Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
What’s the best way to clean the inside of a float tank? And what sort of product should you use?
It turns out that this deceptively simple line of questioning has a major explanation involved. Ashkahn and Graham share what they’ve learned at the World Aquatic Health Conference about surface disinfectant and the best way to protect your float rooms.
Listen to Just the Audio
Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: Hey there. Hey this is Graham.
Ashkahn: Hey this is Ashkahn.
Graham: And today’s question is, “I’ve listened to the episodes about disinfection and water chemistry.”
Graham: “Well I’ve listened to pretty much all the episodes.”
Ashkahn: Even better.
Graham: That’s not better, that’s slightly worse.
Ashkahn: Wait what?
Graham: They said they’ve listened to oh …
Ashkahn: Pretty much all of the episodes.
Graham: Well yeah.
Ashkahn: That’s better.
Graham: But before they said the episodes, like that’s just it.
Ashkahn: This is a good thing. They’re a dedicated fan.
Graham: You’re great. I didn’t mean to be hard on you.
Ashkahn: Yeah. We have a poster of you up on our wall as …
Graham: “I was wondering what you used to clean the interior of the tanks. The walls and around the solution line. I would feel safer using a proper disinfectant versus H2O2. But I’m wondering the consequences of the disinfectant being added to the solution. It will inevitably drip down and become part of the solution. I don’t want to add anything to the solution that does not need to be there. Thanks for your help.” Well she’s right, or she’s right in that …
Ashkahn: We have a poster right here of her.
Graham: If yeah, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Ashkahn: This is a good question.
Graham: Thank you.
Ashkahn: I’m excited about this question.
Graham: You mean the presentation or the actual question?
Ashkahn: No, no, the content of the question.
Graham: But the presentation was good right? I got into that one nicer, I did some method acting there.
Ashkahn: I’m just going to plow right through here.
Graham: I was that poor person.
Ashkahn: This is good because we have talked about this. It’s come up how we clean the inside of the walls when we talked about operations and disinfectant and stuff. But it’s worth focusing on for a couple reasons. One, I’m not sure we’ve touched on this hydrogen peroxide thing. And two, especially topical in something that is …
Graham: Yeah, can go right on your skin like an ointment.
Ashkahn: This has just come up in our lives. So we’ll get to that in a second. We’ll talk about why this is very relevant.
Ashkahn: Teaser. Just a little surprise coming at you guys later. I have heard this before, float centers using hydrogen peroxide to clean their walls.
Graham: We did it at some point.
Ashkahn: Or just vinegar or something like that. And you probably shouldn’t be.
Ashkahn: You should probably be using specifically an EPA registered hard surface disinfectant is kind of the … And all those words mean specific things.
Graham: But if you want to catch all of the other times when we’ve talked about this, type in EPA hard surface disinfectant into the search bar on floattanksolutions.com/podcast and it’ll come up three or four times in various episodes.
Ashkahn: So EPA registration means they’ve gone through testing and they have a certain amount of paperwork and shown to kill these things. Hard surface means …
Graham: It’s not a spongy surface. It’s not like a carpet for example.
Ashkahn: Yeah, so non-porous.
Graham: It’s a surface that is hard.
Ashkahn: And disinfectant means a certain actual quantifiable level of kill that this thing is doing for different microorganisms.
Graham: Yeah. And it may get ever more specific than this. But that’s the kind of general category of what we’re looking for. And hydrogen peroxide is not that.
Ashkahn: Does not meet that requirement. It’s not that no one’s ever tested it or something like that. I don’t think … I think people have tried it, companies, cleaning companies. And you can’t get hydrogen peroxide by itself to meet the testing criteria that makes it a hard surface disinfectant. There are some hydrogen peroxide sprays out there that you see. Like Clorox makes one.
Graham: Clorox I was just going to say has one.
Ashkahn: There’s some I’ve seen in Canada that have registration and they’re some for other applications and stuff like that.
Graham: But those have additives. There’s something else that’s helping the hydrogen peroxide. It’s not just straight H2O2.
Ashkahn: Exactly. So if you’re taking the peroxide, you’d be putting in the float tank, putting it in a bottle, diluting it to a certain amount or whatever. You are not using the same sort of hydrogen peroxide spray as those EPA registered sprays, disinfecting sprays you’re getting from an actual name brand product. So that’s one thing to know. And the reason this is topical is because Graham and I were just out at this conference that we go to every year. It’s called the World Aquatic Health Conference.
Graham: Actually wait, before we move on to that really quick, just to tie a nice bow on the end of the …
Ashkahn: Teaser, teaser. You’ve just got a little bit of taste. You got a little taste there but …
Graham: But one more second actually. Just put it on the back burner.
Ashkahn: After this commercial break.
Graham: I was just going to say it’s not actually hard to find these hard surface disinfectants either. And you can find whole listings on the EPA website. Just to say it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We’re not talking about purely industrial solutions here. In fact a lot of the stuff that you get just to spray around your house is actually likely to be on this list because the companies like making claims about how much it disinfects and this like that. So yeah, to find something for your commercial float center, just again, make sure that it’s actually listed on the EPA website as a hard surface disinfectant.
And it’s likely to be something you can even get over the counter.
Ashkahn: Yeah, and follow the instructions.
Ashkahn: They have instructions specifically for how long it’s supposed to sit and what they can kill and all that sort of stuff. And you have to typically, they’re more effective if you pre-clean the surfaces. So often what you’re trying to do is wipe the whole inside of the float tank down to get all the salt off and get that nice kind of non-porous smooth service. And then do this disinfection pass.
Graham: Alright, so carry on. So we were just out somewhere.
Ashkahn: We were just out at this event called the World Aquatic Health Conference. We go every year. It’s pretty much the main event here in the US and kind of North America in general where recreational water, sanitation and regulations are really discussed. There’s other environmental health conferences out there, but they’re much more general. They talk about restaurants and stuff. This is really the one where people want us to come talk about float tanks and we hear about … We learn about all this sort of stuff that goes into this.
Graham: Yeah, it’s like I guess health departments take up a wide range of things that are not just water based, and especially not recreational water based. So that tends to be a lot of the other events out there. And this one is really cool in that it is just really based around recreational water and float tanks fill this very odd space within that realm. So it’s actually really cool getting a chance to go out there and learn a lot about this stuff. And also share some things with people who are getting increasingly aware about float tanks. But when we started doing this were basically clueless.
Ashkahn: So we were just out there a couple days ago, literally. And giving a presentation with Roy Vore if any of you came to the last float conference you may remember Roy Vore, the microbiologist who focuses on recreational water illness.
Graham: Did we end up getting an actual podcast recorded with him as well for float conference podcast?
Ashkahn: Yeah, we have a podcast recording on the float conference podcast. There’s a video of his talk from the float conference that if it’s not online by the time you’re hearing this, will be very shortly. So you can check …
Graham: Check back in an hour or something.
Ashkahn: Floatconference.com/videos so you can see all that information there. So we were giving a talk with him about these float tanks and the sanitation. And he had run some numbers about kind of these infectious doses and how much people could bring into the float tank and how much someone else would actually have to swallow in order to get sick.
Graham: Of the float tank water, yeah.
Ashkahn: Of the float tank water.
Graham: How many bugs they can bring in, yeah.
Ashkahn: And with multiple levels of filtration, a certain amount of turnovers, then how much of the float solutions would people have to swallow. And the numbers are pretty good for us as an industry in terms of being safe. You’d have to accidentally swallow huge amounts of float tank liquid to get sick.
Graham: Way more than you personally could ever picture swallowing.
Ashkahn: But here was the result. We gave this presentation and Roy goes over these numbers in a room full of these regulators. And people who have been hearing us talk about float tanks for all these years. And it seemed pretty convincing to people. People seemed to be pretty on board with the fact that this level of salt in there that is making it hard for things to grow and just the nature of our operations is something that adds a lot of kind of safety mechanisms too. Or makes it a lot less likely that someone would be getting sick in one of our venues.
Graham: And let’s pause there for one second because that is awesome news, right?
Graham: A lot of the people who are actually in the process of figuring out what to do with float tanks across the country and making regulation in their areas are starting to agree that they’re way lower risk than a swimming pool or a spa, at least just thinking about it logically and looking at the data. So just before you got onto the surfaces I wanted to pause because that makes me so happy that the broader world of aquatic health is actually recognizing that we are not swimming pools and spas, at least in the sense of risk category. And again, it’s nothing official, but that was very much the vibe that I got the entire time from a lot of people who are present. A lot of which are heads of state or county health regulators.
Ashkahn: Or the people who are on the kind of review committees for the model aquatic health code, stuff like that.
Graham: Yeah, work for the CDC.
Ashkahn: We’re not getting too much into the details of specifically the data. And there’s some asterisks I would say in terms of getting the filtration equations a little bit more vetted by filtration experts and stuff like that. So kind of take that with … We’ll probably bring that up at some other point in the future as that becomes more solid.
Graham: And just to toss it out there for those in the know, I think Roy, a lot of the data he’s running or being a proponent of involves a one micron bag filter and a UV light that’s attached to it. That’s sort of his big filtration recommendation.
Ashkahn: Yeah. His numbers actually were based on not even having UV. It was just one micron filtration. But then there’s absolute and nominal filtration.
Graham: So we won’t go into details, but that’s just to again fill in the blanks for people who are a little more in the know.
Ashkahn: Here’s the interesting this. Here’s the result, let’s get back on …
Graham: Get it.
Ashkahn: Let’s get it back on track. At the point when we gave this presentation and Roy presented these numbers and we opened it up for maybe like a 15 minute question and answer session after that. With people feeling comfortable about the liquid, the conversation moved to the rest of the room. What’s going on on the interior walls? Especially in air quality and other parts of the room. That became a really big question for the people, the health sanitation people and regulators in the room. And there was a lot of interesting points being brought up. There’s people out there studying this stuff and other aquatic venues and looking for certain things.
And there’s things like staph that can grow a lot better on walls than they can in liquid. And there’s things like biofilms that can form a little bit easier on surfaces that aren’t getting kind of as much agitation as something maybe under the water is. So all of this is to say that above the water line in a float tank is potentially a place where things actually might be able to grow that could be people sick. Something like staph is a skin infection. That doesn’t even have to make its way into the water and then have someone swallow it by accident.
And whatever sanitizers we’re using in a liquid are not really making it onto the walls as well.
Graham: And it makes intuitive sense.
Ashkahn: It’s humid, it’s warm.
Graham: Yeah on the other side, yeah they are just this really moist, humid environment that’s exactly above the line of anything that you’re using to actually clean the tanks. Or clean the water in the tanks. The solution in the tanks maybe we’ll say.
Ashkahn: In some ways, over the course of this one presentation, all of a sudden that in people’s minds became a bigger area of risk than the actual liquid of the float tank. And all that is I think to say that we should be thinking about this as an industry and focusing on it and right now there’s not a ton of data out there. We have people doing some lab tests and figuring this stuff out about the float solution. And we don’t have a lot of quantifiable information about what’s going on in the interior walls and ceiling of the float tanks.
And people’s cleaning frequency for these is based off of mostly kind of what feels right or hunches or capacity and how busy they are and things like that. And it’s one of the things that is probably going to be useful for us as an industry to get more data on and be able to figure out, hey do we need to be scrubbing the inside walls every day, every week, twice a week? Where do our operations need to go to be able to deal with kind of that part of our facilities.
Graham: Yeah. And that’s an awesome place for the conversation to be because these are things that you could talk about for pretty much any facility out there. And making sure that an area’s safe in a moist environment. And that’s the conversation being had as opposed to why we have to use chlorine in float tanks for example. Or kind of some of these earlier, kind of like why we have to turn off the filters when people are … The filtration system when people are actually floating. Those were the kinds of conversations we were having eight years ago when we were getting into it.
So this direction is amazing and yeah thanks for submitting the question, kind of giving us a lead into that too.
Ashkahn: I have some more teasers too.
Graham: More teasers?
Ashkahn: A couple more tantalizing things for all of y’all out there.
Graham: Yeah, yeah. Toss them along.
Ashkahn: Some of the things that were a result of these conversations and us and Roy having conversations with people at this conference. So here are some things that hopefully will be coming in the future that will help bring a little bit more clarity to these situations for us. One is that there are companies out there that make disinfecting cleaning products that come with very rigorous operational procedures, specifically when I was talking with Roy, there were some people from Ecolab, a big company that is apparently a giant in the world of commercial cleaning products.
Graham: Yeah, yeah. Look on the labels of some cleaning products of around your house and you’ll probably find Ecolab.
Ashkahn: Mm-hmm. So they were at the event. And one of the things they do is they with all of their cleaning products, they have these rigorous operational manuals that health departments will look at and go oh great. These are what you want. And that was one of the things these health department people were asking was, do you have these written procedures, operational manuals? Do you have these things written for your businesses that let us know kind of how often you’re cleaning these things and how you’re cleaning them? So it might be that one of the things we’re doing with Roy is reaching out to Ecolab and seeing if we can get a strong recommendation for a specific product that comes with specific operational practices that could be recommended for people to use on their walls.
So that was one bit of good news that is just in the very early stages of development. Another one is that there was someone there who is actually doing a study on MRSA, which is something resistant, It’s basically a form of Staphylococcus that is resistant to a certain thing that specifically grows well on walls. So it’s basically a study on Staph. And over the course of watching our talk was really interested in now including float tanks in her study.
So I was chatting with her a little bit and she wants to actually go in and include that and bring up some data on it. And I also found out that taking samples of what could be growing on your walls is something that potentially a lot of commercial labs where people are taking their water samples to do their routine lab testing in their shops could also be doing that.
Graham: Yeah doing some wall swabs.
Ashkahn: Yeah basically. So we haven’t done this yet. We literally … I got back from this, this morning. So we’re going to reach out to our lab and see if maybe that is for another $50 or something every time we send in our water, our float solution to be tested that we can send … Do a swab on our walls and get some data back on that too. So again, all that stuff is very, very new, very early stages of development.
Ashkahn: But are going to be some of the steps that’ll help take the mystery out of this a little bit.
Graham: And one more little teaser too along those lines. The two teasers you gave were actually not even the one that I thought that you were going to give one of them initially. And this one’s kind of more in the dreaming stages, but with time permitting, Roy and Ashkahn and I are actually hoping to be able to take this and perhaps get a paper published on some of this stuff and kind of risk analysis for not the hard surface walls, but the interior water of the float tank. And kind of actually have a published report on what could grow in there and what the risk are, which would be really useful for discussions down the road.
So again, just a little something to keep in the back of your head.
Ashkahn: That’s a bigger project and Roy gets very busy.
Graham: Yeah and it depends completely on the kindness of strangers.
Ashkahn: Yeah. Our fingers are crossed on that one, but hopefully …
Graham: Yeah, you can’t take it to the bank, but you can get excited to bet the walk there as they say. Old saying.
Graham: That’s a really old one. Goes back to the beginning of banks actually. Long story, we’ll get into that next episode.
Ashkahn: We’ve been blabbering for a while here, there is still a section of the question we didn’t actually answer.
Graham: What was it?
Ashkahn: How nervous should we be about this disinfectant products dripping into the float tank water?
Graham: Oh I see. Well, the nice thing is that you don’t just have to spray the disinfectant in the form of an aerosol directly on the walls to the point where it’s really drippy there. I think there are ways to control how you’re applying the disinfectant. In fact spraying some kind of aerosol or an aerated spray inside a confined float tank or having your staff members do that sounds really scary from a health perspective. Kind of just having these dense fumes and particles going around in a really confined space doesn’t sound like the best way to go about it.
So I think that a smart way to do it is to, kind of like we were talking about it earlier, make sure the walls are desalted so wipe those off. Get them kind of cleared off from general wear and tear I guess. Just over the course of the day or a couple days. And then end up with soaking a rag or something like that in your actual disinfectant that you plan on using. Wring it out and using that too wipe and let sit there. And I think if you do that you can get a coat on there that’s not going to drip into the float tank water and will actually do the job of disinfecting.
Ashkahn: Or they make pre-made wipes as well as opposed to sprays. And at the end of the day, a little bit probably will drip into the float tank. And with what we’re using here and with the fact that people are also getting into float tanks with whatever’s on their body and make up products that don’t fully wash off or lotions or things like that. We have to realize these aren’t exactly like completely distilled purified water that’s in the float tanks. And a couple drops of some sort of hard surface disinfectant is probably not going to be the end of the world.
Graham: Yeah. Yeah, is that, did we finish now?
Ashkahn: I think so. Good timing on this question specifically for all the stuff we just learned.
Graham: So thanks again and yeah if you have your own brilliant questions you want to send along, go to floattanksolutions.com.
Ashkahn: That’s it. And …
Ashkahn: That’s not it.
Graham: That’s not it. I gave you the … No, sorry.
Ashkahn: It was with the /podcast afterwards.
Graham: And that’s it.
Ashkahn: And that’s it. Alright. Talk to you later.
Graham: Bye everyone.
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