Out of the burgeoning genre of scientific research peering into the possible microbial dangers lurking in your abode—in towels and sponges and rubber duckies—comes word that maybe you don’t have to take off your shoes at the doorway.
But that music festival wristband you’ve been wearing as a souvenir? Ewww! Cut if off already.
At least one study found 10 people who wore a pair of new shoes for two weeks managed to collect E. coli or related bacteria on all but one of the shoe’s soles—which may make you rethink eating food dropped on the floor.
But considering what else lurks in your home, banning shoes may be an overreaction.
Dr. Aaron Carroll, professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, described kitchen sponges to the New York Times as a veritable “cesspool” of bacteria. But Outliers already told you about that.
And consider Fido. “We don’t wash the dog’s paws every time he comes in the house, and I don’t want to think about where he’s been walking,” said Carroll, who has a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Loki.
As for music festival wristbands, the research may be small, but the results are gross. Microbiologist Allison Cottell of the University of Surrey in England, tested two wristbands that fans had worn for more than a year and found 9,000 micrococci and 2,000 staphylococci.
“A rough ballpark figure would be that the amount of bacteria that grew on wristbands was about 20 times higher than you would expect to find on the sleeve of a piece of clothing that would be regularly laundered,” Cottell told the Daily Mail. Her advice to anyone working in healthcare or food preparation: Cut them off stat.
If all this talk of dangerous microbes has you feeling antsy … ants might be the answer. Microbiologist Massimiliano Marvasi, a senior researcher at the University of Florence in Italy, has found that certain ants produce their own antimicrobials to battle parasites in their fungus gardens. And since their antimicrobials don’t lead to resistance, they could be provide a model for developing drugs, Marvasi suggests in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
So what has science taught us (and Outliers reported on over the years)? Don’t forget to change your kitchen sponge frequently, wash those kitchen towels regularly and clean up that rubber duckie! But you can keep your shoes on indoors. Unless you’re tracking mud.