Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Ashkahn and Graham talk about all the different things that could possibly cause discoloration or odd odors in your float tank solution. There’s any number of things that could be at fault and it’s difficult to suggest it remotely, so instead they answer a handful of similar questions by offering broad troubleshooting advice on how to handle it when something comes up.
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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: Alright. Hey everybody.
Ashkahn: Alright. Welcome.
Graham: That’s Ashkahn.
Ashkahn: Yeah, my name is Ashkahn-
Graham: That’s Ashkahn Jahromi on that microphone.
Ashkahn: Well, when you say it like that.
Graham: I’m Graham.
Graham: But yeah. And before we get to the question today, we had a special announcement which you might have been hearing, which is that we’re winding down the Daily Solutions Podcast at the end of this month.
Ashkahn: That’s right. We have a special little episode we recorded to talk a little bit more about what’s going on there. But for you guys right now, one fun thing to know is that for our very last episode we’re doing a big, long, live recording. Where you guys can call in and we can actually chat on the air.
Graham: And it’ll be on ice too. We’ll actually be, we’re doing the entire thing on ice skates.
Ashkahn: Yeah, we haven’t figured out exactly the logistics but …
Graham: Big production.
Ashkahn: Make sure to buy some ice skates before then.
Graham: But there really is gonna be a nice two-hour live episode. It’s gonna happen in November, 29th at 3:00 PM.
Ashkahn: 3:00 Pacific Time.
Graham: Yeah, Pacific Time.
Ashkahn: Yeah, so those are the details.
Graham: Until 5:00 PM. That’s two hours from then. Boy, yeah, we also have, not so much a straight question from the audience today, as a conglomeration of questions that we’ve been having coming in lately. I guess and there’s never a shortage of questions about water quality or things happening inside the float tank solution, turning an interesting color, or generating a smell that maybe shouldn’t be there. And we just wanted to take a second to talk about some normal steps that you might do in addressing those.
Ashkahn: And just to kind of give you a sense of things, I’m just gonna read a few snippets from these different questions we’ve been getting, and to kind of talk about what people are seeing and what steps they have been taking. So things like, “About once a week we feel the need to add enzymes or shock the water, but this seems to only address the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem.” So a lot of people talking about kind of when to totally dump their water, but not wanting to dump their water before figuring out what’s leading to this issue, so they don’t immediately have just bad water again.
“It doesn’t matter if the filters are brand new or simply deep cleaned, and washing the inside walls of a tank has much effect on anything else. We use hydrogen peroxide in our tank. Other people talking about superdosing with hydrogen peroxide up to 150 milliliters and running the filtration system all night. And that not necessarily helping.” And again, that kind of leading up to the question of, “Do I drain my tank and start afresh or do I try to figure out what is causing this before I drain a tank, and then have the new tank water get off colored, or smell weird, or feel like peoples body odors or something are getting left behind there.”
That’s kind of the gist of these questions we’ve been getting in.
Graham: Yeah, and often again, yeah it’s like light discoloration is very common, like-
Ashkahn: Some cloudiness.
Graham: The water doesn’t quite looks clear. Yeah, a little cloudy, little musty, little brown. Yeah, odd smells. Sometimes people think it’s body odor. All of these things, If these are clicking with you then you might also have a similar problem.
Ashkahn: Yeah, and there’s kind of a general … “The liquid in my float tank is not looking or smelling great, what do I do?” What’s the action plan for dealing with this sort of situation?
Graham: Get out of there. Just call it quits man, it’s crazy.
Ashkahn: Yeah. You’re probably tired.
Graham: Right. It’s a hassle.
Ashkahn: And yeah, there’s basically a lot of places to kind of start and move up from there, is really the good way to think about this. And some of them in these questions people have been doing, but it’s worth going through the kind of simple ones first. Which is there’s just routine float tank maintenance that you should be doing, like putting clean filters in. So whatever sort of filtration system you have on your device, making sure you’re using it properly, and you’re swapping it out at the appropriate times, and you’re not just kind of leaving a filter in there for way too long. And that’s the cause of the issue here.
Graham: And yeah, I’d even go a step further and just making sure for each separate part of your filtration system. That you know what the kind of regular maintenance is and that you’re sticking to it. Often when these things happen, especially when they pop up in a single pod, this is often a good indication, or just in a single float tank of any kind. But if everyone has or if the float center owner has all of these identical units and then one of their tanks starts having a set of problems and all the others are doing okay, sometimes that’s a sign that the UV light is malfunctioning. Or it’s either not getting power or the bulb needs to be or the quartz tube needs to be cleaned around the bulb or the bulb needs to be replaced.
And similarly with Ozone, for example. The kind of injectors can get clogged and not actually be working or injecting the Ozone, even though it’s getting power. And so just things like that, and following in general, your float tank manufacturer’s recommendations, and even going a step further to find out what the recommendations are from some of the kind of bigger parts providers is not a bad idea.
Ashkahn: And then there’s, when this is happening to all of your float tanks, it means probably something systematic is going wrong, and this really shouldn’t be happening. You can run a float tank center. We have a pretty high capacity at our place, right? We’re open 24 hours a day and where people are floating-
Graham: And they’re literally the most hours in a day.
Ashkahn: The amount of time people are in our float tanks is a very high proportion of the time. And we can keep our water clear, and it doesn’t smell weird, and it doesn’t look cloudy, and it doesn’t look discolored. You should be able to run a float center with proper maintenance and proper equipment in a way that you aren’t seeing this sort of stuff happen in there. If you are seeing this across all of your systems, there’s basically the world of what you’re doing in terms of maintenance and then there’s the world of the equipment itself. Which is the kind of harder thing to fix because it gets expensive and tricky to deal with.
Before we tackle anything like that, other maintenance includes, the components on your systems just need replacing sometimes. Especially things like UV systems, we’ve a whole episode about all the different stuff that can make your UV light not as effective as it’s supposed to be. Listen to that, we’ll put that in the show notes. And that can be things like making sure you’re actually cleaning off the quartz sleeves around the bulb, and that sort of stuff to make sure that’s effective. And for filters, oftentimes if you have this filter that is maybe not as big as other filters out there, you could up the maintenance you’re doing on it, and replace it more frequently. And that would help try to cut down on potentially having that be a cause of the issue. And other maintenance is really cleaning things outside of the liquid. If-
Graham: I think I’m gonna say just with the filter system too, like the pump itself. Actually taking that apart and taking out hair that might be caught around the impeller and things like that I’d put in that can get a little weird and funky, and inside the pump itself too.
Ashkahn: Yeah. That’s an important one, like you may be getting lower flow than you thought you were supposed to be getting. Because hair is stuck somewhere in the system, in the inlet, or somewhere in your skimmer basket if you have one of those, or in the impeller of the pump. All those things are gonna lead to you getting a slower flow rate than you think you’re actually getting, or that the float tank was designed to be getting. Which means you’re not actually doing the level of filtration that you’re expecting to do between every single person. That can definitely lead to lowered quality of clarity, and smell, and stuff like that. And then yeah, above the waterline. If your water looks good but there’s a weird smell, you may have something going on in the seams of the float tank. There’s a lot of places where mold or mildew or stuff like that could grow, if you were to just leave it unchecked.
Graham: It’s honestly the next thing that I check after just making sure the filter is working at all. If someone calls me with a water quality issue is, “What’s your protocol for cleaning the inside of the tank above the waterline? How often are you actually getting in there and disinfecting everything? What are you using?” And we have some great episodes to talk about the details of what would go into actually cleaning the inside of the float tank. So we’ll put those in the show notes for reference.
Ashkahn: And then there’s a lot of questions that come up around the equipment. And especially this concept of hydrogen peroxide, which I think comes up all the time. We don’t exactly know … We don’t exactly have data on how effective hydrogen peroxide is in terms of killing stuff in a float tank. For pools and spas and other forms of cleaning, it’s not really called a disinfectant. It doesn’t tend to be the most powerful thing out there. If what you’re considering, your biggest point of attack is upping your dose of hydrogen peroxide, that may not again, just by making assumptions off of the use of hydrogen peroxide in other places, that may not be a powerful enough tool to pull out of your tool belt, to deal with something like this. So shocking your system with peroxide, well it will help, and help as an oxidizer and things like that. It may not be able to deal with the root cause of what’s going on.
Graham: Yeah, for sure and … Yeah, I’m trying to think of what the actual next order of operations is. If their filter is working correctly, if they do have good cleaning protocol for the actual walls of the float tank-
Ashkahn: I would definitely get your water tested at a lab. It’s just nice to actually see if the quality you’re seeing in the system is correlated with actual numbers of microorganisms in your thing. If you are getting positive heterotrophic plate count numbers, or coliform count numbers, or something like that. That would definitely be something I’m throwing on my list if I’m seeing poor water quality in my place.
Graham: Yeah. I guess I was gonna say and we just briefly touched on this already. But the flow is something where if you don’t have a flow meter already attached to your pump system, it actually might be kinda hard to tell what flow rate you’re getting. And it could be that everything’s working properly, but your flow has just been slowly decreasing over time. And you’re not getting the proper amount of volumetric turnover of water going through your filtration system, even if the individual components are working. We’ve said it before, but I totally advise even doing a little retrofitting to make sure that you end up with a flow meter. And there’s one that’s properly calibrated for float tanks. But just low flow, if you do have a flow meter, checking that is even better before you even go into all the filtration stuff. That can give you a lot of insight as to, “There might be something going wrong there.”
Ashkahn: It’s pretty much the easiest actual alteration to make on your filtration system, is adding a flow meter in. And if things are not going well, like you may only be filtering 80% of the water or something, between every person. Stuff like that can definitely contribute to lowering of quality. There’s other non-sanitation issues that can lead to discoloration. There’s things like shocking a system, can sometimes oxidize the iron that is just there. That comes a little bit with the Epsom salt that’s going in. So some people’s float tanks will turn orange, or they’ll see this a lot with either something like potassium monopersulfate, where they’re using that kind of non chlorine shock. Or sometimes with the use of bromine, like when you’re putting certain things in there, certain reactions can happen with impurities in the Epsom salt like iron, and lead to discoloration. That’s not-
Graham: Or both. It’s okay a way to feel like a float tank expert too. If someone calls and they’re like, “My water just changed like dark orange and I have no idea what to do.” And you’re like, “Using bromine with potassium monopersulfate?” And they’re kind of like, “My God. How did you know?” Yeah. If you are using that system you’re nodding your head right now as we’re saying this, you’re like, “Yep, I’ve done that.” It happens to almost everyone the first time they’re adding in the non chlorine shock.
Ashkahn: Big doses of hydrogen peroxide. If you are shocking your system, like someone said, putting like 150 milliliters or a bunch of hydrogen peroxide in your system. That can lead to a ton of air bubbles being created and then a bunch of cloudiness that will just eventually go away.
Graham: Specifically you’ll see this when you run your pump a lot too, with that much hydrogen peroxide. Just like mixes up the water, you get all these microbubbles and it looks like there’s something wrong with the water, but in fact it’s just the hydrogen peroxide getting mixed around, and aerating, and it goes away within two or three minutes of stopping the pump system usually.
Ashkahn: But if you’re doing that every night and you’re coming in every morning being like, “Why is this still so cloudy?” There’s just like float tank mysteries that sometimes can be unraveled like that. And if it does get down to a cleaning out the pipes and stuff, a lot of float tanks come with these kinds of check valves. Something that you can close in the pipe system, right where the pipe goes in and out of the float tank. That keeps all the water in the float tank and allows you to take the filtration system off of it and run some stuff through there. Run bleach or something and just try to clean the system out.
Graham: Or whatever. Just look under you look under your sink and whatever you have pour through the pipes.
Ashkahn: Some ammonia, some bleach, stuff it in there and see what happens.
Graham: Yeah. I mean I think that’s great. We’ve gone as far as sometimes too, when we’re just confused about certain things. Or especially when we have to do some replacement or some work inside the top of the tank itself. We’ll actually drain the water of the tank out into 55 gallon buckets basically and hold it there. And clean the entire, just the interior of the float tank as well. If you didn’t wanna even run bleach through your system, or do a full pass through your filter, and try to make sure that all of that is clean, and then put your water back in, that’s also an option. You can re-deposit that, do the whole cleaning cycle through. What we’ll do often is put bleach inside the body of water going inside the tank, run the filters. So you’re kind of filtering this more heavily bleached water through the entire system, dump that out, put regular water in, flush out all the bleach, and then you can put your float tank solution back in.
That’s kind of the most extreme version of, you don’t quite wanna dump your water yet. But you do wanna make sure that the system itself is doing well.
Ashkahn: And then we start getting into the realm of having to seriously look at the equipment on your float tank and decide if something needs to change there. So this is where things start to get expensive and complicated, but it’s worth looking at. If you built your own float tank, maybe you didn’t put the right stuff in there to begin with. And maybe the stuff you have is not big enough or powerful enough or … Every once in a while I’ll see people using a UV system that’s meant for an aquarium or something like that. There is some nuance and depth to these different components, and you could have the wrong piece of equipment on your system that just isn’t powerful enough. Or at least is what’s leading to, over time, a lowered quality of water in your system.
Graham: Yeah. Which sucks.
Ashkahn: Yeah. You can up the size of your filter. That’s something that you could look at doing. That just requires buying a new filter housing, if you think you have a filter that’s really small or … It’s really the proportion between the flow rate and the filter, that’s the thing you got to think about. The filters are usually expecting a certain amount of flow rate to go through them, cartridge filters and bag filters. That’s something to take a look at.
Graham: And we tend to have really big flow rates because we have such a small volume we’re trying to turn over really quickly. Our pumps end up flowing pretty fast. You actually need a decently sized filter in order to push 50 gallons a minute through the filter, and have it be successful. Yeah. If your filter does seem small to you, it very well might be.
Ashkahn: Yeah. And cleaning off the inside walls and ceiling, like we talked about getting maybe a new UV system, that’s kind of a pretty intense step, but it might be worth something to look at. Take a serious look at your UV system and see if it is something that you think may be able to be improved. At the end of the day, there’s only so many components that you can upgrade or figure out here. And I mean it’s pretty much the pump is the only other one. Maybe you’re just getting a really low flow-
Graham: Yeah. I was just gonna say that-
Ashkahn: And you wanna up the pump size and get things moving faster and be able to do more turnovers between each person.
Graham: Or just recognize if everything is smaller sized and then the flow rate is correct for the equipment, that might just mean you need longer transitions. If you’re not pushing that much actual volume through all of your equipment, then maybe you need to move from having a half an hour transition to having an hour long transition. And that can also solve the problem without replacing equipment. But that’s the only if everything is properly sized for each other. The rates have to all match.
Ashkahn: And ultimately, don’t be afraid to dump your solution. We have a business to run here and part of that is trying to keep track of our finances of course. But the other part is making sure that you’re running good floats for people. And safe floats for people on one side of things, and also just putting people into a float tank that looks good and smells good. Even if you’re getting results back from your lab tests that say, from the things that you’re testing there’s nothing growing in there.
You don’t want people going into float and seeing discolored water, or having things smell weird, or anything like that. You wanna be providing a service that makes people feel really good about floating. And puts their, back of the mind sanitation questions that most people were thinking about, to ease when they come into your place and not makes them more concerned about it.
Graham: I always say everything looks clean in pitch darkness.
Ashkahn: But be responsible, and if you got to dump your water, dump your water. Don’t try to hold on for something for longer than you should because you’re trying to save the money.
Graham: And be honest with yourself too. A customer complaint or a couple of customer complaints as a result of not having great experience, and then feeling like it’s actually dirty in the water. That’s gonna cost you so much more money in the long term, in terms of referrals and reputation than just changing out the water and biting the bullet. Play around, try to get things right, I always think it’s worth trying to get the water right before fully dumping it out. If it’s before your change over time that you have for your regular water switch. But yeah, if it’s not working, and you just can’t figure out how to get it clear, like Ashkahn said, definitely don’t feel bad about dumping it.
Ashkahn: At a certain point the amount of floats you’re canceling from trying to spend time fixing the liquid in there without having people go in, is gonna outbalance the cost of dumping it.
Graham: And if you ended up paying a lot of money for hair augmentation things in the future, the hair that you’re losing over it, it’s not gonna equal that amount of either.
Ashkahn: Yeah. Somethings to consider. But again, you really should be able to run a float center without this happening. You should be able to have your float tanks maintained to the point where they are not getting discolored, or smelling weird, or things like that.
Graham: If you think cloudy, stinky tanks that just like what the industry is, that’s not-
Ashkahn: It’s not normal. It’s not like this is a thing that everyone it has happened in their float center. It should be something that can be solved, I guess is what I’m trying to say. And the other part of it is that this stuff is just really complicated, and there’s a lot of factors that go into it. And it’s a little hard, often with these questions, to kind of answer them in the abstract. For us when we got … When we have two, three questions like these come in, it’s kind of difficult for us to give specific responses other than just big sweeping ones with a lot of suggestions like this. Because there’s a lot of things that can lead to something going on with your tank water.
Graham: A couple other things I’ll mention that we didn’t talk about, just briefly I guess to tail end it too is, making sure that everything that goes into your tank, just in terms of water and salt, is of the highest quality that you can manage. So filtering water before it gets into your float tank-
Ashkahn: Yeah good one.
Graham: Making sure there’s some kind of pre-filter on there. Whether it’s built in to your actual water system going to the building, or is a pre-filter attachment that you’re doing just for the water before the float tank. And same thing for the salt, making sure that it’s actual USP salt, the kind of highest quality that you can get. Because you will end up with weird, extra heavy metals in your salt or your water. Honestly, the city water that you’re getting is even a more likely culprit than other salts.
But in both of them we’ve seen problems and that can cause discoloration and all kinds of weird chemistry to happen. Little extra pro tip there at the end.
Ashkahn: So you got it.
Graham: Yeah. And if you don’t got it then write in. And we’ll be a little more specific with our answers and help you through it. And where you do that, where you write in, if you want to-
Ashkahn: There’s this little website, it’s called floattanksolutions.com. Throw a little /podcast on the end there, you go right to a page with a form that you can fill out-
Graham: Yeah. And a nice illustration of me and Ashkahn.
Ashkahn: Yeah, we’ll see you there.
Graham: We’ll be looking at you. Bye everyone.
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