I was raised in a home where it was expected that we would all take off our shoes at the door when we entered. It was just part of my Dad’s Dutch heritage, I suppose, but my mom appreciated it because there was a lot less cleaning for her overall.
In Germany, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, Turkey, Japan, Korea, China, India, Malaysia, etc. it’s common use to take off the shoes when entering someone’s home. It is considered a major faux pas to walk through a house with shoes on. In British culture it is still regarded as a bit “hoity-toity” to ask guests to remove their shoes on entering the house. But in the US, a YouGov poll revealed that while most Americans (87%) take off their shoes, only approximately 50% will ask a guest to remove his or her shoes.
Taking your shoes off at the front door is not just a courtesy thing that also keeps your floors from getting dirty. It’s a very sensible idea.
If you live in a city, the sidewalks can be covered in everything from globs of spit to bird droppings to far worse these days. If you’re in a rural area, well, birds still live there—along with other animals that have no compunction when it comes to pooping all over the place.
No matter where you live, if you use public bathrooms, your shoes are for sure picking up all sorts of microbes.
Too Clean? Maybe Not
Now, science is backing up this hygienic practice. This is particularly important when you have toddlers rolling around the floor and putting toys into their mouths. Little kids are in much more intimate contact with the floor than us older people.
Before delving into why, it’s important to remember that not all germs are actual pathogens, aka disease-causing microorganisms. Simply tracking germs into your home doesn’t spell disaster for your health. It really depends on the pathogen, the people, and the home in question.
Researchers at the University of Arizona did the biggest study to discover what is on the soles of our shoes.
Should You Take Your Shoes Off In Your Home?
“Some of the bacteria found on the shoes included: E. coli, known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis and diarrheal disease; Klebsiella pneumonia, a common source for wound and bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia; and Serratia ficaria, a rare cause of infections in the respiratory tract and wounds.”
They found the transfer of bacteria from the shoes to uncontaminated tiles ranged from 90% to 99%.” And carpets capture more than hard surfaces.
And researchers at the University of Houston found that about 40% of shoes were carrying the nasty “C. diff” bacterium (Clostridium difficile) where the lining of the intestines is attacked, resulting in colitis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The problem with C.diff is that it is resistant to most antibiotics.
You will certainly pick C-diff and MRSA up from most hospital floors today, and the germs live on dry surfaces for a long time.
The leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S., norovirus — “the stomach bug”, can get all over public bathrooms where people poop or vomit it out. Committed to survival, it stays on surfaces for days or weeks.
Another study showed that 98% of LEAD dust found in homes is tracked in from outside as well. The science suggests a very strong connection between the lead inside your home and that in your yard soil, what is dirt trodden in on your shoes and on the furry paws of your adorable pets.
Beyond the occasional stubbed toe, from an environmental health standpoint, there aren’t many downsides to having a shoe-free house.
We all know prevention is far better than treatment and taking shoes off at the door is a very basic and easy step of prevention for many of us.
Need shoes for foot support? Easy – just have some “indoor shoes”. In our home, we all have our inside-only slippers or slides.
Immediately take your shoes off and put them on a designated shelf (or into a bin or cubbie) in your entryway as soon as you get home.
If you really need an excuse to kick up your feet at the end of a long day, well, here you go: When you remove your shoes, you’re subconsciously telling your brain that you’re done for the day and it’s relaxation time.
Still far more important than a hygienic home is a clean heart:
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.” ~Psalm 24: 3-4
Where do you stand when it comes to wearing shoes inside?
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