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Show Highlights

Every float center has to compromise somewhere on how much cleaning to do between transitions. Where do you draw the line and how do you make sure that you’re keeping your employees happy without sacrificing sanitation?

Graham and Ashkahn remind everyone that “perfect” sanitation doesn’t exist and that making solutions collaborative in a work environment can do wonders for morale and problem solving in situations like this one.

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

Graham: All right, welcome.

Ashkahn: Hey everybody, this is Ashkahn.

Graham: Graham is my name and today’s question is, “where do I draw the line between perfect sanitation?” I mean why even bother reading the rest of your question.

Ashkahn: Let’s hear them out.

Graham: “Where do I draw the line between perfect sanitation and how much labor it takes?”

Ashkahn: People are going to stop sending us questions because we just ruthlessly make fun of them every time.

Graham: I’m sorry. “I worry I’m burning out my employees.”

Ashkahn: Where do I draw the line between perfect sanitation?

Graham: Where do I draw the line between perfect sanitation and how much labor it takes? I worry I’m burning out my employees.

Ashkahn: Okay.

Graham: Well, first of all, perfect sanitation is something you’re never going to reach.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: It’s a gray area.

Ashkahn: That’s why I think part of it makes this so difficult. Is that sanitation is this whole risk analysis thing and because there’s no perfect, it makes it a harder question to figure out where you draw the line. If there was a perfect, then there’ll be something so much more achievable that you can be like, “Well, we just know what would actually be perfect sanitation. We should do it.”

Graham: It doesn’t sound even like a very good, it’s really just better than whatever is less than that, or worse than going more all out. Yeah, it’s really is just giant gray area with very indeterminant balance in a lot of cases. It’s true if you’re trying to be as diligent as you possibly can about everything, that’s just a lot to accomplish in the transitions when you’re trying to clean out rooms, it’s a lot. What do we mean-

Ashkahn: It will burn out people, it is huge. It’s a huge amount of work that you can just always scrub harder, do something longer, do something more intensely or replace something or clean something more often. There’s just always a way to go more extreme.

Graham: Yeah, this is just one example of what we’re talking about, but if you have wooden slats that people are stepping onto in the float tank room, are you spraying them down with some disinfectant between everyone or are you actually taking the slats fully out, so that you can soak them in something or do this more extreme cleaning and putting a whole new set of slats in between people. It’s at some point you’re asking yourselves these various questions about the level that you’re worried about things.

Ashkahn: Yeah. What demands you make of how your shop staff is? It’s a real question and it really just has a lot to do with the pragmatics of reality.

Graham: It’s harder, so that said, let’s just shoot forward with some opinions and some things to keep in mind, I guess. One thing that comes to my mind right off the bat is so much of this stuff has to do with room construction initially and with the things that you’re actually putting in your room. Even just having something like a floor mat that you’re stepping out of the tank onto, immediately has this other question of how are you sanitizing that floor mat that they’re stepping onto you as opposed to if they’re going right on the floor, you need to always know that you need to disinfect the floor with something and spray it down.

How long you’re letting things sit there? What else would you say is some of the big questions that people are running into when they’re talking about burning out their staff versus doing the right thing for sanitation? I guess even just checking levels of something between every single person. You could check-

Ashkahn: Wiping stuff down, there’s the whole room can be wiped down and it’s really a very difficult between every floater to go in and wipe down the entire walls and the whole walls of the outside of the float tank and the walls of the inside of the float tank.

Graham: Well, also the inside of the float tank is a great example actually, because I think not a lot of centers go as far spraying a hard surface disinfectant on the walls of the float tank, letting it sit for the appropriate amount of time between every customer. You can timewise, right?

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Unless you’d just have an hour or something between every customer.

Ashkahn: Part of the problem is we don’t know exactly what the even comfortable standards for stuff like this would be. It’s not like there is a, “Hey you know, if you do this less frequently than this, people are really likely to get sick.” Information out there for how often you’d disinfect the walls. I don’t know, some of it’s hard. I feel approaching sanitation has a lot to do with a couple of things with your staff. One is, assuming you have people who care and you’ve hired good people in the first place, so I’m just going to go forward under that assumption. Assuming that you have people who care, I think also going to care about keeping the place clean, they want to provide clean sanitary floats, they don’t want to get people sick, they want people have good experiences.

The way that they do that is, I think it’s hard once you’ve been running a float center for a while to realize that the knowledge that’s in your head is not another’s people’s heads. You’ve been spending a couple of years learning about sanitation, and how things work, and why you’re doing certain things and that gives you a better judgment than the people that are brand new, or are you hired whoever been spending the time looking into that.

It might be the people aren’t doing a good job, not out of ill intention, but just that of not knowing. Out of not knowing, “Hey this is a common way diseases can be transferred.” To me it’s knowledge. We spend a lot of time trying to pass on information. If people are doing some cleaning activity in our float center, we try to explain why. Why are we cleaning like this? Why do we do it in this way?

Graham: Are you trying to say that educating people will lead to them having more buy-in in the process?

Ashkahn: Yeah, is not just buy-in but I feel judgment is a part of it. There’s so many times I feel something comes up and someone on the staff has to make a decision about the best way to clean it and you’re just not there to be like, “Oh, I think you should do this or I think you should do that.” Or especially if you get a little bit less involved in the day to day of your float center. If you step away from being the person who’s there cleaning everyday or even on your deep cleans, the habits of people of your shop staff, or their cleaning will slowly start to evolve.

Someone will do something someday and it’s a little bit easier, and they’d be like, “Oh man, we should do it this way. That’s easier.” That might be a good thing because they just found an easier way to do something, or it might be a bad thing because what they’re doing is actually worse sanitation, but they don’t know it because they don’t have that full sense of understanding. They’re making a bad judgment call.

Graham: An example might be, for example, two examples in one sentence there, I don’t know what happened, but let’s take shower sandals or offering some slippers . At Float On, we trade them out between every single person. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the place where we leave them, doesn’t matter if they look bone dry. Anyone observing it, they would just look like no one used those sandals, doesn’t matter. Take them into the back room, spray them off, disinfect them, put another set of totally clean sandals in there. That’s because people can do weird things. People will take sandals and wear them and then dry them off with their towel and put them back in the original position. Who knows why they’re floatey, something like they’re just really diligent and hate leaving a mess or something.

But it could be that one of your staff members looks at them and says, “Oh, well, why don’t we just do a wetness test on these sandals, make sure they’re in the same spot we left? If they are, then we don’t trade them out, and that will save a little bit of time on transition.” That’s one of those things Ashkahn was talking about, where as owners and as someone who has seen people do really … People will tell you, “Wear robes and retie them and try to … tie the same knot that we used with the special float enacted.” People can’t replicate. It’s because there are reasons for these first switching it out, and so you can’t just rely totally on people’s judgment.

Ashkahn: One that I see really commonly is, there’s just such a temptation to use the customer’s towels for things. You go into a room to clean, there’s always a towel sitting there and you’re like, “Hey, maybe I should just use this dirty towel to wipe this last remaining part, or maybe we should use this dirty towel to put it on our floor because the floor is dirty too.” That to me is a logical jump, I see a lot of staff.

Graham: That’s a good one.

Ashkahn: They’re like, “Oh, well, what am I going to go grab a whole nother towel? There’s this tower that here.” We got to worry about skin diseases and stuff like that. When you look into that stuff and when you see a towel service and they come out with medical bags to take your towels away, and they’re wearing gloves and stuff like that, you’re like, “Huh, maybe towels are a place that disease can spread from person to person. Maybe I shouldn’t be using that to clean stuff up.” But there’s a convenience to it that I think becomes really tempting to people.

I think knowledge helps. It gives people the tools to make better judgment calls than that. I think just the more you build up good sanitation practices in general, the more you’re building a good culture of sanitation. If you’re sitting there emphasizing all of these fundamentals of sanitation and the fact that disinfection sprays need to sit for a certain amount of times, and things that may contact with people’s bodies are ways that diseases can be spread.

If you’re going over those basic building blocks with people and your staff knows that sanitation is important, then it creates this whole environment where people are always thinking about it, because it’s an important part of running the job and they have the tools to make those decisions to figure out what to do.

Graham: Yeah, and that’s true for everything too. Education in general is always such a powerful tool for getting people on your side. It is amazing how much just making sure that they have knowledge and that you’re not just dictating down from this place on high exactly what people shall do and what they shall not do. But they understand the reasons and maybe they’d even be more diligent in cleaning if they have that explanation.

In similar terms too, and it’s interesting it’s steering this direction as far as sanitation, but I think a lot of it is more … you were asking … the question that was asking about making sure their staff isn’t burnt out, right?

Ashkahn: Right.

Graham: For me, a lot of that is in expectations too. I mean we hire people and we let them know a lot of their job is going to be cleaning. It’s not we’re saying, “Oh, you’ll just have this cushy desk job and then all this cleaning is sprung on them in between.” It’s like, “No.” You have to set the expectation from the beginning. That’s a huge part of what they’re doing. If you already have a staff that might have sailed a little bit, but you can still do it even. You can still have an all staff meeting and say, “Hey, we’re going to be changing some things up. From now on, we’re going to be really diligent about A, B, C and D related to sanitation and the rooms. I need everyone to be onboard, and if this isn’t the job you thought you signed up for it, let’s have a talk in private or something.”

You can reset standards even after the fact, but to me that’s such a huge part too of just avoiding the burnout. Is making sure people know what they’re getting into. There’s just this mental ease to going along with something when you know it’s coming that is not there, if you all have been doing something a certain way for a long time and then suddenly you have to switch.

Ashkahn: I feel the other part of it, in terms of helping prevent burnout is, if you can explain why something needs to be cleaned and the end result and then make the process open for debate. We do that a lot. I’m like, “Well, this is the issue, this is what we’re trying to deal with. This is what we need to get to.” Here’s my suggestion, “We use this spray and we use these hand towels.” Someone goes in and does it like this. But if you can think of a better way to accomplish this goal, let’s do it.

We’re really, really extremely easy going on spending money to make the cleaning easier for our staff. It’s the point where we’re like, “If you can find a tool that will make any part of this cleaning process easier for you, we will buy it. We will spend huge amounts of money because we’re saving whatever, your physical labor, repetitive work for you, your mental health.”

Graham: Making it so that it’s easier to get the room clean, which means customers that have a better experience, all of it. Just gets better, with better cleaning supplies.

Ashkahn: Our employees do sometimes have better suggestions. They’re like, “Hey, what if we did it like this?” You’re like, “Yeah, that’s actually an easier way of accomplishing the same goal.” If they don’t, if they can’t come up with a better way of doing something, they often are like, “Okay, I guess that’s sounds like the way we have to do it.” There’s just a much more easy a way to get everybody on board because it’s not being forced on you. Everyone understands and appreciates the goal and like, “That’s the best that anybody could come up with as a way of accomplishing it.”

Graham: I remember years ago I was visiting one of the float house locations and I was chatting with one of their managers. He was showing me, he’s like, “Yeah, I’m just all about developing different ways to clean.” He pulled out a drill and he had a rag that he was attaching to it, it’s like, “Tonight I’m seeing how drill rag does. Maybe you can just run this over the float tank and clean it up.” People can get excited about-

Ashkahn: Yeah, we’ve looked into mop shoes. We have had all weird stuff we’ve done in our place.

Graham: They can actually have fun with it. It seems silly that people would get really excited about ways to clean a room, but it’s amazing. You leave it up to them and they can come up with ideas like rag drill.

Ashkahn: We used to clean with a super soaker, that was part of our nightly cleaning process.

Graham: It’s super fun too.

Ashkahn: I feel that’s only part of the question. I know this since we’ve been talking-

Graham: Oh boy.

Ashkahn: We’ve talking for a long time now and I feel like we should at least address the other part, which is, I feel what we’ve discussed so far is, how do you do the same level of cleaning but get your staff to be less burdened by it? Whereas I feel the other part of this question is, at what point do you decide that’s just too much? That’s just too intensive a cleaning protocol?

Graham: How do you decide how many times a week to clean the inside of your walls?

Ashkahn: Yeah, exactly.

Graham: Is it nightly, is it twice a week, is it?

Ashkahn: Yeah, and that it’s a really difficult question. It’s something that I think we’re slowly piecing together as an industry. If you don’t know the answers to every single frequency or in-depthness of all your cleaning protocol, don’t feel like that, is something you’re going to be able to figure out in a week of diligent research. It’s something as an industry we’re step by step getting closer to.

Graham: We have another episode where we have our list of cleaning procedures that we go through for cleaning a room, and then what we consider like a room turnover from the Float On perspective to be, I feel like total details. Definitely look in our show notes and you can go back and listen to that one, just so we don’t have to go through everything again. But yeah, how do you make the decision of … let’s just use that as an example, where is this gray area, how often do you clean down the inside of the walls?

Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s hard to others. There’s, I think just general consensus amongst the industry, figuring out how often people are doing it. There’s any sort of visual or smell or anything like-

Graham: You can-

Ashkahn: If you can notice anything, that probably means you’re doing it infrequently. You should be doing it more frequently so that it doesn’t get to the point where you’re actually specifically scrubbing something off, or something like that. Just actually pay attention. If something’s looking bad, you should be cleaning it more frequently than you are.

Graham: Pay special attention to the areas that people are likely to come in contact with. That’s an area you’re not to skimp as far as just transitioned cleaning is. “Is someone likely to touch a handle on the door?” “Great.” Disinfect the handle and maybe you don’t need to disinfect the entire door. Things like that where it’s just the obvious spots, make sure that you’re always hitting those. If you have time you can go back and hit some of the play areas where clients are less likely to interact with, for example. When you do have to make decisions, that’s the go logically through, the places that are highest risk in that sense.

Ashkahn: I think the other thing that we do is, we have these multiple frequencies of cleaning. If we want to do it, but it’s way too intense to do in between every floater, we just push it to that level of frequency that makes it actually feasible. If we’re like, “Hey, we should really be cleaning this in this way.” But that takes 30 minutes. Maybe that’s something we do every night, maybe it’s something we do once a week and that that’s part of cleaning.

We watched the talk at some conference about biofilm and biofilm buildup. The person gave a presentation and made an analogy of like cleaning your teeth. It’s was like, “Hey, there is a difference between brushing your teeth every day and the benefit you get from going to the dentist every six months, and getting that much deeper tooth teeth cleaning.” You can do that with cleaning your facilities as well, doing that much more intense cleaning in a less frequent basis, gets you deeper and is enough to keep things balanced.

Graham: At some point you could be having a dental cleaning every week and brushing your teeth 12 times a day. It’s also that one of those areas where you need to draw a line just with dentistry. We have decades of research that says, “Oh, okay, maybe brushing your teeth 12 times a day is overkill.” With Float On, we’re getting around to that a little more.

Ashkahn: Yeah, think about where it makes sense in the scope of your operations. If it’s too much to handle in the transition, maybe it’s something you can do once a night. That’s at least creating that nice buffer for you and making sure it gets done at some point.

Graham: Yeah. I guess if you’re writing this because you have specific things in mind or are there specific procedures that you’re curious about, and you’re wondering whether you’re doing them too often or not often enough? Definitely write that into us too and we can get a little more specific with it. Sometimes I feel like our answers are a little broad just because the terms we’re talking about are a little more general.

Ashkahn: I know, this really is a lot of like case by case basis with that is easier to answer.

Graham: I’m saying write in any time. I guess one or two last things. If your health department is overseeing you then, this is also a conversation that you can have partly with them, because they’ll want some say on how the rooms separate from the water or anything like that are being handled between clients.

Ashkahn: They’re risky people to get advice from. I very rarely see regulations go in depth as like, “Here’s how you should be cleaning your room.” Other than like, “Clean Room shall be maintained.” Something like that. But it’s a good way to build rapport with your health department too like, “Can you give me some advice on my room cleaning procedures?”

Graham: That’s the most … a public pool or a spa or something that you’re going to get in a float tank center too. It’s a wet environment, you’re talking about a lot of water that’s not salt water, a lot of humidity coming up from the shower. This is all stuff that the health department is actually used to dealing with and can probably give you some good guidelines, these and other places to stop mold from growing and then stop things from being a health hazard. Cool, I think that’s all I had.

Ashkahn: You said at the very beginning of this episode, but construction is a big way of making a lot of this stuff easier for you. If you haven’t started a float center yet, this is great stuff to think about.

Graham: Floor drains, right?

Ashkahn: Floor drains, how many corners there are, how many seams there are, like all this stuff. The decisions you make of how you build your float room is almost like the biggest impact on how easy or hard it will be to keep it clean going forward.  It’s unfortunate to hear it for people who already have floats centers. That’s the biggest way to say-

Graham: They already know. It’s all knowledge for them. Cool, that’s a good question. If you have your own or again, if you want to get more specific with building on sanitation stuff, definitely hit over to-

Ashkahn: Yeah, talk to us.

Graham: Just give us a ring, you should text.

Ashkahn: Go to floatontanksolutions.com/podcast.

Graham: Yep, actually that’s a better. I check that more often than I check my phone. Yeah, talk to you guys tomorrow.

Ashkahn: Right.

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