By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine
You know those vacuums that let you see everything that gets sucked up? We recently tried one in our house, and we were totally disgusted! So much grime, most of which is tracked in on people's shoes.
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In some parts of the world -- mostly in Asia and the Middle East -- it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home. In the United States, it is also becoming more commonplace, according to Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies.
Turns out, from a healthy standpoint, this is a really smart move.
According to a study by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at University of Arizona and The Rockport Company, shoes average 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside and 2,887 on the inside.
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Some of the bacteria include E. coli, which can cause intestinal and urinary infections, meningitis and diarrhea; Kiebisiella 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.
According to Gerba, the presence of E. coli and coliform on the outside of 96 percent of shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, most likely originating in restrooms or from animal waste outdoors. And all of this nastiness survives long enough to get tracked into our homes.
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Ok, we've heard enough!
The good news is that 90 percent of bacteria can be eliminated with one wash cycle. But we certainly don't have time to wash our shoes on a daily or even weekly basis. And some of our kicks are too cute -- we wouldn't dare throw them in the wash!
So the best bet is probably to instate a no-shoes-in-the-house rule. This isn't hard to do yourself, and it's not too painful to insist that your family members do the same. But how do you politely ask guests to leave their shoes at the front door?
"I don't consider it rude to ask visitors to remove their shoes," says Fox, who suggests putting up a clever sign or doormat that says Please Remove Your Shoes or No Shoe Zone. "It is the same if you have a no-smoking rule in your house."
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Fox suggests being straight-up without being bossy. Say something like, "Please come in -- you can leave your shoes right here," while pointing to a designated area with a shoe rack. No need to defend or explain your policy. Continue with, "Feel free to use these slippers or socks," gesturing to a basket of clean alternative footwear for guests who are shy about showing their toes (or if it's too cold!).
Do you remove your shoes before entering the house?
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