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Show Highlights

A recommendation for a shower cleaner should be a fairly straightforward answer, right? Well… maybe not. Graham and Ashkahn are very particular about the definitions of things like “sanitation” “disinfectant” and other common cleaning terms. In this episode, they take the time to explain what product labels typically mean and what you want to look for when getting a surface cleaner for your float center.

Be ready to dive in and do some extra reading when getting into this episode. There’s a lot of terminology to parse and clarify. Fortunately, it’s Graham and Ashkahn so they have lots of really clear advice, like “don’t mix bleach and ammonia (or any homemade cleaning product, really)”.

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Listen to Just the Audio

Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Graham: Today’s question for you is, “I’m curious what your preferred disinfectant is for the shower areas?

Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s a bigger question than you may think. There’s a lot to unravel there.

Graham: Yeah. What are showers? How exactly do you define areas? That’s a complicated one.

Ashkahn: Who am I, really? There’s a few things to know about how you’re cleaning things. The first one comes to verbiage. When you start talking about cleaning, and you’re saying words like, disinfection and stuff like that, what you need to realize is those words all of a sudden have very specific and technical meaning when applied to cleaning things. Cleaning doesn’t really have a very specific meaning. You can say cleaning in a general way. The word “sanitize”, the word “disinfectant”, the word “sterilized”. These words mean very specific things.

Actually, they mean different things to different industries, too. Disinfection isn’t exactly the same in the pool and spa world, where we’re used to talking talking about chlorine as a disinfectant, or something, versus the cleaning tables world. Cleaning products that you might buy at a store.

Graham: Counterintuitively, disinfectant, actually, is more hardcore for cleaning the tables, than it is in the pool world, which is interesting.

Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s usually based on how much of something this cleaning product can kill. Usually, as a disinfectant in the pool and spa world, that usually means, one – it’s EPA registered for your use is one part of the meaning.

The other part is it has usually what they talk about as a three log kill. Which means, logarithmically, it does a three logarithmic drop from the starting amount of bacteria. That would mean, basically, it’s the same as saying a 99.9% kill rate. They usually start up about six or seven logs, about a million units of whatever bacteria they’re testing against. Then looking for that to drop to 99.9% of them to be killed. That’s considered disinfection in the pool and spa world.

When you get to cleaning products that you’d buy from a store, you can look at the labels for all this stuff. Usually what you’ll see, is disinfection is even more hardcore. It’s usually a six log reduction. Basically, everything. From the amount that is on there to begin with, you want all of it to be killed.

Graham: Yeah, almost as close as measurable. They’re trying to get to 100%. It’s because you’re using these in places where you have raw meat lots of times, and actual food that’s on surfaces. Also, for hospitals where there’s some serious bugs, and there’s people who are constantly sick and at risk of getting sick around there. The hard surface wipe level, they’re really just much more stringent, I guess, about making sure they’re getting as close to that 100% mark before they even are allowed to use that term to market.

Ashkahn: The word for sanitization is kind of what disinfection is to the pool world. That’s a three log drop, the 99.9% kill. What’s important to know when you see these words … And, oftentimes, like I said, they’ll define them themselves in the paperwork. You want to actually look at the documentation that comes with whatever cleaning agent you’re using. Because, in that document, they’re going to tell you all sorts of useful information that you’re going to need to know to use this product appropriately.

Graham: Is that the MSDS sheets? Is that the name for those things?

Ashkahn: I don’t think so. The MSDS sheets contain information about proper storage, proper handling, and stuff like that. I don’t know if the MSDS sheets also are required to contain information about kill rates and things like that. Usually, these products will have other documentation that you can look at.

Graham: Gotcha. Regardless, that makes sense. If you’re making any claim on the product itself like, “Kills 99.9%,” somewhere on their website or in their tech department, they have to have the actual tests proving that.

Ashkahn: Specifically, the easiest thing to look for when you’re going to the store, and probably what you do want to be looking for is a hard surface disinfectant. Something that’s made for cleaning hard surfaces. Something that’s powerful enough to be a disinfectant. That sounds really intense, but this is pretty much every product. The big brand name product that you can think of is this. Windex.

Graham: Windex has one. Windex by itself is not a-

Ashkahn: Right. If you go to the cleaning aisle in your grocery store, a lot of stuff you see there is going to be a hard surface disinfectant and registered with the EPA. You’re looking for an EPA registered hard surface disinfectant.

At the point that you’re getting something like that, those companies have had to jump through all sorts of hoops to be able to list stuff like that on there. They’ve had to test things. They actually have to list – This is the most hilarious thing I found out learning about this. The companies have to list every application that their cleaning product should be used for. You can actually find their EPA listing. They’re like, “Yeah, you could wipe off tables with this, and chairs, and playground equipment, and a toothpick holder, and …”

Graham: “Little toy trucks.”

Ashkahn: Yeah, like, “The handle of your toothbrush.”

Graham: “Legos.”

Ashkahn: They just have huge, huge lists. Literally, some people were paid to sit in a room and actually be like, “Well, yeah, this could probably clean the legs of chairs.”

Graham: “What else has a hard surface?”

Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s really silly. If you’re not doing anything on a nice Sunday afternoon, you can read through those.

There’s other really important information to read when you’re looking at this documentation. Some of it is you do want to know proper storage, which ranges from temperatures to what to do if this gets in your eyes, or on your hands, or how much is dangerous to breathe in. There’s all sorts of actual safety information that is definitely worth looking at if you’re going to be using this every day to clean your float center.

Graham: Just as a side note, too, that goes for any chemical that you’re going to have in your float center, too. Having all of those MSDS sheets with emergency information for what happens if one of your employees has salt in their eyes and accidentally drinks something, is really important to have on hand. Yeah, good strategy for everything that you have in there.

Ashkahn: Yeah. That’s one part, right? Make sure you’re buying the right products, something that is EPA registered, is called a certain thing –  a hard surface disinfectant –  and meets these certain requirements.

At that point, the other big thing to know about, and we’ve mentioned this a few times on this, is that these different cleaning products will actually be able to kill different things based on how long they’re sitting on the surface. If you just spray things on and wipe them off immediately, you don’t actually end up killing the things that you think you do. Or, in the case that you’re looking for that “disinfectant level,” that level of disinfection comes with some directions in the paperwork that says, “Well, you have to let it sit for this length of time for it to actually be a disinfectant.”

It’s not exactly straightforward, unfortunately. Because, also how long it takes to kill different microorganisms are different based off of what you’re trying to kill. They can be vastly different. Some things are just way easier to kill than other things.

Graham: Yep. You end up with these categories, usually. It’ll be, “Well, it kills all of these things after this amount of time. It’ll kill all of these things after this longer amount of time.” Maybe the hardest to tackle, viruses and things like that, it’ll kill after an even longer amount of time. They’ll have all of those listed out separately.

Ashkahn: Yeah. They might also list different dilutions for those things. “For disinfection, you need a 1:64 dilution.” For sanitation, it can be a much lighter dilution than that, and it can actually hit those sanitizing levels. There’s a number of different variables that they’ll have listed in their spec sheet.

Graham: Yeah, what’s the answer to the person’s question? That was just background to get to the answer.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Let me give you a little background before I answer this. I got to lay this in a little bit first. When we talk about cleaning and all this stuff, pretty much all of this is about risk management. It’s an important thing to keep in your head. There’s always ways to go more hardcore in terms of your cleaning. There’s always ways to go easier. What is that exact right spot that you should be doing things where they’re not super insane for you, and your staff, and stuff like that, but they’re actually still keeping people safe? It can be a little bit hard to say. We’re certainly not micro-bacteriologists.

Graham: Obviously. I can’t believe you said that.

Ashkahn: As you can see.

Graham: We’re not bacteriomalologists.

Ashkahn: We’re not virus doctors, or whatever. We’re going with what our assessment of what we think is appropriate is, and what seemed like a good spot to be in for us. Feel free to look at this and consider your own sweet spot.

For us, we use a product called Simple Green D Pro 5. It’s a more industrial version of the Simple Green that you may be used to.

Graham: Or, as one of our staff members labeled it beautifully, Complicated Green.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Our Complicated Green. That’s because, if you look at the paperwork for Simple Green, just normal Simple Green, it’s not really powerful enough. I don’t think, when I looked into it, I think what I remember is it couldn’t disinfect at any length of time. You could leave it on there for an hour, and it would never actually hit those levels that the Simple Green D Pro 5 is able to hit. We needed something slightly more robust.

Specifically, I made the judgment that we weren’t necessarily going for disinfection between every single floater. Disinfection with this product, Simple Green D Pro 5, it’s 10 minutes. You’d have to leave it on for 10 minutes during each of your transitions to actually hit levels of disinfecting various viruses and stuff like that.

Graham: For some things, it’s okay for disinfection after just a minute or two, right?

Ashkahn: It lists a very small list. It can disinfect two things after a minute, is what it lists in its paperwork. Then after 10 minutes, it has a list of 40 of 50 different microorganisms, and things like that.

Graham: Sure, sure.

Ashkahn: We decided that was, maybe, a little bit too intense. I don’t know if that’s exactly the right decision. It was just a judgment call. You can look around at the world and see what other businesses are doing. Obviously, hospitals probably going to be doing something more intense than that. But, if you go to the gym, and you go to the shower in the gym, there’s no one coming and spraying anything down between every single person who’s using the shower stall. There’s, obviously, a spectrum there of how well cleaning is happening from place to place.

What we’ll do is, we follow the instructions on there. It’s got a little bit of instructions for hitting that sanitization level, which happens to be one minute. It’s even at a lighter dilution than what we’re mixing it to, because we’re mixing it for the disinfection dilution. After one minute, we’re spraying it on any surface that someone has made contact with. Handlebars, light buttons, shower handles, and the floor, so that people walking barefoot will be okay. That’s what we’re doing in our transitions. We’re letting that sit for one minute.

Specifically, we’ll spray it. Then we’ll go grab all the stuff in the room and take it back to our back room. And, grab all the new materials we need for the room. By the time we get back there, it’s pretty much been a minute, so we’re being strategic about not just standing there and watching it sit for a minute.

Graham: A small little note, too, just on the implementation of that especially in the shower area where lots of times, you’ll end up with puddles of water after people have been in there. Doing a little dry up. Spraying it directly on to just sitting water, as you can imagine, just has the chance to dilute it more and not actually get down to the hard surface for the disinfecting. Definitely doing the little dry pass. Make sure that there’s not just a puddle of sitting water that you’re spraying on top of, and then go to town.

Ashkahn: Then after the minute, we’ll wipe it off. That’s what we do for our transitions. Then what we do at the end of the night in each room, is we use the same product, but we let it actually sit there for the 10 minutes to hit its disinfection levels. Also, for things like our sandals that people are using, we’re doing the same thing. We’re spraying that product on it, and actually waiting the 10 minutes for it to hit its proper disinfection. When we do have time, and on a less frequent basis than a transition, we’re taking that same cleaning agent, and taking it to its next level.

Graham: Yep. With the sandals and neck pillows, we do that outside of the rooms, too. We do this full swap out method of getting everything out of our float rooms. Neck pillows and sandals are part of that. Those will get sprayed down and disinfected, because they’re fully swapped out, and there’s clean ones in there. The ones that the previous person used can just sit above our sink and get that 10 minute kill time. So, we’re able to achieve that every time.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Look into it. Look into your products. Actually read the paperwork. Get familiar with it. If you want, if you’re on good terms with your Health Department, you can call your Health Department and say like, “Hey, this is the product I was considering using between people to clean the shower and stuff. What do you think?” They’ll probably be able to give you like, “Oh, actually, I’d feel more comfortable if you went to a more intense product than this.” Or, “No, that should be great. That’s a very appropriate level of cleaning.”

Graham: If you’re on bad terms with your Health Department, maybe this is a way to encourage them to think of you more friendly, you know?

Ashkahn: That’s true.

Graham: Being a responsible consumer here.

Ashkahn: I guess the other thing to mention, is that we also take into the room a bottle of distilled white vinegar that we’ll dilute half-and-half. Half water, half distilled white vinegar. We’ve just found that to be really useful for getting salt off of things. If there’s a big salty spot, we’ll spray that first with vinegar, and it just wipes off really easily. Then the surface is nice and clean and ready to be sprayed down with our Complicated Green.

Graham: Yep. It should be noted, too, vinegar by itself is not going to achieve an actual kill of these things that you’re trying to wipe out. Just using hot water to get rid of the salt and spray down the room is not going to be enough. You do need something in between to try and catch at least the easy-to-kill bugs. Then yeah, like Ashkahn was saying, during the nighttime or any prolonged periods when the rooms are open, get something a little more serious on there that does actually have a kill time for every standard virus, bacteria, things like that.

Ashkahn: Yeah. I’d really not recommend making something yourself. Sometimes I’ll hear of people like, “Well, all right. I’ve got this hydrogen peroxide for the tanks. Maybe I’ll just put that in a spray bottle with some water, and mix it myself.” It’s just the amount of inconsistency with your backroom laboratory you got going there, making these cleaning products is probably not what you want. You probably to actually-

Graham: “Well, I have this bleach and ammonia. What could possibly go wrong?”

Ashkahn: Yeah. I’d really recommend buying an actual labeled product that, again, has an EPA registration, has been through this, has documentation, has tested information that you can base this off of.

Graham: I think that’s very solid advice. Don’t just go mixing chemicals in your back room.

Ashkahn: Or, the spit polish is a good method, too. Spit something on there, get a little elbow grease in.

Graham: I was going to say, elbow grease is actually EPA registered. All right.

Ashkahn: Yeah. That should be a really intense answer to your question.

Graham: Lots of background there. If you have any more simple questions with complicated answers, feel free to go to FloatTankSolutions.com/podcast and send them our way.

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