By Dawna Matthews:
When you visit other people in their homes, do you keep your shoes on or remove them? I come across more and more people who ask visitors to remove their shoes, and I am completely comfortable with this request. Over the years I have discovered that this informal policy is not appreciated by everyone and is quite controversial, depending on whom you ask.
People have various reasons behind wanting shoes taken off before entering a home. In some countries, it is considered disrespectful to walk into a home with shoes on. However, in the United States and Canada, most people leave them on. Many remove shoes due to cultural customs, but I began to wonder what other motivations there are to remove shoes when entering a home. Here are some reasons I found:
- Reduce Bacteria: In a study conducted at the University of Arizona, researchers found nine different types of bacteria on people’s shoes. The type of bacteria units found can cause infections (such as diarrhea and pneumonia) in our stomachs and lungs. The study also discovered that bacteria lives longer on our shoes because, as we walk, we pick up more debris that feeds bacteria and promotes the growth of more. The researchers then tested whether the bacteria transferred from shoes to floors inside the house. They found that more than 90 percent of the time bacteria transferred to both tile and carpet floors. Removing shoes indoors helps to reduce the amount of bacteria traveling throughout the home.
- Reduce the amount of Allergens and Toxic Pollutants: Shoes are worn wherever we go. We traipse around sidewalks, buildings and restrooms, all while wearing our shoes; then we go home. When shoes are worn inside the house, the dirt, grit and dust are transferred from our shoes onto our floor surfaces. Carpets absorb dust, and this can lead to the development of allergies and asthma. Tile and wood floors do not absorb the dust; instead, it is inhaled. Several studies have shown that, in addition to dirt, traces of toxic pollutants such as fertilizers, gasoline fumes, chemicals and industrial waste on shoes are being left on our floors. These pollutants can lead to health concerns like skin irritations, stomach upset and headaches. Taking off our shoes and leaving them by the door helps to stop the spread of toxins in our home environment.
- Decrease the Time Spent on Cleaning: Wearing shoes inside the house tracks in dirt, mud, germs and toxins, thus requiring us to clean our floors more. By removing shoes at the door, you can reduce the sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, vacuuming and time spent on cleaning the floors. Wouldn’t we rather use that time for something else? This sounds like a great idea to me. Plus, since you aren’t having to clean floors as much, you are reducing the amount of cleaner being used as well as the wear and tear of your floors.
I discovered many reasons why you should remove your shoes indoors, but it all comes down to a personal preference and the needs of your home. Reasons range from germs to cultural customs. A simple routine of taking off shoes at the door is the easiest way to limit the amount of germs and toxins, and to keep your floors cleaner. You can then place the shoes in a shoe tray or a cubby, or carry them to the closet for storage. After storing your shoes, remember to wash your hands with soap and water to further reduce the spread of germs and dirt.
Asking visitors and guests to remove shoes at a house has become a somewhat controversial topic today. You can always ask guests to remove their shoes when they arrive at your home, but remember, you want your guests to feel comfortable. Some ideas to utilize for your guests’ ease are to create a space for shoes at the door, maybe even to provide slippers for them, or to post a sign asking to please remove shoes. Although it may be cleaner to have people take off their shoes, I find it better to have a more relaxed approach. You will find most guests are usually happy to oblige.
What are your thoughts on removing shoes inside?
For more information on the study conducted:
For etiquette concerns: