Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Please Remove Your Shoes

Miss Janice and her readers discuss the propriety of making guests remove their shoes at the door. Miss Janice was recently interviewed by Good Morning America in a segment claiming that since shoes are full of so many terrible microbes they should never be worn inside the house. But is it really healthy to have a totally sterile house? (Not that I will ever have that worry.) It is just that the people I know with sterile houses are always sick all winter long anyway. At any rate, I agree with Miss Janice that guests should not be required to take off their shoes when visiting, unless the hostess or host is prepared to provide pairs of sterile and comfortable slippers. Share


John Wing said...

I find the practice of requesting or requiring guests to take off their shoes rather abhorrent. First, unless the party is located in swamp, I would suspect that a guest would arrive with relatively clean shoes. Second, I would hazard a guess that exposure to socks would increase the spread of germs in a host's home, as socks are in direct contact with the skin of your feet, which are known to harbor all sorts of little pesky things!. So keeping your shoes on is probably the healthier choice. Lastly, when attending a party, I am very particular about choosing which shoes to wear--to be told to take them off is utterly beyond the pale, as my Irish grandmother might say! My last thought: if you are so worried about skuffs on your wood floors, or smudges on your pristine white rug, then don't bother inviting anyone over!


Burgo Fitzgerald

Dymphna said...

My sister in law used to make guest remove their shoes. One day I just refused and she's let it go.

Anonymous said...

While I have never asked a guest to remove shoes, I have thought about setting up shelves for shoes in my entry way closet and having slippers in various sizes to be worn beyond the entry way by myself and others. I might do it some day if I ever have more pets than the two that I have now. I do agree that anyone who does so ought to make it comfortable for guests. This is why I would think about it:

One of the ways pets contract digestive parasites is from microbes brought into a home on the soles of shoes and tracked across the carpet. Cats, in particular, lick their fur for cleanliness and thus swallow whatever microbes are in the carpet and picked up by their fur. If you think about it, just walking down a city sidewalk, you probably step through areas where small wild animals and dogs have left any number of microbes, and pick them up on your shoes.

Once a digestive parasite is in a carpet, it can take up to 6 months for the contamination to clear. Giardia, as one example, can start an infection from only a few swallowed cells.

If a pet develops a digestive infection from a parasite, it can cost the owner a few hundred dollars in veterinary bills, and a day or more to disinfect the house following treatment in order to prevent recurrence. If someone who owns multiple pets, or especially a cat breeder, has one pet contract a virus or digestive parasite from the floor, it can spread from cat to cat through the litter box or through "accidents" left in the carpet from the parasite-related diarrhea. If multiple cats begin to spread it back and forth, so that repeated treatments become necessary, it can end up costing hundreds thousands of dollars to correct.

In one instance, a cattery that had managed to clear itself of a common feline virus that can mutate into a lethal virus is thought to have had that virus then enter the virus-free cattery on the soles of a caretaker's shoes. The shoes thus re-infected a cattery that had worked diligently to free itself of a ubiquitous but potentially fatal virus.

I don't have a cattery, so the risk is far less in my case. If I had a cattery, I can tell you that I would probably have all hard floors, no carpet, and would definitely have people remove their shoes and slip into washable slippers when they come inside. Even with multiple pets, it is something to consider, but should be done with the guest's comfort in mind.

elena maria vidal said...

John, I know what you mean, having to discard carefully chosen shoes at the door of a party, what a pain. If they don't want us walking in their home they should rent another venue in which to entertain.

Dympnha, my sister had a big fight at the door of someone's house when they wanted her to take off her designer boots. Boy was she mad.

Teresa, I do understand that that there are certain health situations which make it better for people to leave their shoes at the door, particularly with certain pets. Sometimes I think the real culprit in all this is wall to wall carpeting which is so hard to keep clean unless you are prepared to shampoo the rug every few days. I am looking forward to the day when we have hard wood floors in our house.

Christina said...

I am of Chinese descent and traditionally in Asian cultures one does not wear shoes in the house. Inexpensive slippers are provided for your guests. Growing up we never, ever wore shoes in the house and I still don't. It amazes me that people would think it unsanitary to take one's shoes off! As a gracious hostess, I would not demand that my guests take off their shoes - but it seems to me it would be courteous for them to notice the custom in my home and "do as the Romans do."

This is not an issue of "sterility" but culture, custom, and ordinary cleanliness - plus it keeps your carpets looking nice for longer. :)

I'm not a fan of carpet either, for what it's worth. We have some laminate flooring in the house and I really like it. If there has to be carpet, I'd rather keep it in low-traffic areas like the bedrooms.

elena maria vidal said...

Very interesting, Christina, how customs differ from culture to culture, When I was growing up in Maryland it was considered bad form to come barefoot to the dinner table. So while we children often went barefoot outside while playing, we had to don our shoes on when dining.

Father Gregory said...

I hope that the hostess who required the removal of guests' shoes would also provide a long shoehorn to assist the guests (especially the elderly)in putting their shoes on again as they depart. Also, a bench (properly lighted) to rest the foot on at the door would help with tying the shoes at departure time. Of course the house servants could assist the guests in these endeavors as well. Otherwise, since it is not a western custom to remove shoes when entering the house, I would say that to demand that they do so is really taxing the good will of the guests.

Julygirl said...

In my opinion keeping ones shoes on is more sanitary for everyone. Besides, who has not stubbed their toe by walking around with no shoes on...ouch! I think it is an individual decision. I have had people automatically take off their shoes when entering my house because that is their custom, but as for me, taking off my shoes is like removing a garment. I take off my shoes when I get home and put on slippers for comfort purposes only, not for sanitary reasons.

L Öst said...

Hello, my name is Linda (a frequent reader of your blog) and I'm from Sweden. Here no one wears shoes inside, and I mean no one. It's not even a question here if you can have your shoes on when visiting someone so it's not really a problem. But for us here it seems so odd that you don't take off your shoes over there in America (and many other places in the world). I guess the reason we don't wear shoes inside here in Sweden might be because of the snow in the winter. It becomes very messy inside stores etc (where you of course keep your shoes on) during the winter so that might be why it has become custom here. But it is very interesting to see how cultures that are very much alike in some ways, are not in others.

Ms. Lucy said...

I usually leave that upto the guest. If they prefer to take off their shoes, I immediately offer them slippers. But I never upfront ask them to take off their shoes. In the winter time it's a bit easier since people naturally take off their boots and bring their shoes to change. Very interesting:)

elena maria vidal said...

I leave it up to the guest. Lots of my friends like to kick their shoes off at the door and that's fine with me. I just warn them that they go unshod in my house at their own risk.

The Western Confucian said...

Having lived in Korea for the past 12 years, I can't imagine ever wearing shoes in the house again. Not only does it keep the house cleaner, it's far more comfortable.

An American professor of mine had studied in Japan for many years, and he provided slippers for guests to his house. And for a bit of trivia, I heard from a Jewish convert to Islam that his (non-convert) mother had been invited with her synagogue to the home of Louis Farrakhan of all people, and found that he practiced the same custom.

Asking guests to remove their shoes seems reasonable to me, as long as people are forwarned so they can wear their best socks.

elena maria vidal said...

Joshua, I don't usually wear socks so if I ever come and visit you, I'll be sure to bring a pair of clean slippers. ;-)

Aron said...

Hello Elena,
As usual, an interesting topic on your blog. :D I hope that you keep on blogging forever!!
I grew up in farm country, on a farm, and it was the custom to remove one's shoes when visiting another home, but more for, ahem, "practical" reasons than anything else. Though at the same time, no one frowned at one if one did not. Nor were the elderly or women really expected to do so. For my own part, it is still an automatic gesture to remove my shoes in someone else's home, unless they forestall me. In any event, I certainly don't require someone to remove their foot-wear in my home. A gentleman always ensures his guests' comfort, and that they have a reason to want to return.

Celestial Fundy said...

Thanks for bringing up this subject.

I am araid I don't let visitors to my apartment keep their shoes on.

I have an whole blog about this: Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might want to take a look.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree, Aron!

What a cute blog, CF! Thanks!