When you put on your shoes, do you ever pause for a moment to think about where those shoes have been? Every time you walk, your shoes pick up a multitude of unwanted substances. A recent study found nine different species of bacteria on the bottom of people’s shoes. And what’s even scarier, the study found that bacteria live longer on shoes than many other hard surfaces.
Specific examples found on shoe soles included E coli, tetanus, strep, hepatitis, and C difficile. Researchers also discovered viruses, parasites, fungi, allergens and toxic substances. Eeuuw.
The substances listed above were picked up from streets, sidewalks, and the floors of office buildings. Included in this toxic mix were:
- Remnants of feces from dogs, cats, rodents, birds and other wildlife, and humans
- Urine from the same sources
- Remains from insects and rodents
- Remnants of garbage including food waste and toxic cleaning products
- Excretions such as saliva, mucus, sweat, blood or vomit
- Residue from insecticides, gasoline, oils and grease
- Urine and germs from restroom floors
- Soil contaminated with lead, pesticides, lawn chemicals and/or toxic wood preservatives from lawns and parks
The reason shoes can harbor such a motley assortment of “ick” is because most shoe soles are made from leather, rubber or other porous materials that allow for the absorption of microscopic substances. Once inside your home, contaminated shoes can become a source of disease; spreading germs to carpets and floors.
Tiled floors may be a substantial source of bacteria (90% of floors surveyed found unwanted substances), but are fortunately easy to sanitize. Unfortunately, when you walk on any of your home floors in your bare feet, germs may attach to the bottom of your feet and subsequently end up on furniture and beds. Children playing on the floor can be exposed to germs through their hands, clothing, and/or mouth. And pets have the potential to pick up and spread these germs as well.
The best practice you can institute is to ask everyone to remove their shoes before entering the house to reduce the risk of bringing contaminants into the home. Clean shoes with a sanitizing shoe mat, sanitizer wipes or a sanitizer sprayed on the bottom of your shoes. Most importantly, leave your shoes at the door!
Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, email@example.com