Jan. 31: The self-cleaning house was patented on this day 30 years ago

Ilyce R. Glink

It’s every homeowner’s dream: a home that cleans itself.

For 99-year-old Frances Gabe, that dream became a reality. On this day 30 years ago in 1984, Gabe filed a patent with 68 different devices to create a self-cleaning home in Newberg, Ore.

She built the cinder-block home in a remote area, surrounded by pine trees along a rural road.

Each of the rooms in her home is outfitted with a sprinkler-like rotating nozzle that sprays soapy water all over the rooms, rinses them and then blows them dry. The floors are sloped slightly toward the walls, where small drains carry the excess water off.

Her kitchen cabinets washes the dishes, similar to dishwasher, and her closet washes and dries her clothes, similar to a washing machine. Her bathtub, sink and toilet also clean themselves, and her bookshelves dust themselves.

The cleaning process requires that Gabe stick with a specific design aesthetic. All paintings on the wall are coated in plastic. The furniture is made from waterproof materials or coated in plastic or water-repelling resin. Anything that can’t be properly preserved from the water’s spray, like curtains and carpeting, were eliminated. Her knickknacks are on display behind plastic, according to the New York Times.

The concept was born out of Gabe’s hatred for doing housework, and the construction was masterminded by Gabe, who spent years working with her father, a building contractor and architect. She said the constant scrubbing that a home requires was a waste of time, but it had to be done.

"We should be better mothers, wives, neighbors," Gabe told People Magazine in 1982, "and spend time improving ourselves instead of saying, 'I'm sorry, I have to clean the kitchen.'"

She also said she wanted to be independent as got older.

Unfortunately, her devices were damaged in a flood in the late 1990s and again in an earthquake in 2001, so only the kitchen devices were hanging on after that. She offered tours of the home for $25 a head until about 10 years ago, but has since discontinued the service and disconnected the phone.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.