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What Science Says About the “No Shoes Inside” Debate


It is hard enough to keep up with the cleanliness of our homes, so letting people wear shoes inside the house might make you cringe. I grew up in a home where we left our shoes on. But when it came to keeping my house years later, my husband and I began to take them off.

While there is much debate over whether shoes should stay on or off inside the house, you may want to consider the question from a scientific standpoint. There are many reasons you should take off your shoes when inside your or someone else’s home.

Why Don’t People Want Shoes Inside the House?

1. Cultural Reasons

Some people don’t want people wearing their shoes inside the home because they were brought up that way. Maybe it was for cultural reasons, or perhaps it was what their parents always did. Tradition could be a primary reason people follow this custom of taking off their shoes.

2. Dirt

My husband and I started taking our shoes off at the door because we didn’t want to track dirt into the house. Cleaning up after messy shoes was more work than simply leaving them by the door. Then, once we had kids, we tried to keep the floors even cleaner since they were always on them.

3. Germs

Another reason many people may not want people walking around their home in their shoes is the germs they are bringing from outside. We step in many things without noticing, and much of this stuff you don’t want to be scattered around your house.

4. Floor Damage

Wearing sneakers or boots into the home could cause stains on the carpet. High heels can scuff hardwood floors.

What Does Science Say About “No Shoes Inside”?

According to an article by Mark Patrick Taylor, the chief environmental scientist at the Environmental Protection Authority of Victoria, Australia, and Gabriel Filippelli, the Chancellor’s Professor of Earth Sciences and Executive Director, Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, you shouldn’t be wearing shoes inside your home. According to the article, there is so much more than just dirt that we’re tracking in. About a third of the matter that builds up in our house is not just from dust and dirt, but instead from other outside materials. Because we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, we need to pay attention to the matter we bring into our homes via our shoes.

A 2008 study by the University of Arizona found 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of the shoe. Twenty-seven percent of the shoes had E.coli, and the bacteria transfer rate from the shoes to uncontaminated tiles was between 90 and 99 percent. These are the things that we can bring into the house on the bottoms of our shoes that can make us sick:

  • Drug-resistant pathogens
  • Cancer-causing toxins from asphalt road residue
  • Endocrine-disrupting lawn chemicals
  • Neurotoxin lead from the dirt
  • E.coli from poop

By spreading this stuff around our homes, we increase the risk of picking them up and giving them access to our skin and ways to get into our bodies. We may walk around barefoot at some point, or the kids play on the floor. The best way to keep our homes contaminate-free is by simply taking off our shoes by the door and asking our guests to do so as well.

How to Encourage Others to Remove Shoes in Your Home

If you want to encourage your guests to take off their shoes when entering your home, there are certain things that you can do.

1. Have a cute sign by the door.

By putting a cute sign on your door, your guests will know immediately what you expect of them in your home.

2. Have a place by the door for them to leave their shoes.

It is important to have a dedicated space where guests can leave their shoes by the door. They may even notice this without you asking them directly to take them off.

3. Provide single-use slippers.

People may not want to walk around your home barefoot or in their socks, so you could offer them single-use slippers to wear while they are in your home.

4. Let guests know ahead of time.

Another great way to do this is by letting your guests know that you leave shoes at the door ahead of time. It will only take them one visit, and then they will know your preference going forward.

Given the scientific evidence, it is better to leave shoes off when inside your home. You will keep things cleaner and avoid all that nasty bacteria mentioned above. When it comes down to it, it is your house, and your guests must respect your wishes when they come over.

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