Remove Your Shoes Before Entering A Home To Prevent Dirt And Disease

In other countries and cultures, such as Japan, it is required that you take your shoes off at the door and put slippers on before entering the living space. This takes place in many schools and public places as well.

You might think this makes perfect sense in a Japanese context since Japanese homes have floor pillows, tatami mats, and futons that get placed directly on the floor, but there are good reasons why everyone should adopt this practice.

Not only does switching to indoor slippers make your home less cluttered, but it also helps with house cleaning, indoor air quality, and disease prevention as well.

Yes, You Genkan

The Japanese call the area just inside the entrance a genkan, a combination between a porch and a doormat. Many schools have areas where students take off their shoes and put them in cupboards called getabakos.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In Japanese culture (and other cultures, such as the Nordic countries and most Asian countries), the floor is a near-sacred place. You spend most of your time on the ground. It’s only natural that you would want to take care of it and keep it clean.

Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off

There is evidence that wearing shoes in the home tracks in countless particles and microorganisms that are unhealthy for our homes and bodies, especially if you have little ones crawling around.

The stuff that you could be dragging into your home includes:

  • Dust, dirt, leaves, and other unwanted matter
  • Bird, dog, and other animal droppings
  • Clostridium difficile (bacteria that attacks intestine linings, sometimes causing colitis)
  • Coli strains (causes intestinal damage leading to vomiting and diarrhea)
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae (causes lung damage, sometimes resulting in pneumonia)
  • Other harmful bacteria that can survive for weeks

The University of Arizona found an average 421,000 different units bacteria on the shoes they sampled! These types of bacteria can be categorized into 9 different strains, able to cause infections in the stomachs, lungs, and eyes.

The study also found that 90% of the bacteria transfers directly to a hard floor on first contact. For carpets, the percentage is even higher. Not only that, the bacteria on our shoes tend to live a lot longer since we are constantly adding more debris and bacteria as we walk in other places.

What You Can Do to Keep Clean

Now that you have been properly warned about the health effects of wearing your shoes indoors, here’s a simple way you can change the habit:

  1. Designate an area near the door to keep your shoes.
  2. Consider purchasing a rack, basket, or Japanese shoe cabinet (getabako) to place near the entryway.
  3. Store house slippers in the same area so you have something to change into.
  4. After taking off your shoes and putting on slippers, you should wash your hands.
  5. Consider taking a shower and changing into fresh clothes upon returning home. This can help get rid of pollen and other allergens that may be clinging to your body and clothes.
  6. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask your guests to take their shoes off as well.

Maybe one day, U.S. culture will evolve to the point where guests automatically take off their shoes, but until then, you may want to think twice about asking your guests to remove their shoes. If you do request guests to take off their shoes, make sure you have a clean pair of slippers or socks that they can wear instead.

Keep in mind that many guests will have their reasons for wanting to keep their shoes on. A big part of entertaining is cleaning up afterwards. On the other hand, most Americans actually do take off their shoes at home, so if you see other people removing their shoes, follow suit.

Soon you’ll be enjoying a cleaner home and floor, less sickness, longer-lasting floors and shoes.

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