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Title:
METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR MAINTAINING HARD FLOOR SURFACES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/145711
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method for maintaining a hard floor surface comprises applying a cleaning liquid onto the floor surface from a single cleaning liquid container, treating the floor surface, in the presence of the cleaning liquid, with a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on a contact surface between the pad and the floor surface, collecting the cleaning liquid having been used for treating the floor surface, purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and re-applying the purified cleaning liquid onto the floor surface. The purifying is performed after the collection of the cleaning liquid and before the returning of the cleaning liquid to the single cleaning liquid container. In an alternative embodiment, purifying is performed after the drawing of the cleaning liquid from the single cleaning liquid container and before the application of the cleaning liquid onto the floor surface.

Inventors:
THYSELL, Håkan (Ågatan 25A, Söderköping, SE-614 34, SE)
Application Number:
SE2009/050591
Publication Date:
December 03, 2009
Filing Date:
May 25, 2009
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HTC SWEDEN AB (Box 69, Söderköping, SE-614 22, SE)
THYSELL, Håkan (Ågatan 25A, Söderköping, SE-614 34, SE)
International Classes:
B24B7/18; A47L11/283; B24B57/02; B24D13/14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
IPENDO AB (Södergatan 15, Malmö, SE-211 34, SE)
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Claims:

CLAIMS

1. A method for maintaining a hard floor surface, comprising: applying a cleaning liquid onto the floor surface from a single cleaning liquid container, treating the floor surface, in the presence of the cleaning liquid, with a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on a contact surface between the pad and the floor surface, collecting the cleaning liquid having been used for treating the floor surface, returning the collected cleaning liquid to the single cleaning liquid container, purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and re-applying at least some of the purified cleaning liquid onto the floor surface, wherein said purifying is performed after the collection of the cleaning liquid and before the returning of the cleaning liquid to the single cleaning liquid container.

2. The method as claimed in claim 1 , wherein said purifying comprises mechanically separating debris and/or particles from the cleaning liquid.

3. The method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein said purifying comprises adding a purifying agent to the cleaning liquid.

4. The method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the treating is performed in the absence of an effective amount of detergent on the contact surface.

5. The method as claimed in any one of claims 1 -3, wherein a cleaning or surface-improving agent is added to the cleaning liquid prior to its application to the floor surface.

6. The method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein said purifying comprises purifying by a purifying device which comprises a filter having a removable filtrate receptacle.

7. The method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein said purifying comprises purifying by a purifying device which comprises a disposable filter unit.

8. A method for maintaining a hard floor surface, comprising: drawing cleaning liquid from a single cleaning liquid container, applying the cleaning liquid onto the floor surface, treating the floor surface, in the presence of the cleaning liquid, with a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on a contact surface between the pad and the floor surface, collecting the cleaning liquid having been used for treating the floor surface, purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and re-applying at least some of the purified cleaning liquid onto the floor surface, wherein said purifying is performed after the drawing of the cleaning liquid from the single cleaning liquid container and before the application of the cleaning liquid onto the floor surface.

9. The method as claimed in claim 8, wherein said purifying comprises mechanically separating debris and/or particles from the cleaning liquid.

10. The method as claimed in any one of the claims 8 or 9, wherein said purifying comprises adding a purifying agent to the cleaning liquid.

1 1. The method as claimed in any one of claims 8-10, wherein the treating is performed in the absence of an effective amount of detergent on the contact surface.

12. The method as claimed in any one of the claims 8-10, wherein a cleaning or surface-improving agent is added to the cleaning liquid prior to its application to the floor surface.

13. The method as claimed in any one of the claims 8-12, wherein said purifying comprises purifying by a purifying device which comprises a filter having a removable filtrate receptacle.

14. The method as claimed in any one of the claims 8-12, wherein said purifying comprises purifying by a purifying device which comprises a disposable filter unit.

15. A system for maintaining a hard floor surface, comprising: a floor maintenance machine, having an applicator for applying a cleaning liquid to the hard floor surface, a treatment device for treating the hard floor surface in the presence of the cleaning liquid, and a collecting device for collecting used cleaning liquid, a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on in an area where the pad is to contact hard floor surface during the treatment, a purification device for purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and a recirculation device for recirculating the purified cleaning liquid towards the applicator, the recirculation device comprising a single cleaning liquid container which is connected directly or indirectly to the applicator and to the collecting device, wherein the purification device is arranged between the collecting device and the cleaning liquid container, or between the applicator and the cleaning liquid container.

16. The system as claimed in claim 15, wherein the purification device comprises a mechanical purification device.

17. The system as claimed in claim 15 or 16, wherein the purification device comprises a filter having a removable filtrate receptacle.

18. The system as claimed in any one of claims 15-17, wherein the purification device comprises a disposable filter unit.

19. The system as claimed in any one of claims 15-18, wherein the system comprises a dispensing device for adding a purification agent to the cleaning liquid.

Description:

METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR MAINTAINING HARD FLOOR SURFACES

Technical Field

The present disclosure relates to a method and a system for maintaining floor surfaces, in particular hard floor surfaces, which may be of stone or stone-like materials, wood, laminate, polymer, linoleum, ceramic or similar materials providing a hard and generally smooth surface.

Background

Hard floors in large, generally public, areas, such as supermarkets, offices, airports, shopping centers and other buildings, are often cleaned and/or maintained using a floor maintenance machine. Such floor maintenance machines may be ridable or of a walk-behind type. A conventional floor maintenance machine, also known as scrubber/dryer or combination machine, comprises a treatment device, which may include some sort of brush or pad that contacts the floor surface to provide a scrubbing action. The floor maintenance machine further comprises a liquid applicator for providing liquid, which may be mixed with detergents and/or crystallization, polishing or other surface-improving agents, onto the floor surface in the area, which is to be treated by the treatment device.

Furthermore, the floor maintenance machine comprises a scraper for collecting liquid left on the floor surface, and a suction device for collecting the water from the floor. Hence, conventional floor maintenance machines generally comprise two liquid containers: one for clean, unused liquid, and one for dirty, used liquid. The liquid used for cleaning is generally water.

Thus, a disadvantage of prior art floor maintenance machines is that they require fairly large liquid tanks, which in turn render them bulky. Yet another disadvantage is the water consumption, which, as water is becoming a scarse resource, is becoming increasingly problematic.

Hence, there is a general need for a smaller and more convenient floor maintenance machine. There is also a need for a cleaning method, which reduces the consumption of water.

WO2006097141 A1 discloses methods and a tool for maintaining hard floor surfaces, which help eliminate the need for chemicals in connection with

floor maintenance/cleaning. However, the disclosure of WO2006097141 A1 does not provide any way of reducing water consumption.

US 6,857,162B1 discloses a cleaning or treatment device for treating floor surfaces, effectively a cleaning machine, comprising a water recirculation and purification system. The system comprises a clean solution tank and a dirty solution tank, with a filter arrangement provided in the path between the tanks. Hence, the machine disclosed in US 6,857,162B1 is still bulky, since it will need to contain a large number of components.

Hence, there is a need for a maintenance method and system, which provides for more environmentally friendly cleaning, which is reliable, simple and can be produced at a lower cost.

Summary

It is a general object of the present disclosure to provide a method and a system, which reduce water consumption in connection with cleaning of hard floors.

It is also an object to provide a less bulky floor maintenance machine. The invention is defined by the appended independent claims. Embodiments are set forth in the dependent claims, in the following description and in the drawings.

Hence, according to a first aspect, there is provided a method for maintaining a hard floor surface, which comprises applying a cleaning liquid onto the floor surface from a single cleaning liquid container, treating the floor surface, in the presence of the cleaning liquid, with a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on a contact surface between the pad and the floor surface, collecting the cleaning liquid having been used for treating the floor surface, returning the collected cleaning liquid to the single cleaning liquid container, purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and re-applying at least some of the purified cleaning liquid onto the floor surface, wherein said purifying is performed after the collection of the cleaning liquid and before the returning of the cleaning liquid to the single cleaning liquid container.

The term "maintaining" is understood as treating the floor surface in a manner, which is non-destructive to such an extent as to render it suitable for use on a daily basis. The term "maintaining" is not to be understood as limited to use on a daily basis. The term "single liquid container" is understood in a schematic sense: it may be one single liquid container, but the single liquid container may in practice be formed of two or more parallel containers, or two or more containers which are connected in series.

The invention is based on the understanding that while filtering the cleaning liquid reduces or eliminates the effect of cleaning agents, the use of the diamond fiber pad, in its turn, reduces or eliminates the need for cleaning agents in the first place, thus enabling the use of filtering and recirculation of the cleaning liquid without any major loss of effect.

With the claimed method, it is possible to reduce water consumption considerably in connection with floor maintenance/cleaning. With the reduction of water consumption, the need for clean water and waste water storage on the maintenance machine will be reduced, and the method can be practiced with a floor maintenance machine that does not need to be as bulky as other floor maintenance machines having corresponding cleaning capacity. Applicant's calculations indicate that a saving in water consumption of up to 75% may be achievable for any given maintenance machine capacity.

Purification techniques which may be used include, but are not limited to, ultraviolet light, filtration, cyclonic separation, water softening, reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, deionization, heating, electrodeionization and powdered activated carbon treatment.

The purifying may comprise mechanically separating debris and/or particles from the cleaning liquid.

The purifying may comprise purifying by a purifying device which may comprise a filter having a removable filtrate receptacle. Also, the purifying may comprise purifying by a purifying device which may comprise a disposable filter unit. Such a disposable filter unit may provide a convenient way of removing filtrate without exposing the operator to it.

In the alternative or as a complement, the purifying may comprise adding a purifying agent to the cleaning liquid.

Purification agents include, but are not limited to, disinfectant (e.g. chlorine, ozone, Hydrogen peroxide), pH regulators (e.g. lime, soda ash, acid (HCI) and carbon dioxide (C02), flocculation or coagulation agents (e.g. Iron (III) hydroxide, Aluminium hydroxide, Aluminium Hydroxychloride), activated carbon and anthracite coal. Such purification agents may be added individually or two or more in combination.

By purifying the cleaning liquid prior to its entry into the single purifying liquid container, the need for cleaning the container is reduced, since less debris from the cleaning liquid will enter the container, thus reducing the amount of material sediment formed at the bottom of the container.

Also, as a complement, a cleaning and/or surface-improving agent may be added to the cleaning liquid prior to its application to the floor surface. The purification process may be a multi-step process, comprising two or more of the above described purification techniques, optionally in combination with addition of one or more of the above described purification agents. According to a second aspect, there is provided a method for maintaining a hard floor surface, which comprises drawing cleaning liquid from a single cleaning liquid container, applying the cleaning liquid onto the floor surface, treating the floor surface, in the presence of the cleaning liquid, with a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on a contact surface between the pad and the floor surface, collecting the cleaning liquid having been used for treating the floor surface, purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and re-applying at least some of the purified cleaning liquid onto the floor surface, wherein said purifying is performed after the drawing of the cleaning liquid from the single cleaning liquid container and before the application of the cleaning liquid onto the floor surface.

In both the first and second aspects, the treatment may be performed in the absence of an effective amount of detergent or other cleaning agent at the contact surface. The use of diamond particles reduces or eliminates the

need for detergents or cleaning agents, since a pad as described above provides efficient mechanical cleaning of many different surface types, including but not limited to: stone, stone like materials (concrete, terrazzo), wood, polymer (vinyl, acrylic, epoxy), wood, lacquer, linoleum and glass. By "effective amount" is understood an amount that, when performing the treatment, provides a measurable or otherwise noticeable cleaning effect as compared with treatment performed without any such detergent or agent at all.

According to a third aspect, there is provided a system for maintaining a hard floor surface, comprising a floor maintenance machine, having an applicator for applying a cleaning liquid to the hard floor surface, a treatment device for treating the hard floor surface in the presence of the cleaning liquid, and a collecting device for collecting used cleaning liquid, a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on in an area where the pad is to contact hard floor surface during the treatment, a purification device for purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and a recirculation device for recirculating the purified cleaning liquid towards the applicator, the recirculation device comprising a single cleaning liquid container which is connected directly or indirectly to the applicator and to the collecting device, wherein the purification device is arranged either between the collecting device and the cleaning liquid container or between the applicator and the cleaning liquid container.

The purification device and the recirculation device may be integrated in the floor maintenance machine, which in turn may be a mobile floor maintenance machine, arranged to move across a floor surface to be cleaned, with an operator controlling it by walking near it, by riding on it, or by wire or wireless remote. It is also conceivable to provide a floor maintenance machine, which moves autonomously, i.e. in the form of a so-called robot cleaner.

The purification device may comprise a mechanical purification device, i.e. a device for mechanically separating debris and/or particles from the cleaning liquid.

The purification device may comprise a filter unit having a removable filtrate receptacle.

The filtrate receptacle may be a receptacle that can be removed for emptying and then reinserted into the system and reused. As non-limiting examples a filtrate receptacle may comprise a filter that can be cleaned or exchanged and/or a collecting device for a cyclone separator.

Also, the purification device may comprise a disposable filter unit. With a disposable filter unit, efficient filtration can be achieved, and the filtrate may be disposed with minimum exposure of it to the operator. Other filtration or purification devices, e.g. as listed herein, may also be included.

The system may also comprise a dispensing device for adding a purification agent to the cleaning liquid.

Brief Description of the Drawings Fig. 1 is a schematic cross sectional view of a floor maintenance machine according to a first embodiment.

Fig. 2 is a schematic cross sectional view of a floor maintenance machine according to a second embodiment.

Fig. 3 is a schematic cross sectional view of a floor maintenance machine according to a third embodiment.

Fig. 4 is a schematic cross sectional view of a floor maintenance machine according to a fourth embodiment.

Figs 5a-5b are schematic cross sectional views of a pad, which may be used according in the method and system described herein.

Description of Embodiments

Fig. 1 schematically illustrates a first embodiment of a mobile floor maintenance machine 1. The machine 1 comprises a first container 16 for clean cleaning liquid, an applicator 1 1 for applying cleaning liquid to a floor surface 2, a treatment device 12 for treating the floor surface 2 in the presence of the cleaning liquid, and a collecting device 13 for collecting the cleaning fluid after it has been used in the treatment of the floor surface 2.

The applicator 1 1 , the treatment device 12 and the collecting device 13 may be per se known and conventional arrangements. Such arrangements are known from e.g. US 5,829,095, US 5,907,887, US 6,397,429, 7,337,490, . The applicator may be arranged to spray or sprinkle cleaning liquid onto the floor surface in front of the treatment device 12, or even through the treatment device 12. For example, cleaning liquid may be applied through a central hole in a cleaning pad 20 arranged on the treatment device 12.

The treatment device 12 may, in particular be designed for use with a fiber pad 20, such as the one disclosed in WO2006097141 A1. Hence, it may be formed as a disk, arranged to rotate in a plane parallel with the floor surface 2, and having an attachment arrangement (e.g. a hook-and-loop arrangement) for receiving and releasably retaining the fiber pad 20. Such arrangements are per se known.

The collecting device 13 may be in fluid communication with a second container 14 for unpurified or dirty cleaning liquid. Such communication may be complemented by a pump (not shown).

Between the first and second containers 16, 14, a purification device 15 may be arranged, by which dirty cleaning liquid is purified and passed on to the first container 16 for clean cleaning liquid. As mentioned above, the purification may be achieved in many different ways, e.g. by mechanical separation of debris and particles contained in the collected cleaning liquid, and/or by addition of chemical agents.

The purification device 15 may comprise a removable filtrate receptacle, in which filtrate separated by e.g. cyclonic separation, sedimentation or filtering is collected. The filtrate receptacle may removed for emptying and then replaced or exchanged.

The filtrate receptacle may comprise a disposable or reusable filter medium. In another embodiment, a disposable filtrate receptacle or filter medium is removable from the purification device.

Fig. 2 schematically illustrates a second embodiment, wherein a single cleaning liquid container 14', 16' is used, but where an input portion 14' is

separated from an output portion 16' by a purification device, which may be in the form of a filter or membrane.

Hence, there is disclosed a method for maintaining a hard floor surface, comprising: applying a cleaning liquid onto the floor surface treating the floor surface, in the presence of the cleaning liquid, with a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on a contact surface between the pad and the floor surface, collecting the cleaning liquid having been used for treating the floor surface, purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and re-applying at least some of the purified cleaning liquid onto the floor surface.

Furthermore, there is provided a system for maintaining a hard floor surface, comprising: a floor maintenance machine, having an applicator for applying a cleaning liquid to the hard floor surface, a treatment device for treating the hard floor surface in the presence of the cleaning liquid, and a collecting device for collecting used cleaning liquid, a flexible pad comprising an open, lofty, three dimensional non-woven web of fibers with abrasive particles comprising diamond particles bonded to the pad, on in an area where the pad is to contact hard floor surface during the treatment, a purification device for purifying the collected cleaning liquid, and a recirculation device for recirculating the purified cleaning liquid towards the applicator.

Fig. 3 schematically illustrates a third embodiment, wherein a single cleaning liquid container 14 for holding dirty cleaning liquid is used, and wherein the cleaning liquid is purified as it is fed towards the applicator 11 .

Fig. 4 schematically illustrates a fourth embodiment, wherein a single cleaning liquid container 16 for holding clean cleaning liquid is used, and wherein the cleaning liquid is purified in connection with its collection, and then transferred to the container 16. Figs 5a-5b schematically illustrate a fiber pad 20 made up from an open, lofty three-dimensional non-woven web of fibers 2. A first surface of the pad 20 has a portion P1 presenting abrasive particles bonded to the web by means of a secondary binder, i.e. a binder having as a main purpose to bond

fibers to the web. The illustrated pad 20 is generally circular in shape, but may have any shape deemed suitable for the intended application, such as polygonal, square, elliptic etc.

Referring to Fig. 5b, a cross section along the line S1 -S2 in Fig. 5a is shown. As is indicated in Fig. 5b, the portion P1 presenting the abrasive particles is present at the first surface A and to a depth D, which is less than the thickness T of the pad 20. Hence, at the second surface B there is a portion P2, which is substantially free from the abrasive particles and the secondary binder. When referring to "portions", it is to be understood as portions of the macrostructure of the pad 20 and not portions of the individual fibers.

For a more detailed description of the fiber pad 20 and its use, reference is made to WO2006097141A1.