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How dirty are your shoes really?

How dirty are your shoes really? 15 Jun

Since childhood we’ve been ordered to “take your shoes off before you come into the house” or “wipe your feet” on the doormat, and we’ve obeyed without question. But how dirty are our shoes really?

When you start to think about it, they are the only part of us that come into contact with all kinds of surfaces, dirt and bacteria apart from our hands. And we wash those regularly (at least most of us do). So, understandably, shouldn’t we know what exists on the bottom of our shoes? And whether they are as dirty as we’ve been told.

Food, people and their pets are the most common carriers of germs into a home. And the soles of our shoes are the most culpable culprit.


footwear temple hygiene
Image credit to: Shutterstock/ Stripped Pixel

In Asian culture, it is considered highly offensive to not remove your footwear before entering someone’s house or a place of worship. It’s engrained in Asian etiquette that feet are generally considered unclean. In Malaysia, you should not point your feet to a person or thing, nor expose the soles of your feet to anyone else whilst seated. A similar etiquette applies in both Thailand and Turkey.

In ancient Buddhist practice, a monk only has four worldly possessions; a bowl and three robes. Therefore, strict practicing monks generally would walk barefoot. And as part of religion and meditation everyone walks barefoot in temple courtyards, where floors are regularly swept and cleaned.

Foot washing as a ritual is observed in many sects of Christian denominations, as it is mentioned in the New Testament that Jesus performs this act. This practice was then a common occurrence throughout history and ancient civilisations where Christian hosts would provide water for guests to wash their feet. This was particularly common in the Eastern world, where sandals were the primary footwear.

And it seems this ancient custom wasn’t far wrong, as researchers suggest wearing shoes into a house is estimated to have a 90-99% chance of bacteria transfer from shoes to uncontaminated home floors. Ready to hear just how dirty they are?

Where does the bad bacteria come from?

A study from the University of Arizona found that a single shoe could carry as much as 421,000 units of bacteria on its outside surface. This ranged from E. coli to meningitis and Klebsiella Pneumonia (a common source for infections such as pneumonia). The study’s author Charles Gerba, a microbiologist explained that bacteria “most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal faecal material outdoors.” Their study also showed that bacteria can be carried over a long distance and into your home after shoes are contaminated. So you may have gone for that hike last week, but your shoes will still be carrying a bunch of bad bacteria.

Footwear Hygiene Tips

If you’re concerned about the dirt coming into your home, consider:

– Buying a boot wiper (it’s like a car wash for your footwear)
– Vacuuming and replacing your door mat regularly (every couple of months)
– Wearing slippers at home
– Cleaning your shoes after long walks
– Storing shoes in an elevated shoe rack

And if you’re still unsure about the levels of germs in your home from everyone’s shoes, then contact us for our specialist carpet cleaning services or our regular domestic cleaning services which can ensure your floors will be germ-free and healthy all-year round.

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