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Frances Gabe and the Self-Cleaning House
January 24, 2010 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Everyone has fantasized about it, usually while scrubbing a floor or cleaning a toilet. Well, Frances Gabe did something about it: she invented the self-cleaning house, the one the future has been promising us for years. (This 2007 Weird America Interview/Tour mocks her, but it's the only video of the house I could find.) Just imagine: You put your dirty dishes back in the cabinets which double as dishwashers; the closets are laundry machines. Every room has wash, rinse, and dry buttons.

Sadly, sometime between this People Magazine interview (1982) and this
New York Times interview (2002; missing the picture of the house in action), an earthquake damaged many of the 68 mechanisms in the house designed to clean it. Still, as of 2004, you can call her up at her home in Newberg, OR, and schedule an appointment for a private tour.
posted by julen (28 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't mind cleaning so much as the methods available to do it. Alls I want is a long hose and a floor drain in every room.
posted by carsonb at 8:49 PM on January 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


That said, this woman is a genius.
posted by carsonb at 9:02 PM on January 24, 2010


Actually we'll probably have humanoid, or "humanoid capable*" robots to do most of our cleaning in the future.

Alls I want is a long hose and a floor drain in every room.


I remember reading one of those "the future" pieces from the sixties, and in this particular one they had a system where you literally just hose down your furniture to wash it. It would all be waterproof. Pretty crazy. But I always thought it would be cool if we all had brutalist-style houses with cement walls, floors and ceilings and you could just move the furniture and hose it down if you wanted, so that things could get really clean. In my vision carpets, etc, are on raised platforms.

Also, I always thought it would be cool to have a 'zero maintenance' house. Cement structure with really well-made, simple devices for heating, plumbing, so that all surfaces are exposed and easy to clean and nothing requires anything beyond simple tools to fix -- and most of it would be too simple to break down. I think that would be pretty cool.
posted by delmoi at 9:22 PM on January 24, 2010


Oh, by "humanoid capable" I mean a robot that can do what we do, but without necessarily looking like a person.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 PM on January 24, 2010


Sushi robot
posted by hortense at 9:47 PM on January 24, 2010


One of the comments on that very strangely edited video mentioned that in 2007 at least, she was looking into assisted living and the family was looking for a buyer who would preserve the house. I wonder whether they found anyone. It would be sad to let the house fall into ruin or be gutted. Eventually someone will need to step up and save it...
posted by crinklebat at 9:50 PM on January 24, 2010


I should warn anyone reading this, the second link's prose is so bad my blood urge-to-punch level is dangerously high. It reads like a middle-schooler's first attempt at stepping away from "first paragraph contains three sentences that tell us what to expect from paragraphs two, three, and four, followed by summary and conclusion in paragraph five."
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:53 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the actual patent if anyone is interested.

Personally I applaud this woman, as I think full home automation is a great idea that isn't given enough attention these days. I can do without jetpacks or atomic powered cars, but an affordable, reliable self cleaning home is one piece of retro-futuristic technology that, I think, would genuinely improve the lives of a lot of people.
posted by fearthehat at 10:04 PM on January 24, 2010


Cement structure with really well-made, simple devices for heating, plumbing, so that all surfaces are exposed and easy to clean and nothing requires anything beyond simple tools to fix -- and most of it would be too simple to break down. I think that would be pretty cool.

I lived in a loft that was made entirely of recycled concrete and glass for a few years. It was pretty cool, although humidity did weird things in a concrete box so I don't think you would ever be able to hose it down. Also trying to hang art and things on the wall was kind of a dilemma because the hole would be permanent (and in 3 years and many "concrete drill bits" later we never did find one that would actually worked on our walls).
posted by bradbane at 10:09 PM on January 24, 2010


Fig jam dribbling down the wall can give people all kinds of ideas, I guess.
posted by emhutchinson at 10:19 PM on January 24, 2010


There will come soft rains.
posted by grobstein at 10:25 PM on January 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


That was awesome thanks. I guess she doesn't hav any paintings on the wall though, or electronics, or sheets on her bed. I can see the prinker
system working in kitchens and bathrooms though.
posted by saucysault at 11:03 PM on January 24, 2010


Everyone has fantasized about it, usually while scrubbing a floor or cleaning a toilet. Well, Frances Gabe did something about it:

A fine spray of water and detergent flows through a 10-inch gizmo in each ceiling of the house. Jets move up and down and rotate to cleanse all walls, floors, and ceilings. Floors slope to remove moisture through a drain.


She made a house that flushes like a toilet, which would presumably need cleaning just like the one we were cleaning when we fantasized about this.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:07 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Call me when my self-cleaning house can also make me breakfast!
posted by dabitch at 3:34 AM on January 25, 2010


That was awesome thanks. I guess she doesn't hav any paintings on the wall though,

I'm guessing you didn't watch the video? She has paintings, and they're waterproof.
posted by floam at 3:46 AM on January 25, 2010


I can do without jetpacks or atomic powered cars

Flying cars are still tempting though?
posted by ersatz at 4:06 AM on January 25, 2010


In reality, it only comes with one wallpaper - big red and yellow health and safety warnings and one soundtrack - a quasi robotic womans voice stating firmly and insistently that no baggage should be left unattended, no buttons should be pressed except by authorised personel and floors may remain slippery for some time after the wash cycle is complete - on infinite, constant loop.
posted by fistynuts at 4:24 AM on January 25, 2010


Awesome. Unfortunately, she seems to get wrong what every "auto cleaning" inventor (including the Roomba) gets wrong: "clean"ing a house does not mean sanitizing it. It means picking up clutter. No amount of spraying or robot vacuuming will pick legos and craft supplies out from under the couch or figure out which child each toy belongs to and put it on the correct shelf.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Alls I want is a long hose and a floor drain in every room.

For me, I'll take dual compressed-air/vacuum lines running throughout the house. Dust and cat hair are a far bigger problem for me than actual dirt.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:35 AM on January 25, 2010


Tergeo!

Foolish muggles.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:49 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might want a self-repairing/maintaing house to enclose this self-cleaning house should anything break down or malfunction.
posted by tybeet at 6:34 AM on January 25, 2010


Tex Avery had this lady beat by decades.
posted by briank at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


On Marva, we gave up messes eons ago.
posted by gamera at 8:37 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You put your dirty dishes back in the cabinets which double as dishwashers; the closets are laundry machines. Every room has wash, rinse, and dry buttons

It would be great. Right up until you got the electricity bill.
posted by idiomatika at 8:53 AM on January 25, 2010


I, on the other hand, dream of having enough money to pay someone to clean my house.
posted by tommasz at 10:05 AM on January 25, 2010


On Marva, we gave up messes eons ago.

ITYM On Marva, our home planet, that which is not Earth, but Marva, we long ago gave up messes eons ago on Marva.
posted by carsonb at 10:32 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


People still clean their houses?


did I misinterpret Morrow's idea of allowing nature itself to shape the cottage (Gift From the Sea)
posted by Surfurrus at 12:00 PM on January 25, 2010


Awesome. Unfortunately, she seems to get wrong what every "auto cleaning" inventor (including the Roomba) gets wrong: "clean"ing a house does not mean sanitizing it. It means picking up clutter. No amount of spraying or robot vacuuming will pick legos and craft supplies out from under the couch or figure out which child each toy belongs to and put it on the correct shelf.

Picking up is a big deal, but if I didn't have the sweep the floor once a week and mop it once a month, i'd have more time to pick up! [theoretically]

and apparently roombas do well to inspire you to keep picked up, else the roomba is not efficient.

But yes, clutter. When I was a child, my room had paths to avoid toys. This was my concession to my parents.
posted by rubah at 7:04 PM on January 26, 2010


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