Should You Always Take Off Your Shoes in Your Home?


shoes on front door mat shoes on front door mat
Yes, shoes do track germs into your house but you already have worse ones in your kitchen. Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

It's a common practice in Asian and Middle Eastern homes, and it's becoming more so in the U.S. In fact, a 2018 YouGov poll found that 87 percent of Americans walk around their homes sans shoes, and 21 percent always or frequently ask guests to do the same. Many do this to prevent dirt and germs from getting inside. But is that really an issue?

Technically, yes. As you walk around work, your hometown, stores, etc., your shoes pick up bacteria, viruses, germs and parasites, not to mention plain old dirt and debris. A 2017 study by the University of Houston, for one, showed more than 26 percent of the soles of shoes worn in homes contained Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a common health care-associated infection that can be deadly.

But if that worries you, get this – the average person has more than 100 trillion microbes in and on their body. Your home is covered in germs, too, namely your kitchen sink and dish sponges. And if you have pets that go outside, they're bringing in a lot of nasty stuff on their paws and fur as well. Thankfully, most of the bacteria on your body and in your home is harmless. Same with the stuff you track in on your shoes.

Still, there are some cases where it may make sense to remove your footwear. Take them off if you've got little kids crawling around on the floors, who may then put their fingers in their mouths. Ditto if someone in your home has a compromised immune system and is sensitive to infection. And since pollen can be transferred from shoes to floors, and especially carpets, kick off your shoes if someone at home has allergies.

If you're really determined to cut down on dust and debris, keep your socks on, or walk around in clean "house shoes," or slippers rather than going barefoot. Each of your feet has about 125,000 sweat glands on the sole, and any sweat on your feet can be transferred to carpets. Damp carpets, in turn, trap dust, dirt and dander.

In the end, the choice of whether or not to go shoeless is yours. Some people just like the feel of walking around in bare feet, or it might be a cultural norm for them. But whether your shoes are on or off, you may want to go sanitize your kitchen sink and sponges ASAP.