It was only when I had a Japanese guest visit that I realized the importance of taking off my shoes before entering the house. As many Japanese eat on tatami mats on the floor and sleep on futons that are rolled out at night, it seems perfectly logical to keep shoes at the door. In fact, this is the norm in most Asian countries. Yet, interestingly, many European and American families never bother to insist on leaving shoes at the door.

Now, science is backing up this hygienic practice and revealing that what you pick up on your shoes is not just a few germs and dirt, but rather nasty customers who should never be allowed into your home! This is particularly important when you have toddlers rolling around the floor.

Which nasty bacteria are you bringing home?

Researchers at the University of Houston found that about 40% of shoes were carrying the nasty “C.diff” bacterium, which stands for Clostridium difficile. These spores are not at all easy to treat.

The study found that this C.diff was not only on shoe soles (about 40% of the total examined), but also spread around other household areas such as toilets, tops and surfaces, and wherever floor dust was found. These spores can live on dry surfaces for a long time.

The problem with treating an infection caused by C.diff is that it is resistant to most antibiotics. This can cause the bacterium to proliferate and make recovery very difficult for the patient. The linings in the intestines are attacked, resulting in colitis. Many people in hospitals pick up the C.diff infection and it is becoming more difficult to treat.

Now, you don’t want this bacteria as a guest in your home, do you? Off with the shoes and on with the slippers.

What else is on those shoe bottoms?

Well, there will be a disgusting quantity of dust, bird droppings, dog poop, leafy debris and other unwanted matter. The leafy stuff acts as a breeding ground for bacteria.

“That means potentially harmful bacteria can survive on your shoes for days or even weeks.”- Dr. Reynolds, microbiologist, University of Arizona

The University of Arizona decided to assess the quantity of bacteria and they were not disappointed – they found 421,000 different units! These can be categorized into 9 different strains. They are the cause of infections in the eyes, lungs and stomach. Two of these are certainly worth mentioning so you can reach for your slippers the moment you get home.

The first one is known as E.coli (a pathogenic organism) and it makes up about a third of all bacteria so it is a heavyweight. E.coli strains are mostly harmless, thank goodness, but the nasty ones (like E.coli 0157:H7) are not. They often cause severe stomach and intestinal problems leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Now, you might think the risk of contacting the E.coli bacteria from your shoes is minimal. But let me ask you a question: How many times did you visit the restrooms at work today?

Another type of bacteria the researchers found was the Klebsiella pneumoniae which is known to cause severe damage to the lungs and lead to pneumonia. The death rate from this bacteria is high at 50% and can reach 100% when people are suffering from alcoholism.

What you can do to have a healthier and cleaner home

There are so many advantages in taking off those shoes and wearing slippers. You will have to clean the house less often and your floor coverings will last longer, thus saving you lots of money. Your shoes will last longer, too!

Keep a shoe rack or basket near the door so that everyone does it automatically, as soon as they get home.

Your house will be much healthier and cleaner. If you have toddlers, they can safely play on the floor and you need not worry about them. Another great advantage is that if you go barefoot, you will be stimulating your foot pressure points — for you reflexology enthusiasts. The Chinese have been doing that for 5,000 years!

Finally, your neighbors downstairs will start smiling at you again as they no longer hear the clip-clop of your shoes, up and down, morning and night!

But perhaps Al Franken put it best:

“It’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world.”

Featured photo credit: 28/365 These might be the dirtiest shoes I own now/ Liz Mc via flickr.com

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