While chemically engineered plant food might help your garden grow, tracking the same substances on your living room carpet could become a reality if you wear your outdoor shoes inside. A study in Environmental Science & Technology found that it’s rather easy for the outdoor elements to settle into the nooks and crannies of your carpet. Herbicide 2,4-D can last up to a week after application and, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, exposure can cause minor skin rashes and even gastrointestinal upsets. Think of that the next time you lie down and crash on the floor after a long day. Try these tips to reduce chemicals and improve the air quality in your home.
A study by shoe company Rockport at the University of Arizona found nine different species of bacteria on the soles of people’s shoes—bacteria that can cause infections in the stomach, eyes, and lungs. Frequent contact with fecal matter also meant shoes harbor nasty bacteria like E. coli. Wear those same shoes in the house, and you’re likely to spread bacteria in your home. Researchers found that more than 90 percent of the time, bacteria on shoes transferred to the tile floors of a home. Carpets fared even worse. (These cleaning mistakes can leave your house full of germs.)
Not everything carried in on your sneakers is invisible to the naked eye. Dust and dirt built up from your shoes can easily be carried into your living quarters. Even if it’s not toxic, carrying dust and debris in from the park or trail isn’t ideal. Remove your shoes to keep things clean and tidy, and think about investing in a doormat to catch anything you might track in before you undo your laces.
“Although taking off your shoes at the door is a simple physical act, it mentally prepares you to make the transition of leaving the outside energy at the door and reminding you that you're entering a different space,” says interior designer Jenny Nakao Hones, co-author of Feng Shui: Truths, Myths & Misconceptions. “The act of removing shoes is not only for sanitary reasons, it's also a sign of respect. You are respecting the hosts, the environment or structure, and others that use the place. Removing shoes is also an equalizer, in that you are all the 'same' in your 'bare' feet.”
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Abrasive soles of shoes can cause floors to be scratched and scraped. Limit the constant need to vacuum and shampoo carpets—and keep deep cleaning to a minimum—by changing into house slippers at the door. “It’s easier to maintain your floors, and they last longer with less wear and tear,” says Hones. Consider these remedies for your wood floor’s biggest enemies.
This might seem minor, but when you live on a lower floor, the shuffling of your neighbors’ feet over hardwood floors—and even on carpet—is better muffled with socks or slippers than with work boots. These are other signs you’re a good neighbor.
“Without the confinement of shoes, your feet can breathe and have free range of movement,” says Hones. “You can feel the earth, and thus feel grounded. Using your feet and feeling the floor allows you to improve muscle strength and flexibility. You also stimulate pressure points on the soles of your feet. In traditional Chinese medicine, these pressure points are connected to our organs, which means you’re helping your organs function.” But be careful about going barefoot if you have diabetes.