Make us your home page

'Clean Remote' attracts less bacteria, may be featured on Anthony Sullivan's 'Pitchman'


Mike Monsky was driving along one day with his son, who was eating a peanut butter sandwich. When some of the filling spilled on a stray television remote control, he got a big idea.

He tried in vain to clean the peanut paste from between the rubber buttons. Then it came to him: Why not make a remote with a flat surface, a control that can easily be cleaned?

So, along with business partner Dan Ruback, he did.

The Clean Remote has caught on in a few hospitals and hotels that are ramping up hygienic efforts in an era of swine flu, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes and mouth masks.

And a reality television show also has its sights set on the local inventors who work out of a warehouse on Dupont Circle, near Racetrack Road.

"A lot of thought went into this," Ruback said.

• • •

Ruback, 51, of Oldsmar realized remote controls were going to be his life about 10 years ago. He grew up with his cousin Monsky, 50, now of Odessa, in Woodbridge, N.J., where they started repairing VCRs, televisions and other electronic devices.

But the electronic repair business was waning, and the cousins had to figure out a way to stay in business. They noticed that people were constantly replacing remote controls that were broken or lost.

In 1996, they started Command in Hand, a company selling remote controls. They put up a Web site and, they say, business never slowed down. They moved operations to Tampa in 2001 and got to work developing a universal remote control specifically for hotels and hospitals.

"We just found a niche," Ruback said.

Today, their warehouse is cramped with boxes of remote controls stacked to the ceiling. The remotes — about 300,000 of them — are sorted by make and model and are ready to be shipped to couch potatoes all over the country.

"We just have bags and bags of them," Ruback said. "It just never ends."

• • •

Somewhere between tragedy and peanut butter came their next big moment.

About 2 million people acquire infections while in the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a few years back, Ruback and Monsky say, a relative and an employee's daughter both got sicker after hospital stays.

The business partners didn't know what exactly caused those infections, but they knew that a remote control, even in a hospital room, can carry plenty of bacteria. So they were looking for a way to improve the device, and when Monsky's son spilled the peanut butter, the solution became clear.

They came up with the Clean Remote about six years ago.

The flat surface is easy to clean and is more resistant to bacteria. The remote costs around $10 and works on about 200 television brands. They can be purchased online at or by calling, toll-free, 1-800-827-2546.

Monsky and Ruback are in the process of creating a newer remote with more functions tailored to in-home use, Ruback said.

The Clean Remote has been tested in laboratories, including the University of Arizona and UCLA Medical Center. The flat remotes contained less bacteria than a regular remote before being wiped clean and less after being cleaned, according to the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science study.

Sales have been steady, said Ruback, who recently closed a deal selling 4,000 remotes to Best Western at a trade show in October.

Troy Rutman, a spokesman for the hotel chain, said it is working to boost cleanliness in its rooms.

"We know that this is considered one of the dirtiest items in a room and we are looking for ways to reduce that," Rutman said.

The inventors also are being considered for an upcoming season of the Anthony Sullivan show Pitchmen.

"It's an exciting product, and we have high hopes for it," Sullivan said.

Ruback's pitch: "What happens in Vegas, stays on the remote."

Times staff writer Eric Deggans contributed to this report. Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or [email protected]

'Clean Remote' attracts less bacteria, may be featured on Anthony Sullivan's 'Pitchman' 02/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]