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Why You Should Really Ask Guests to Take Their Shoes Off, Experts Say

It's not just something you should think about in terms of etiquette.

Removing footwear before going into someone else's house is seen as a sign of respect in certain cultures. Yet in the U.S., many of us worry that this request comes across as rude. But there may be good reason for you to ban shoes indoors—besides just for etiquette purposes. Talking to experts, we found out exactly why you should really be asking your guests to take off their shoes before coming in. Read on to find out how this practice could be important for your home and your health.

READ THIS NEXT: The First Things Guests Notice When They Come Into Your Home, Experts Say.

Most Americans take off their shoes at home but aren't asking guests to do the same.

Shot of a young woman using a smartphone and headphones on the sofa at home

While we tend to forgo footwear in our own houses, many of us in the U.S. fail to ask the same from our guests.

A 2018 survey from YouGov Omnibus revealed that a significant 87 percent of Americans report taking off their shoes while at home. Breaking this down further, 31 percent said they will "always" remove their shoes inside their house, while 26 percent said they do so "most of the time."

But when it comes to asking someone else to do the same, the prevalence is much lower. Around 50 percent of Americans admit that they never ask guests to take off their shoes, according to the survey. And out of those who specifically say they always take off their own shoes at home, only 25 percent said they expect that same etiquette from their visitors.

But experts say you really should be asking them to remove their shoes, too.

put on white sneaker shoes on wooden floor and white background
Shotmedia / Shutterstock

Maybe you think it's rude to ask your guests to remove their shoes before coming inside your house. Or maybe you see it as an inconvenience. But no matter the reason for your hesitation, experts say you really should be making sure people leave their footwear at the front door.

"I suggest implementing a no-shoe policy in your home as it can help maintain cleanliness and hygiene," Johanes Bangao Godoy, a cleaning expert working with the dry cleaning company Liox, tells Best Life.

According to Godoy, banning outdoor footwear can "significantly reduce" the amount of dirt being tracked indoors. "If you want your guests to remove their shoes before coming inside, it's advisable to inform them of your policy politely ahead of time," he adds.

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Shoes can bring bad bacteria into your home.

Young adult woman walking up the stairs with sun sport background.

But when it comes to cleanliness concerns, it's not just that outdoor footwear can track dirt in that you'll have to clean up later.

"Wearing shoes indoors can introduce bacteria and other gross stuff to your floors, which can build up over time and turn into a real problem," warns Karina Toner, the operations manager at Spekless Cleaning.

In fact, a major study from microbiologist Charles Gerba found that harmful bacteria such as coliform and E. coli can be detected on the outside of 96 percent of shoes.

"When people walk around outside, their shoes can pick up a variety of contaminants, including dirt, allergens, and bacteria. These contaminants can then be spread throughout the home when people walk around indoors with their shoes on," says Zeeshan Afzal, MD, a medical doctor for Welzo who has a background in clinical science.

According to Afzal, research has also shown that the soles of shoes can carry the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, as well as toxins such as lead and pesticides. "Removing shoes at the door can help prevent the spread of these contaminants and promote a cleaner, healthier living environment," he explains.

There are also other ways you can prevent germs from spreading.

A woman who comes home and takes off her shoes and wears indoor slippers

It may not be easy to ask your guests to remove their shoes before entering your home, as it "can be a sensitive topic," Afzal acknowledges. "Some people may feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced by the request," he says. "It is best to approach the topic politely and explain your reasoning, such as your desire to keep your home clean and hygienic."

According to Toner, it's best to "lead by example" by making it a convenient routine for all your visitors. "Offer shoe covers, booties, some comfy slippers, or an extra pair of socks, and explain why it's important for keeping things clean," she advises.

Of course, you may still run into people who don't want to take off their shoes. If you want to respect their preference, there are still ways you can try to ensure the cleanliness of your home.

"In this case, placing doormats at the entrance and regularly cleaning floors and carpets can help mitigate the spread of germs and dirt," Afzal says. "Other tips for maintaining a clean living environment include regularly vacuuming and mopping floors, washing bedding and towels frequently, and using natural cleaning products to avoid exposure to harsh chemicals."

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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