PAWCATUCK — Forty years ago, when inventor Howard Silagy lived in a small Manhattan apartment, he wanted a portable, non-electric clothes washer that could clean heavy clothes like jeans and sweatshirts.

He tried a few products and nothing worked.

He realized what he needed didn’t exist. 

With a number of inventions on the market such as the Prohands hand exerciser, the iBungee Laces shoe-lacing system and the True Focus Basketball shooting target, Silagy is a long-time inventor with about 50 or 40 patents. “I lost count,” Silagy, 69, said recently in his office and warehouse space on South Broad Street, to the rear of the police station.

But the problem of the portable washer eluded him until four years ago when he experienced his “eureka” moment.

“Years ago I did a lot of ocean sailing and you’d tie a rope onto your jeans and drag them behind the boat for 10 or 15 minutes and because of the flow of the water, they came out perfectly clean,” he said. “It just flashed on me, that’s the principle I wanted to use — the ticket is to drive the water back and forth through the clothes.”

Silagy decided to try a piston and cylinder approach to drive the water through the clothes. He start by making a prototype from pieces of PVC pipe.

“I was astounded — this cleaned clothes like you couldn’t believe. And I said, wow, we’re onto something here. This really works," he said. 

He next worked with mechanical and design engineers to create a perforated basket with a handle that fits inside a large bucket with a drain spout. The user fills the bucket part way with soapy water, places clothing in the basket and pumps the basket up and down to push the water through the clothing.

The result is the Lavario, which is available at Amazon, Walmart.com, CampingWorld.com and direct at LavarioWasher.com for about $130.

For his invention, Silagy was awarded both a utility patent and a design patent from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. He introduced the product at the International Housewares Association in Chicago last March.

The name Lavario comes from the Spanish words “lavar,” meaning to wash, and "rio” — river.

Factories in Providence, and in Wolfeboro, N.H., produce the machines, fulfilling Silagy’s goal of domestic production.

“It just makes sense that if you keep the money here and you help employ your neighbors, that’s good for everybody,” said Silagy, who has been a resident of Stonington for 15 years.

Silagy devises the inventions and his business partner, Joe Spadaro, of Stonington, handles marketing. Packaging and distribution are handled from the Pawcatuck location.

Silagy said he and Spadaro have identified three cohorts of customers.

“One is living in a place without a washer and dryer, an apartment or a mobile home. Lavario is an alternative to going to the laundromat,” Silagy said. “The second is people who want to launder fine fabrics that cannot be washed in a regular washing machine.’

The third group wants to minimize their ecological footprint, he said.

“People love that they’re not using electricity and they can use cold water and just a little bit of soap,” he said.

The project also has potential in the international market, he said.

“When you go outside of the United States, the average family doesn’t have a washer or dryer in their apartment. They’re cleaning their clothes in plastic tub,” he said.

On Monday, the company sent a full shipping container to Australia, where the RV market is thriving, he said. 

He said creating the Lavario paralleled the trial-and-error process of most inventions.

“This is typical of inventors — they recognize a problem, something that isn’t working right,” he said. “I latch onto these things and like a junkyard dog I don’t let go.”

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com

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(1) comment

chaleyer

Congratulations to Howard Silagi on getting his clothes washing equipment patented and on the market - great website and video demo too (although I find it hard to agree that "gravity does the work") - the machine seems well made too but its a bit rough to say that "when you go outside the US the average family doesn't have a washing machine" followed by the "company just sent a full shipping container to Australia."
Well just to let everyone in America know - here in Australia we have had around 17 brands of locally manufactured washing machines and many more imported brands.
I had a look at the US patent of Howard Silagi - 9752264 - very interesting in that it includes citations by the US Patent Office examiner of numerous other washing apparatus patents with varying degrees of similarity - for example 448654 in 1891 by Gustav Jantz > "My invention comprises a specific construction of those washing-machines which have a hollow reciprocating plunger that contains the clothes to be cleansed, the details of said machine being hereinafter more fully described, and then pointed out in the claim" - so sadly the basic principle of clothes washing equipment wherein the garments are placed in a basket having at least upper and lower perforations which is then reciprocatingly plunged within an outer container, is well known in the field - Howard Silagi's patent lies in the difference between the exact form / detail of his invention + very importantly he has got his design into production and available.

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