Once you know, a shoes-off policy is the only way to go.
Even the pros are shocked to find out how disgusting it is to wear shoes in the house. Once you learn what you may be tracking into your home, you won’t forget.
“I’ll never forget watching the Today Show one morning. Al and his crew were outside chatting with fans. The segment was about how dirty shoes actually are,” says podiatrist Dr. Nicole G. Freels. “They grabbed an audience member wearing flip-flops and swabbed the shoe for a microbial evaluation. Then they cultured the shoe and the results were astonishing. They cultured out hundreds of different microbes, both bacterial and fungal! Ever since, I have been educating my patients on the potential risks of wearing the same shoes inside the house, and out.”
That random flip-flop-wearing audience member isn't alone in his dirty sole woes, either. A study from the University of Arizona reveals that shoes from outside have an average of 421,000 units of bacteria. When you stroll into your home from outside, whether that's the grocery store or your walk from the car to your front door, you risk bringing a nest egg of germs and grime with you.
Armed with this knowledge, a household shoes-off policy seems like the way to go. Many Southern households have long imposed this rule for cultural or hygiene-related reasons. House rules embargoing outside shoes can save you both time and trips to the doctor.
Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off Inside
Shoes can track in dirt—we’ve known this. However, among the hundreds of thousands of germs your shoes are potentially dragging in, some are much more harmful than annoying specks of dirt.
The same University of Arizona study found that dangerous germs thrive on the outside and bottom of shoes. Coliform bacteria, like E. coli was found on a whopping 96% of two-week-old shoes. These germs can cause unpleasant diseases like meningitis and pneumonia, plus urinary tract, bloodstream, and respiratory infections… No, thank you.
“The amount of coliform and other potentially harmful bacteria or pathogens tracked into buildings from shoes is really astounding,” says cleaning expert Phil Clark. “Research discloses that most entrances and walk-off mats in buildings are thousands of times less healthy than the average toilet seat.”
These germs are no good for anyone, but they’re especially threatening for toddlers and young kids who tend to roll around on the floor without care in the world for who may have tracked in what.
If the petri dish on the bottom of your shoes isn’t bad enough, Freels reveals that the inside of your shoe can cause infection on your feet if you leave them on all day. This is especially likely if you’re prone to sweating or have to wear heavy boots for work. In this way, taking off your outdoor shoes when you enter the house is a win-win.
However, a shoes-off policy doesn’t necessarily mean going completely barefoot. A pair of cozy house slippers can keep your house clean and feet healthy, while also providing foot support that going barefoot lacks. Freels recommends following the lead of a beloved tv star and minister.
“Mr. Rodgers showed us best,” she says. “He took off his outdoor shoes and changed into his house slippers, immediately upon entering the house. At the time, he, better than anyone, understood the importance of keeping microbes where they belong: Outside!”
Less Dirt Means Less Cleaning
On the bright side, adopting a shoes-free rule can roll back cleaning needs. The less dirt and germs that are made to enter the home, the less your floor will need cleaning. Of course, you’ll still need to vacuum and keep things tidy, but not as often. Restricting shoes in the home can also be a savior for carpets, which aren’t as easy to clean as wood floor or tile, and not as effortless and economical to replace as an entry mat.
How to Keep Floors Clean If You Keep Shoes On
If you're still opposed to always talking your shoes off before entering your home, housekeeping professional Hank Williamson recommends that cleaning efforts should focus on both floor upkeep and hygiene.
“Realistically, many of us will keep our shoes on until we hit the recliner or couch,” says Williamson. “If that's our case, we will need to regularly vacuum our carpets and steam clean them once or twice a year. For hard surface floors, we should mop them regularly with an antibacterial floor cleaner—especially if you have toddlers! If that amount of cleaning sounds like more than you can handle, it may be time to reconsider removing your shoes or using a professional house cleaning service regularly."