Shoe Etiquette: Is It Rude To Ask Guests To Remove Shoes In Your Home for Better Hygiene

There is always that awkward moment entering a person’s home for the first time. You desperately look to make eye contact with the homeowner, while furtively looking around for signs that will tell you whether there is a de facto “shoes off” policy or not. Is the homeowner wearing shoes? Are other people starting to remove shoes? Are there white carpets? Does it look like the home has a maid service? Are the resident shoes piled up at the door?

shoes at the door

If anyone in your home has allergies, it’s best to leave shoes at the door, says WebMD. Image Source:

It can be a confusing dance — not just for guests, but for homeowners too. Many people would prefer to have guests remove their shoes at the door, but worry that it may come across as rude. We’ll help you navigate that awkward maze as seamlessly as possible to make the transition to a cleaner, fresher home — sans heinous shoe bacteria. 

Are Shoes Really That Dirty?

Back in April, we reported on a couple of studies that will make you think twice before trampling through your home in shoes. Among the findings:

– One pair of shoes contained 66 million organisms on the soles, according to a “Good Morning America” test.

– Nine out of 10 shoes tested positive for coliform bacteria, which is present in human and animal excrement.

– Researcher Charles Gerba found nine types of harmful bacteria on shoes that cause lung & stomach illnesses.

– He also found that bacteria transferred from shoe to floor tile over 90% of the time. Imagine your carpet!

There are many more reasons to remove shoes at the door. According to The Huffington Postseveral new studies illuminate why we should be more mindful about what’s stowing a ride on our shoes:

– The California State Department of Public Health found that 22 pesticides were found in the dust of Salinas, California residents — tracked in by shoes.

– Another study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that carcinogens like toxic coal tar used in driveway sealants were tracked inside as well.

– The Environmental Protection Agency recommends leaving shoes at the door to avoid tracking lead into the home, which can cause everything from behavioral disorders and nerve damage to anemia and intellectual disabilities.

shoes off

Not all guests will be enthused about an unexpected shoes-off policy, especially if it forces them to walk around your home barefoot. Image Source:

The Downside Of Asking Guests To Remove Shoes Indoors

It may sound like a no-brainer to demand that shoes be left at the door. But unfortunately, the issue is not so simple. Elderly people are advised to wear shoes indoors to protect themselves from falls. In one study, half of the people who took a tumble indoors were wearing slippers, socks, or walking barefoot. Furthermore, diabetics are advised to wear custom shoes indoors to protect their feet from harm, as well.

Then there is that group of friends that feels you are a misguided control freak for your rules. “I’ve gone head-to-head with a hostess before and told her, ‘I’m leaving my shoes on. I’ll just stand in your foyer and talk,'” Jessica Gottlieb, a blogger from LA, told MSNBC

The shoes etiquette crusader later told The Star-Press, “OK, I get it for upstairs areas or bedrooms… But if you’re my… friend who just wants a clean floor, forget about it. It’s a power play and no, you don’t get to undress me.”

Other reasons cited for wanting to keep shoes on at others’ homes included:

– Fashion: Some guests may have chosen to wear heels with longer pants for added confidence.

– “Sock Shock”: Not everyone is mindful of what raggedy old pair of socks they pull out of the drawer.

– Embarrassment: Guests say it can be embarrassing to walk around barefoot if they weren’t expecting to.

– Foot Issues: Guests with bunions, hammer toes, warts, foot odor, or fungus nails may not feel comfortable.

– Foot Pain: People with flat feet, arthritis, or neuropathy may need shoes to alleviate pain.

– Fear of Pathogens: Some feel that multiple people walking around in socks or barefoot increases the risk of transmitting warts, athlete’s foot, and toenail fungus among party-goers and is no more sanitary than shoes. Jessica Gottlieb put it like this: “My shoes are there to keep me comfortable, cute, and free of your foot fungus.”

5 Ways To Enforce A No-Shoes Policy In Your Home

1. Be courteous. If you’re throwing a party, add your “no shoes” policy to the invitation so guests come prepared.

2. Be generous. Classy hosts may even hand out brand new “guest socks” or slippers as favors. A nice touch would be to offer guests the use of your SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer, which can kill the microbes in their shoes using UV-C light in just 45 minutes.

3. Help them understand. Blogger Rachel Kerstetter of Cleveland says she posted a list of 10 reasons why her home is “shoes-free.” In addition to hygiene reasons, she cites preserving her carpet, keeping allergens out, and making her home easier to clean without all the added grass, leaves, and dirt coming in.

4. Make it easy. Kerstetter uses a mudroom at the back door for her own family, but added a shoe rack in the front foyer for guests. Placing a chair by the door can help guests facilitate the transition easier, rather than hopping around unbalanced on one foot.

5. Don’t be a hypocrite.  Worried about Fido tracking in nasties on his paws? First of all, don’t fret too much. Dog paws are smaller and pick up less bacteria than our feet. Also, the “Good Morning America” report found that, out of 10 home invaders, the two dogs in the study ranked #5 and #9 in terms of dirtiness — far outmatched by their human companions. Even so, to avoid looking like a hypocrite, you can always try antibacterial dog paw spray to keep your pooch from bringing unwanted bacteria indoors.

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