It is best to leave your trash outside the door.
What contaminants are in your home?
People spend up to 90% of their time indoors, so the question of whether or not to wear shoes around the house is not trivial.
A roll call of wicked inside
Our work has involved measuring and assessing exposure to a range of harmful substances found inside homes, including:
- antibiotic resistant genes (genes that make bacteria resistant to antibiotics)
- disinfectant chemicals in the home environment
- perfluorinated chemicals (also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals”, due to their tendency to stay in the body and not break down) used ubiquitously in a multitude of industrial packaging products , domestic and food
The most likely reason for this connection is dirt being blown off your yard or stomped on your shoes and on the hairy paws of your adorable pets.
This connection speaks to the priority of ensuring that the matter of your external environment stays exactly there. (We have tips here.)
But let’s be clear. While it’s nice to be scientific and stick with the term E. coli, this stuff is, more simply, the bacteria associated with poo.
Whether it’s ours or Fido’s, it has the potential to make us very sick if exposed to high levels. And let’s face it – it’s just gross.
Why wander inside your home if you have a very simple alternative: take off your shoes at the door?
All in all, sans shoes wins
So are there any downsides to having a shoeless household?
Beyond the occasional bumped toes, from an environmental health perspective, there aren’t many downsides to having a shoeless home. Leaving your shoes on the entrance mat also leaves potentially harmful pathogens behind.
We all know that prevention is much better than cure, and taking shoes off at the door is a simple and basic prevention activity for many of us.
Need shoes for foot support? Easy – just have “indoor shoes” that are never worn outside.
There remains the problem of “sterile home syndrome”, which refers to increased rates of allergies in children. Some claim this is linked to overly sterile households.
Indeed, some dirt is likely beneficial because studies have indicated that it helps build your immune system and reduce the risk of allergies.
But there are better and less gross ways to do it than walking around inside with your dirty shoes. Go out, go hiking, enjoy the great outdoors.
Just don’t bring the dirtiest parts inside to accumulate and contaminate our homes.
Mark Patrick Taylor is Chief Environmental Scientist at the Environmental Protection Authority in Victoria, Australia and Honorary Professor at Macquarie University. Gabriel Filippelli is Chancellor Professor of Earth Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Executive Director of the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute. Taylor received funding through a Citizen Science Grant from the Australian Government. Filippelli does not work for, consult, own stock or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.