Think of all the different surfaces you walk on getting to and from work or even just running a single errand. On any given day you probably tread on pavement, dirt, grass, and the grimy floors of public buildings. When you return home the soles of your shoes carry in not just dirt, but several pollutants and allergens as well.
A regular pair of shoes, after just 14 days of wear, hosts a slew of bacteria, including E. coli. In the largest study of its kind, the California State Department of Public Health found an average of 22 pesticides in the dust of homes studied. Another study found that coal tar, a carcinogen used in products like driveway sealant, is tracked into homes from driveways and parking lots. And even though it's been removed from paint and gasoline, lead is still remarkably prevalent in the environment and can be tracked inside (along with mercury and other heavy metals) on people's shoes. The buildup of pollutants is even greater in homes with carpeting because carpet traps pollutants and is usually not cleaned well enough and often enough to prevent buildup.
Infants and young children, with their proximity to the floor, tenancy to put things in their mouths, and developing nervous and immune systems, are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of toxins being brought into the home on shoes.
There is an extremely effective measure everyone can take to cut their exposure to pollutants being tracked inside. Take off your shoes! Eighty-five percent of the dirt in homes is tracked inside on clothing, shoes, and pet paws. By taking your shoes off at the door you can avoid 70% of the allergens and pollutants being tracked into your home. Having a shoes off policy makes your home cleaner and healthier and saves you time and energy vacuuming and dusting. Plus, it's simply more relaxing to walk around barefoot or in cozy sock or slippers.
Worried about how to ask guests to remove their shoes without coming off as a shrew who covers all their furnishings in plastic? A simple sign on the front door can be a big help. There are several simple “Please Remove Shoes” signs available. Or, you can go with something humorous like this "Life is full of choices. Remove shoes or scrub the floor." sign. It also helps to have a specific place to take off and place shoes. Leaving a basket of various clean and comfortable-looking slippers by the door helps send the no shoes message while also providing a considerate amenity to you guests.
So kick off those shoes, put up your feet, and enjoy your greener, cleaner home.