Patent application title: DEVICE TO ALLOW THE WASHING OF FOOTWEAR INSIDE WASHING MACHINES
Giampaolo Conti (Sorano (gr), IT)
IPC8 Class: AD06F2900FI
Class name: Textiles: fluid treating apparatus machines elements
Publication date: 2012-02-09
Patent application number: 20120031152
The present invention relates to a device to allow the washing in washing
machines of footwear in general, particularly sport footwear. According
to the essential aspects of the present invention, the device comprises
means (1; 201; 301; 401) designed to allow to hang at least one shoe on
the drum of the washing machine so that the shoe can be washed
maintaining substantially the position corresponding to where it hangs.
1. A device to allow the washing in washing machine of footwear in
general, particularly sport footwear, the device comprising: a means for
hanging up at least one shoe on the drum of the washing machine, so that
said shoe can be washed substantially maintaining the position
corresponding to where said shoe hangs, that is a position in which the
shoe is spaced from the drum, said means comprising at least one hanging
unit able to be inserted inside the shoe to be washed, said at least one
hanging unit being associated to said drum so as to rigidly rotate with
said drum in use.
2. A device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said hanging unit comprises a part defining a surface facing the sole of the shoe when inserted inside the shoe said surface of the hanging unit facing the axis of rotation of the drum in use, thus allowing, during rotation, water outflow from the sole of the shoe toward an upper portion of said shoe.
3. A device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said hanging unit comprises a shoetree or a foot shape or shoe shape, designed to be inserted inside the shoe.
4. A device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said means comprises: at least one supporting element comprising a fixing means for fixing, in use, said supporting element on the outline of the drum such that said at least one supporting element rotates rigidly when the drum rotates; a hanging means for hanging up at least one shoe on said supporting element such that the shoe can be washed maintaining substantially the position corresponding to the corresponding support on which said at least one shoe hangs.
5. A device as claimed in claim 4, wherein said hanging means comprises in combination at least one seat obtained in correspondence of said at least one supporting element and said at least one hanging unit for footwear destined to be coupled, in use, to said seat in a releasable manner.
6. A device as claimed in claim 5, wherein said at least one hanging unit comprises a snap pin, connected to a shoetree or the equivalent, to be inserted inside the shoe and a means for securing said shoe to the shoetree.
7. A device as claimed in claim 4, wherein said at least one supporting element is firmly connected to a frame designed in such a way to constrain said supporting element against the surface of the drum.
8. A device as claimed in claim 7, wherein the frame comprises three rods rigidly connected to three supporting elements through three cradles.
9. A device as claimed in claim 8, wherein said three rods are configured in the frame according to a star arrangement.
10. A device as claimed in claim 8, wherein said three rods are configured in the frame according to a triangle arrangement.
11. A device as claimed in claim 8, wherein at least one of said rods comprises a first portion and a second portion assembled reciprocally movable.
12. A device as claimed in claim 11, wherein the first portion and the second portion are respectively hinged so as to be reciprocally foldable, said second portion comprising a threaded collar, on which a sleeve can be screwed, assembled slidable on said first portion so as to close the hinge and to block the at least one of said rods.
13. A device as claimed in claim 11, wherein said first portion and said second portion are assembled in a telescopic manner.
14. A device as claimed in claim 4, wherein said supporting element comprises magnetic elements to engage, in use, said supporting element on the outline of the drum.
15. A device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said means comprises a unit configured to couple directly to the drum of the washing machine.
16. A device as claimed in claim 15, wherein said unit comprises a bayonet joint and at least one shoetree or the like able to be inserted inside the shoe.
17. A device as claimed in claim 3, wherein said shoetree or the like is provided with a plurality of through holes for water passage.
18. A device as claimed in claim 3, wherein said shoetree or the like is hollow inside, wherein a plurality of through holes for water passage are present on a thickness of said shoetree, said plurality of through holes communicating between a cavity and the outside of the shoetree.
19. A drum for a washing machine, comprising: a device comprising a means for hanging up at least one shoe on the drum of the washing machine, so that said shoe can be washed substantially maintaining the position corresponding to where said shoe hangs, that is a position in which the shoe is spaced from the drum, said means comprising at least one hanging unit able to be inserted inside the shoe to be washed, said at least one hanging unit being associated to said drum so as to rigidly rotate with said drum, wherein said means comprises a unit configured to couple directly to the drum, said drum being pre-arranged so that said unit can connect to the drum through a bayonet joint or the like.
20. A drum for the washing machine as in claim 19, wherein said unit comprises said bayonet joint and at least one shoetree to be inserted into the shoe.
21. A drum for the washing machine as in claim 19, wherein said unit comprises at least a shoetree, said shoetree being provided with a plurality of through holes for water passage.
22. A drum for the washing machine as in claim 19, wherein said unit comprises at least a shoetree, said shoetree being hollow inside, wherein a plurality of through holes are present on a thickness of said shoetree for water passage, said plurality of through holes communicating between a cavity and the outside of said shoetree.
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
 The present invention relates to the technical sector of accessories for cleaning and maintaining footwear. In particular, the present invention relates to a device able to allow the washing of footwear inside common washing machines.
STATE OF THE ART
 It is well known that given types of footwear can be washed. Among these categories there are, for example, sneakers, or sport footwear, often made of rubber or rubber/fabric. Also other types of footwear are able to be washed, for example shoes completely made of fabric or shoes completely made of rubber. Among them can be usually cited flip-flops, pool footwear and the like.
 Generally, for washing footwear the washing machine is usually used that, even if specific for washing garments, can also adapt to washing footwear. However, many drawbacks and technical problems can occur, as the washing machine is not specifically designed for washing footwear. Among them, poorly efficient washing and anomalous and undesired wear and tear of the footwear.
 Firstly, even if presumably washing temperatures are chosen suitable for the material of which the shoe is made, however the final result is often an uncomfortable permanent deformation of the shoe, together with wear or even a complete crumpling. This crumpling is due to the fact that the shoes are free to move in a completely random manner inside the drum. Hence, during normal washing the shoes bump into each other and against the drum walls, while during the subsequent drying spin cycle they remain pressed against the wall. It is clear that, impacts, together with washing temperature, cause permanent deformations and a strong wear of the footwear. On the other hand, during the spin cycle the footwear is subject to strong pressures that increase the above mentioned deformation effect. Independently of the type of footwear, these deformations often cause the loss of the footwear ergonomic characteristics, making the shoe unusable since it causes pain and uncomfortable diseases for the user.
 Mainly in the case of sport footwear (typically the running shoes) it is well known that their shape is fundamental to guarantee good performances. People wearing medium- and long-distance running shoes expect to run hundreds of kilometers per week during the training sessions or during races. Clearly, a deformed shoe can cause painful blisters or even more severe diseases such as tendinitis, therefore making it unusable for the purpose. The only solution to the problem is therefore that of buying a new pair of shoes after washing in washing machine. Alternatively, the shoes must be hand washed.
 A further drawback is directly linked to the drying spin cycle. During this phase, the shoes remain pressed against the wall in random positions that do not guarantee a uniform drying thereof. In fact, it is evident that the shoes, even partially overlapping each other, cannot dry in a uniform manner, as the water cannot flow out properly through their different components (for example inner sole, upper, outsole, closing devices such as Velcro fasteners). It is well known, in fact, that the soles of the shoes are generally impermeable to insulate feet against water penetration, for example rain, during use. Hence, when the shoe adheres to the wall with the side of the sole destined to the contact with the ground, the sole, because of the material whereof it is made and its high thickness, prevents water from flowing toward the outside via centrifugal force. In this case the shoe cannot therefore dry in a uniform manner, and remains wet in various parts even after a strong and long spin cycle.
 It is therefore clearly apparent that the above mentioned drawbacks make the washing of footwear in washing machine inconvenient, and, above all, that the result is really unforeseeable.
 Known devices that tried to solve the above mentioned drawbacks are described for example in the patents or patent applications U.S. Pat. No. 6,067,729 A; US 2003/084585 A1 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,365,675 A.
 U.S. Pat. No. 6,067,729 A describes a device that holds two shoes in opposite positions against the drum of a washing machine by means of a flexible rod inserted in the shoes until it reaches the inner area of toes. The rod, with a diameter greater than the drum, pushes from the inside the outer toes of the shoes against the cylindrical wall of the drum. But, obviously, the rod allows the shoes to rotate around their toe during the rotation of the drum. It is therefore evident that with this device the following can occur: the case, wherein the part of the upper near the heel is pressed on the device, or the case, wherein during the drum rotation the shoe, full of water, tends to rotate around the toe pulling the part of the upper locally in the position of the instep, and this occurs particularly during the spin cycle, wherein the shoe can rotate until the sole goes into contact with the cylindrical walls of the drum. During washing phases these rotations of the shoes can furthermore move the contact point of the toes of the shoes on the drum, thus arranging the whole shoes-flexible rod device diagonally, i.e. geometrically on a non-vertical plane; in this way, the flexible rod looses its curvature and lastly, as the pressure on the toes decreases, there is contact loss and hence loss of unity between flexible rod-footwear set and drum of the washing machine.
 In US 2003/0084585 A1 the device is provided with an extensible tube with T-shaped ends suitable to be fit in two shoes pushed with the soles in opposite positions into contact with the cylindrical lateral walls of the drum. The T-shaped ends do not hinder movement of the wet upper toward the sole; during the washing cycle continuous stresses and bending of the fabric/upper therefore occur, dangerous for both seams and heat welds or glued seams of the upper, for which the shoe is not designed. In addition, during rotation in vertical position the weight of the whole device and of the upper shoe rests inside the lower shoe and, moreover, the action produced by the T-shaped part of the device discharges only locally inside the shoe, in limited portions of the insole, thus causing, due to high point pressures, permanent deformations of this latter which can make the footwear uncomfortable.
 In U.S. Pat. No. 5,365,675 A the shoes rest on pins projecting from an extendable rod inserted diametrically in the drum, and are bound here through laces surrounding them outside. As the shoe is constrained only locally below the sole and mainly on the outer surface of the upper, and as it is fixed much more accurately only in the heel area and less effectively in the front part of the sole and of the upper, the shoe itself, during washes and rinses, i.e. during rotation of the drum, is swamped inside and is subject to continuous flexions in the sole that can cause detachment of the non-fixed inner soles; moreover, the upper in the front part of the instep is subject to continuous abrasions because of the laces and the pins, or anyway to cyclical stresses for which the shoe is not designed.
 In all the three cases the shoe takes such a position that the sole, which is impermeable, and the perimeter part of upper near the sole, which is often impermeable too, prevent the water, during rotation of the drum, especially during the spin phases necessary for an effective washing, from flowing out from the shoe, thus causing stagnation of possibly dirty water, and the dirt can remain inside the shoe until washing is finished, thus resulting in a poorly satisfactory or pejorative washing. In fact, in these examples the sole mostly faces toward the cylindrical lateral walls of the drum, the drum with the inner concavity of the shoe (i.e. the foot housing shoe zone) facing the axis of rotation of the drum itself. In US 2003/084585 A1 this position is constant, while in U.S. Pat. No. 6,067,729 A and U.S. Pat. No. 5,365,675 A it occurs particularly during the spin phases. The centrifugal force moves the water in radial direction and therefore the sole tends to prevent water outflow from the inside of the shoe. Because of the resulting water stagnation between upper and sole, the shoe needs a lot of time to dry, and seams, heat welds and glued edges weaken due to the strong pressures that may be generated in the stagnation areas.
 Furthermore, in all the three cases, the devices discharge locally in two more or less limited and opposite areas of the cylindrical lateral walls of the drum, and this may result in drum deformation, as the devices are fixed through pressure on the cylindrical walls of the drum, that sometimes is not designed for these concentrated actions.
SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
 The object of the present invention is therefore to provide a device to allow the washing of footwear in a washing machine, which overcomes all the above mentioned drawbacks.
 In particular, the object of the present invention is to provide a device to allow effective and uniform washing of footwear in washing machine, and which allows, at the same time, to obtain a subsequent uniform and effective drying of the shoe.
 A further object of the present invention is to provide a device to allow the washing of footwear in washing machine, which preserves them from deformations and wear caused by both the impacts against the drum and by anomalous pressures or tractions, caused by the spin cycle, that can damage the shoes that do not bear these stresses as they are not designed for it.
 A further object of the present invention is to provide a device to allow the washing of footwear in washing machine that, at the same time, preserves the integrity of the drum, of the seal gaskets between the case containing the drum and the door, and of the same door.
 These and other objects are achieved through the present device for allowing the washing in washing machine of footwear in general, particularly sport footwear, characterized by comprising means (1; 201; 301; 401) designed to allow to hang up at least one shoe in the drum of the washing machine in such a way that said shoe can be washed maintaining substantially the position corresponding to where it hangs.
 Hanging (i.e. being suspended) inside the drum always in the same position during drum rotation in the wash, rinse and spin phases, the shoe is therefore spaced from the inner surface of the drum (there is no contact between footwear and drum) and consequently all the drawbacks are avoided linked with hits, abrasions, and damages of the shoe during washing.
 In particular the above mentioned means (1; 201; 301) comprise a hanging unit (7) designed to be inserted inside the shoe to be washed (i.e. the hanging unit is designed to wear the shoe). This unit (7) is associated to the drum so as to rotate rigidly with it. It should be noted that the part of hanging unit inserted in the shoe is not into contact with the drum and is spaced from it so as to allow the interposition of the thickness of the shoe between hanging unit and drum.
 Blocking the shoe by means of an abutment (most of the unit 7) inside the shoe itself, the contact between the most of the hanging unit 7 and the inner surface of the shoe is uniformly distributed and not limited to specific inner areas of the shoe, thus avoiding localized deformations of the shoe during washing, that can generate permanent deformations of the shoe; moreover, in this way the contact points of the outer surface of the shoe with the hanging means are reduced or canceled, with consequent reduction in the wear and tear of the shoe at these points. Furthermore, blocking of the shoe is also more stable, whilst, as already mentioned, the shoe deformation, if any, is extremely reduced.
 The hanging unit (7) adequately comprises a part defining a surface facing toward the inner face of the sole or inner sole, coming into contact preferably with it, when the unit is inserted inside the shoe. With the unit inserted inside the shoe (or the shoe fitted on the unit) the above mentioned surface of the hanging unit (7) faces the axis of rotation of the drum, thus allowing during rotation, particularly in the spin phase, water outflow from the sole of the shoe toward the upper. Practically, the above mentioned surface of the unit facing the axis of the drum divides the drum into two parts, one first of which contains the axis of rotation thereof, while the second of which is designed to contain the part of shoe relating to the upper, i.e. outside the sole; this part is conveniently peripheral relative to the axis of rotation, so as to have geometrically such an axis of rotation as to generate during the spin phase, an effective centrifugal force in the water contained in the shoe, or with which the shoe is impregnated.
 Obviously, the shoe fitted on the hanging unit (7) is oriented with the sole facing the axis of rotation of the drum and with the inner part of the upper facing toward the cylindrical lateral surface of the drum, i.e. the outside of the drum.
 Clearly, in this configuration during the spin phase the water tends to go out from the shoe according to a radial direction practically starting from the sole or from the surface of the upper, lapping the outer and inner surface thereof, until it detaches itself from the shoe (which is practically the part nearest to the axis of rotation) and going toward the outside, and therefore it cannot be blocked by the shoe.
 Advantageously, the hanging unit (7) comprises a shoetree or a foot or shoe shape 19, designed to be inserted inside the shoe. In this way the shoe is "filled" with an undeformable volume and is not subject to deformations.
 Advantageously, a first group of embodiments comprises:  at least one supporting element (5; 205; 305) comprising fixing means (3; 203; 303) to fix, in use, the supporting element on the drum outline so that it is firmly put into rotation when the drum (2) rotates;  means (7, 17) to hang up at least one shoe to the supporting element (5; 205; 305) so that the shoe can be washed and spun maintaining substantially the position corresponding to the relative supporting element on which it hangs.
 In accord with this solution, the fixing means (3; 203; 303) therefore allow to engage said supporting element relative to the walls of the washing machine drum, thus allowing the drum to put the supporting element into rotation in a rigid and integral manner. This blocking is conveniently obtained at the lateral wall of the drum, i.e. the lateral wall of the cylinder forming the drum preferably and advantageously in the positions of the calendered sheets.
 The means (7, 17) therefore serve to hang up physically the shoe to the drum through the use of said elements. In this way the shoe, through the supporting means, is put into rotation by the rotating drum, but is forced to maintain the constraining position given by the means (7, 17), where it physically hangs. According to this solution, during washing the shoe cannot therefore crash in a random manner against the walls of the drum or mutually against the other shoes.
 This solution furthermore avoids shoe being pressed, during the spin cycle, against the lateral wall of the drum, occupying positions unsuitable for a uniform drying.
 Advantageously, according to a possible embodiment of the present invention, the means (7, 17) comprise in combination at least one seat (17) obtained in correspondence of the supporting element (5; 205; 305) and said hanging unit (7) for the shoes destined to be coupled, in use, to said seat (17) in a releasable manner.
 In this way it is therefore possible easily to couple and release the shoes from the supporting element through this unit (7), both when the supporting element has been already installed inside the drum and before this installation.
 The unit (7) advantageously comprises a snap pin (18) or the like, connected to a shoetree (19) designed to be inserted inside the shoe, and means (20, 21) to allow to secure said shoe to the shoetree.
 According to this solution, the pin 18 is inserted, in use, in the seat 17, thus hanging the outline to the support, having previously put the shoe on the outline. At this point the shoe is secured to the unit through the above mentioned means (20, 21), which can be constituted, for example, by Velcro or, similarly, button systems, snaps, belts and the like, all well known.
 Obviously, the shoe can be secured for washing also through the simple closing of its laces on the shoetree, rather than through said means (20, 21).
 From a structural viewpoint, to allow the arrangement of the supporting element inside the drum of the washing machine, adhering to the walls, the element, according to a possible construction solution, is firmly connected to a frame (3; 203).
 Advantageously the frame (3; 203) comprises three rods (8; 208) firmly connected to three supporting elements (5; 205) through three cradles (4; 204).
 According to a possible configuration of the invention, the three rods (208) are configured in the frame (203) according to a star arrangement.
 In this way the three rods, in use, extend radially towards the lateral surface of the drum, bringing the above mentioned three supporting elements, to which they are firmly connected through the cradles, to grip against the surface. In this way the device remains stably fixed to the drum, and is dragged by it into rotation firmly.
 Alternatively, the rods (8) are configured in the frame according to a triangular arrangement. In this case the vertexes of the triangle, in use, bring the elements 5 into contact against the walls of the drum.
 To allow an easy fixing of the device to the drum and an easy extraction and removal thereof, at least one of the above mentioned rods (8; 208) advantageously comprises a first (9; 209) and a second (10; 210) portion assembled in a reciprocally movable manner.
 In this way, by closing reciprocally the two portions of at least one rod, it is possible to reduce the overall diameter of the device, thus allowing the detachment from the walls. On the contrary, the inverse operation of extending the rods allows the device to be easily applied adhering to the inner walls of the drum.
 Advantageously, according to a possible embodiment of the present invention, the first (9) and the second (10) portion are respectively hinged so as to be reciprocally foldable, said second portion (10) comprising a threaded collar (12), integral with it, on which a sleeve (11) can be screwed, mounted slidable on said first portion (9) so as to close the hinge and put the rod (8), in use, in extended position. In this way the device remains fixed to the walls. Alternatively, it is possible to free the hinge by acting in an opposite direction to what previously said, and close the two portions one over the other. In this way it is possible to fold the rod closing the device to extract it.
 Alternatively, the first (209) and the second (210) portion of the rod are arranged in a telescopic manner,
 In this case, there is a closing with retraction of a portion inside the other, and an opening with extraction and snap blocking.
 Advantageously, a further embodiment of the present invention provides for a supporting element (305) comprising magnetic elements (303) to engage it, in use, to the outline of the drum. This constructively simple solution allows to avoid the use of the frame.
 In a further embodiment of the present invention, the means (401) comprise a unit (407) designed to be coupled directly to the drum of the washing machine.
 To this end the unit (407) comprises a bayonet joint (418) or the like and at least one shoetree (19) suitable to be inserted inside the shoe to be washed.
 This solution is particularly convenient to be embodied as it requires a simple unit (407) and a pre-arranged drum.
 In this regard, a drum for washing machine is furthermore described and foreseen hereafter, characterized by being designed so that a unit (407) can connect to it through a bayonet joint (418) or the like.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Further characteristics and advantages of the device for washing footwear in washing machine, according to the present invention, will be more apparent from the description below of an embodiment thereof, by way of non limiting example, with reference to the attached drawings, wherein:
 FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 show an overall view of the present invention according to a first possible configuration of embodiment;
 FIG. 3 shows a side view of the invention, while FIG. 4 shows a detail of movable joining between two rods forming the frame of the device;
 FIG. 5 shows a configuration, wherein the present device is closed to allow its insertion in the drum of the washing machine or its extraction at the end of use;
 FIG. 6 and FIG. 7 show a second embodiment of the present invention;
 FIG. 8 shows a third embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 9 and FIG. 10 show a fourth embodiment of the invention together with a detail of the unit 407 allowing to hang the shoes to the supporting element 405;
 FIG. 11 shows a detail of the unit 7, which allows to hang the shoes to the supporting elements;
 FIGS. 12 and 13 show a side view of the two first preferred embodiments, with the shoes hung and inserted inside the drum of the washing machine.
DESCRIPTION OF SOME PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 With reference to the accompanying drawings, a traditional drum 2 of washing machine has inside itself a device to allow washing of footwear in general, in particular sport footwear or footwear made of fabric and/or rubber.
 The device, in its most essential aspects, provides for means (1; 201; 301; 401) designed to allow to hang up at least one shoe in the drum of the washing machine so that the shoe can be washed, rinsed, and spun maintaining substantially the position corresponding to where it hangs.
 In particular, according to a first group of embodiments common to three possible variants of the invention (to this end, see for example FIG. 1, FIG. 6 and FIG. 8), at least one supporting element (5; 205; 305) is provided comprising fixing means (3; 203; 303) so as to engage the supporting element, in use, to the outline of the drum. In this way, when the drum rotates the above mentioned element is firmly put into rotation. Together with said supporting element means (7, 17) therefore cooperate, to hang, in use, at least one shoe to said supporting element (5; 205; 305) so that the shoe can be washed, rinsed and/or spun maintaining substantially the position corresponding to the relative support where it hangs (see in particular FIG. 11).
 Entering in construction details of the present invention, FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 specifically show a possible first preferred embodiment of the invention. According to this configuration, three supporting element 5 are obtained in the form of a plate and are substantially V-shaped, so as to replicate the three respective classical calendered portions 6 of the drum of the washing machine. The application at the calendered sheets from the inside of the drum assures a better grip and therefore a better dragging of the above mentioned elements by the drum.
 According to this first preferred embodiment of the invention, the fixing means 3 to engage in use the supporting elements 5 on the outline of the drum comprise a frame 3. In construction detail, the frame is constituted by three cradles 4 having an inner profile suitable to surround the respective three supporting elements 5 and hence approximately V-shaped. In particular, the cradles are firmly connected to the supporting elements 5 thus obtaining a compact structure in one single piece. As described in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2, three rods 8 connect the cradles respectively to each other, thus giving the device 1 as a whole a substantially triangular shape. Each rod 8 (see to this end FIG. 3, FIG. 4, and FIG. 5) is produced in two portions 9 and 10 respectively hinged, so as to be reciprocally movable, in particular foldable. As highlighted in FIG. 3, the portions 9 and 10 of the rods 8 are rigidly maintained reciprocally in-line through the use of a sleeve 11, or similar, slidable on said portions. In particular, with reference, for the sake of simplicity of the description, to a portion of only one rod 8 highlighted in FIG. 4, the end 10 provides for a threaded collar 12, rigidly connected to it, on which the sleeve can be screwed. In this way the sleeve can pass from a first condition, wherein it is unscrewed from the collar and is free to slide on the portion 9 as shown in FIG. 5, to a condition, wherein it is screwed on it, closing the hinge as shown in FIG. 3. In this way, in the condition shown in FIG. 5, as the hinges are free, it is possible to fold the frame, reducing the overall diameter of the whole triangularly shaped device and thus allowing this latter to be easily inserted in or removed from the drum of the washing machine. On the contrary, the extended position of the rods fixes the supporting elements firmly to the walls of the drum 2.
 A second preferred embodiment of the invention (see FIG. 6 and FIG. 7) provides for a star-shaped frame 203. In this case, a central joint 213 couples the rods 208 according to the star arrangement, wherein the rods extend radially toward the walls of the drum, so that the supporting elements 205 connected to the cradles 204 can grip against the inside of the calendered portions 6 of the drum, exactly as described for the first configuration.
 As highlighted in FIG. 6 again, two out of the three rods 208 are monolithic, while a third rod is of the telescopic type. This latter can therefore comprise a simple release device 211, for example a push button, which allows to release/block to each other the two portions 209 and 210. The portion 210 is therefore obtained slidable inside the cylindrical seat of the portion 209, so that it can move back inside it or extend toward the outside. Going in construction details of the release device, this comprises an elastic pin arranged at the portion 210. The pin (not represented for the sake of simplicity of the description) extends externally from a point of the cylindrical surface of the portion 210 and, thanks to an elastic action exerted for example by a spring, is maintained adhering against the inner cylindrical surface of the portion 209 during the sliding thereof. The portion 209 is furthermore provided with corresponding hole so that, once achieved the preset height for the extraction, the pin of the portion 210 meets the hole obtained on the portion 209 coming out due to elastic action. In this way the portion 210 is blocked relative to the portion 209. Then, simply by pressing the pin with a finger, it is possible to retract it inside the hole and retract the portion 210 inside the portion 209.
 The central joint 213, as represented in FIGS. 6 and 7, can connect to the rods 208 in a rotatable manner. To this end, FIG. 7 better highlights the hinged connection of the rods 208 with the central joint 213 so that it is furthermore possible to close the rods in a fan manner at the end of use. This solution is advantageous in terms of bulk. In this way it is possible, in a simple and fast manner, to release the element 205 from the calendered sheet of the washing machine to remove the entire device integrally from the drum or to insert the entire device into, and connect it, to the drum.
 The extraction entails the rotation of the rods 208 around the joint. Preferably, for reasons of functional stability of the device, it is furthermore possible to arrange at least one connection of the rigid type between rods 208 and cradles 204. It is preferably possible to provide the above mentioned connection rigid relative to the telescopic rod, while the remaining connections can also be of the rotational type.
 Obviously, with reference to the above described configurations, solutions with two, three or more rods can be easily obtained. In addition, even more than one single rod (8; 208) can be realized with opening/closing system of the telescopic type, hinge type or a combination thereof, without however departing from the protective scope of the present invention.
 A third preferred embodiment of the present invention (see to this end FIG. 8) can instead provide for one or more supporting elements 305 devoid of the frame with support function for adherent positioning to the drum. In this case, the fixing means can be constituted, alternatively, by magnets 303 arranged on the supporting element and realizing directly the adhering connection of the elements to the drum. FIG. 8 shows, for the sake of clarity, the section of the supporting element 305 according to this configuration with a simple schematization of the magnets 303. Furthermore, from the figure in question it is clear that this support is in the V-shape completely equivalent to the corresponding elements 5 and 205 described above. Instead of the magnets, it is also possible to use simple screw devices or the like, which allow a simple removable connection to the drum. In this case it is therefore possible to provide the supporting elements with screws for a fast coupling.
 In all the preferred embodiments described above it is furthermore possible to provide, on the supporting elements, a cover in soft material arranged on the surface destined to face, in use, the calendered portion of the drum, so as to preserve this surface of the drum from scratches and to make a contact that eliminates any clearance between devices and calendered portions and so that there are not noisy contacts during the rotation of the drum.
 From the above description it is furthermore apparent that the application of the supporting elements in correspondence of the calendered portions of the drum actually has, in all the described configurations, the function of assuring a better grip and therefore a better putting into rotation. However, it is also apparent that this predisposition is not indispensable, as it is possible to provide connections of the device also at the smooth portion of the drum.
 Continuing the structural description of the invention, FIG. 11 describes the means (7, 17) to hang up at least one shoe to the above mentioned supporting elements (5; 205; 305) described above with reference to the first three configurations. As it is well shown in the figures, the shoe hangs from the drum, i.e. it is suspended in the drum without being into contact with it.
 Entering in construction details, these means comprise in combination at least one seat 17 obtained in correspondence of the supporting element and destined, in use, to house a hanging unit 7 for the shoes in a releasable manner. For the sake of clarity this seat 17 is shown in all the figures related to the various preferred configurations of the present invention.
 As it will be better described hereunder, the unit 7 provides a part to be inserted inside the shoe, i.e. the shoe to be washed must be wear on said part. This part presents a surface 19A that comes into contact with, or faces, the inner sole of the shoe. In the preferred embodiment, this part is a shoetree or, equivalently, a shape imitating a human foot or a shoe outline, indicated as a whole with number 19. The above mentioned surface 19A of the hanging unit 7 that comes into contact with, or faces, the inner sole of the shoe is practically the part of shoetree or shape corresponding to the sole of the human foot. In the preferred embodiment, this surface 19A of the unit 7 faces toward the axis of rotation of the drum.
 Obviously, in other embodiments of hanging unit, this surface may not correspond to the sole of the human foot. For instance, a unit 7 can provide for a part, to be inserted inside the shoe, formed only from a toe and a heel connected by a rod which can be adjustable in length to adapt to the size of the shoe (for example through a screw/nut screw system, or an elastic rod which can be compressed from a maximum size to a minimum size, similarly to the shoetrees used to help the shoes keep their shape when not used); in a case of this type the surface of the unit facing the sole of the shoe and the axis of rotation of the drum can be the part of rod between the toe and the heel.
 In the preferred embodiment, the unit 7 comprises a snap pin 18 connected to the shoetree 19 and means (20, 21) to allow to secure the shoe to the shoetree. These means (20, 21) can comprise a ribbon 20 connected to the shoetree and provided at the ends with Velcro-type closure 21. Alternatively, the closure can be obtained with a button/buttonhole system, snap button or the like. According to all the preferred configurations of the invention, each supporting element (5; 205; 305) preferably provides for two seats 17.
 A fourth preferred configuration of the invention (to this end see FIGS. 9 and 10) provides that the above mentioned means 401 comprise substantially a hanging unit 407 for the footwear that is substantially identical to the previous unit 7 described above. The only substantial difference (see FIGS. 9 and 10) is that the unit comprises a bayonet joint 418 or the like, arranged to be inserted in an adequate seat 417 obtain directly or already pre-arranged in the drum of the washing machine. In this sense the drum can provide, on the calendered portion or in a different area, simple couplers designed to receive the joint 418. The drum is therefore already pre-arranged to be connected to this unit 407.
 Alternatively (see specifically FIGS. 9 and 10), in order to strengthen the connection, the drum can comprise or be directly produced with a supporting element 405 prearranged from the outside inside the calendered portion 6. The connection of the element 405 can occur for example through common screws or by closing the calendered portion from the outside through the same sheet of the drum which defines the cylindrical shape thereof. In this regard, as indicated in FIG. 10, the triangular shape is particularly convenient, suitable to adapt to the shape of the external seat of the calendered portion. According to this solution the seat 417 is therefore obtained in the joint 405 so as to engage in use with the unit 407.
 For all the described configurations of the units (7; 407) it should be specified that the shoetree 19 is produced in a plastic material or in metal light alloys, or anyway in an adequately non-absorbent material, and provided with a plurality of through holes 19B. In particular, a particularly advantageous embodiment comprises the production of the shoetree so that it is hollow (cavity signed with a broken line only in FIG. 11 and indicated with 19C) inside and of adequate thickness. In this way water flows through the holes inside the cavity, and exits from it at high speed. In this way the shoetree has also an additional function of efficient rinse, in addition to guaranteeing an optimum outflow of the liquid, thus avoiding water stagnation due to the presence of the shoetree.
 Furthermore, thanks to the presence of a plurality of through holes with small diameter, the water outflow speed is significantly greater than the water speed due to rotation, and this has a further beneficial washing effect.
 As it is readily apparent from the figures, it should be noted again that the position of the shoetree 19, on which the shoe is worn, is such that the "sole" of the shoetree faces toward the axis of the drum, as consequently the sole of the shoe is equally oriented. In this way the water, during rotation of the spin cycle, moving in radial direction toward the cylindrical lateral surface of the drum, is not hindered in its outflow from the impermeable sole of the shoe or from the impermeable perimeter of the upper near it.
 In general, the term "facing" and "faces toward" the axis of the drum relating to the surface of the unit 7, refers to a surface of a body which lies mainly on a plane and does not pass through the axis of the drum. From a geometric viewpoint, it is possible practically to say that the surface of the unit facing the axis of the drum divides the drum into two parts, of which one first contains the axis of rotation thereof, while the second is suitable to contain the part of shoe relating to the upper, i.e. outside the sole;
 Having structurally described the invention in its more essential aspects, the operation thereof will be now described in the following.
 FIG. 12 and FIG. 13 show respectively the first and the second preferred configuration mounted in use inside the drum of the washing machine. Obviously, also the third configuration and the fourth configuration has a completely similar function, that is not represented only for the sake of simplicity. First of all, the device is inserted inside the drum so as to be fixed to the walls through the frame (as regards first and second configuration) or through magnets or the like as described for the third configuration. As described in the two phases of FIG. 11, the shoe is then put on the shoetree 19 and fixed to the shoetree 19 through the ribbon 20 or through the shoe laces. At this point the shoe is hung on the respective seat 17 by coupling the snap pin 18 inside the seat 17.
 In the case of fourth preferred embodiment, the bayonet joint 418 is inserted in the already pre-arranged seat of (or in) the drum. This operation is repeated for the desired number of shoes, until to achieve for example the case represented in FIGS. 12 and 13, wherein the device supports six shoes (three on the front and three on the back--see also seats 17 in FIG. 1). As clearly highlighted in FIG. 2, the present device can house, in fact, up to three pairs of shoes. At this point it is possible to wash the shoes that, being constrained to the device, are hindered from bumping and moving randomly inside the drum, remaining fixed in the position in which they have been hung.
 At the end of the washing, by acting on the snap pin 18 the whole unit 7 with the hung shoe is removed from the drum, or the bayonet joint 418 is removed in the case of unit 407 as regards the means 401. Lastly, the device is removed by folding the rods (8; 208) of the frame in the case of the first two configurations or removing directly the elements 305 of the third configuration.
 It should be noted that, during the spin cycle, the centrifugal force acting on the shoe will maintain the shoe immovable, pressing it with the inner sole on the shoetree inside the sole. In this way, the fabrics of the upper, which generally expand for some centimeters inside the shoe between lower sole and inner sole, will be highly compressed by the outer sole of the shoe, that pressing the inner sole against the shoetree will hold the fabrics effectively without the heat welds, or glued seams or seams, of the uppers to the soles being subject to stresses due to the centrifugal force able to generate in the fabrics in the gluing areas or similar unidirectional fractions able to cause the detachment of the fabric of the upper from the soles.
 During the spin cycle, the water with which the shoes are impregnated will be subjected to the centrifugal force and flow toward the outside of the shoe in the area for the entrance of the foot or through the parts of the upper which are water permeable, or it lap the inner or outer surface of the upper. In this way the spin action will be homogeneous for each shoe and very effective; in fact the soles of sport shoes or technical shoes in general, which are usually impermeable, will be (they are fixed to the device) with the inner concavity facing the cylindrical lateral walls of the drum, and therefore, during the spin action, with the use of the invented device, the water can flow from the shoe toward said walls of the drum without being hindered by the impermeable sole.
 During the spin phases the sole of the shoe will be therefore mainly subject to a uniform pressure on the sole of the same type of that generated during walking, i.e. to stresses for which the shoe is expressly designed.
 In this way, with the use of the invented device it will not occur what easily occurs when one doesn't use it, washing the shoes free to move randomly inside the drum, providing the possibility that the underlying sole of the shoe is placed into contact with the cylindrical walls of the drum, avoiding water, flowing towards the impermeable sole, under the action of the centrifugal force, detaching from the shoe, remaining or on the inner sole or inside the spaces of the inner frame of the sole which is almost always constituted by convex spaces with the aperture facing the inner sole, thus thwarting the scope of the spin operation. With the invented device at the end of washing the shoes will have in fabrics a very low residual humidity rate and, above all, the distribution of the humidity in the shoe will be uniform and such that a subsequent uniform drying will occur, which will not cause deformations of the shoe.
 It should be noted that with the loading of the wash and prewash water, which achieves a given height inside the drum, also the alternative rotation will start, i.e. a series of turns in clockwise direction and series of turns in counterclockwise direction. When the shoes rotate in the lower part, they ship water in a very effective manner thanks to the way in which they move. Water will flow inside the shoe through the perforated shoetrees 19 of the hanging unit 7 and, during movement, water will flow inside the cavity 19C defined inside the shoetree 19 exiting from the other holes 19B, therefore generating at the same time numerous washing jets in the inner walls of the shoe. When, during rotation, the shoe will go up at a greater height inside the drum, contemporaneously the water will flow in the inner areas of the shoe not already achieved; therefore water, flowing from the inside of the shoetree through the holes 19B, will produce jets with an increased flow speed.
 The perforated shoetree 19 on one hand allows flowing in all the inner areas of the shoe increasing the efficiency of the washing thanks to the greater speed of water flowing from the jets, on the other hand it maintains during washing the shoe in shape and prevents it from pressing or deforming even if washing cycles with hot water are provided.
 With reference to the currently known devices described in the cited patents, it is clearly apparent that the device according to the present invention is able to block more stably the shoes to be washed, avoiding impacts or abrasions on the shoes, as well as their deformations, and furthermore allows to avoid water stagnation on the areas inside the shoes related to the soles and the perimeter areas adjacent to them. Lastly, it allows to obtain a surely more effective washing effect, as at the end of each rinse cycle, after the spin phase the water remaining in the shoe is minimum due to the effect of non-stagnation and therefore each load of clean water contributes to an effective washing ending with the last spin cycle.
 At this point, it is clearly apparent that all the objects of the present invention have been achieved. It is particularly clearly apparent that such a device allows washing shoes avoiding them from impact against each other and against the walls of the drum, thus avoiding damages to the drum, deformations and wear of the shoes. Furthermore, the drying is now very effective, as the shoes during the spin cycle cannot place themselves with the sole facing the cylindrical lateral walls of the drum.
 The above description of a specific embodiment is able to show the invention from a conceptual viewpoint, so that other people, using the known technique, can modify and/or adapt in various applications this specific embodiment without further researches and without departing from the concept of the invention, and therefore it is intended that such adaptations and modifications shall be considered as equivalent to the specific embodiment. Means and materials to embody the various described functions can be of various nature without however departing from the protective scope of the present invention. It should be understood that used expressions and terminology have only descriptive, and therefore non limiting, purpose.
Patent applications by Giampaolo Conti, Sorano (gr) IT
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