Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Every once in a while during float industry events, during this podcast, or talks given by health department professionals and the like, they’ll say something like “if you get your water tested and…”. But how does a float center do that? Where should they look? Is there just a lab that they can send their float solution to? Are all labs the same? How much does it cost?
Ashkahn and Graham take on the difficult task of making sense of microbiology testing laboratories, regulatory institutions, and acronyms, all so you don’t have to.
If you’d like to sign up to ask a question on our two-hour call-in show, November 29th at 3 pm PST, go to floattanksolutions.com/dsplive.
Some fun floaty acronyms inspired by today’s episode:
NSF – Nice Salty Floats
ANSI – Altogether Nocturnal Silent Isolation
USP – Ultimate Salinity Points
UL – Ultimate Lightness
EPA – Ethereal Peace and Acceptance
NELAC – New Energy Loses All Consciousness
NELAP – NOTHING Exists Long After Process
ORELAP – Origins Return Existentaily Later Along with Peace
INELA – Internal Noise Exists Lonely Alone
TNI – Total Null Inperience
WELAP – Welcome Everyone Lost Among People
GELAP – Grant Encephelods Lasting Autonomy Please
CELAP – Cheerful Entrances Leave All Pleasant
HPC – Heightened Passivity Cleanses
CFU – Causal Fear Unwound
Listen to Just the Audio
Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: All right. Hello everybody.
Ashkahn: Hey there.
Graham: I’m Graham.
Ashkahn: I’m Ashkahn and this is the special announcement.
Graham: And special announcement. Well, this is the Daily Solutions Podcast. It’s your thing now, I know. I didn’t mean to take that away from you. What’s so special? Huh?
Ashkahn: What’s so special? Well, this is only the Daily Solutions Podcast for a little bit longer because it’s going to be over.
Graham: We’re doing a live two hour call-in episode. We’ll be answering questions live. It’s going to be call-in.
Ashkahn: It’s going to be an episode.
Graham: It’ll be great.
Ashkahn: It’s going to be November 29th from 3:00 PM until 5:00 PM.
Graham: Pacific time.
Ashkahn: Pacific time. We have another little special announcement announcement episode that talks more about this special announcement, but-
Graham: If want some meta announcements, go check it out.
Ashkahn: But we’ll leave it there for now. Just join us, November 29th. It’s going to be awesome.
Graham: Can’t wait for it.
Ashkahn: Just like always, we got a little question today.
Graham: That question is, “what sort of lab should I get my water tested at? What should I test for?”
Ashkahn: In truth, we get this question a little while ago and we’ve kind of been avoiding it, but-
Graham: Delaying it, we’ve been putting it off.
Ashkahn: But now-
Graham: Shoving it to the side.
Ashkahn: This is the side has come.
Graham: We don’t have any more episodes.
Ashkahn: We have to answer it now.
Graham: The reason we’d been putting it off is because we hoped to have more thorough answers and maybe some actual answers for you on things. It’s just a really complicated world and even understanding how float tanks fit within it itself is still being worked out.
Ashkahn: Just before we start saying things, you should know that we don’t really know what we’re talking about here.
Graham: Why are you listening to us?
Ashkahn: This one’s good. It’s going to be a little rough, so we’ll go through things. I’m going to say words and those words are going to sound kind of like, “Oh yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable information.” Just keep in mind that I might be wrong or there’s probably a lot more nuance or complication to this. I’ll try to point out just where we like don’t know certain things.
Graham: That said, we’ll try to answer this as best we can.
Ashkahn: All right, here we go. There seem to be some certifications and things like that, like lab accreditation programs that exist for what we’re talking about right now is some sort of lab, where you would take your float tank solution, go there and they will test it for certain microorganisms.
Graham: Hey, float tank solution.
Ashkahn: Interesting. Someone came up with a clever business name.
Graham: Go on.
Ashkahn: We’ll talk about what specifically we’re getting tested, but things like pseudomonas, E. coli, that sort of stuff. The stuff that we’re trying to protect people from getting sick from. The only way we actually can know if that stuff’s in our float tanks or not is if you were to take a sample of it, go to a lab and have them see if they can detect it in there, what the levels are. These are the kind of labs we’re talking about. The first question becomes, “well how do I find one of these labs?” or “what am I looking for or are there different types of labs out there of different quality?” and stuff like that.
Graham: I guess even before getting into that, just a little word on, there are private labs that you do have access to for testing and then there are labs that are just for government use. There’s kind of like a mix of labs that does work for both of those. Sometimes too, when you find big lists of these labs and you have no idea how to choose, some of them are just immediately off limits because they’re only available to government industries or things that they decide they’re just going to discreetly spend their time on.
Ashkahn: Some health departments will put out lists of labs for your state. Sometimes it’s like the state EPA that does it. But if you search like in your state and for a certified water testing lab and the name of your state, you may find that one section of your local government has provided some list that you can look through and you can even click on that list and filter out the ones that are not for public use and stuff like that. I’ve seen stuff like that before to make it a little bit easier.
But as far as I can tell, there’s a couple very widespread certifications that some of these labs have. It kind of works a lot very similarly, I’m guessing to how almost all of these certifications do whenever we come up against this and almost any industry. We’ve talked a lot about things like the NSF or the UL or those things that are really looking into float tanks and are kind of top of mind and we have the most involvement and exposure to here in the float world.
But there’s all sorts of other stuff like that that exists out there. Another one that we know that we run up against is the USP, which is the United States Pharmacopeia. That’s another organization. These organizations are typically not government organizations. There’s some sort of nonprofit. Usually the UL is not even a nonprofit. They’re not for profit. They like lost their nonprofit status 50 years ago or something. It’s some sort of non government organization, generally a nonprofit that is developing standards that then can be used for people to certify things to, usually for some sort of either level of quality or safety or standard methodology or something like that.
Then the government usually relies on these certifications pretty heavily where in regulations they’ll say like, “Hey, you should make sure that your products are meeting the certification or that you’re going through this sort of certified organization or something like that. That’s where the kind of interplay between the staff tends to happen. As far as I can tell, this whole world of labs does not seem to be any different. It also seems to be kind of that same sort of deal. There’s just a bunch of organizations with a bunch of different acronyms that are involved in this entire process.
Graham: So get ready
Ashkahn: Like everything. There’s something called TNI, which stands for The NELAC Institute in which NELAC is another acronym. Now we’re one acronym deep and the other acronym inside of that acronym, NELAC doesn’t really seem to stand for anything anymore. A lot of these organizations had acronyms that like as they grew, became irrelevant so they dropped the words and they’re just the letters now. Like NSF used to stand for the National Sanitation Foundation and they do international work now, so now they’re just called NSF international and it doesn’t technically stand for anything.
Graham: Otherwise, they would be the National Sanitation Foundation International, which doesn’t make any sense.
Ashkahn: And ANSI, the American National Standards Institute no longer stands for that. They also dropped their words.
Graham: Just like international.
Ashkahn: I’m thinking-
Graham: There’s a lesson here on if you have a big organization, don’t put national in your name. Eventually, you will probably outgrow that.
Ashkahn: If you’re successful it’s gonna bite you in the ass. NELAC is something that I guess used to be called the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference, which then partnered up with the Institute for National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation, INELA and together they formed the NELAC institute, TNI. That’s according to this website I’m looking at.
Graham: By the way, we’ll put all of these acronyms down in the show notes along with other alternate meanings for them that are float related. Carry on.
Ashkahn: We’re in the weeds a little bit here. We have NELAC lack and NELAC does something called NELAP, which is TNI the NELAC has something called NELAP. NELAP is the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program. Different labs can get certified under this program and it seems like certain states actually have their own kind of smaller branches of this. Like I’m looking at one of our labs here in Oregon, one of the places we got a lab test on, on it they list their ORELAP number, which is the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, which is kind of it’s self certified by TNI, The NELAC Institute to be an appropriate program under the guise of NELAP.
Graham: Yep. There could be like WELAP and the GELAP, but we haven’t looked into these specifics for states but that is sometimes how it’s done.
Ashkahn: Different states participate and I’m sure all this stuff is like rife with nuance and politics.
Graham: Oh, I doubt that. They have never had that experience here.
Ashkahn: California used to participate until it withdrew from the program on January 31st of 2014. Who knows what happened there, definitely some inner workings going on.
Graham: CELAP, would be that one. Then this will probably change from state to state, but Oregon for example, is also NELAP certified. Like their test meets the NELAP requirements.
Ashkahn: As best as I can tell, it seems like the states themselves are the ones actually like using the standards to do the testing. You have an even more of an interaction between state government and these nonprofits than even you do with something like NSF, where you would actually go get your product tested at NSF lab or another lab that just uses NSF standards. But it’s not like the actual Oregon health department is doing some sort of testing against NSF standards for certification. In a way that it seems a little bit more to me like they are in this case, like the states themselves have a heavier hand in the actual kind of operations of some of this stuff or the certification process as best as I can tell.
Graham: As soon as you get into so much of this stuff and differing from state to state, to me that’s where a lot of the craziness unfolds. ‘Cause what’s true over here just might not be true one state over. That division becomes really hard to actually fully even map out. Should that be the goal?
Ashkahn: I’m sure there’s people out there, microbiologists who are like, “Ah, NELAC they’re doing everything wrong. All this sort of stuff, I don’t think it’s strong enough or think it’s too stringent or all that sort of stuff.” But as far as I can tell, this seems to be the one that you see around the most. If you see a lab that is NELAP certified, then-
Graham: It’s probably a good sign.
Ashkahn: Yeah. It probably means there are at least like amongst the bigger body of certified labs out there it seems.
Graham: If you find a state certified one, like ORELAP for us, make sure that there are also certified to the kind of greater standard that they meet those requirements or at least that’s a good thing to look for.
Ashkahn: I think they probably should.
Graham: It seems, right?
Ashkahn: It seems like you can’t do that unless you’re a part of this bigger infrastructure. Anyway, it probably means things are relatively okay. If you’re finding a lab with a certification, like you’ve probably found the right lab. I guess is really the most kind of pragmatic thing to think about. That’s the lab and finding a lab that tests for pool stuff is probably not a horrible bet because they’re very likely to have the same testing functions and the same microorganisms that they can like look for, that you are going to be looking for.
That’s not a bad place to start either. Or asking your local health department for recommendations. They’ll probably be able to point you to a place that they like to use. Now we’ve talked about the lab itself.
Graham: Onto the bugs.
Ashkahn: Onto the bugs. Now there’s different things you can get tested, but there’s actually different ways to test for these things. There are different methodologies for actually looking to see how much E.coli is in a sample of water. Again, this is another area where I’m sure there’s a lot of nuance and arguments and we’ve even heard some of it when we’ve gone to some of these things. Like microbiologists will argue about things not being stringent enough or a certain methodology as not being, whatever appropriate for certain conditions.
But that being said, the most common one that you see, like if you were to take a lab test and look at the bottom, you’d very likely see something referenced called the standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. These are these standard methods. It’s basically, as far as I can tell, it seems to be a way for labs to kind of pull a well vetted means of testing. Ideally a means of testing that’s probably pretty similar or if it’s a standard method, identical to a way that another lab down the street maybe testing it so that your test results have some consistency from place to place.
I’m sure those are the benefits. This is one of the standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater is a standard. Some organizations put out these standards of how to do this testing. The organizations seem to be very similar, these kind of nonprofit associations one’s called the American Water Works Association. One seems to be the American Public Health Association, APHA, American Water Works Association, AWWA. Water Environmental Federation, WEF, that seems like these three organizations or technical societies that seems like got together and put together these standard methods.
Sometimes you’ll see other things used, like I’m looking at one of our lab tests for their pseudomonas tests. They actually used the USP standard. The same organization, again, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that certifies salt or has a certification for salt. They don’t actually do the testing themselves. for us to get USP grade salt has a standard method for testing for pseudomonas, and our lab use that for its pseudomonas testing.
That seems to be the kind of gist. They’re most likely gonna grab one of these standard methods or at the very least, they should. You should have a lab that’s telling you that’s giving you some sort of reference to how they tested things. You should on your test be seeing something that tells you that. Then I’ve heard people like microbiologists, like Roy Vo, who came and spoke at our last conference be like, “Oh yeah, these labs are just pulling some standard method and it’s not actually rigorous enough for what some microbiologists might think is the way that you need to be testing for things.” More heavy hitting microbiology labs are probably going above and beyond these standards. But that seems to be the thing you see around a lot when you’re just going to a lab.
Graham: The standard methods are also probably exactly what NELAP is requiring. Like, given that they’re certified, they’re probably pulling that from some list of requirements. Again, this goes a little deeper than our knowledge, but I imagine that any certified lab is going to be using the methods that are kind of approved for their certification.
Ashkahn: Here’s off the Oregon health authorities website and they just have a small page that just talks about ORELAP. It says the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program is recognized by the NELAC Institute. The NELAC Institute’s National Environmental Laboratory accreditation program, NELAP. Then it says, ORELAP accredits qualified laboratories for testing under the clean air act, the clean water act, resource conservation and recovery Act, the safe drinking water act and other state and federal regulations.
These certifications are doing that. They’re probably like referencing other regulations and things that have come out of the government and things like that to dictate how they’re functioning and how they’re testing stuff. I don’t know, that’s my guess. It sort of seems like it’s happening.
Graham: We’re probably right.
Ashkahn: Yeah. I think 20 minutes of googling should make us experts in this.
Graham: I know, flip the coin that’s about how much you should trust us. But at least what this does is give you a nice groundwork for questions to start asking. Are you certified? What are the methods you’re using? These things will at least help you get educated and dig a little deeper into maybe some differences between labs or at least you’ll come out the other end of the conversation way more knowledgeable than you are now.
Ashkahn: Hopefully at least even if we’re all doing it wrong, there’s some consistency between all of our tests that makes it easier to aggregate data across different float centers. Although, standard methods also change. When you look at the standard methods, they’ll reference the year the standards are from. Like, your lab maybe using what the standard methods for water and wastewater of 1998 versus the ones from 2003 and that may change some of the testing as well. There’s that aspect of it. Then there’s what to test for.
Graham: Okay, wait, thought we’d already, a nice little diversion. Getting back to what to test for.
Ashkahn: Actually have one more thing before we talk about what to test for, which is for you, this is going to be really actual useful information.
Graham: For me?
Graham: Oh great.
Ashkahn: Yeah, so listen up.
Ashkahn: When you’re taking these tests, there are ways to like contaminate your own tests and stuff like that. Just make sure that you talk to the lab and do it correctly. Basically-
Graham: Just sort of soaking up the water in my shirt, wring it up into the collection bottle isn’t the best?
Ashkahn: You really don’t want to touch any part of inside the bottle before you test it. Like if you get any part of your finger or something in there, you’re contaminating the results. Ideally they want you to typically, I think like go from a certain depth, but we’re not going to be able to really do that in float tanks. A lot of times these tests tell you to go 12 inches deep to get your sample, but it might be better for a float tank to take from the surface. If things are floating much more in float tanks than pools, that might be the most sensitive test you can take.
Graham: We don’t really have anything official to back that up, but that’s totally my personal opinion is that sampling off the surface is probably more likely to catch something that is going wrong.
Ashkahn: You could do that or you could turn it totally vertically upside down and try to like go down and then tilt it a little bit below the water. There’s different ways of sampling from the same place. Just I would say make sure more than anything you’re doing something consistently in terms of how you’re taking samples and from what depth and stuff like that and that you’re being really careful. Like wear gloves and stuff like that when you’re taking the sample.
The other thing that you want to do is make sure you get the samples to the lab quickly. Like you don’t want to just take this and have it sit around for a couple days before you get around to taking it to the lab. Ideally you want to take the sample immediately, go to the lab. That’s gonna be your best shot.
Graham: Ideally, you just built your float tanks inside of a lab would be really nice.
Ashkahn: You are the lab.
Graham: Just go get certified by the state, but second test.
Ashkahn: Some states have regulations about it, like it has to be within this many hours of taking your sample before it gets to the lab. But sometimes they’re pretty even more lenient than I’ve heard other people mention. Like I’ve heard anywhere from states having a 24 hour window, to people saying it has to be within four hours and stuff like that, is really pretty much just try to get it there right after you take it and that’s going to make sure you’re avoiding all that.
You want to mark the time that you took it. Usually they ask for that, sometimes they’ll keep that data ’cause if it’s too long, it could invalidate their tests and stuff like that. That’s good data to have on your books as well.
Graham: And under what to look for, is it time? Just giving you a healthy pause there in case you had anything else.
Ashkahn: What to actually test for?
Graham: Again, this isn’t going to be like the definitive list or anything like that and we’ll just try to walk through some of the basics of what we test for at float on and kind of what those mean and why we’re testing for them. Then maybe even touch on some other things that if you want it to be more robust, you might add to the kind of test list there. A lot of these two are going to be exactly what you’re testing for, kind of like Ashkahn said earlier, in pools and hot tubs. With probably a little more importance put on some of the items just because of the nature of how we interact with float tanks.
Ashkahn: When it comes to testing, it’s interesting. Sometimes there are tests where you’re directly, let me think. I think I would put them into like three categories. There’s tests where you’re directly measuring a specific thing that is known to be something that could get someone sick. Then there’s tests where you’re testing a much more generic thing that is just like a category of microorganisms.
Graham: Or like indicators as well.
Ashkahn: Oh yeah. That would be my third category.
Graham: Sorry, I jumped.
Ashkahn: Easy there. There’s like things that you test where like, if you were to get a positive reading, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the things that were in there are harmful to people. It just means there’s probably a good chance that there are, and you would want to do almost more specific testing to figure out if the stuff is actually going to be harmful or not. Then there’s those indicators where like you’re testing for something specific again, but it itself is not actually harmful. It’s just like very representative of.
Graham: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire kind of stuff. You’re looking for smoke instead of the fire in that case.
Ashkahn: I’ll list the things we test for at Float On.
Graham: I had one more thing. Also with all of those, they can kind of be divided into two other categories of either presence, absence or testing for exact levels of something. Often those will just be different levels of diligence and costs that go along with them. But it’s a lot easier and cheaper to test for whether something is there at all than it is to get the exact levels of that thing in water.
Ashkahn: Yeah, and there’s some nuance there too actually ’cause mostly we’re testing for actual levels of things because for pool regulations there’s often acceptable levels of things. Things like drinking water test much more commonly for just presence absence because presence is bad and that’s it. Whereas I see much more common testing for actual levels of things in pool tests because a low enough level might be acceptable. Whereas just the presence of something would not give you enough information to know whether you’re in the danger zone or not.
Graham: Yeah, for sure. That’s probably what you’re looking at when you’re going to your labs is these more exact level tests.
Ashkahn: We test for five things and this is where things get-
Graham: Ehh… come on.
Ashkahn: We just kind of chose these based off of, what kind of seemed right to us. We’ve had people tell us some of these are probably just very unlikely to be able to grow in floAT tanks. We’ve had other people tell us other ones we should be looking into. We’ve had other people tell us, you know.
Graham: People like telling us stuff.
Ashkahn: Whatever, don’t really consider this, that authoritative other than just kind of, I don’t know, what we like. If I were to even really sit down right now and try to like think about what I would test for, I might even add some stuff to this that we just haven’t quite added yet ’cause it gets kind of confusing.
Graham: See if you can figure out what those are before the end of the podcast because it seems like valuable information.
Ashkahn: I should think about that. There’s a common test for something called heterotrophic plate count. That goes into that category of-
Graham: The big basic ones.
Ashkahn: … the big group of things. Heterotrophic plate count it’s not like there’s a single organism that you’re measuring for. You’re measuring for a general kind of group of things and if there’s growth, then it could be growth of things that are totally harmless to people or it could be growth of pathogenic things. You’ll even see like, a decently high heterotrophic plate count reading will not actually be outside of regulatory acceptance in a lot of places. ‘Cause it’s kind of a just a big, broad, much more generic sort of test.
Graham: You’ll often see that abbreviated HPC.
Ashkahn: HPC and we’re measuring things in CNU-
Graham: That’s another acronym down.
Ashkahn: … per ml. These are typically measured in colony forming units either per milliliter or per 100 milliliters, most typically. Then another one that’s slightly more specific but still generic is total Coliform. This is an interesting one ’cause I feel like it’s a good example of how these generic tests can get more specific. Again, we’re not microbiologists or anything like that, so I’m going to stumble my way through this a little bit.
Graham: Armchair microbiologist.
Ashkahn: Total Coliform is a group of bacteria that I’m reading here it says are “typically found in soil and water. They’ve been influenced by surface water and in human or animal waste.” We’re seeing things that could be from the digestive tract of various animals. But also-
Ashkahn: But also can be in soil and from other sources. Then there’s a subset of that which is fecal Coliform, which is the bacteria that are most specifically associated with being in the gut in the feces of warm blooded animals. That’s kind of a subset of total Coliform. Then one of those is E.coli, so E.coli is a fecal Coliform and there’s various different types of E.coli and specifically there’s one type of E.coli called E. coli O157:H7, which is the main like really nasty one that is getting people sick and could lead to them even dying and stuff like that.
There’s kind of all those different things you can test for. Oftentimes, regulations may require more generic tests like total Coliform or fecal coliform with then follow up testing if you get a positive result or a more specific tests like specifically testing for E. coli.
Graham: Of those, we test for total Coliforms.
Ashkahn: And we test for E. coli and that way we have a couple reference points if we see a number in total coliform, but nothing for E. coli specifically, that tells us maybe we’re not as worried about what we found in total Coliform. I don’t think we’ve ever really gotten anything positive back from those in any of our tests.
Graham: I don’t think so either.
Ashkahn: In practice this has never actually turned into any like, real data or action for us.
Graham: I have a question for us.
Graham: How often do we test our tanks?
Ashkahn: Good question. We’ll come back to that after. Let me finish up the list here and then we’ll come back.
Graham: No, it’s good. Just so I don’t forget.
Ashkahn: We also test for staph, which again, we’ve never gotten a positive reading from. That’s an interesting thing. We talked about this on another episode where there’s a possibility that staph would have a very difficult time growing in our float tanks, but may have an easier time growing on the walls above the waterline. That’s something to consider with staph. We also measure for pseudomonas, which is one that I think a lot of float centers like to measure for because as opposed to a lot of these other ones, gastrointestinal illnesses like E. coli and stuff like that, where pseudomonas is actually like a skin rash that, there’s the same sort of route of exposure in a float tank than there is in a pool and spa like it can you get on your skin.
Graham: You’re less worried about float customers swallowing a bunch of the float tank water like you would when you’re swimming or something like that. You tend to be worried more or float center owners tend to be worried more about what would affect the external part of your body rather than your internal gut.
Ashkahn: Other things I’ve been curious to test for is cryptosporidium, like that’s just such a big one and the main way people are getting sick in pools and spas that it might be interesting to test for in a float tank. We’ve never tested for giardia. Then I don’t know, there’s probably some more sophisticated like viruses and funguses and stuff that people bring up with us every once in a while, but those are going to get harder to test for in terms of-
Graham: Super E. coli.
Ashkahn: … in terms of like how easily the lab is going to be able to run a test for something that’s a little less common than that. But I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a regulation require anything more than this or even quite this much. When you see regulations, they’re often testing for just a couple things. Maybe pseudomonas and E. coli or total Coliform and-
Graham: Something else.
Ashkahn: Like it’s really, they tend to be less stringent than what kind of we’re putting ourselves through here.
Graham: Because things are so unknown and because we like information so much, I think it’s just our tendency to really try to dive in and see what we can collect data wise, which is definitely part of our decision at Float On to collect all of these different kind of readings.
Ashkahn: We may find out in the future that some of these just kind of fundamentally can’t grow in a float tank and it’s kind of silly to be testing for them and we may find out that there’s other ones that are more of a concern for us that we really should be testing for. We’ve been trying to get answers to that for a while.
Ashkahn: It’s hard and hopefully we’ll have better answers for that. But again, this is where the knowledge gets a little bit loose and I wouldn’t be totally trustworthy of mimicking our exact list that we decided to come up with.
Graham: How often do we test?
Ashkahn: That’s good question.
Graham: I was actually trying to remember and it’s been so long since I specifically dropped off the tests. I can’t quite remember what our testing schedule is right now.
Ashkahn: My recommendation usually is different based on if you’re starting up. I actually recommend when you’re first starting up, you test more frequently. When you’re first starting up, I tell people to test once a week for the first month. That way you’re just getting your legs under you. You have a really good set of data coming in all the time. Where you’re getting all of your float tanks tested once a week for that first month. If all that comes back good, then drop that to once every other week for the next month. If all that comes back good, I tell people to do all their float tanks every month for the next four months. That gets you to the kind of six month mark of being in business.
At that point, I usually recommend that you test one of your float tanks each month and then rotate through them. For us, with six float tanks, we’re testing one tank a month and basically that means in six months we’ve rotated through all of our float tanks, so each of our tanks is getting tested twice a year. That’s not a huge amount of points of data, but we’re getting a slightly better kind of spread of time where we’re seeing things across different tanks and it’s saving us a little bit of the cost because this can get expensive.
Graham: Yeah, you’re running this full array of tests times the number of float tanks that you have times the frequency.
Ashkahn: These labs charge per test. Like for us to run all six of our float tanks against all five of these different things we’re testing for is about $900 of testing. That’s just kind of an intense amount to spend every month on lab tests. But if you ever do see a positive reading, you’re going to then want to go take another sample and get it tested right away again and get some of that data coming in. There’s a little bit of extra stuff that comes with that.
Graham: It is especially starting up an extra cost to take things in every week to get them tested, but it’s worth it. I mean, having that data and just knowing that you can like I guess rest easy, like you have peace of mind for actually putting customers in the tank. It’s cool if customers are asking about how you keep your water clean and how you verify it to be able to say things like, “For the first x amount of time I took lab tests in this amount of frequency.” Things like that actually really are nice marketing as well and help put customer concerns to the side.
Ashkahn: It’s good. This is really the only other than someone telling you they got sick or something, this is one of the main pieces of feedback you’re getting about whether your systems are working. Nothing in your float tank is telling you whether it is or is not actually killing certain things or not. Getting these lab tests done, is how you can actually see if there is E. coli in there or not, or if it has been effectively prevented.
We don’t know how it’s been prevented, whether it’s not getting in or the salt is killing it or disinfection systems are killing it or whatever. This is again, just a very brief sample of time. You’re getting a snapshot twice a year of your float tank, you’re not getting every day. If someone comes in who’s really sick or something and she like sloughs off a lot more E. coli into your tank one day, and it’s months away from you testing it, you’re gonna miss something like that. It’s not perfect, but it’s data and it’s feedback and it’s good to have that. As an industry, the more people who do it, the more data we have.
Health departments seem to like this and regulators seem to like this and this seems to be real data that can support us as we have these conversations about sanitation with health departments and other people like that.
Graham: That was a lot.
Ashkahn: That’s that. This is why there was some hesitation.
Graham: Putting it off the side. Good. I feel good about this episode.
Ashkahn: Yeah, good luck.
Graham: Good luck out there.
Graham: If you have any questions of your own, head on over to floattanksolutions.com and just read a bunch of stuff ’cause the podcast is ending. Definitely, definitely join us live the 29th of this month, November 3:00 to 5:00 PM Pacific Time. Tune in.
Graham: Bye everyone.
Recent Podcast Episodes
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Graham and Ashkahn kick off the New Year by discussing the things to consider when adding a float tank to an existing business. This is a fantastic episode to start with if you’ve already got a service-based business or are a practitioner looking to start up on your own and looking for ideas.
The boys talk about logistical considerations, the built-in advantages to adding on to an existing practice, as well as how nice it is to have a meatball sandwich after chilling out in a sensory reduced environment for an hour (Ashkahn has a serious one-track mind).
Graham and Ashkahn round out the end of the year by talking about all the naughty and nice things about having business partners.
It’s a shorter compilation today, which gives you plenty of time to talk to your own business partners about what you think about them!
The holidays are a busy time for float centers and it often means lots of new customers asking questions. This means it can be a really great time to brush up on the facts about floating. Fortunately we’ve formed a folio of fantastic studies for you to fancy. Feliz Navidad!
In every service business, there’s a running joke that someone likes that’s usually somehting along the lines of “this job would be great if it weren’t for all the customers!” (*cue laugh track and uproarious applause*), well, the boys have not shied away from talking about the difficult sides of running a shop like ours. We’ve got episodes about handling negative Yelp reviews, customers too intoxicated to float, and even what to do when it’s time to 86 a problematic client.
Latest Blog Posts
Even before experiencing a global crisis, float centers have had a hard time navigating social media, marketing, and just generally keeping their customers engaged. That struggle is even more real in the wake of the COVID pandemic. We’ve spent the last two months (in...
As our communities begin reopening amidst this pandemic, float centers are straddling a line between wanting to run floats and making sure they’re keeping their customers and staff safe. The collective social fatigue and stress are palpable, and it’s apparent to many...
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