I Ask People to Take Off Their Shoes in My House -- So What?

remove shoes in houseAbout eight years ago, right around the time our daughter was born, my husband and I instituted a "shoes off" policy in our home. It seemed pretty minor at the time. All we asked was that guests not track the mud, dirt, and mess from the outside world into the house where our baby spent so much time on the floor.

With certain visitors, though, this was no simple feat (get it? hee). In fact, some -- I'm looking at you, Dad -- simply ignored the request and chose instead to traipse around the house, tracking all that mud, dirt, and everywhere. Thanks a lot!

Apparently, we are not alone. Whether or not to ask guests to take off their shoes is, as it turns out, a controversial move. Many moms (here at CafeMom and elsewhere) think it's the height of rudeness to require your friends and family to go around in their socks or bare feet. It's not. What's rude is ignoring a house rule when you're the guest because YOU don't feel like untying your laces.


The fact is, it IS a health hazard to have people wear their shoes inside your house. Even if you have hardwood floors like we do. Some evidence:

1.) Wearing shoes inside leaves residue from pesticides. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the soil and stains tracked into homes on the bottoms of dirty shoes contains a lot more than just that annoying old dirt.

In fact: "Pesticides used around the home persist in dust, and those used on lawns, gardens, and nearby farms end up in soil and are tracked into the house on shoes and pets." So, let's stop asking "What's the big deal," shall we? Especially when my baby is scooting around on the floor, trying to eat every speck of dust she finds.

2.) Carcinogens are on the bottoms of your shoes. YES, yours. Coal tar, used in many parking lots, inadvertently gets on the soles of even the most fastidious of shoe-sporting guests. According to the United States Geological Survey:

The pavement of many parking lots is coated with coal-tar-based sealcoat, which is marketed to increase the longevity of the underlying asphalt and improve appearance. Car tires grind the dried sealcoat to a fine powder that is a potent source of polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The sealcoat particles wash down storm drains, are blown onto adjacent soil and pavement, and are tracked into homes on the soles of shoes.

Yikes. Seriously, people! Take off your shoes!

3.) Lead. Yes, LEAD! The EPA recommends that everyone take off their shoes before entering homes because soil that contains traces of lead can be brought inside.

Lead and children DO NOT mix. Lead poisoning is very dangerous and can cause life-long ill effects. Is it REALLY too much to ask that you remove your footwear so I can save my child from these toxins?

4.) Dirt. In other news, I have three children. I am very grateful that we are able to afford a very thorough cleaner who comes once a week, but we can't afford to have someone come every day and I don't have the time to spend getting every speck of dust off the floor.

We also have a dog and a cat. The cat stays indoors, but the dog is busy wiping his dirty paws and butt all over everything. In other words, I already have plenty to clean. Without your dirty shoes.

Of course, I am always too wimpy to actually ask guests (other than my family) to do this. I merely imply it heavily by taking off my own shoes and leaving a bunch of shoes at both the front and mudroom entrances. My guests are almost always polite enough to ask if they should remove shoes and I do the same at their houses.

But what about family? How can I ask family to do it when they don't respect it? After reading about all these very real issues, I may put a sign on my door reiterating the rule. And my dad? Will just have to stand outside if he refuses to remove his footwear. End of discussion. (But I still love you, Dad!)

Do you ask guests to remove shoes?


Image © iStock.com/jimkruger

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