It’s customary in many cultures to take your shoes off before entering a home.

While this tradition may have started to help prevent visitors from tracking mud or dirt onto floors and rugs, there’s also plenty of scientific research to support the practice in order to keep invisible germs away, too.

Taking off your shoes as you enter a home helps keep the indoor space clean and could help keep everyone inside healthier.

The most obvious benefit of a “no shoes inside” policy is that dirt, oil, and other contaminants won’t be tracked throughout the home. This can translate to less time spent cleaning and vacuuming floors and could mean a longer life for your carpets.

Removing your shoes inside also cuts down on the possible transmission of disease-carrying bacteria.

Infectious bacteria can attach to shoes when you’ve been walking outdoors, in public restrooms, and other places with high concentrations of pathogens. Pathogens are organisms that cause disease.

The tread and cracks in shoes are ideal places for bacteria to linger. Here are some of the bacteria that can travel on the soles of your shoes and spread indoors.

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

In a University of Arizona study, E. coli was one of the most common kinds of bacteria found on shoe bottoms.

The bacteria can cause intestinal and urinary tract infections. And while E. coli can be found anywhere, it’s most common in rural areas where there are droppings from farm animals and other wildlife where people walk.

Another study found that E. coli was also found in high concentrations on the shoes of people living and working in rural Alaska.

Clostridium difficile (C. diff)

C. diff bacteria cause especially foul-smelling diarrhea and can trigger colitis, an inflammation of the colon.

A study in the journal Anaerobe found that the potential for shoe-related home contamination with C. diff is high, particularly in urban settings.

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria are the most dangerous of the several types of Staphylococcus bacteria.

Studies have found that Staphylococcus aureus bacteria have been most commonly found on the shoes of people working in healthcare facilities and in food service.


Pesticides and herbicides used on crops, parks, golf courses, and other areas can be tracked inside on the soles of your shoes.

These chemicals are associated with health risks as minor as skin or eye irritation and as serious as cancer.

Of course, walking barefoot inside has its share of health risks, too.

One study found that bacteria and fungus can be found in house dust, particularly in homes where dampness is a concern and when surfaces aren’t cleaned regularly.

Having a pet can also contribute to greater bacteria levels in the home.

Being shoeless or wearing smooth-sole slippers inside may also make you more prone to accidents, however. A 27-month study of older adults found that more than half of the falls happened to individuals who were barefoot or only wearing socks or slippers.

To reduce the risk of falls in the home, older adults should consider sneakers or other sturdy shoes that are only worn indoors.

Here are some tips for making shoe removal a standard practice in your home:

  • Establish a shoe area just inside the door. Keep the footwear organized with a shoe rack.
  • Place a sign just inside your door or on a welcome mat. Include a message such as “Leave your worries (and your shoes) at the door.”
  • Simply ask. Ask your guests politely if they would mind removing their shoes.
  • Keep slippers or house shoes near your designated shoe area. That way, it’s quick and easy to switch to them.

Bacteria and other pathogens can be found all over your home. But with regular cleaning and maintenance, you can minimize the risks they pose to your health.

Try the following strategies to clean areas that may not be obvious sources of bacteria and other contaminants:

  • Run your dishwasher empty once a week with a cup of bleach. This will kill any germs that remain from dirty dishes.
  • Wash kitchen towels separately from other laundry. Also be sure to wash gym towels after each use.
  • Wash bedsheets, pillowcases, and blankets once a week. Use hot water.
  • Keep food and snacks out of your bedroom. Crumbs can attract mold, bacteria, and other pests.
  • Wipe down frequently used surfaces in your home regularly. Use disinfectant wipes to clean TV remotes, computer keyboards, phones, coffee tables, doorknobs, railings, cabinet handles, and similar surfaces.
  • Scrub and microwave kitchen sponges every day. Use a disinfecting cleanser and microwave the sponge for 2 minutes each day while it’s wet. This can kill E. coli and other bacteria.

Removing your shoes before entering a home is an easy and courteous way to keep floors free of bacteria, chemicals, and other harmful substances that can be found on the soles of your shoe.

Setting up a shoe area by the door and providing your guests with slippers to wear instead can help make everyone comfortable and maintain your domestic health and cleanliness.