In some cultures, removing your shoes before entering a home is a point of tradition and common sense. For others, there’s a fierce debate over whether it’s necessary or not. Depending on who you ask, wearing your shoes inside the house is either no big deal at all or dirty and disgusting. Whichever camp you’re in, you’ll be interested to learn that there’s good arguments for both sides. Ultimately, though, we will examine the question – should you be wearing your shoes in the house?

Why You Should Leave Shoes at the Door

We’ll begin by looking at why people have been taking their shows off when they enter the house. The modern trend mostly has to do with cleanliness and hygiene. Think about it. When you wear your shoes inside, you’re tracking in everything on them from the outside. They may be covered in dirt, mud or animal leavings. As you walk through the house, these dirty the floors, setting back any cleaning you may have done. This is especially a problem if you have white or light-colored carpeting, since dirt or stains will show more profoundly. No matter the color of carpet or type of flooring, though, if there’s dirt or filth on your shoes, you’ll likely transfer some inside the house if you wear your shoes indoors.

Whatever your reasoning, there is certainly evidence to back up your desire to leave shoes at the door.

Even if you take an extra precaution and wipe off any visible dirt, there’s still a chance your shoes are covered in germs. A study from the University of Arizona actually looked into this, and the results may gross you out. The study found 421,000 different types of bacteria, including e. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae (which can cause UTIs). The study also found that the transfer of these bacteria from shoes to the floor was very common, between 90 and 99 percent. Another study found that shoes often had Clostridium difficile, a bacteria that’s resistant to many common household cleaning supplies. This type of bacteria can cause a number of symptoms including diarrhea. So, whether your concerns have to do with hygiene and avoiding getting sick or simply the cleanliness of your house, there is certainly evidence to back up your desire to leave shoes at the door.

Why It’s No Big Deal

While the evidence is pretty clear that shoes in the house can be dirty or unhygienic, it’s unclear if it makes a huge difference. According to some experts, germs from your shoes are fairly low on the hierarchy of health hazards in your home. Unless you’re touching your shoes and then your face or mouth or eat food off the floor, the germs are unlikely to infect you. Other health risks, especially in the kitchen, are more likely to hurt you. Another expert from the New York Times article (linked to previously) states that the level of contamination you’d get from shoes is less of a health threat and unlikely to cause you serious harm.

Shoes aren’t the only (or even most common) way that germs can get from outside to inside your home.

Shoes aren’t the only (or even most common) way that germs can get from outside to inside your home. Germs from your hands, openly sneezing or poor personal hygiene practices are more common ways to come into contact with germs. Additionally, if you have a dog, you’re also likely coming into contact with similar germs, too. Unless you’re disinfecting your dogs’ feet or having them wear boots outside, they are probably tracking dirt and mud into the house. Another common household pet, cats can also drag litter around the house sometimes.

So, Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Now it’s time for the big answer. Is wearing your shoes in the house a bad idea? The answer is a resounding “it’s up to you.” If you’re following good hygiene practices to avoid getting sick and regularly cleaning the house, whether you wear shoes in the house or not is unlikely to make a massive difference. If a clean house is high on your priority list or you’re particularly concerned about germs (not that there’s anything wrong with that), then you likely will want to establish a no-shoes rule. This is also true if the idea of those bacteria in your house grosses you out. If you’re not as concerned, you should be in the clear, as long as you’re cleaning your house regularly.

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Whether you need to take your shoes off in the house or not is ultimately up to you and your own thoughts and concerns. However, it is important that if you’re a guest somewhere, follow their house rules. Always respect the homeowners’ wishes regarding different household preferences and especially the removal of your shoes.