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Why you should always take your shoes off when you’re at home

The average shoe contains a horrifying amount of bacteria

By ELLE team  April 16th, 2018

No one wants to be that neurotic person who makes guests remove their shoes when they step inside their home, but latest research on how much bacteria we really carry on our footwear makes a convincing case for doing so.

Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, found that the average shoe contains 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside and 2,887 on the interior. Some of the bacteria contained Escherichia coli, known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis and diarrhoeal disease; Klebsiella pneumonia, a common source for wound and bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia; and Serratia ficaria, a rare cause of infections in the respiratory tract and wounds.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

“The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors,” said Gerba. “Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated with bacteria.”

Washing shoes with detergent was found to remove all fecal material and 90 percent of all bacteria.

“Essentially, when you wear your shoes in a house, you are bringing in everything you stepped in during the day,” Jonathan Sexton, a laboratory manager at the University of Arizona told The Wall Street Journal.

All in all, perhaps it is better to take your shoes off when you get home from work.