Environmental researchers explain why it’s best to leave your shoes at the entry mat

Asian households remove shoes EPA
  • Researchers who studied indoor contaminants concluded that it is best to remove shoes before entering the house.
  • Environmental scientists Mark Patrick Taylor and Gabriel Filippelli explained that a third of the contaminant build-up in homes comes from outside, which includes what the shoes have brought in.
  • According to the scientists, shoes worn outside may carry drug-resistant bacteria and chemical residue that contain cancer-causing toxins.
  • “Leaving your shoes at the entry mat also leaves potentially harmful pathogens there as well,” the researchers concluded.

Environmental researchers have weighed in on the ongoing debate on whether to remove shoes before entering the house.

The chief environmental scientist for the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Mark Patrick Taylor, and the executive director of the Environmental Resilience Institute, Gabriel Filippelli, penned a piece for The Conversation about the risk of bringing outdoor contaminants inside people’s homes via their shoes. 

The authors, who have studied indoor contaminants for a decade through their DustSafe program, suggest that based on their research findings, it is “best to leave your filth outside the door.”

According to the scientists, a third of the contaminant build-up inside homes comes from outside, including what the wind and your shoes bring in. 

They warn that among the microorganisms shoes can carry in are drug-resistant pathogens and bacteria.

Shoes can also bring in residue from asphalt roads and lawn chemicals associated with endocrine disruptions that may contain cancer-causing toxins. 

“Beyond the occasional stubbed toe, from an environmental health standpoint, there aren’t many downsides to having a shoe-free house,” the authors note. “Leaving your shoes at the entry mat also leaves potentially harmful pathogens there as well.”

The scientists conclude that leaving shoes off at the door is a “basic and easy prevention activity for many of us.” They suggest having “indoor shoes” that are not worn outside if going barefoot is not an option.

For those who are worried that an “overly sterile” home can lead to increased allergy risk and underdeveloped immune systems in children, the authors said, “enjoy the great outdoors.” 

While many Asian households maintain a strict shoes-off rule, sometimes opting for wearing slippers indoors, others have argued that imposing such restrictions on guests can be considered rude, sparking more online debate in recent months. 

The scientists also highlighted a recent piece published by the Wall Street Journal which tried to make an argument that wearing shoes inside other people’s homes is justified because the deadly E. coli bacteria is already widely spread. 

While the article is satire, the researchers still responded with reason, explaining that wearing the shoes would definitely exacerbate the risk of exposing residents to high levels of the bacteria. 

Feature Image via Jakob Owens

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