It’s customary in countries around the world to remove your shoes before coming into the house. Some households do it for practical reasons while others remove shoes for religious reasons. In the United States, conversations around shoes in the home are often tied to bacteria and filth. While it is a valid concern, your shoes probably aren’t as dirty or germy as you think.
How germy are your shoes?
The simple fact that your shoes walk on the ground means they are bound to track dirt and outside bacteria into your home. LiveScience found studies revealing evidence of E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus (a microbe that can sometimes cause skin and blood infections). Since then, it’s been found that these bacteria sound alarming, but the odds of you actually getting sick from it is pretty low. Clinical pharmacist and professor Kevin Garey told Live Science, “[f]or a healthy individual, bacteria on shoes likely pose no or minimal risk,” since a typical footprint simply doesn’t have the thousands of microbes of the same strain that would be needed to make someone ill.
Other common residues found on shoes are pesticides and herbicides, or chemicals like tar and other construction materials. According to Healthline, “[t]hese chemicals are associated with health risks as minor as skin or eye irritation and as serious as cancer.” But again, bringing trace amounts of these substances into the home on your shoes is unlikely to heighten the risks of contracting any sort of sickness.
But remove those shoes if you want to—or if your host requests it
It’s good to know your shoes aren’t likely to track disease in to you or your family. But for some, there is still a strong desire to remove shoes before entering a home. Leaving your shoes outside decreases the amount of dirt and dust in your house, making cleaning much easier. Some floors are susceptible to scuffs and nicks, so removing shoes can mitigate the additional wear and tear.
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And as mentioned, shoe removal is part of certain cultures and upbringings, so be courteous. If a household makes it clear shoes are not allowed, don’t press the issue: It’s perfectly okay to want a shoe-free household.