Updated: Apr 7, 2020
As healthy as we suppose ourselves to be when choosing what we put in our bodies, we are probably all guilty of bringing an enormous amount of germs into our living spaces and those of our friends and family, just by wearing shoes around the house. Whether you live in the city or in the country, think about the different terrain your feet cover in a day and consider how many pathogens could be transferred to a carpet or other surface, eventually making their way to someone’s hands or mouth. Pretty gross; and yet, we’re probably all guilty of doing it at some point. It’s becoming clear we should take a cue from some other cultures -- like the slipper tradition of Japan -- and leave our shoes outside our indoor living and eating spaces.
Results of a study by the University of Arizona collecting germs from shoe bottoms found 421,000 bacteria including E. coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Serratia ficaria (which can cause nasty intestinal and bloodstream infections) among hundreds of thousands of other bacterial strains on 96 percent of footwear tested. The bottom and inside of shoes transferred bacteria to home floors at a rate of 95-99 percent. Where We Wear Our Shoes
Think about the average wear your shoes take as you walk around town and work -- you most definitely encounter fecal matter from animals and restrooms, chemicals from lawn care or landscaping, and toxic treatments from cleaning products on floors and carpets. Then, consider the public places where we walk that are highly-trafficked with other people’s shoes and more bacterial contamination such as subways, buses, sidewalks, gas stations, gyms, and airports. Activities at home or with your family on any given day may include stretching out on on a yoga mat or exercising on the ground, rolling around with your pet on the carpet, or maybe you have a toddler in your home playing with everything and anything within reach -- including shoes on the floor. Compound these factors together and maybe now you’re wondering what could be living in your carpet. Pets Paws and Small Kids
Our furry friends are also members of our family and if they spend time outside, our pet's paws inevitably track fecal matter, lawn toxins, and other chemicals into our homes. Some families become more vigilant about cleaning pets before entering the home and leaving shoes at the door when they have a baby or toddler in the house because small children are so close to the ground and put everything in their mouth as they explore their environment. So, should we really worry about all these germs if babies put things on the floor in their mouth no matter where they are? How many people really get outright sick from chronic indoor shoe-wearing? Cumulatively, bacteria builds-up so it pays to take some preventative measures. No one wants themselves or their children to get an intestinal, eye, or lung infection if they can avoid it.
Another study trying to quantify the effect of lawn chemical distribution through the variables of children, pets, and shoes concluded, “removal of shoes at the door and the activity level of the children and pets were the most significant factors affecting residue levels indoors [after application].” The more kids and pets you have actively playing around outdoors and indoors, the more attentive you should be about leaving shoes at the door and cleaning pets paws. There are some easy solutions to help you clean up your home of environmental toxicity.
Have a sign at your welcome mat that politely asks people to remove their shoes
Wash your most-used outdoor shoes with detergent
Have indoor-only slippers ready for you and guests at the front door
Steam clean and disinfect your carpets frequently
Wipe paws of animals (and kids) with a clean towel after outdoor activity
The biggest, most effective solution is removing your shoes at the door and leaving them outside your home
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