The First Self-Cleaning Home Was Essentially a Floor-to-Ceiling Dishwasher

In the late 1970s, single mother of two Frances Gabe was sick and tired of cleaning her house and had had enough. When a stain of fig jam appeared on her wall, she put her foot down. She did the unthinkable — she brought out the hose. Unconventional? Sure, but it put Gage on the path to inventing the first “self-cleaning home.” The daughter of an architect, Gabe spent more than a decade and thousands of dollars of her life savings revamping her modest Oregon home into a giant floor-to-ceiling dishwasher. In practice, that amounted to inventing 68 separate devices to eliminate every part of the cleaning of her home. There was a cupboard that could clean dishes without having to remove them, and cabinets in which one could hang dirty clothes to be washed and dried that could later be pulled with chains into the closet. Every room contained sprinklers in the ceiling that sprayed soap and water in a circular motion, which would land on floors coated with waterproof varnish. Well-placed drains and hot-air vents helped dry things afterward, while resin, waterproof fabric and awnings protected the furniture and accouterments of the house. Even books and papers were stored in waterproof jackets and plastic boxes for protection. In 1984, Gabe patented her “self-cleaning building construction,” hoping it would inspire a new form of self-cleaning home design. However, her grand idea never took hold, and by 2002 the cost of running the house had drained her savings dry. She was unable to pay to renew her patents, and they lapsed. Meanwhile, over the years, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, had also damaged the home. In 2009, Gabe's grandchildren made her move into a retirement home, and her death in December 2016 went unreported outside of her Oregon town. Today, most of the self-cleaning features of Gabe's home have been dismantled.