Do you take your shoes off indoors?
Removing your shoes at the door is customary in many homes, and in some cultures it’s seen as a mark of respect to leave your shoes outside. But there might also be some good health reasons to ask anyone coming into your home to remove their shoes first.
Bacteria is carried on the soles of our shoes
A new Australian study assessed whether infectious pathogens can be carried indoors on the soles of shoes. Researchers carried out a systematic review of 13 prior studies and found that shoe soles can be a carrier for bacteria, including staphylococcus, usually found in the skin or nose. E. coli has been swabbed on the bottom of 96% of shoe soles along with a staggering 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of shoes.
What else might we bring indoors on the soles of our shoes?
The range is extensive – pesticides, chemicals, traces of petroleum can all enter the home and settle as dust. About 70% of dust in is generated indoors, but the rest makes its way inside through open doors and windows, and on the soles of our shoes. And once over the threshold it travels around the home and settles as dust.
A global study of dust carried out by Dyson discovered that the main reason we clean our homes is to remove dust so that it doesn’t build up. But whilst we like to keep our homes “clean” fewer than 1 in 5 people are aware that dust is also a potential source of bacteria and particles that could affect our health.
Dust is a mixture of dead skin cells, dust mites and faeces, and bacteria. But it also has floating particles from cleaning products and toiletries, microplastics, and particulate matter from cooking and fires.
In the UK we spend 90% of our time inside, so our indoors environment is arguably more important than our outdoor environment, where we spend only an average of 26 hours a week.
Leave your shoes at the door
Scientists recommend that we remove our shoes before entering our homes to reduce the risk of bringing harmful bacteria and other potentially harmful substances into our homes.
It’s not easy to decontaminate shoes of potentially harmful bacteria or substances, so it’s advisable to remove shoes at the door and don’t touch the soles with your hands. Always keep shoes away from small children who tend to put things into their mouths.