that every maximum numerical limitation given throughout this specification will include every lower numerical limitation, as if such lower numerical limitations were expressly written herein. Every minimum numerical limitation given throughout this specification will include every higher numerical limitation, as if such higher numerical limitations were expressly written herein. Every numerical range given throughout this specification will include every narrower numerical range that falls within such broader numerical range, as if such narrower numerical ranges were all expressly written herein.

All documents cited are, in relevant part, incorporated herein by reference; the citation of any document is not to be construed as an admission that it is prior art with respect to the present invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification8/142, 8/159, 68/12.18, 68/17.00R, 68/207, 68/5.00C
International ClassificationD06F43/02, D06F43/00, D06F25/00, D06F39/02
Cooperative ClassificationD06F43/02, D06F39/02, D06F43/00, D06F25/00
European ClassificationD06F25/00, D06F39/02, D06F43/02, D06F43/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 1, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: THE PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY, OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SCHEPER, WILLIAM MICHAEL;HAUGHT, JOHN CHRISTIAN;RADMYSEISKI, ARSENI VALEREVICH;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015806/0204;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050120 TO 20050131