Researchers say you should not wear your shoes in your house: NPR

Ayesha Rascoe talks to Mark Patrick Taylor of the Environmental Protection Authority in Victoria, Australia, about why he thinks everyone should remove their shoes before getting inside.


There is one choice most of us face almost every single day when we get home – to keep or take off our shoes. The choice can be divisive. Personally, I’m team shoes off, but not immediately (laughter). But for scientists, the right choice is quite unambiguous. Mark Patrick Taylor is Chief Environmental Researcher at the Environmental Protection Authority in Victoria, Australia. In a column for The Conversation, a nonprofit store, he argues that people should take their shoes off inside their homes. And Mark is joining us now from Sydney. Welcome.

MARK PATRICK TAYLOR: Hello. How are you feeling?

RASCOE: So tell us, what does science say? Should I start asking my guests to take their shoes off at the door?

TAYLOR: Well, I would, because indoors is indoors and outdoors is outdoors. Why else bother with it?

RASCOE: (Laughter).

TAYLOR: What might make most people out there are the unseen things we can step on our shoe soles, and that includes dog babies. Now, even if you, you know, dodge dog poop on your walkway – it’s like an obstacle course – the likelihood of you wanting to stand in it or some bird poop or other feces – then you bring it into your house if you do not leave them outside. And then it falls off, forming part of the dust in your house, which can then be remobilized. We have a 10-second rule in Australia.

RASCOE: Yes. Drop – yes.

TAYLOR: Do you have it?

RASCOE: We have five seconds – five seconds, yes (laughter).

TAYLOR: Okay. The five seconds, 10 seconds. So let me say it to you this way. If you drop your sandwich outside in the gutter …

RASCOE: Yes, yes.

TAYLOR: … Are you applying the five-second rule?

RASCOE: No, you do not eat it if it falls outside (laughter).

TAYLOR: Yes, exactly. So if someone walks with their shoes into your house and brings all that dirt into your house, do you apply the five-second rule?

RASCO: No, no.

TAYLOR: So if you let your shoes get off and the inside of your house is clean, would you then feel more willing to apply the five-second rule?

RASCOE: It makes more sense. It makes sense. The way you argue it, especially when you take up stool material, it’s like you’re probably right (laughter).

TAYLOR: It’s pretty disgusting, and it’s all there and leaking on your food and in your good glass of wine. I mean, you know.

RASCOE: On your food (laughter). How do we survive? That’s the question (laughter).

TAYLOR: That’s a good question. And in fact, some people have raised this with me. And we do not want to live in sterile environments. And exposure to pollutants is actually – you know, helps – the evidence shows that it helps build our immunity. But my comment on that is, well, you do not go to bed with your shoes on, do you? You take them off because you do not want to make the bed dirty.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

TAYLOR: It’s the same principle in your – in – you know, inside your living room – right? – where you cook and eat and relax.

RASCOE: So you say, leave your shoes outside. Do not even bring them, as at the door. Just leave them outside. But in America, people might steal the shoes.


TAYLOR: Yeah, yeah, in Australia we have funnel sticks that can crawl in your shoes. So you need to check them before putting them on.

RASCOE: OK (laughter).

TAYLOR: You can – so I suggest you have an outdoor mat and an indoor mat. Take your shoes off outside, and of course you can just pick them up and then put them inside on a shoe shelf. The most important thing is that people should remember to clean their mats. Can’t leave the mat out there for three years. It will be ineffective. You need to wash it and knock out all the dirt. It’s about minimizing.

RASCOE: Okay. So what about e.g. (laughter) if it’s really important to a person – as if I should keep these shoes on? Is there anything they can do?

TAYLOR: Why do they not have indoor shoes?

RASCOE: (Laughter) Have indoor shoes and outdoor shoes.

TAYLOR: I know there are some people who wear indoor shoes. We have UGG boots in Australia, or people might have slippers, etc. I know some people are a little funky – oh, I do not take my shoes off. I really mean, this is your house. That should be your rules.

RASCOE: It was environmental scientist Mark Patrick Taylor. Thank you so much for being with us.

TAYLOR: That’s my absolute pleasure. And I hope you can keep your shoes off in your house …

RASCOE: (Laughter).

TAYLOR: … And help reduce the transfer of things outside to inside.

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