Mind & Body

How Important Is It to Take Your Shoes Off as Soon as You Get in the House?

You've been in both types of homes: the kind where you can't do anything before immediately removing your shoes upon entering, and the kind where, whatever, keep 'em on, no one cares. But from a scientific perspective, should you care? Is it really a big, dirty, disgusting deal to keep your shoes on around the house?

Need a Ride?

It isn't too dramatically germaphobic to demand someone remove their shoes when entering a house. Depending on the situation, it's a completely valid request. Think about it: the soles of your shoes get cozy with parking lots, public bathrooms, muddy sidewalks, sticky restaurant floors, and everything else you walk all over. Every time your shoe comes into contact with one of these less-than-pristine surfaces, it can pick up and carry some of that along.

By that same token, your shoe can leave things behind, too. A May 2015 study in the journal Microbiome supports that idea. The team of researchers sampled the microbial environment on the shoes of 89 participants after they'd walked in various locations. The result? The microbes on the soles of your shoes can rub off onto the surfaces you walk on.

Lose the Shoes

The idea that you could be tracking little microbial footprints from a public bathroom around your living room is undoubtedly gross, but is it dangerous? Well, not all of the microbes you pick up will be harmful, disease-causing pathogens (although they might be!). According to a 2017 study from University of Houston researchers, 26.4 percent of shoes carry Clostridium difficile, which can cause diarrhea and inflammation of the colon. Other studies have also found significant amounts of E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, two more types of illness-causing bacteria.

The question as to whether or not that's a big deal is where it gets a little trickier. If you're a healthy adult and you clean your house relatively regularly, the stuff on your shoes probably isn't out to get ya. If you have young kids around the house, on the other hand, then it could become a bigger deal.

"Little kids are in much more intimate contact with the floor than, say, a couple in their mid-20s," Meghan A. May, Ph.D., an associate professor of microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of New England College of Medicine, tells SELF. "If you happen to collect any viral particles on your shoes, deposit them on your floor, and have a 2-year-old playing on the floor, that becomes a very plausible scenario for how infection could occur."

The same is true if anyone in the house is elderly or is on chemotherapy. "The average person might be able to ingest a certain number of pathogens without getting sick," May says, "but in an immunocompromised person, that number's going to be very, very low."

Do you take your shoes off when you enter someone's house? It may not be a big deal, but given the right circumstances, not doing so could make for bad news. Better safe than sorry, right?

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If you suddenly have an urgent desire to clean your floors, check out "Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day" by Becky Rapinchuck. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto May 4, 2018

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