I’m going to start this off with a warning: We are going to get a little nasty here, so if you are the kind of person who really likes wearing your shoes in the house, and you’d frankly rather not know exactly what that might be doing to your home, I suggest you stop reading right now. Because, honestly, I almost never take off my shoes when in the house, and I’m basically scarred for life after researching for this article.
Wait for people to leave the room.
Clark Howard, staff writer for Rare put together a collection of university studies showing exactly how nasty your shoes are, and how many germs and bacteria people are bringing into their home simply by wearing their shoes. It’s pretty eye-opening. For example, a University of Arizona study found, on average, 421,000 different bacteria on shoes. Some of that was feces. E. coli was detected on 27% of the shoes, along with seven other kinds of bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumonia, which can cause urinary tract infection, and Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory infections.
And you might be saying to yourself, “Sure, it’s on my shoes. I walk through all sorts of things in a day. But honestly, how much of that stuff really gets in my house?”
Well, the University of Arizona looked into that too. And they found that the “transfer of bacteria from the shoes to uncontaminated tiles ranged from 90% to 99%.”
I don’t want to state the obvious, but that’s pretty high.
Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona commented, “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. 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.”
The really disturbing part about all of this, as if it wasn’t disturbing already, is that there are more studies confirming the fact that your shoes are nasty little transporters of nastiness.
A Baylor University study found that people living close to asphalt roads that were sealed with coal tar have an increased risk of cancer from toxins, and these toxins can be tracked inside by your shoes. The Battelle Memorial Institute found that toxins from treating your lawn can easily be tracked into the house.
I could go on, but you get the point. Ultimately, these studies suggest a few solutions. One is to wash your shoes with detergent. Another is to steam clean and disinfect your carpets regularly. But the biggest one is to take your shoes off when you enter your home.
I feel confident that I speak for all chronic house shoe-wearers out there when I say this research gave me pause. Right now I’m sitting in my living room, shoes on. I’m looking at them suspiciously, wondering what the hell is on them, and wondering what’s living in my carpet.
I have a family of five, and I don’t think any of us have batted an eye about wearing shoes in the house. In fact, I think I have a picture of my oldest son as a toddler chewing on a shoe. It was a funny moment, but now I’m wondering how much feces he got in his mouth. And please keep in mind that I seriously doubt that your shoes are going to give you cancer or anything else that serious. But it is cold and flu season, and anything extra to prevent turning your family into a snot fest is worth a bundle.
Furthermore, I’m not a doctor. Perhaps all this exposure to bacteria is a good thing for the immune system. Or maybe I’m just telling myself this as a way to keep wearing shoes in the house because I just don’t know if I’m ready to change. And I really don’t want to try to fight my children to take their shoes off in the house. But what I do know is that shoes are obviously much more contaminated than I ever realized, and perhaps I should think long and hard before I enter our house with my sneakers on.