Leave Your Shoes at the Door Please

Asking friends and family to take off their shoes can be uncomfortable, but the alternative makes me sick.


Yes I am “that Mom” who asks people to take their shoes off when they come over.

From my friends I get quiet compliance with some acknowledgements of similar requests. From the generations before me (read: parents and in-laws) sometimes I get rolled eyes, requests for reminders to bring slippers or flat out refusal to cooperate.

I asked my own Mom who diligently brings her slippers to my house or borrows mine, but does wear her shoes in her own home why the cold shoulder to my no shoes in the house rule. I got a list of reasons, but sore feet and a disbelief that it really matters topped the list. I get the sore feet, hole in the sock, my outfit doesn’t work without the shoes and I’m really short excuse but the fact is, taking your shoes off in the house does cut down on a host of disgustingness that I can do without.

I guess it all started when my first born was spending more time on the floor than not and I was spending more time cleaning the house than not. I thought about what really comes strutting in on those shoes we wear around the house and I almost got sick (or maybe it was just morning sickness from baby #2). We always took our shoes off when lounging around but didn’t have a stead fast rule about no shoes in the house. I did some poking around on the internet and found some not so appetizing facts about the “stuff” your shoes track inside.

The following is from the Healthy Child website:

The professional cleaning industry estimates that we track 85% of the dirt in our homes in from the outside on our shoes or paws of pets. In a recent warning about lead exposure, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically recommends that shoes remain outside the house. According to a report called The Door Mat Study, lead-contaminated soil from the outside causes almost all the lead dust inside homes. It notes that wiping shoes on a mat and removing them at the door cuts lead dust by 60 percent. The study explains that limiting the amount of dust and track-in may also help reduce exposure to lawn and garden pesticides, wood smoke and industrial toxins, mutagens, dust mites, and allergens.

Isn’t that enough to get you to at least do some power wiping when you come inside? The pushback I have read and heard is that, while taking your shoes off is all well and good, it isn’t the end all be all that one might think. Agreed but isn’t it a start?

The same people go on to comment that those requesting the shoes be left at the door probably clean their house with cleaners comprised of very harmful chemicals and coat their lawns with pesticides. Maybe, but don’t count on it. My husband and I agreed to forgo harmful pesticides on our lawn and we only buy harsh chemical free cleaning supplies. True, our lawn won’t be on the cover of Better Homes & Garden Magazine anytime soon but there are some pretty great products out there now that do the trick. As far as cleaning supplies go, vinegar is the answer to most of my problems. Just check out www.vinegartips.com for their 1,001 ways to use it.

So it takes a little effort and some of these less harmful products are still overpriced, but isn’t it worth it for your health and your kids health. Still need a little encouragement? Check out this fun blog, Shoes Off at the Door Please, that is entirely dedicated to taking your shoes off indoors.

Whether you have immediate family take off their shoes indoors or decide to throw caution to the wind and endure the rolled eyes and side comments, know that taking shoes off indoors does more than reduce your cleaning time. It can improve you and your families health but cutting down on the harmful (not to mention disgusting) things can sneak in via your shoes. So set up a shoe tray by the door and start by asking your kids to take off their shoes at the door and move from there. When friends come over ask them, have slippers and clean socks available for them and if they refuse.

And just remember, it isn’t a friend you are trying to keep out of the house, it's dirt and let it go.

Cherrie Corey February 16, 2012 at 03:48 PM
You are not alone! Westerners may well be in the minority in their shoe-wearing habits within the home. Throughout Asia and in Scandinavia it has long been customary to leave shoes at the door, without being asked to do so. Refusing to do so is a mark of inconsideration and rudeness. One big difference, however, is that many households who traditionally follow this practice have a ready supply of house socks or slippers at the door for guests to use...a wonderful consideration I've enjoyed in the home of Asian friends in this area. For Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim practitioners, shoes come off before entering temples or prayer rooms as a mark of respect and humility. I'm not aware that Christians have any similar practice. We have many friends in northern New England and elsewhere in the U.S. who leave shoes at the door, not so much in this area. I always offer to do so when visiting others and often get a quizical response. For me, this practice is primarily about RESPECT. Respect for one's and another's home (or place of worship), the sanctity of its being a clean and healthy place for family and friends, and consideration for the those who tend the space and all that's within it. And by offering alternative foot coverings, we offer gratitude for our guests consideration. So Audra, persevere! Cherrie Corey Concord, MA
Janet Beyer February 17, 2012 at 07:32 PM
We also keep slip ons at the door for guests, we do not require that people take off their shoes, but we encourage the shoe-free habit. On the west coast it is more normal to leave shoes at the door, and I always wear slip-ons when visiting family and friends in California, and add them to the pile at the door. It makes a lot of sense to me. And I think Cherrie is correct, we in the U.S. are in the minority re: the shoe free house. And, Audra be careful of assumptions. I am probably of your parents generation and my mother even more so, and she also took off her shoes without complaint.
Greg Abazorius February 17, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I'm in the "leave your shoes at the door" camp. My wife and I have employed this rule for years and it really does make for a cleaner, more liveable environment. The other thing to consider is our cat. If she walks around on cleaner floors, she's tracking less dirt on the couch, bookshelves and any other place she likes to perch.
Susan February 22, 2012 at 09:04 PM
We always take shoes off and ask others to. My son's friends are embarrassed by their own smelly socks sometimes but they just have to deal with it!


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