Carpet is like Velcro. Whatever is on the bottom of your shoes when you walk across it is going to attach itself to the fibers. I bet you’d be surprised to learn that your carpeting may be loaded with all kinds of unhealthy, toxic, possibly even dangerous invisible culprits. Most of these nasty little hitch hikers made it into your home on your feet, or your pets paws. So when you take Rover to the dog park, or spend a few hours in your garden, or even go for a jog, your shoes are picking up a plethora of pollutants which will be escorted into your house and onto your carpeting. In case you’re not creeped out yet, I’m going to get specific about the myriad of potential maladies invading your home.

1) Bacteria. Bad bacteria. We’re talking E.coli bad. Not to mention meningitis, pneumonia, and Serratia ficaria which causes infections in the respiratory tract and wounds. Other bacteria were found to cause diarrhea and other gastro intestinal issues. A study from the University of Arizona found over 420,000 units of bacteria on the outside of the shoe. If you walked through a parking lot, used a public restroom, or took your dog for a walk, and then walked into your house, you tracked in some nasty stuff. That bacteria will attach to carpeting and could wreak havoc on unsuspecting inhabitants.

2) Mold. Mold are microscopic fungi that produce spores. They are more prevalent in warmer, humid conditions, and can be found in soil, plants, and rotting wood and leaves on the ground. Mold spores affect the respiratory system and causes allergic reactions like sneezing; runny nose; coughing; itchy eyes, throat and skin; watery, irritated eyes; and dry, scaly skin. If you were out gardening or took a walk through the woods, you undoubtedly brought home some mold. Carpeting provides a nice dark, warm environment for mold to thrive.

3) Pesticides. Pesticides are substances used to kill weeds, insects, fungus and rodents. There use is widespread, from being dropped from planes to cover large farming areas, to the can of insecticide under your kitchen sink. If you have a lawn, chances are pesticides were used on it. There are many ramifications from exposure to pesticides, including short term effects like nausea, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Increased exposure can lead to cancer, reproductive harm, ADHD, and much more, including death. When you walk in your house and across your carpet with pesticides on the soles of your shoes you are infecting your home and your family. An article from the Toxics Action Center pinpointed “playing on carpet” as a key source of pesticide exposure for children 12 and under.

4) Lead. Believe it or not, lead is still around, even if you don’t live in a 200 year old house. We’ve all heard about lead paint poison, and the dangers associated with lead exposure. Some of the symptoms of lead exposure are: pain in abdomen and joints; constipation, vomiting, and nausea; learning disability or slow growth in children; fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, headaches, memory loss, insomnia, and more. If you work in or visit buildings that were erected before 1978, and especially before 1950, lead paint could be present. It gets into the air and forms dust, which adheres to your shoes. Soil also contains traces of lead, which is easily tracked into your home, and adheres to carpeting. Young children are at the greatest risk because their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate.

5) Dust Mites. These disgusting little creatures are microscopic to the eye and thrive in houses with people and pets. They feed off the skin we naturally shed. Mattresses and carpets are two of the locations they prefer due the amount of sloughed off skin that can get caught in the fibers. Dust mites are a major source of allergies, but it’s the feces and body parts that are the allergens, so simply killing them won’t solve the problem. Professionally cleaning carpets (and mattresses) considerably lessens dust mite populations and deters population growth. It kills them, but also extracts to rid the area of them completely.

6) Dirt, etc. How about plain old dirt, grease, grime, and crud that we pick up on our shoes everyday, everywhere. It may not be particularly dangerous, but it’s not healthy either, and it builds up over time, working its way into carpet fibers. Excess dirt creates the need for more cleaning and vacuuming, which no one enjoys. It also creates unnecessary wear and tear and can decrease the life of your carpets, which translates into added expense.

So, aside from never leaving the house again, how can you improve the situation by tracking in less bad stuff and repair the existing damage?
#1) Take your shoes off at the door! Get yourself some comfy indoor slippers and leave the bacteria, mold, pesticides, lead, dust mites, and dirt outside where they belong. Wipe down your pets paws when the enter the house, and have an entry mat to step on and wipe your feet off before removing your shoes. While in the house use “indoor only” shoes. Ask visitors to remove their shoes, as well.

#2) Get your carpets and area rugs professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Just because they may not have visible stains or soiling doesn’t mean they are without pollutants, and possibly harmful ones, at that. Regular cleanings will lengthen the life of the carpeting, kill mold, bacteria and dust mites, and remove harmful pesticides, dirt and allergens for a healthier home.