As one popular Zen saying goes, “If one cannot line up their shoes, it will be difficult to find order in the world around you”.  

Like with many cultures, my mother taught me to always take my shoes off at the door before entering a house. Taking off your shoes is a sign of respect for the home and its guests, but there are many other reasons to take such precautions.

In our home, this practice was convenient because it ensured we didn’t drag in sludge during the winter months. It became a ritual that stuck as I grew older. Except now I’ve learned that what you pick up on your shoes is not just a few germs and dirt.

The idea of tracking in residual gum, cigarette butts, parts of other things that have been in people’s mouths, rotting food, moldering leaves, mildew, and just good old-fashioned dirt is gross. But it gets worse!

We’ve compiled a list of the top 3 reasons why you should take your shoes off at the door. 

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shoes off at the door

Nasty Bacteria

Think about it. Your shoes come in direct contact with everything. A public restroom floor has been known to have about two million bacteria per square inch with the average toilet seat containing 50 per square inch.

“The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and e. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors,” says Dr. Charles Gerba, microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona. “Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated with bacteria.”

A University of Houston study found that 39 percent of shoes contained bacteria C. diff (investigation of potentially pathogenic Clostridium difficile contamination in household environs), which is a public health threat and contributes to the antibiotic resistance epidemic .  

The transfer of bacteria from shoe surface to clean floor spaces is truly an issue of concern. Bacteria on the shoes can lead to numerous health issues such as intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis, diarrhea, wound and bloodstream infections, pneumonia, as well as infections in the respiratory tract and in wounds.

Toxic Waste And Pesticides

Toxic waste and dangerous pesticides can be found everywhere these days. According to a study by the non-profit research group, the Battelle Memorial Institute, something as simple as treating your lawn can track toxins into the house. Another study from Baylor University found that people who live near asphalt roads sealed with coal tar have an increased risk of cancer from toxins, and an EPA study found that dangerous pesticides could be tracked into homes on shoes as well, settling within the house as dust particles.

Something as natural as a rainy day could also add to the toxins and pesticides on your shoes. The rain contributes to the spread of toxins such as gasoline, as well as other chemicals that could have long term affects on your health and contaminate the air, food, and environment of those you love.

Wear And Tear On The House

Since there are so many contaminants on your shoes, wearing shoes in your home could cause unnecessary wear and tear to your floors. The more dirt, toxins, and grit on the surface of the floor, the more scrubbing and cleaning will be needed — which will eventually contribute to replacing the flooring altogether. Less wear and tear means less money spent on replacing said flooring. Just take off your shoes at the door, and your pockets will thank you later.

It’s also important to note that household items such as your clothing and everyday items such as your cell phone are home to more bacteria cells than you may be aware of inside your house — not to make you neurotic. Just make sure to disinfect with natural antimicrobials, such as colloidal silver and other forms of silver.

Besides taking of your shoes at the door, one should consider machine washing shoes to reduce the presence of bacteria by 90 percent or more (as found in an University of Arizona study).

The tradition of taking off your shoes in the house may have started in several countries as a sign of respect and and as a way to promote  health, yet this practice has been lost over the years. By taking the steps suggested, you can help with the spread of bacteria and maintain a safe and clean environment. So when it comes to wearing shoes inside the house, it goes without saying, “It’s best to check it at the door”.

Meagan Sargent is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor and the publisher of IdentifyLA. She graduated from Texas Tech University, where she majored in Public Relations, and minored in: Business, Communication, and English. With a love for music, travel, and discovering unseen territory, both on paper and not, she is well-versed and has quickly become one of Hollywood’s ‘go-to’ girls.

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