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Publication numberUS20100205728 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/711,347
Publication dateAug 19, 2010
Filing dateFeb 24, 2010
Priority dateAug 24, 2007
Also published asDE102007040323A1, DE202007018952U1, EP2179099A1, WO2009027114A1
Publication number12711347, 711347, US 2010/0205728 A1, US 2010/205728 A1, US 20100205728 A1, US 20100205728A1, US 2010205728 A1, US 2010205728A1, US-A1-20100205728, US-A1-2010205728, US2010/0205728A1, US2010/205728A1, US20100205728 A1, US20100205728A1, US2010205728 A1, US2010205728A1
InventorsHans-Georg Mühlhausen, Frank Pessel, Ralph Butter-Jentsch, Matthias Lueken
Original AssigneeMuehlhausen Hans-Georg, Frank Pessel, Ralph Butter-Jentsch, Matthias Lueken
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Toilet Cleaner Dispenser with an Adjustable Substance Dispensing Amount
US 20100205728 A1
Abstract
Toilet cleaner dispenser for adding at least one substance preparation to a toilet bowl, comprising at least one first container having a first preparation that may be coupled to the dosing device of the toilet cleaner dispenser, wherein the toilet cleaner dispenser comprises at least one control unit and a dispenser element and/or a pump that cooperate such that at least two different, defined dispensing amounts of at least one substance preparation may be released.
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Claims(11)
1. Toilet freshener for introducing at least one active substance preparation into a toilet bowl, comprising:
at least one power source,
a control unit,
a release element and/or a pump, and
at least a first container with a first preparation able to be coupled to a dispenser of the toilet freshener,
wherein the at least one power source, control unit, release element and/or a pump, and container interact in such a way that at least two different, defined amounts of at least one active substance preparation is able to be released from the toilet freshener into the toilet bowl.
2. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, further comprising at least one valve controlled by the control unit so that a first control signal effects opening of the valve and a second control signal effects closure of the valve, whereby a first defined amount of at least one active substance preparation is released.
3. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the pump is controlled by the control unit so that a first control signal effects switching on of the pump and a second control signal effects switching off of the pump, whereby a second defined amount of at least one active substance preparation is released which is different from the first amount released.
4. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, further comprising at least one second container comprising a second composition, wherein the at least one second container can be coupled to the dispenser.
5. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the release of preparation is brought about by a first pump, which may be coupled to the first container, and a second pump, which may be coupled to the second container.
6. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the control unit generates a control signal for releasing active substance preparation when flushing is initiated and generates a control signal for terminating active substance release once flush water has stopped flowing through the toilet bowl.
7. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the first amount released and at least the second amount released stem from the same or different active substance preparations.
8. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the first amount released and at least the second amount released are released at different points in time.
9. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the sensor unit detects initiation of the flush water stream substantially without intervening in flush water flow and generates a sensor signal, which is forwarded to the control unit, which converts the sensor signal into a control signal for release of at least one preparation, and the power source, the control unit and at least the first container interact in such a manner that, in the presence of the control signal which represents initiation of the flush water stream, at least the first preparation is released from the first container into the surrounding environment by means of a pump and/or a release element.
10. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the pump and/or release element and at least the first preparation are configured such that a foam is formed on release of the preparation into the surrounding environment.
11. Toilet freshener according to claim 1, wherein the release element is arranged in movable manner on the toilet freshener in such a manner that the user can orient the spray cone producible by the release element onto a desired application field.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is a continuation of International Application No. PCT/EP2008/054195 filed 8 Apr. 2008, which claims the benefit of German Patent Application No. 10 2007 040 323.4 filed 24 Aug. 2007, both of which are incorporated herein by reference.

The present invention relates to a toilet freshener with electromechanically effected release of adjustable amounts of preparations in or on a toilet bowl.

Accurate dispensing of flowable or pourable compositions is relevant in a large number of fields of application.

Domestically, dispensing of flowable substances is increasing in importance, based primarily on exact, controlled dispensing of active substances so that the environment is protected by conservation of resources and prevention of incorrect or over-dispensing, while efficiency of the active substances dispensed in this way is optimized.

Dispensing of cleaning and fragrancing compositions in the toilet area is currently performed primarily by “toilet fresheners”. These are single- or multi-chamber containers which are hung in the toilet bowl in such a way that an active substance is released from the toilet freshener into the toilet bowl during the flushing process of flushing the toilet bowl with water.

Such devices are known, for example, from EP0828902 or DE10113036.

A significant disadvantage of these toilet fresheners is that dispensing depends substantially on local flow conditions in the toilet bowl during the flushing process. However, flow conditions can vary widely, depending on the type of toilet and positioning of the toilet freshener in or on the toilet bowl. For example, with certain toilets it is possible that no active substance is released from the toilet freshener due to no or insufficient water flowing over the toilet freshener during the flushing process, resulting in the dispensing mechanism of the toilet freshener not being initiated.

Toilet fresheners described in the art are known which supply a solid or gel-form active substance and are arranged under the rim of the toilet bowl directly in the flush water stream. Active substances are typically released from such toilet fresheners by penetration of flush water through openings in the toilet freshener, at least partially dissolving the active substances and discharging them away from the toilet freshener when the flush water exits through corresponding outlet openings. Depending on how the toilet freshener is arranged in the toilet, the amount of flow through it can vary due to very different flow conditions locally in flush water outlet from the toilet bowl rim, resulting in only a slight release of active substances. In extreme cases, it is possible that no active substance is released from the toilet freshener if the toilet freshener is arranged in an area in which the flush water flows poorly or not at all. It may not be possible for a user to determine which area of a toilet is flowed over sufficiently well but not too violently and therefore well suited for placement of the toilet freshener.

In addition, the amounts of active substance released can be influenced by the temperature of the flushing water, so that a greater release of active substance is observed in warmer months than is released in the colder months of the year.

To ensure that toilet bowls are cleaned with toilet freshener in an environmental manner, defined, constant dispensing appropriate to requirements of the active ingredient compositions is assuming much greater significance.

It is therefore an object of the invention to avoid the disadvantages of the toilet freshener of the above-described type and to provide a toilet freshener which provides adjustable release of active substances from a toilet freshener.

A significant advantage of the toilet freshener according to the invention is that active substances are dispensed into the toilet bowl in a manner appropriate to requirements, thereby achieving active substance use which is more effective and better conserves resources.

This is accomplished by a toilet freshener having at least a first container with a first preparation, wherein the container can be coupled to the dispenser of the toilet freshener. The toilet freshener further includes at least one power source, a control unit and a release element and/or pump which interact in such a way that at least two different, defined amounts of at least one preparation can be released from the toilet freshener into the toilet bowl.

Release of a defined amount means in this connection that the amount released is independent of the amount and/or the duration of flush water flow and of the positioning of the toilet freshener in the or on the toilet bowl and is determined by the control unit of the toilet freshener.

Many toilets these days provide a “water saving function” in addition to the “normal” flushing option which, when actuated, releases a smaller amount of flush water, usually for a shorter period. The toilet freshener according to the invention allows for positioning of the toilet freshener in any desired way on the toilet bowl to achieve optimum active substance release relative to the amount of flush water and duration of flushing.

The toilet freshener according to the invention consists of various components which may in turn be combined into assemblies. These components include at least one pump, a release element, a control unit, a sensor unit, a power source, a container, a fastening means and a preparation. In a preferred embodiment, the pump, control unit, sensor unit and power source are combined into a “dispenser” assembly. The components and assemblies are described below.

Dispenser—

The dispenser can include the power source needed to operate the toilet freshener, its control unit, sensor unit and at least one pump. Preferably, the dispenser includes a housing for protection from water splashing into the interior of the dispenser, as may occur when the toilet freshener is used in a toilet bowl.

It is also preferred to have the dispenser arranged on the outer rim of the toilet bowl, further enabling protection from exposure to water splashes as well as convenient operation of the dispenser. In addition, by having a dispenser that does not project into the interior of the toilet, the useful cross-sectional area of the toilet bowl is not reduced.

Since, depending on their intended purpose, dispensible preparations can have a pH value of from 2 to 12, any component of the toilet freshener which contacts these preparations should have appropriate acid and/or alkali resistance. In addition, suitable material selection should ensure that these components are as far as possible chemically inert (e.g., in relation to nonionic surfactants, enzymes and/or fragrances).

It is particularly advantageous for electrical components of the toilet freshener such as the power source, control unit and sensor unit to be encapsulated or housed separately or together so that the dispenser is substantially water-tight (i.e., the dispenser is thus functional even when completely surrounded by liquid). Examples of useful encapsulation materials include multicomponent epoxide and acrylate encapsulation compounds such as methacrylate esters, urethane meth- and cyanoacrylates or two-component materials comprising polyurethanes, silicones, epoxy resins.

A significant advantage of the invention is the separation of the toilet freshener into a dispenser and a container coupled with the dispenser, whereby the toilet freshener is flexible and adapted for the widest possible range of applications.

Pump—

For the present application, a pump is a fluid power machine for moving or delivering in particular small quantities of fluid by converting mechanical drive power into flow power.

Fluids are understood to be liquids and gases, and mixtures thereof and with solids.

Pumps include positive-displacement pumps, oscillatory pumps, diaphragm pumps, piston pumps, rotary pumps, dynamic pumps, centrifugal pumps, electrohydrodynamic pumps, electroosmotic pumps, magnetohydrodynamic pumps, surface acoustic wave pumps, capillary pumps, electrowetting pumps, thermocapillary pumps.

The pump is either connected directly to the power source or the control unit is interposed therebetween.

In a further embodiment of the invention the release of at least one preparation can occur merely by gravity without use of a pump. Release of the preparation from the container into the surrounding environment can be controlled in this configuration, for example, by a valve which opens to release the preparation and closes to prevent release. The valve can be controlled directly by the power source or by the control unit connected therebetween.

The pump, sensor and control unit are advantageously configured so that a defined amount of active substance preparation is released into the toilet bowl irrespective of the arrangement of the toilet freshener in or on the toilet bowl and/or of the amount of flush water to which the toilet freshener is exposed.

The pump likewise makes it possible for at least two different, defined amounts of at least one active substance preparation to be released. A significant advantage of this embodiment of the invention is that active substances are dispensed into the toilet bowl in a manner appropriate to requirements, thereby achieving active substance use which is more effective and better conserves resources.

In a further development of the invention, the pump is configured in such a way that it is able to release an active substance preparation with a viscosity of <5000 mPa·s.

Micropump—

Delivery rate of a micropump amounts conventionally to from 50 nl to 100 ml per minute, preferably from 250 nl to 30 ml per minute, particularly preferably from 500 nl to 5 ml per minute.

Preferably the micropump has a structural volume of about 5 cm3 or less, particularly preferably of about 3 cm3 or less, particularly preferably of about 2 cm3 or less.

The specific delivery rate of a micropump (calculated from the ratio of the delivery rate to the structural volume of a micropump) is typically about 500 [l/min] or less. The specific delivery rate preferably lies from 1 to 300, particularly preferably from 1.5 to 200, particularly preferably from 2 to 150, very particularly preferred from 2.5 to 100 l/min.

Diaphragm Pumps—

Diaphragm pumps are particularly advantageous for dispensing cleaning and active substance preparations as well as fragrances.

Diaphragm pumps typically include an inlet valve and an outlet valve respectively leading into and out of a pump chamber, formed in part from a pump diaphragm, and an actuator.

When the inlet valve is closed, the actuator causes compression of the pump chamber by acting mechanically on the pump diaphragm, whereby the fluid located in the pump chamber is conveyed out of the pump chamber via the open outlet valve.

Once the discharge process is complete, the outlet valve is closed and decompression of the pump chamber is effected by the actuator, whereby the fluid is then drawn into the pump chamber via the now open inlet valve.

By suitable configuration and/or control of the valves and of the actuator, delivery direction of the micropump can be influenced or reversed.

The diaphragm pump actuator can be electromotive, piezoceramic, bimetallic, memory metallic, pneumatic, peristaltic, electrostatic, electromagnetic or thermal drive units.

The valves can be active or passive valves. Passive valves include clack valves, diaphragm valves or no-moving-parts valves.

Depending on the field of application, pressure-side release of the preparation from the dispenser can occur dropwise, as a jet or spray, by diffusion or by vaporization.

For preparations having a tendency to form deposits over extended storage, it may be advantageous to arrange the container housing the preparation on the pressure side of the pump. In this configuration, only a fluid containing no deposit-forming substances is delivered through the pump. In this case, it is particularly advantageous to use air as the fluid.

The fluid is pumped into the container under pressure. The container has a pressure equalizing valve which, when a defined pressure in the container is exceeded, allows the product to flow out of the container.

In this way it is in particular possible to use the dispenser for a variety of preparations without jeopardizing the functionality of the pump due to possible deposits or reactions between two preparations.

Release Elements—

Release elements are any kind of device suitable for releasing an active substance into the surrounding environment of the dispenser.

Release elements can include nozzles, spray heads, droplet dispensers, foam spray heads, piezo elements, porous elements, wick systems, capillary systems, nebulizers, ultrasound nebulizers, ionization nebulizers etc.

Nozzles, spray heads, droplet dispensers, foam spray heads, piezo elements and the like are particularly suitable for releasing active substances into the toilet or onto the interior surfaces of the toilet bowl.

Nozzles, atomizers, spray heads, piezo elements, sintered plates, porous elements, wick systems and the like are particularly suitable for releasing active substance preparations into the air.

Release elements can have the same or different spray cone shapes when releasing the preparations. Accordingly, it is possible for one release element to produce a jet with a somewhat narrow or directed application area, while another release element produces a broad application field. Obviously, various combinations of the most varied spray cone shapes are possible.

In particular, the release element can be arranged in movable manner on the toilet freshener that allows the user to orient the spray cone on the release element onto a desired application field. The release element can also permit adjustment of the spray cone shape.

The release element can also provide electrostatic charging of active substance droplets, thereby improving the wetting, adhesion and/or distribution of the active substance on a surface and/or in the air.

The release element can also be constructed as a fan configured either to improve air quality by drawing in malodors or optimize active substance distribution in or on the toilet bowl.

Release elements can further be configured so that one or more active substances are released in different directions from one another. The following table provides a non-exhaustive list of some possible configurations regarding the direction of release.

Direction of release A Direction of release B
Release of fragrance into Release of fragrance into
toilet bowl surrounding environment
Release of cleaning agent Release of cleaning agent under
into toilet bowl the toilet rim/during flushing
or outside the flushing process
Release of cleaning agent Release of fragrance into
into toilet bowl surrounding environment

Further desired combinations of the configurations shown in the above table are also possible.

It is advantageous to arrange the release element in a movable manner on the clip of the toilet freshener. Doing so allows the user to orient the release element and spray cone of the preparation in order to wet a defined application field in or on the toilet with the preparation.

The release element(s) is/are advantageously configured so that, irrespective of the positioning of the toilet freshener on the toilet bowl, a defined amount of at least one active substance preparation is released in a directed and defined manner into the interior of a toilet bowl. Advantages of such a development include more specific exposure of surfaces of the toilet bowl to one or more active substances, as well as the ability to treat different surfaces with different active substances. For example, considering a German style flat-pan toilet, the pan portion can be wetted with an active substance for reducing adhesions, while an active substance for reducing lime deposits can be applied onto the funnel-shaped walls extending from the pan to the rim of the toilet.

Control Unit—

A control unit in the present application is a device suitable for influencing the transport of material, energy and/or information. To this end, the control unit acts on transducers with information which it processes for achieving the control objective.

Transducers include, for example, pumps and/or valves.

In a preferred development of the invention the toilet freshener does not make use of any mechanical control elements for product release, enabling the toilet freshener to be miniaturized so that it may also be used in applications in which the size of the toilet freshener is critical.

The control unit can include a programmable microprocessor. In a particularly preferred embodiment of the invention, a plurality of dispensing programs are stored in the microprocessor for selection and execution depending on the container coupled to the toilet freshener. It is also possible for the dispensing programs to be manually invoked by the user.

The control unit is preferably arranged on the outwardly facing side of the toilet bowl, allowing it to be operated by the user, in particular, when the user is sitting on the toilet.

In a particularly preferred development of the invention, the control unit has a dispensing program for introducing at least two different active substance preparations into a toilet bowl or into the surrounding environment of the toilet bowl, wherein in at least two successive points in time t1 and t2 at least two different active substance preparations are released, with at least one active substance preparation introduced into the interior of a toilet bowl.

Such a dispensing program allows optimized cleaning performance due to control of possible chemical reactions based on appropriately time-offset release of the corresponding preparation or preparations, some examples of which are listed in the following table.

t1 t2 Advantage
Cleaning product Fragrance in Optimized fragrance development, since fragrance is
in toilet bowl toilet bowl after released into the toilet bowl after flushing and is
during flushing flushing consequently not flushed away with the flush water.
process Fragrance is not “decomposed” by cleaning preparation.
Fragrance in Cleaning product Optimized fragrance development, since fragrance is
toilet bowl in toilet bowl released into the toilet bowl before flushing and is
immediately during flushing consequently not flushed away with the flush water.
before use process Fragrance is not “decomposed” by cleaning preparation.
Cleaning product Cleaning product Cleaning product A may prevent adhesions in the toilet
A in toilet bowl B in toilet bowl bowl by a protective film of cleaning product A being
immediately during flushing applied in the toilet bowl immediately before the toilet is
before use process used, which protective film is then flushed back off the
toilet surface by cleaning product B during the flushing
process.

Another advantage is that a controlled release of one or more different fragrances can be implemented, thereby at least reducing dependence on the sense of smell. This can be accomplished by cyclic and pulsed release of fragrance as described in the art. Furthermore, dependence on smell can also be reduced by releasing different fragrances in succession.

The toilet freshener can also dispense a defoamer into the toilet bowl before or during the flushing process. Excessive foaming before or during the flushing process often causes toilet paper to float on this foam so that it is not properly flushed away, but instead floats in the toilet bowl after completion of the flushing process. Consumers consider this unappealing. By dispensing the defoamer before or during the flushing process, excessive foaming can be prevented, ensuring that the toilet paper is reliably flushed away. In addition or as an alternative to the defoamer, cellulose-dissolving substances may also be added.

The control can be constructed so that parameters in the dispensing programs are adjustable. For example, sensor threshold values can be adjusted during preconfiguration of the toilet freshener or by the user during use in order to trigger active substance release at a specific sensor threshold value. Setting one or more parameters can be achieved by an appropriately configured input device on the toilet freshener. In this way, control of the toilet freshener may be further optimized and adapted to a specific instance of use.

In a further, preferred embodiment of the invention the control unit generates a control signal for releasing active substance preparation when flushing is initiated, and a control signal for terminating active substance release once flush water has stopped flowing through the toilet bowl.

In another development of the toilet freshener according to the invention, the first amount released and at least the second amount released originate from identical or different active substance preparations.

According to a further preferred embodiment, the first amount released and at least the second amount released are released at different points in time.

In a further, advantageous development of the invention, the release element and at least the first preparation are configured such that a foam is formed on release of the preparation into the surrounding environment.

In a further, alternative development of the invention, the pump, the release element and at least the first preparation are configured such that a foam is formed on release of the preparation into the surrounding environment.

Foaming exhibits a plurality of possible advantages. On the one hand, a foam is capable of particularly effectively trapping and minimizing malodors thanks to its pore and cell structure. On the other hand, the foam may also be applied onto the surface of the toilet bowl as an “anti-caking” coating in order to reduce adhesions of excreted metabolites to these surfaces.

It is advantageous to this end for the release element to take the form of a foam spray head and for the preparation to have a viscosity of less than 3000 mPa·s, such that a maximally stable, effectively adhering and fine-pored foam can be formed.

Sensor Unit—

The sensor unit can include one or more active and/or passive sensors for the qualitative and/or quantitative detection of mechanical, electrical, physical and/or chemical variables, which are then forwarded to the control unit as control signals.

In particular, sensors in the sensor unit include timers, infrared sensors, brightness sensors, temperature sensors, motion sensors, strain sensors, rotational speed sensors, proximity sensors, flow sensors, color sensors, gas sensors, vibration sensors, pressure sensors, conductivity sensors, turbidity sensors, instantaneous acoustic pressure sensors, “lab-on-a-chip” sensors, force sensors, acceleration sensors, inclination sensors, pH sensors, moisture sensors, magnetic field sensors, RFID sensors, magnetic field sensors, Hall sensors, biochips, odor sensors, hydrogen sulfide sensors and/or MEMS sensors.

In a simple embodiment, the sensor unit can be in the form of a toggle, pressure or momentary-contact switch.

For preparations whose viscosity fluctuates greatly as a function of temperature, it is advantageous to provide flow sensors in the dispenser for monitoring the volume or mass of the dispensed preparations. Suitable flow sensors include diaphragm flow sensors, magnetic-inductive flow meters, mass flow metering using the Coriolis method, eddy flow metering, ultrasound flow metering, rotameter metering, annular piston flow metering, thermal mass flow metering or differential pressure flow metering.

It is also possible to store a viscosity curve as a function of temperature for at least one preparation in the control unit, so that dispensing is adjusted by the control unit in accordance with the temperature and thus the viscosity of the preparation.

In another embodiment of the invention, a device for direct determination of the viscosity of the preparation is provided.

The alternatives mentioned above for determining dispensing amount and/or viscosity of a preparation generate a control signal which is processed by the control unit for controlling a pump, thereby inducing constant dispensing of a preparation.

In another preferred embodiment of the invention, the sensor is configured so that detection of a flushing process is achieved without any significant influenced on flow conditions in the toilet bowl. For example, ultrasonic sensors may be used for this purpose.

Furthermore, it is advantageous to have a dispensing process in which a defined amount of a preparation is released, for example, over a time of about 20 seconds or less, preferably about 10 seconds or less, particularly preferably about 5 seconds or less. By providing the shortest possible dispensing period in which a preparation is released into the surrounding environment, the dispenser can be available for the next dispensing period and also ensure effective release of preparation, even if a toilet is in continual use.

Power Source—

For the purposes of the present application, a power source refers to a component of the dispenser capable of providing power suitable for autonomous operation of the dispenser.

The power source preferably provides electrical power. The power source can be, for example, a battery, a mains power supply, solar cells or the like.

It is also possible to wirelessly transmit the electrical power required for operating the dispenser from an appropriate transmitter to a corresponding receiver in the dispenser.

It is particularly advantageous to make the power source replaceable (e.g., in the form of a replaceable battery).

However, it is also possible for the power source to be a mechanical power source such as a dynamo, which converts mechanical or fluidic energy into electrical power. This can then be stored in suitable storage elements such as a capacitor or storage battery.

Container—

For the purposes of the present application, a container refers to a packaging container suitable for enclosing or holding preparations, and which can be coupled to the dispenser for release of the preparation.

A particularly preferred arrangement is one in which two containers are provided, preferably separate from one another, each containing an active substance fluid. However, there can also be a plurality of storage containers for a plurality of active substance fluids. The storage containers can be separate from one another in order to prevent premature mixing of the active substance fluids. They may be physically separate containers or separate compartments in a single container body.

The volume ratio of the structural volume of the dispenser and the capacity of the container preferably amounts to <1, particularly preferably <0.1, particularly preferably <0.05. This ensures that, in the case of a predetermined overall structural volume of dispenser and container, the predominant proportion of the structural volume is occupied by the container and the preparation contained therein.

The container can have a capacity of <5000 ml, in particular <1000 ml, preferably <500 ml, particularly preferably <250 ml, very particularly preferably <50 ml.

The invention is suitable for dimensionally stable containers such as pots, tins, capsules, cartridges, bottles, canisters, cans, cartons, drums or tubes, but may also be used for flexible containers such as pouches or bags, particularly if they are used in accordance with the bag-in-bottle principle.

A container can also include a plurality of chambers which can be filled with different compositions. It is also conceivable for a plurality of containers to be combined into a unit (e.g., into a cartridge).

The following table shows examples of possible combinations of containers or chambers with corresponding preparations for some applications.

Container A Container B Container C
Cleaning agent Fragrance
Cleaning agent A Cleaning agent B
Cleaning agent A Cleaning agent B Fragrance

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the container has an RFID label containing at least information about the container's content and which is readable by the sensor unit.

This information can be used to select a dispensing program stored in the control unit. By doing so, it can be ensured that the ideal dispensing program is always used for a specific preparation. It is also possible that, in the absence of an RFID label or in the case of an RFID label with an incorrect or defective ID, the dispenser does not dispense, but instead an optical or acoustic signal is produced which notifies the user of the error.

In order to prevent misuse of the containers, the containers can also have structural elements which interact with corresponding elements of the dispenser like a key in a lock, such that only containers of a particular type are coupled to the dispenser. This embodiment makes it possible for information about the container coupled to the dispenser to be transferred to the control unit so that the dispenser can be controlled in a manner consistent with the contents of the corresponding container.

In a further development of the invention, the container can be under pressure. This is useful when the preparation is sprayed or released without requiring a pump in between. In this case, release of the preparation can be controlled or regulated, for example, by a control valve in active connection with the control unit. This embodiment has the additional advantage that no power need be provided by the power source for transporting the preparation, allowing the power source to be made smaller or have a longer anticipated life.

Fastener—

The toilet freshener can also include fasteners for fixing the toilet freshener to the toilet bowl. Fastener include suction cups, adhesive tape, clips or the like.

Alternatively, the toilet freshener can be fastened to the toilet cistern, the toilet seat or to the toilet lid. Fasteners known in the art can be used for this purpose.

Preparations—

Preparations for the purpose of these applications are compositions containing at least one substance from the group of cleaning agents and/or fragrances.

According to a further, preferred development of the invention, preparations include substances for modifying surfaces, in particular ceramic surfaces.

Preparations suitable according to the invention include, for example, fragrance phases, particularly perfumed fragrance phases. Such fragrance phases typically contain at least one fragrance, preferably a perfume oil, at least one surfactant or emulsifier, and water, as well as optionally further ingredients such as preservatives, thickeners, complexing agents, dyes, further surfactants, or emulsifiers, stabilizers, limescale removers etc.

Bleach phases, in particular chlorine-containing bleach phases, preferably hypochlorite-based bleach phases, are likewise suitable as preparations according to the invention, wherein the bleach phases can contain additional ingredients such as thickeners, surfactants or emulsifiers, neutralizing agents, dyes, fragrances etc.

Further preparations suitable according to the invention include limescale removing active substance phases, preferably acidic limescale removing active substance phases. In addition to the actual limescale remover (which preferably comprises an organic or inorganic acid) and water, such limescale removing active substance phases can optionally contain further ingredients such as surfactants or emulsifiers, thickeners, fragrances, preservatives etc.

It is also possible to use highly concentrated surfactant phases, or “foam boosters” as they are known, as preparations. In addition to the surfactants, such highly concentrated surfactant phases can also contain other conventional ingredients. Foam boosters are advantageous for pretreating the toilet bowl with a carpet of foam in order, for example, to prevent adhesion of excreted metabolites on the surface of the toilet and/or to reduce and/or trap malodors.

Preparations having an antibacterial and/or fungicidal and/or antiviral active substance phase are likewise suitable according to the invention, wherein in addition to the antibacterial and/or fungicidal and/or antiviral active substance and water, the active substance phase can also contain other ingredients such as surfactants or emulsifiers, thickeners, fragrances, preservatives etc.

It is also possible for the preparations to have enzyme-containing active substance phases. In addition to enzyme(s) and water, such enzyme-containing active substance phases can optionally contain further ingredients such as surfactants or emulsifiers, thickeners, fragrances, preservatives, etc.

It is likewise possible for the preparations used according to the invention to be absorbent, in particular, odor-absorbing active substance phases. In addition to the absorbent, in particular odor absorbent and water, the phases can also contain other ingredients such as surfactants or emulsifiers, thickeners, fragrances, preservatives etc.

According to one particular embodiment, the toilet freshener according to the invention allows the use of different combinations of preparations in the storage containers, wherein one of the storage containers can contain a fragrance phase as defined above.

Examples of useful preparation combinations include a perfumed fragrance phase combined with chlorine bleach (which are not stable when stored together), perfumed fragrance phase with highly concentrated surfactant phase (foam boosters), fragrance phase with limescale removing, acidic active substance phase, fragrance phase with antibacterial active substance phase, various acid systems, fragrance phase combined with enzyme-containing active substance phase, perfumed acid phase combined with water-coloring phase, fragrance phase with odor-absorbing phase, perfumed acid phase with active oxygen, perfumed acid phase with active substance phase, polyacrylate-thickened etc.

Of particular interest are high-viscosity to gel-like active substance fluids having viscosities of a few thousand mPa·s, in particular from about 200 to about 5000 mPa·s, preferably about 500 to about 3500 mPa·s (measured with RotoVisko LVTV II, spindle 31, 5 rpm, 20° C.).

In a further, preferred development of the invention the preparations have a viscosity of about 2000 mPa·s or less, in particular about 1000 mPa·s or less (measured with RotoVisko LVTV II, spindle 31, 5 rpm, 20° C.). Such low-viscosity to watery preparations are particularly suitable if the preparation is sprayed into or onto the toilet bowl.

Using low-viscosity active substance preparations in toilet fresheners according to the invention allows for substantially faster and more accurate dispensing, as well as dispensing with the use of thickening systems. Furthermore, active substance systems which can only be prepared in low viscosities can be used, for example, based on chlorine, HCl, etc.

According to a further embodiment of the invention, the preparation can be pressurized. This is advantageous when the preparation is sprayed or released without requiring a pump in between. In this case, release of the preparation can be controlled or regulated by a control valve actively connected to the control unit. This embodiment has the further advantage that no power is required by the power source for transporting the preparation, allowing the power source to be made smaller or have a longer anticipated life.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a preparation container on the suction side of the pump.

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a preparation container on the pressure side of the pump.

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a two-chamber preparation container on the suction side of the pump.

FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a passive valve-controlled two-chamber preparation container on the suction side of the pump.

FIG. 4A is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with an active valve-controlled two-chamber preparation container on the suction side of the pump.

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with two pump-connected preparation containers.

FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating one method of controlling a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a pump.

FIG. 7 is a flow chart illustrating one method of controlling a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a pump and multi-chamber preparation container.

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating one method of controlling a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a plurality of pumps and multi-chamber preparation container.

FIG. 9 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with an RFID label on a preparation container.

FIG. 10 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a removable refill container.

FIG. 11 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a refill container fixed to a dispenser.

FIG. 12 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a battery built into the refill container.

FIG. 13 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a two-chamber refill container and two pumps.

FIG. 14 is a schematic block diagram of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a two-chamber refill container, pump, and control valve.

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with an extendible clip.

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a removable container and wick system.

FIG. 17 is a side view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a release element arranged at the end of the clip.

FIG. 18 is a top view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with a release element arranged at the end of the clip, with the freshener attached to a toilet bowl.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with individually replaceable containers.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a release element according to the present invention with integrated sensor unit and two release nozzles.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a release element according to the present invention with integrated sensor unit, two release nozzles and two spray cones.

FIG. 22 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with release element and two spray cones, looking down onto a toilet bowl.

FIG. 23 is a side view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with release element arranged under the toilet rim and two differently oriented spray cones.

FIG. 24 is a side view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with the release element arranged under the toilet rim and a spray cone directed under the rim of the toilet.

FIG. 25 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a toilet freshener according to the present invention with two individually replaceable containers and a viewing flap in closed and open positions.

FIG. 1 shows a toilet freshener 1 according to the invention consisting of a dispenser 2 and a container 9 connected with the dispenser 2 and containing a preparation 10.

The dispenser 2 includes a power source 3, a control unit 4, a sensor unit 5 and a pump 6, wherein all components are preferably incorporated in a housing. The pump 6 is connected to the power source 3 via the control unit 4. The control unit 4 is in turn connected to the sensor unit 5, which directs the control signals for controlling the pump 6 to the control unit 4.

The pump 6 has a pressure line 7 and a suction line 8, with the suction line 8 connected to the container 9 containing the preparation 10. The pump 6 delivers the flowable preparation 10 via the suction line 8 from the container 9 into the pressure line 7, from which the preparation 10 is released into the surrounding environment of the toilet freshener 1. The pressure line 7 can be configured so that it counteracts gelation of the released preparation (e.g., by selection of a suitable diameter).

The container 9 can have a pressure equalizing valve 11 for equalizing the pressure between the surrounding environment and the interior of the container 9 when the pump 6 is pumping preparation 10 out of the container 9.

The pump 6 can be actuated by the control unit 4 so that the delivery direction of the pump 6 is reversed, and preparation still present in the pump 6 and lines 7 and 8 is delivered back into the container 9. This back-flushing can be advantageous when the preparation 10 thickens, clogging the lines 7 or 8.

FIG. 2 shows a further embodiment of the dispenser from FIG. 1 wherein the container 9 is connected to the pressure side of the pump 6. Here, the pump 6 builds up pressure in the container 9 by pumping ambient air into the container 9, thereby expelling the preparation from the container 9. A valve 11 can be provided on the preparation outlet side of the container 9, permitting release of the preparation 10 from the container 9 when a defined pressure is reached in the container 9. This can be useful when dispensing is by a defined spray jet or spray mist, and not dropwise.

In addition, a non-return valve 11 a can be provided in the pressure line 7 between the pump 6 and the container 9, preventing pressure built up in the container 9 from escaping through the pressure line 7 when the pump 6 is at a standstill.

FIG. 3 shows the dispenser 2 from FIG. 1 wherein a two-chamber container formed from the containers 9 and 13 is connected to the suction line 8 of the pump 6. The containers 9 and 13 can each contain different compositions 10 and 14.

The containers 9 and 13 can each have pressure equalizing valves 11, 12.

The outlet openings at the bottom of the containers 9 and 13 are connected to the suction line 8 and pump 6 so that the preparations 10 and 14 are pumped through the suction line 8 in a defined ratio to one another. It may be necessary to adjust the flow conditions in the pressure lines 8 leading to the outlet openings at the bottom of the containers 9 and 13.

When more than two different preparations 10 and 14 are used, it is advantageous to control dispensing so that two mutually compatible preparations are conveyed in succession through the lines 7, 8 and the pump 6.

Incompatibility of two preparations can result in, for example, an exothermic reaction, thickening, flocculation, pH value modification, color change or the like.

A third container can be provided that contains a flushing fluid for cleaning at least one of the preparations 10, 14 from the lines 7, 8 and the pump 6. Air can also be used for flushing the lines 7, 8 and the pump 6. By flushing the lines 7, 8 and pump 6, it is possible to prevent residues of mutually incompatible preparations from coming into contact.

FIG. 4 illustrates a further embodiment of the toilet freshener 1 from FIG. 3. The pressure lines 8 leading to the outlet openings at the bottom of the containers 9 and 13 each have a passive valve 15 and 16, allowing defined setting of the dispensing ratios of the preparations 10 and 14 from the containers 9 and 13.

The valves 15 and 16 can also be designed as temperature-sensitive bimetallic valves that open or close when a defined temperature is reached. In particular, the valves 15 and 16 can be different bimetallic valves so that, for example, only one preparation may be conveyed by the pump 6 from one of containers 9 or 13 once a defined temperature has been reached.

A common feature of the dispensers according to FIGS. 1-4 is that the control unit 4 controls the pump 6 by processing the signals from the sensor unit 5.

A basic control algorithm 20 is shown in FIG. 6 in the form of a flow diagram.

The control algorithm 20 is activated as soon as the dispenser 2 is switched on. In a first process step 22, the control unit 4 receives the signals from the sensor unit 5. In the control unit 4, the received sensor signal is compared with a threshold value stored in the control unit 4.

In the following process step 24, a selection condition is used to check whether the sensor signal and the threshold value are in a defined relationship to one another. If the condition is met, the pump 6 is then activated by process step 25. If the condition is not met, sensor signals continue to be received and evaluated by the control unit according to process step 22.

As can be seen from process steps 25-29, the pump 6 remains in an activated state until a sensor signal arises which, on comparison with a threshold value stored in the control unit 4, causes the micropump to be switched off. According to this procedure, preparation is pumped out of the containers for as long as the sensor signal varies between two predefined threshold values, respectively, for switching the pump 6 on and off.

Alternatively, it is also possible to modify the above described controller so that a simple trigger circuit is created wherein switching on the micropump according to process step 25 causes a release of a defined amount of preparation, and then automatically switches off the micropump, without requiring a further, sensor signal-based switching off condition for the pump 6.

As shown in FIG. 4A, it is also possible to configure the valves 15 and 16 as components actively controlled by the control unit 4. In this manner, the mixing ratio of the two preparations 10 and 14 can be actively influenced in a time-variable manner.

The control scheme underlying this embodiment is shown in FIG. 7 by flow diagram 30.

FIG. 5 shows a further possibility for actively influencing the mixing ratios in time-variable manner. In this embodiment, each of the containers 9 and 13 is coupled with a pump 6 and 19 individually controlled by the control unit 4. The corresponding control algorithm is shown in FIG. 8.

FIG. 9 shows the dispenser from FIG. 1 wherein an RFID label 42 suitable for identifying the size and the contents 10 of the container 9 is arranged on the container 9.

The sensor unit 5 comprises an RFID receive unit capable of reading the information from the RFID label 42 arranged on the container 9. This information is sent as a control signal to the control unit 4 to bring about dispensing of the preparation 10 based on the contents of the container 9. In particular, control signals triggered by the RFID label 42 can be used to select a dispensing program stored in the control unit.

In this way, a multipurpose dispenser for a plurality of dispensing applications is provided, such as for dispensing of preparations in dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, toilets or living spaces.

As an alternative to the RFID label 42, a person skilled in the art may also provide other means which provide automatic identification of the container 9 and its contents 10 by the dispenser.

Furthermore, an additional release device 43 can be provided at the pressure-side opening of the pressure line 7. This release device 43 provides distribution of the preparation into the surrounding environment of the dispenser 1 different from dropwise release. This can, for example, involve jet- or spray mist-like release of the preparation or release based on vaporization or diffusion. The release device 43 can be in the form, for example, of a nozzle, atomizer, distributor plate or porous surface. In particular, the release device can be configured to counteract gelation of the released preparations.

FIG. 10 shows the toilet freshener from FIG. 1 with a container 9 detachable from the dispenser 2. The container 9 has at its lower, bottom end a connection port 47 which can be introduced into the receptacle 48 provided on the dispenser 1. The connection port 47 can be closed by closure means so that initially, in the unused state of the container 9, leakage of preparation 10 from the container 9 is prevented; however, by inserting the container 9 into the dispenser 2 or the connection port 47 into the receptacle 48, the closure means is destroyed, allowing release of the preparation 10 from the container 9 by the dispenser 2 into the surrounding environment. FIG. 11 shows the toilet freshener in its assembled state.

The control unit 4 can also be coupled with an acoustic transducer 46 for converting a voltage or current of the control unit into an audible acoustic signal. The control unit 4 can include memory for a plurality of acoustic signals and/or music and/or speech recordings, which can be retrieved and executed manually or on the basis of a sensor trigger signal (i.e., forwarded to the acoustic transducer 46).

A light 44 can be connected to the control unit 2, wherein the light 44 is turned on or off in accordance with a predefined operating state of the dispensing unit 2. The light can take the form of, for example, an LED or LCD display.

The dispenser 2 can be switched on or off with the actuating element 45. It is additionally conceivable for different programs stored in the control unit 4 to be retrieved and executed by the actuating element 45.

FIG. 12 shows a further development of the toilet freshener according to the invention in which the power source 3 in the form of a battery is incorporated in the container 9. The battery 3 is electrically conductively connected with the dispenser 2 via an appropriately configured coupling. The capacity of the battery 3 is designed to supply the dispenser 2 with power over the period of use until the preparation 10 has been completely emptied from the container 9.

FIG. 13 shows the structure of the toilet freshener according to the invention illustrated in FIG. 5 in a more detailed schematic diagram. The chamber 9 is subdivided into two chambers by a wall 49 in which a first preparation 10 and a second preparation 14 are stored. Each chamber communicates with the surrounding environment via a pressure equalizing valve 11 or 12 and has at its bottom end in each case a connection port 47 a or 47 b.

FIGS. 15-17 show a further embodiment of the toilet freshener according to the invention. The toilet freshener includes the dispenser 2 and the container 9, which is detachably fixed to the dispenser 2. The dispenser has a raised rear wall from which extends perpendicularly the fastening means 52 in the form of a clip. The clip 52 is positioned between the rim of the toilet and the toilet seat, where it is fixed to the toilet bowl by the toilet seat resting on it. As is seen from FIG. 17, a suction cup can additionally be provided on the dispenser for additionally securing the toilet freshener to the toilet by vacuum.

A pressure or strain sensor is arranged as a sensor unit 5 on the upwardly directed top side of the fastening means 52. When pressure is exerted on this sensor unit 5 (e.g., by someone sitting on a toilet seat), the sensor unit 5 generates a corresponding signal which is relayed to the control unit 4 of the dispenser 2.

The container 9 can be separable from the dispenser, as seen in FIG. 16. The container 9 has a wick system 50 in its interior, by which the preparation is released by the release element 43 a from the container 9 into the surrounding environment by evaporation. The connection port 47 and receptacle 48 in the dispenser 2 form a liquid-tight connection when container 9 and dispenser 2 are in the assembled state.

A release element 43 in the form of a nozzle head is provided on the clip 52. The nozzle head 43 is arranged in movable manner on the clip 52, such that it may be oriented by the user. Between the nozzle head 43 and clip 52, a telescopic element 53 is arranged, by means of which the length of the clip 52 and thus the point of application of the nozzle head 43 is settable. The nozzle head 43 produces a spray cone 54 from the preparation, which, as seen in FIG. 18, wets a defined application field within the toilet bowl 55.

A further, alternative development of the toilet freshener according to the invention is shown in FIG. 19. In this embodiment, the containers 9 and 13 are firmly connected to the dispenser 2 and may be refilled via an opening (not shown in FIG. 19).

FIG. 20 shows a release element 43, arranged at the distal end of the clip 52 with an integrated sensor 5 and two nozzles 56 and 57. In this embodiment, the sensor 5 is in the form of an infrared sensor or ultrasound sensor.

The nozzles 56 and 57 can be configured to produce identical or different spray cones 54 a, 54 b, as illustrated in FIG. 21. As shown in FIG. 22, the spray cones 54 a and 54 b can be directed onto the same application field in the interior of a toilet bowl 55. However, it is also apparent from FIGS. 23 and 24 that it is possible to direct the two spray cones in different directions.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 23, the release element 43 is fixed by a hook on the inside on the lower rim of the toilet bowl 55. The release element 43 is therefore displaceably arranged on the clip 52, as indicated by the arrow in FIG. 23. In addition, the toilet freshener 1 is fixed by the fastening means 50, here in the form of a suction cup, to the external rim of the toilet bowl 55.

The release element 43 has a first nozzle 56 and a second nozzle 57 which are spaced apart and arranged in the release element 43 so that their respective spray cones 54 a and 54 b point in different, non-overlapping directions. Spray cone 54 a from the first nozzle 56 is accordingly directed into the interior of the toilet bowl 55, while spray cone 54 b from the second nozzle 57 is directed onto the rim of the toilet bowl. It is also possible, as shown in FIG. 24, for a spray cone 54 b to be directed under the rim of the toilet bowl 55. The spray cones 54 a and 54 b can be identical or different compositions.

A sensor unit 5 in the form of a capacitive sensor projects from the release element under the rim of the toilet 55, enabling the sensor 5 to be exposed to water when flushing is actuated. The sensor 5 is shaped so that it has no significant influence on the path of the flushing water in the toilet bowl 55.

FIG. 25 shows a further development of the containers 9 and 13 and of the dispenser 2. The receptacle for the containers 9 and 13 in the dispenser is closable by a flap 58 arranged swivelably on the dispenser 2. With the flap 58 in the open state, the two containers 9 and 13 can be separately removed from or inserted into the receptacle of the dispenser 2.

FIG. 25 shows a further development of toilet freshener 1 having two individually replaceable containers 9 and 13 and a viewing flap 58 in closed and in open position. The viewing flap 58 is hinged to the rear wall of the toilet freshener and shaped so that the viewing flap 58 preferably completely covers the containers 9 and 13 inserted in the toilet freshener 1. The viewing flap 58 can be equipped with closures which provide child-proof closure of the viewing flap 58 with the toilet freshener, thereby preventing unintended access to the containers 9 and 13.

The lights 44 and actuating element 45 are arranged on the front of the toilet freshener so that they are not covered when the inspection or viewing flap 58 is closed, but are instead freely accessible.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US20050109795 *Nov 19, 2004May 26, 2005Furey James F.Fluid dispensing device
Classifications
U.S. Classification4/223
International ClassificationE03D9/02
Cooperative ClassificationE03D9/005, E03D9/032
European ClassificationE03D9/03C, E03D9/00E