The Dirty Truth: Reasons to Take Your Shoes Off Before Coming Indoors

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In some cultures, taking off your shoes while entering one’s home is a sign of respect. However, even without customs and traditions, there are many reasons to keep your footwear away from your living space. Instead, opt for house slippers or comfy fluffy booties to wear inside. Here is the dirty truth about why you should avoid entering your home with your shoes on. 

The germs 


It was estimated that around 40% of the contaminants in our homes came from the outside. Once inside, germs do not sit in the hallway but, like magnets, stick to dust and spread across your home. University of Arizona study found that your shoes contain 421,000 bacteria, including strains that can cause diarrhea, meningitis, and pneumonia. 



Apart from the germs from the outside world, you could also spread chemical toxins from your shoe’s soles across your living space. Some of these chemicals can even increase cancer risks. Chemicals are everywhere, from chemical-treated yards to coal tar emulsions on pavement surfaces. 



Remove your shoes and outerwear and store them near the door or in the specially designed closets in the hallway to avoid trekking additional pollen into your living and working spaces. During allergy seasons, it is recommended to close your windows, so it makes perfect sense not to leave your “outdoor” shoes in the middle of your living room. 

Lead-based paint


Yards and playgrounds can become contaminated when external lead-based paint from houses or buildings chips or peels and gets into the soil. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal, so leaving your shoes out of your home is a logical step.

E. Coli bacteria 


According to a 2008 study from the University of Arizona, around 96% had traces of fecal bacteria E. Coli among hundreds of thousands of bacteria gathered on soles. Certain kinds of E. coli can cause infection and severe symptoms, including kidney failure and even, in rare cases, death. 



Microplastics are everywhere, including in our food. However, this should not discourage you from believing that just because they are already there, you should give up and let them take over your life. Inside your home, microplastics can travel through dust, triggering an immune response or causing local particle toxicity.

Radioactive elements


Remove your shoes and outerwear near the door to reduce the amount of radioactive elements in your home. It might not help in case of a major disaster, but when it comes to everyday activities, this is the least you can do for your and your family’s health. 


Illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

There are many reasons not to take your outdoor shoes inside, including comfort. Letting your feet breathe, especially during warmer days, is relaxing. It signals to your brain that you are done with your day’s work and can focus on yourself or at least do some chorus inside your space. 

Think of the children and pets 


Crawling babies and pets are even more likely to spread outside dirt and are also more likely to be affected. Even if you clean your shoes regularly, the bottom can be a health hazard, especially if you have smaller children and pets. That’s why it is also essential to wipe the paws of your beloved four-legged friends after they are done with their walks.

Disinfectant door mat is only the first line of defense 


Antimicrobial doormats help facilities stay safer, cleaner, and healthier, but they are more likely to prevent the growth of bacteria and not destroy them completely. Many remove up to 90 percent of debris from the shoe’s sole, but they should be considered the first line of defense, not a reason to wear your shoes inside your home. 

Developing your immune system 


Some studies argue that exposure to dirt can develop the immune system, but there are less disgusting ways to approach this subject, especially for parents of newborns. Spending more time outside, playing in nature, and hiking will do great things for your body and mind, and you won’t have to deal with stubborn dirt inside your home. 

Keeping guests shoe free while at your home 


Invest in additional slippers for your house guests, and wash them after each visit. It is common courtesy to offer to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home, but if you’re afraid your guests might forget, provide them with slippers as soon as they get in. Keep the conversation flowing to avoid awkward moments. 

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.