We all have that friend who makes you take your shoes off in their home. It’s annoying, but there’s a good reason why you should slip off your shoes when you walk inside. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who wear shoes in the house and those who don’t. Wearing shoes in the house can track bacteria onto the carpet, as well as toxins and E. coli.

Microbes

Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, studied the bacteria on the bottom of shoes and found that they can track all kinds of gross stuff inside homes.

“If you wear shoes for more than a month, 93 percent will have fecal bacteria on the bottom of them,” he told TODAY Home about his findings. Gerba credited things like pet waste on the ground outside and splashes from the toilet on public restroom floors for this contamination.

The bacteria E. coli is usually harmless but some strains can make you sick, causing diarrhea or urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses, according to the CDC. There are on average 421,000 different types of bacteria on shoes. And those bacteria transfer from your shoes into your home at a rate of 90 to 99 percent. Multiple studies have proved this statistic. And it gets worse…

“Shoes make microorganisms fairly mobile, and you’re tracking that all around (the house),” Gerba said, adding that the cracks on the bottoms of shoes make it more conducive for bacteria to hang around.

“Also, if you’re immunocompromised or have allergy issues, it’s a good idea to take your shoes off,” he said. That’s because shoes also pick up mold and allergens like pollen.

And if you have carpet, it’s probably even dirtier. Organisms can survive longer in carpet, plus bacteria and mold can build up over time. “A hard floor is easier to clean and disinfect,” Gerba said.

Speaking of disinfecting, Gerba and his research team found that when the shoes were washed per manufacturer’s instructions (in this case, in the washing machine), there was a 99 percent reduction of bacteria on the outside of the shoe.

But let’s face it: Who’s going to wash their shoes just to be able to walk in the house with them? If you’re insistent on wearing shoes indoors (for comfort, convenience or whatever the reason may be), you could always try an antimicrobial doormat.

However, preventing this bacteria from spreading is as easy as taking your shoes off before entering your main living area. This is much more effective than say wiping your shoes on a mat and walking into a main living area with your shoes on. This is because, while mats are great for removing visible dirt from shoes, they are perhaps the best places for bacteria to breed. When you wipe your shoes on a mat, most of the time you’re just picking up even more bacteria than you already started with.   

Many household occupants do not choose to remove their shoes before entering the home. While in adults this practice can make you ill, it is rarely fatal. However, one kind of household that should always prevent its occupants from wearing shoes is one with children or elderly residents. Child and elderly immune systems are significantly weaker than healthy adult ones, and an infection from bacteria transferred via the shoes can be incredibly dangerous for them.

As well as taking shoes off as soon as you enter your home, you should also wash your hands. Some good preventative steps are also to wash your shoes in a washing machine on cold, with detergent. Alternatively, you can apply disinfectant on your shoes.

So next time your friend asks you take off your shoes, just do it. And then wash your hands for good measure.

I think now you’ll want to stop wearing shoes inside ASAP. True or false?

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