your home’s floors clean with an active family can be a lost cause. But a
crawling baby or toddler does tend to make you try harder. And the easiest
way to do it is to wipe your shoes at the door, then remove them while in
the house. Shoes worn outside track in grit, dust, lead, lawn and garden
pesticides (even if you don’t use them yourself), wood smoke and industrial
toxins, animal excrement, mutagens, dust mites and allergens. The
professional cleaning industry estimates that we track 85 percent of the
dirt in our homes in from the outside on our shoes or on the paws of our
pets. One study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed
that indoor shoe-wearing was a larger source of children’s pesticide
exposures than eating non-organic fruits and vegetables.
According to a report called The Door Mat Study,
lead-contaminated soil from the outside causes almost all the lead dust
inside homes. Using door mats cut toxic lead dust inside the home almost in
half. Taking shoes off at the door cut the lead dust by 60 percent. Doing
both actions — door mats and shoes off — over a five month period got rid of
98.5 percent of the toxic dust. (“Reducing Lead
Exposure from Remodeling and Soil Track-In
in Older Homes,” by J.W. Roberts, D.E.
Camann and T.M. Spittler, presented at the 84th Annual Meeting of the
Air and Waste Management Association, June 1991)
So invest in a good quality doormat. These days, it’s relatively easy to
find mats made of recycled rubber and tire scraps. And create a place just
inside the door for people to store their shoes. Try a nice-looking cloth
doormat, a flat wicker basket, or a bench with a shoe rack on the bottom.
(Of course, you’ll want something that is specially designed to collect
muddy or snowy footwear.)
Fortunately, leaving shoes by the door is a
growing trend (there is even a blog dedicated to it:
www.shoesoffatthedoorplease.blogspot.com) and the choice of attractive shoe
storage furniture is widening. Make sure little children wear shoes with
Velcro or pull-ons to make the constant off-and-on easier.
Even if your family is comfortable leaving their shoes at the door, what do
you do about visitors if you live in a culture where it’s not customary to
remove your shoes before entering a home? Some people feel that it’s being
too familiar or informal to take off their shoes in someone else’s home. You
might be squeamish about having bare- or smelly-footed guests in your home
(or worry that they’ll stick to the jelly spilled on the floor at
breakfast!). If that’s the case, invest in some washable slippers in a
variety of sizes and leave them by the door. Or gently suggest that visitors
bring their own slippers because your floors might be cold. Or post a sign:
One company that supplies engraved rocks to gift and garden stores claims
its “Kindly Remove Your Shoes” rock is its number one best seller. When you
explain that you’re trying to keep your floors clean for your crawling baby,
most people will happily comply.
You could also try telling your family and visitors that while leaving their
shoes at the door they are also dropping the problems and tensions of the
outside world before entering the haven of your home.
Wendy Priesnitz is Natural
Child Magazine's editor, a journalist with almost 40 years of experience,
the author of 12 books, and the mother of two adult daughters.