4 Reasons to Leave Your Shoes at the Door

Asian households have always traditionally taken their shoes off before entering their living spaces, but that custom never quite caught on in most American dwellings. In fact, some guests may find it rude or uncomfortable when they're asked to take off their shoes. (Case in point: the plastic booties some real estate agents hand out before showing an open house.)

But there are actually good reasons for doing so (on a scientific level, even) and they may make you reconsider a no-shoes policy in your own home.

#1 Dirt
While it's common to leave your kicks at the door if, say, you just came in from the mud or the snow, on a day-to-day basis, you still track in dirt even if you don't see it. That means more vacuuming, more sweeping, or just generally more cleaning, and no one likes the thought of that.

#2 Bacteria
Think of all the places you normally walk — down the street, through a dog park, into a public restroom, across a busy intersection. The things that linger on the ground are not exactly the things you want to bring into your home. In a study by the University of Arizona, researchers found large numbers of bacteria both on the bottom and the inside of shoes, averaging 421,000 and 2,887 units of bacteria, respectively. Some of that bacteria included Escherichia coli, known to cause meningitis and intestinal and urinary tract infections, and Klebsiella pneumonia, known to cause pneumonia as well as wound and bloodstream infections. The bacteria can live longer on shoes than in other places, and can also transfer to tile floors 90% of the time. Carpet, not surprisingly, harbors the most germs. What's worse is that the more we walk around the house, the more our shoes can pick up new debris that feeds the growth of more bacteria.

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#3 Toxins
Besides bacteria, our shoes can transfer a variety of toxins into our homes. The government has warned of the carcinogenic effects of coal-tar sealcoat, commonly known as driveway sealer, which can be tracked in via our shoes. An EPA study found that the herbicide 2,4-D can be found indoors up to a week after its application to a lawn. And this is just from you walking across the grass. Pesticides such as dieldrin, chlordane, and atrazine can linger on your floors for a surprisingly long time because they're designed to be sticky. The compounds break down quickly outside because of ultraviolet rays, but inside, they can persist for years. If you don't like pesticides on your produce, you certainly won't like them all over your house, especially if you have children who play on the floor.

#4 Wear and tear
With all this talk about dirt, bacteria, and toxins, you're probably thinking you'll just stay on top of your cleaning more. But frequent vacuuming and scrubbing is hard on your floors and rugs, inadvertently shortening their lifespan. The bottoms of your shoes can also cause wear and tear on your floors, especially in highly trafficked areas like the entryway and garage door. Minimize the distress by leaving your shoes in those places. If you really can't stand the thought of being barefoot, slip your feet into a cozy pair of socks or slippers instead.

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