Should you wear shoes in the house?

Should you wear shoes in the house?

Are you guilty of running out to the bins in your slippers, or forgetting to take your trainers off at the front door? Well, the science on these moments of forgetfulness is in, and it’s pretty shocking!

We commissioned survey research that has found that nearly a quarter of Brits (23%) wear footwear in the house, but aren’t aware of how dirty they actually are. 

Of those who wear footwear at home, half wear them every day (48%). When it comes to the footwear we wear most often at home, slippers were the most popular footwear (40%), followed by trainers (22%), flip flops (11%), boots (10%) and sliders (9%).

This is where our scientific experiment comes in ... we swabbed our most worn shoes and compared them to other objects that we touch every day, to find out just how dirty our shoes really are. 

The scientific bit …

To calculate how dirty the shoes and everyday items were, we swabbed them for a RLU (relative light unit) reading, which is based on the ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) that is found on the sample.

Typically, high contamination = large amount of ATP = more light produced in reaction= high RLU reading. Objects with an RLU reading of <50 register as clean, and objects with an RLU reading of >50 register as dirty or a ‘fail’.

Slippers are ‘dirtier’ than a toilet seat…

Yes really! 40% of Brits wear slippers most often around the home, shockingly, the research found that our favourite slip-ons are in fact dirtier than a toilet seat with an average RLU level of 1,474. 

Slippers remain as the most popular footwear to wear around the house, over half of women slipping them on when they come home, compared to 34% of men. 

Tasha Sturm, Science Lab Coordinator at Cabrillo College who specialises in Microbiology studies says:

“Although the RLU numbers seem high, which may be a shock to the general public, the findings aren’t too surprising from a microbiology perspective. 
“I would expect there to be a presence of environmental bacteria on the shoes like Bacillus which is a common soil bacteria, whereas the objects that experience high human touch like the car door handle and keyboard, you would likely find normal human flora like Staphylococcus epidermidis. Under normal circumstances, these will not cause disease as they would need to be ingested or find another route into the body such as through a cut.    
“It’s not a surprise to review findings of bacteria like E. coli on shoes either as this can be brought in by pets or using the bathroom, for example. This is why it’s important to make sure we wash our hands regularly to avoid transmission.”

Trainers are the ‘dirtiest’ shoes to wear at home

Trainers took the top spot for being the dirtiest shoe of all with an astonishing result reading 70 times over the fail limit, overtaking toilet seats and keyboards.   

Trainers are the second most popular footwear choice to wear at home. 

Flip flops are the ‘cleanest’ footwear type

Identified as the third most popular footwear type to wear at home, flip flops were found to be the ‘cleanest’ of all the footwear we tested. With an average RLU level of 700 - 14 times over the fail limit, however, it’s far cry from the dirt found on car door handles with an RLU average of 4,878.

Should you wear shoes at home?

According to our survey, over half of respondents do not wear footwear at home and 60% of those aged 55+ said the same, with 38% of this age group sharing that this is because they’re aware of how dirty they are. 

While we’re now clued, grubby footwear can lead to health issues. Keira Moore (BSc Hons MCPod and Associate Podiatrists), podiatrist and owner of the York Foot Clinic says:

“Sadly this stat is not surprising, however, it is very worrying from a foot health perspective. 
“By choosing to not wear any footwear at home, there is an increased risk of falling, it’s proven that wearing nothing or just socks actually increases falls, leading to serious ailments such as broken bones or muscle damage which can take months to heal. 
“There is also the increased likelihood of banging your feet or stepping on foreign objects if you opt for no footwear which can cause significant trauma. It might not seem dangerous but going barefoot increases the pressure on the feet, leading to calluses and painful fissures which can be very uncomfortable.”

Keira’s top five tips for choosing the best footwear for home

1. Look for sturdy shoes

2. Choose a thick cushioned sole for support

3. Check for fastening options like laces, straps, or touch fastening 

4. Opt for a slight heel raise to ease the pressure off the Achilles

5. Read up on the shoe material. Breathable, natural materials like leather are a great choice as synthetic materials will retain moisture, leading to possible infections like athlete’s foot.

Top Tip: When shopping for footwear at home, look for what you’d want in an outdoor shoe, except be sure to only wear them indoors to keep your house clean.

Top tips to clean your shoes

We wouldn’t blame you if you want to freshen up your footwear. We’ve got some great tips on how to clean your trainers, slippers, and boots below.

Vittoria, our Buying Assistant shares her advice on how to clean and dry shoes - so from trainers to slippers, find out how you can keep bacteria at bay…

How to clean trainers

1. Remove tough dirt debris with a toothbrush or wipe away with a damp cloth

2. For heavy soiling, mix half a teaspoon of washing up liquid with water to help lift any marks or stains before wiping with a sponge 

3. Remove the soles if possible and leave them to air to keep your trainers fresh. Then use a damp cloth to wipe the inside of your shoes

4. To deodorise, sprinkle some baking soda in your trainers for a cheaper alternative - though you may have chalky footprints for a while

5. Finally, clean the soles pf your shoes with a brush and with water if needed. Leave your trainers to air dry.

Top Tip: You can opt to put your trainers in the washing machine but there is a risk of causing damage. If you’re keen to give your shoes a full MOT, remove the laces and place them in a mesh bag or pillowcase and wash at 20°C to 30°C. 

Beware! Machine washing your trainers can cause colour fading and shrinkage, especially after several washes, and be aware that this could affect the binding of the upper to the sole.

How to clean slippers

1. Find out the materials of your slippers, many are made from cotton or synthetic fabric, if this is the case you can either machine wash or hand wash them to make them sparkle once again 

2. Start by wiping down the soles of your slippers with a cloth with a mixture of soap and water to clean away any dirt

3. Pre-treat tough stains with detergent, working it in using a soft brush or cloth. Leave for 15 minutes before washing

4. If you’re opting to hand wash, soak in warm water and detergent for half an hour before squeezing out excess liquid. Rinse with clean water until no soap suds remain

5. Use a towel to blot out any additional liquid and leave your slippers to dry naturally to maintain their shape.

Top Tip: To keep your slippers as clean as possible, you should aim to clean your cosy house shoes every month or so.

Find out more information about cleaning your slippers here

How to clean boots

1. To avoid damaging your boots, it’s important you find out the materials

2. For leather boots, gentle cleaning is best. Use a soft bristled brush or a soft damp cloth dipped in warm cleaning solution to avoid causing any scratches

3. If you have a pair of soft suede boots, take extra care. Invest in a suede brush to massage in a specialist suede cleaning solution which will help to remove stains and restore the appearance of the suede. Apply in circular motions to avoid wet patches forming when your boots are drying

4. Clean the soles of your boots. With a thick tread for stability, you’re likely to find mud and dirt trapped in the grooves, use a dry brush to remove, before wiping away any remaining dirt with a damp cloth

5. Allow your boots to dry naturally, away from a heat source to avoid cracking and to maintain your boot’s fit.

Find out more information about cleaning wet and muddy shoes here