Shoes at the Door

People who know me know I love researching ways to keep my family healthy, especially concerning our long-term health. I love knowing that my husband and I have less chemical exposure than we did a year ago. I love knowing that my baby is off to a good start. I never thought I’d be a “crunchy mom,” yet here I am. I truly believe that by reducing chemical exposure, we will have less chronic health issues which are riddling our society.

Most of my health choices have been simple because they affect no one outside my home. Any cleaning products and cosmetic products I use, I check with the Environmental Working Group to see how safe the ingredients are. (Check out my entries What Toxic Chemicals Do You Put In Your Body Every Day? and Chemicals In Our Baby Products.) and I buy organic and non-GMO as much as my budget allows. (One day, I’d love to have an organic garden.) But I’ve recently made a change that affects guests, too. That’s a bit trickier.

One day shortly after my daughter was born, I was perusing through my mom group on Facebook, and a conversation topic came up in a thread that interested me. One mom posted that she wants guests to leave their shoes at the door to keep her floors clean for her baby, who just started crawling.

The responses from moms saying that they don’t wear shoes in the house or allow guests to wear shoes surprised me. Then I remembered the daycare I used to work in. The two infant classrooms required employees and parents to remove their shoes before entering. It was annoying. Sometimes I’d be in there all day with aching, cold feet. Other times, I just needed to dart in really quickly and get the trash, but removing shoes felt like such a bother. But they had good reason for it: One of the best ways to reduce lead exposure to infants is by removing shoes at the door.

Remembering this, I decided to do a bit of research. Lead was removed from paint in by law in 1978 (1). Despite this, lead exposure remains a large problem. The CDC states that children under the age of 6 are most at risk because their bodies are developing so quickly. Pets and unborn babies are also at risk. The CDC acknowledges that even low levels can cause IQ and behavioral issues. (2). Elevated levels can cause anemia and permanent nerve damage.

A report called The Door Mat Study revealed that almost all lead dust in homes is brought in from outside. Using a door mat cuts that lead dust in half. Removing shoes at the door decreases lead exposure by 60%.(3) Using a door mat and removing shoes in a 5 month period removed 98.5% of the lead dust in one study. (5)

Leaving your  shoes at the door doesn’t only reduce lead exposure; it decreases exposure to other toxins and bacteria, especially if your home is mostly carpet, which harbors these harmful substances. Coal tar is used in driveway and parking lot sealants. It is toxic and a known carcinogen. We bring this into our homes on our shoes. Do you live in a rural area? Agricultural toxins are just as much a problem according to one study in California. (4) One study revealed that wearing shoes in the home creates a larger source of pesticide exposure than eating non-organic produce. (5)

At this point in time, we live on a creek. Flocks of ducks, geese, and swans waddle by every day. The grass is covered with feces. Gross. Poop is obviously not something I want in my carpet – not even in microscopic amounts. Thinking about poop got me thinking about germs, and I found an article which explains that the bottom of our shoes contain more germs than a toilet seat, including C. diff and E coli. (6) (Think about that the next time your baby is gumming on a pair of shoes. Ick.)

Shortly after I did this research, another mom posted that she implemented a “leave your shoes at the door” policy, but relatives were not on board. She asked for help in making guests follow her wishes. The responses on the thread were all over the place.

“Have some washable slippers or cozy socks for guests.”
“Tell guests that you’re keeping your floors clean for your baby.”
“Have a bench and shoe rack by the door.”
“Warn your guests before they arrive so they can bring a pair of slippers.”
“Have a sign on the door with a catchy phrase.”
“Tell your guests if they don’t listen to you, they can’t come in.”
“Tell your guests if they don’t listen, they have to clean your floors.”
“It’s your house. You’re the mom. You’re the boss.”

I have joint issues. I have to wear custom orthotics to keep my joints in place, so shoes are a must for me. (I keep one pair of indoor-only shoes.) I also cannot stand having cold feet.  I totally understand feeling uncomfortable without shoes. I don’t think I could ever tell family members that they can’t come in unless they remove their shoes, or that I’m going to make them wash my carpets and scrub my floors. But I did like the ideas of having a bench or chair near the door. I also liked the idea of having a basket for washed socks and slippers for guests to borrow. I haven’t been able to put those ideas to use yet because of money issues and our upcoming move, but they’re in my plans. For now, I do try to warn guests ahead of time in case they want to bring something cozy for their feet.

I never thought I’d be that person who wanted shoes left at the door. However, it’s the easiest way to keep my baby healthy – and it involves no extra cleaning, no medicines, and no crazy supplements. Sometimes, I feel bad – or even downright nervous – asking people to remove their shoes. But when it comes down to it, I know our guests care about my baby’s health, too.

Shortly after I made this decision and feared announcing it to guests, my Indian neighbors in my apartment had a family party. There were at least 20 pairs of shoes outside their door. I had to smile to myself and laugh.

  1. EPA US Environmental Protection Agency
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. Healthy Child – Environmental Working Group
  4. Huffington Post
  5. Natural Child Magazine
  6. Healthy Wild and Free



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