We’ve all been there - you visit someone’s home, step over the threshold to make your greetings, and instead of a warm ‘Hello! How are you?’, you receive a sharp, slightly awkward reminder about taking your shoes off.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why some people are so fussy about outdoor footwear being worn in their home? The easy assumption is that they are just a little more particular about ordinary grime and dirt than most, and want to protect their plush cream carpets from unsightly marks.
But as a matter of fact, there are actually some very good health reasons for taking your shoes off whenever you venture indoors. It isn’t just a bit of mud that you risk smearing into someone’s carpet if you traipse around in your outdoor footwear - and we’re not just talking about certain unmentionable things you might have stepped in, either.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that shoes carry large quantities of germs picked up from the outside environment, many of which do no one any favours when it comes to their health. One investigation sponsored by shoe brand Rockport found that new shoes picked up hundreds of thousands of bacteria after just two weeks’ wear, including unpleasant varieties such as E.Coli. What is more, the study found that these germs were transferred from shoes to clean tiles in more than 90% of cases when they were walked on.
It isn’t just bacteria you have to worry about, either. Shoes have also been shown to carry all sorts of unpleasant toxins - things like carcinogenic coal tar picked up from Tarmac road surfaces, pesticides and herbicides from fields which can cause skin irritation and stomach upset, lead dust and cigarette ash. In fact, when everything is added up - bacteria, chemicals, fungal spores, pollen, dust mites, fragments of animal hair and insect remains linked to allergies - it is estimated that up to 40% of contaminants found indoors originate from people’s shoes.
Wipe before you walk
So next time you are asked to remove your shoes before you step into someone’s home, perhaps you will understand the reasons a bit more. But what about in the workplace? Most people would be appalled if they were asked to go barefoot in the office - just think of all those smelly socks! However, with far greater footfall than the average home, places of work are at far greater risk from contaminants carried on outdoor footwear.
If going shoeless at work is not the solution, what is? One way in which the furnishings in commercial premises tend to differ from many homes is in the type of floor surfaces they use. Whereas comfy shag pile carpets offer a haven for germs, allergens and noxious particles to hide themselves away, tough, wiry industrial carpets and, even better, hard flooring, are much easier to clean.
Still, even with daily cleaning, the traffic through the atrium of your average office is going to mean a not inconsiderable amount of dirt and dust making its way from outside to in. That is why, as well as being on top of cleaning regimes in the workplace, it is also important to supply durable, industrial quality dust control mats for people to wipe their feet on as they enter a building, to at least remove some of the excess. That, and to make sure such mats are washed on a regular basis, too, so they don’t become a health hazard in their own right.