Should you always take your shoes off in the house?

We all know the drill when we visit a certain friend or family member's home: Bring a pair of socks because those shoes are coming off right at the door. This is not an uncommon practice, and actually, scientific research suggests that taking your shoes off at the door may have several health benefits (via Healthline).

From a cleanliness perspective, taking your shoes off at the door stops the spread of outdoor contaminants from tracking their way throughout the house. Being less likely to find dirt, pollen, leaf particles, and more in the furthest corners of your home doesn't sound so bad, but taking off your shoes can also help decrease infectious particles from spreading too.

Several infectious pathogens, like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, are known to travel on the soles of shoes and can be tracked into the home. While you come across these bacteria regularly, they can oftentimes lead to infection and illness. Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, spoke to TODAY Home and said, "If you wear shoes for more than a month, 93 percent will have fecal bacteria on the bottom of them." That's pretty jarring when you consider babies and beloved pets may be playing or sleeping on the floor one moment and then in your arms the next.

How to minimize the spread of germs in the home

There are a few ways to ensure minimizing the spread of germs from your shoes into the home. Obviously, taking your shoes off is a great first step. Especially for those who work or frequent "high risk" environments such as hospitals and other medical facilities, taking your shoes off outside or in a garage, separate from the interior of the home, is an even better idea. However, if walking barefoot feels strange or unappealing, you may want to consider cleaning your shoes. Wiping the exterior and soles of shoes is a good place to start (via Medical News Today). Spraying shoes with disinfectant products or rubbing alcohol can also work. If you want to take it one step further, consider washing your shoes in the washing machine using hot water, if appropriate, and allowing them to air dry in a well-ventilated area.

Perhaps the most important part of the cleaning process starts before you even touch your shoes. If you need to touch your shoes to take them off, you may want to wear a pair of disposable gloves or wash your hands immediately after contact. 

One safe alternative for those who need to wear some form of footwear in the home is having a designated indoor pair of shoes that never leave the premises and which are cleaned often. This may be the perfect reason for splurging on those trendy slippers you've been eyeing.