In many Asian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern countries, people remove their shoes at entry to their homes and others. In the United States, it’s more common to leave them on. But is that the best practice? Here’s what you should know about wearing shoes in the house.
The case for taking shoes off
It’s no surprise that wearing shoes in the house brings in dirt full of viruses and bacteria. But the grime also contains oils, lead, carcinogens from lawns and other chemicals. So, leaving your shoes at the door helps keep many unhealthy contaminants out of your home.
The dirt on shoes also damages carpets and floors. Gritty soil can work its way into carpets and rugs and shorten their lives. That grit can also scratch wood and tile floors.
These problems become real issues if you don’t clean your home frequently. If your family is wearing footwear in the house, you need to vacuum your floors, carpets and rugs at least once a week and regularly use a disinfectant cleaner to keep the dirt down. On the other hand, if you ban shoes in the house, you can cut back on vacuuming.
The case for keeping them on
Everyone agrees shoes are dirty, but some scientists say our bodies’ immune systems can fight the microorganisms we track in. They emphasize that young children need to be exposed to viruses and bacteria to develop immunity to them. Additionally, going barefoot or wearing slippers may increase the risk of falls, particularly in older people.
What to do about guests
On balance, you may prefer family members remove their shoes when entering the house. But what should you do about guests?
In many cultures, removing shoes when you enter someone’s home is a sign of respect. Guests in those countries know what to do. But in the United States, visitors may be unfamiliar with the practice and feel awkward about exposing their feet.
Most etiquette experts agree that asking guests to remove their shoes in your home is acceptable. But to make your visitors feel more comfortable, take the following steps.
- Let your guests know yours is a shoeless home before they arrive if possible.
- Equip your entry with a sign that politely informs visitors your family doesn’t wear shoes in the house. Add a shoe rack, a comfortable bench or chair for sitting to remove shoes, and a basket of socks or disposable slippers.
- At the door, greet your guests cordially before bringing up the matter of shoes.
- Consider making an exception for elderly guests or people who will only be visiting for a short time.
Related – 7 Tips on How to Clean Your Carpets