While many people make a point of taking their shoes off when they're inside, if you're not someone who bothers, there's a good chance you're tracking in all sorts of nasty things from outside. As you stroll through the world, the soles of your shoes are picking up germs, molds, and other allergens. And if you walk through the house wearing those same shoes, it's easy to see how it all might transfer to your floors and rugs.
This is obviously not the end of the world, since plenty of people wear their shoes inside without ever having a problem. But many experts still agree it's a good idea to de-shoe before proceeding inside whenever possible — especially if you spend time chilling on the floor, or live with other people who do.
"I would recommend taking them off at the door — particularly if you have small children or infants crawling around," Dr. Nidhi Ghildayal, infectious disease specialist and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, tells Bustle. "Bacteria found on shoes can cause sicknesses of varying severity, and those dealing with allergies can find they are exacerbated by mold unknowingly tracked in." Here are a few gross facts about wearing shoes inside, according to experts.
There Will Be Fecal Matter
Even if you didn't step directly in a pile of poop while walking down the street, you probably still have traces of it somewhere on your shoes.
In fact, "96 percent of shoe soles contain fecal matter," Backe says. "Despite the fact that this is beyond unpleasant, it can also be a health concern for anybody with a weakened immune system."
If a baby, for example, is crawling across the floor, they can come into contact with it and get sick — even if the floors appear clean.
There Might Be E. Coli
There are many different strains of the bacteria E. coli, and not all of them will cause you to get sick. But since it's easily transferable from person to person, and some strains can make you pretty ill, taking your shoes off at the door may be a big help.
"The fewer the infectious biologics you introduce to your carpets, the fewer infections you can catch," Irwin Stromeyer, owner of Sterile Space Infection Defense, LLC, tells Bustle. "Now consider the fact that a single cell of E. coli bacteria can multiply to over 2,000,000 cells of E. coli bacteria in just seven hours. Basically, the fewer infectious organisms you expose yourself or your family to, the healthier they will be.”
Mold Can Multiply & Make Allergies Worse
"Mold and pollen can be found on leaves and rotting wood outside, and when tracked in, can linger — particularly on carpeted areas," Dr. Ghildayal says. "If you have a runny nose, itchy eyes or lips, or unexplained sneezing episodes, you could have an allergic reaction to the fungi that have been brought into your home."
Of course, allergens are found in other places, too. But dirty carpets are definitely something to consider. "It would be best to visit an allergist and diagnose if this is the issue — and perhaps minimize the risk of tracking in these allergens by removing your shoes when entering your home," Dr. Ghildayal says.
You May Be More Likely To Get Sick
Generally, the dirt and germs tracked in on your shoes isn't likely to make you sick. "Not all germs cause sicknesses, and if you are a young, healthy adult living in a relatively clean environment, tracking in germs may not be as high of a concern for you," Dr. Ghildayal says. "However, if you have a child who spends time crawling around, or are a person with a compromised immune system — i.e. someone who is elderly or on chemotherapy — there could be a higher risk if pathogens are tracked in."
Sidewalk Grime Can Find Its Way Inside
It's not just dirt, mold, and common germs you track inside, but all the other stuff you step on throughout the day as well.
"Sidewalk spit, animal fecal matter, herbicides, dirt, and the often-invisible germs on the floor of public restrooms can follow you into your home," Dr. Ghildayal says.
If that sounds gross, it's pretty easy to break the habit of wearing shoes inside. "For those used to wearing shoes indoors, slippers can be a comfortable and more hygienic option," Dr. Ghildayal says. You can also trod around in socks, or even barefoot. Whatever feels right to you.
You Can Track In Chemicals, Too
As mentioned above, it's possible to drag pesticides into your home by not taking off your shoes. But especially so if you've been in a park.
"Grass and dirt are frequently treated with pesticides, and although a sign stating treatment has occurred is required, people can still step either on, or nearby and then track these chemicals into the home," Dr. Tania Elliott, board-certified Allergist/Immunologist at NYU Langone Health, tells Bustle. "Then there runs the risk of contamination of your food and home surfaces, which is particularly risky if you have infant crawlers in the home."
It's also possible to bring home toxic chemicals from work. "Depending on where you work, especially if it’s industrial, your shoes may be exposed to paint, oil, metals, and other toxic things," Dr. Elliott says. And that can rub off on your carpets.
It's definitely not something to think too much about, but when in doubt — or if you have health issues — you may want to take off your shoes. Simply removing them at the front door, and slipping into a pair of comfy socks or slippers instead, will help make your house a healthier place to be.