- You shouldn’t wear shoes in the house because you may be carrying germs into your living space.
- Research has found that shoes can be a carrier for microbes like viruses and bacteria, and it’s most likely that these germs will be on the outside of your shoes.
- While your shoes aren’t likely to spread illness, it’s important to always take them off at the front door, and disinfect them if they are dirty – here’s how.
- This article was medically reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specialises in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Germs are everywhere – including your shoes. If you want to reduce the spread of germs in your home, it’s important to leave them by the front door.
Here’s what you need to know about keeping your living area clean and practicing good hygiene when it comes to footwear.
Wearing shoes in the house brings in germs
It is possible to carry disease-causing germs on your shoes and clothing, says Leila Karimpoor, DO, internist and hospitalist at Providence Saint John’s Health Centre. If your shoes come in contact with germs, you can track them wherever you go, including your house.
A 2015 study published in Microbiome analysed the microbial environment on people’s shoes after walking in various locations. The researchers concluded that microbes from surfaces – like bacteria and viruses – end up on shoes and rub off on other surfaces you walk on.
For the most part, these microorganisms congregate on the outside of shoes. A study by a microbiologist at the University of Arizona found that the outside of shoes carries more than 140 times as much bacteria as the inside.
When it comes to decreasing the spread of germs in your house from your shoes, Karimpoor recommends establishing a routine to keep your living space clean. This should include taking your shoes off at your front door. If your shoes require you to use your hands to remove them, then you should also immediately wash your hands.
“In general, your living space should be as clean as possible,” Karimpoor says. “The same way you wouldn’t walk in mud and then bring a trail into your house, you also wouldn’t want to go to a place that could be crowded where you could pick up a pathogen and trail it back into your house.”
If you have small children at home who play on the floor or someone in your home is immunocompromised, it’s important to take your shoes off at the door. “It’s not particularly about the shoes per se, but the living space,” Karimpoor says.
Your shoes aren’t likely to get you sick
When it comes to decreasing the spread of coronavirus or any other illness, handwashing is most important, Karimpoor says. If you go to a crowded place like a grocery store or you have been in contact with a sick person, it’s possible to have disease-causing germs on your shoes, but that won’t necessarily make you sick unless you touch your shoes and then your face.
Practicing good footwear hygiene should be balanced with the need for exercise and time spent outdoors. Just be sure to practice social distancing and remain six feet away from others while you’re outside.
“Right now with everyone being at home, I think one of the things to try to be more aware of is still staying healthy, physically and emotionally,” Karimpoor says. “That includes trying to keep your normal routine as much as possible, especially routine exercise.”
How to disinfect your shoes
While taking off your shoes at the front door is the way to go, you may also want to clean your shoes from time to time. Here’s how you can do it:
- Soap and water. “Good old-fashioned soap and water will keep you and your loved ones protected,” Karimpoor says. As with your hands, this method is also useful for shoes in removing particles you can see, like stains, mud, and dirt. You can also remove the insoles of your shoes, soak them in soapy warm water, and then let them air dry.
- Bleach. A bleach and water mixture can be used to clean and disinfect shoes, Karimpoor says, though bleach can cause discoloration and may even damage some shoes. You should use this method on the inside of your shoes only, or on the outside if your shoes are white.
- Washing machine. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only machine wash your shoes if recommended. Washing your shoes in a machine can be effective if they’re made of common materials like cotton or nylon. Some materials, like leather or suede, should never go in the washing machine.
Related stories about sanitation and keeping clean:
- How do viruses spread and how to protect yourself against infection
- Does bleach kill germs? Yes, but you need to let it sit for 10 minutes
- Beards carry a host of bacteria – but not much more than clean-shaven skin
- What temperature kills germs? How to use heat properly to get rid of bacteria and viruses
- Does UV light kill germs? Getting an at-home sanitizer may be worth it
- Does alcohol kill germs? Yes, as long as the solution is strong enough
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