Keep Your Home Clean- Remove Your Shoes!

wooden sign that asks to remove your shoes

“Please Remove Your Shoes”.

It’s a familiar request seen more and more on porches, front doors, entryways, and mudrooms across this country. Other cultures and civilizations have made this request of their visitors since ancient times. So why is this tradition fast becoming the norm in our modern culture? Cold. Hard. Facts.

Scores of studies have been done on what hitches a ride into our home on the bottom of our shoes, and the results are eye opening. Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, studied the bacteria on the bottom of shoes and found that they can track in all kinds of unwelcome ‘guests’. He says,”“If you wear shoes for more than a month, 93 percent will have fecal bacteria on the bottom of them,” Gerba credited things like pet waste on the ground outside and splashes from the toilet on public restroom floors for this contamination. 

“We found E. coli, too,” he added. Though this bacteria is usually harmless, some strains can make you sick, causing diarrhea or urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses, according to the CDC. 

Cracks and grooves in the bottom of our shoes provide the perfect place for bacteria to settle. “Shoes make microorganisms fairly mobile, and you’re tracking that all around (the house),” Gerba said. If you have children or pets who are active on floors and then put things in their mouth, this could definitely become an issue, he noted. 

image of two small dogs in green rain boots.

“Also, if you’re immunocompromised or have allergy issues, it’s a good idea to take your shoes off,” he said. That’s because shoes also pick up mold and allergens like pollen.

Not to be forgotten are the toxins that invade us from the everyday world. Things like gasoline, tar, and pesticides. An EPA study, reported in Environmental Science & Technology provided the first proof that unhealthy herbicides can be tracked into residences on shoes. The researchers found that the herbicide 2,4-D could be easily imported inside via shoes for up to a week after application. And not only that, but the “track-in” exposures of these chemicals may exceed those from residues on non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables. The study didn’t expound on the health threat of the specific herbicide, however the study’s lead author, Dr. Robert G. Lewis, said the potential exists. Exposure to 2,4-D can cause immediate and relatively minor problems like skin rashes and gastrointestinal upsets; long-term health effects of the herbicide are unknown, the EPA said.

Along with harmful bacteria and toxins, shoes bring in a more visible culprit: DIRT. Did you know that wearing shoes in the house not only makes carpets dirtier, they can also wear them out more quickly? Dirt acts almost like sandpaper. Tiny particles land on the carpet and get ground in every time we walk on it. This breaks down carpet fibers and dulls the finish. This creates the need for more frequent deep cleaning and maintenance. 

So, what will help? Regular deep carpet and tile cleaning is essential. A good front door mat certainly helps.   Then there’s the obvious- make your home a no-shoe zone. 

What about guests that are a bit pedi-shy? Those that are uncomfortable taking off their shoes? By understanding their possible hesitancy, you can try to anticipate your guests’ needs and maintain your status as a sterling host (and still keep your home clean!) 

Some guests may be uncomfortable with possible shoe odor. The solution? Create a landing area for shoes outside the front door to keep odors at bay and put your guests at ease. On the other hand, some simply don’t like the appearance of their bare feet. They’re self conscious about perceived flaws or they may simply be overdue for a pedicure. Many no-shoe cultures provide a supply of socks or slippers near the entry for their guests. This would certainly be a considerate gesture to curb any embarrassment.  A tactful sign near your entry can serve as a subtle reminder of your request. 

So, will this become the tradition for your family? After all, nothing quite says, “I’m home” like kicking off your shoes after a long day. We wish you a happy, healthy, and comfortable home!