'Shoes off' households

Post Covid do more Australians remove their shoes at home?

Data from the Australia Talks National Survey, conducted in March 2021, revealed 74 per cent of Australians from non-European backgrounds expect guests to take their shoes off before entering their home, compared to 21 per cent of Australians from European ancestry.

NB according to results from the DustSafe program; Australia has concerning levels of arsenic and lead contamination in house dust. One in six Australian homes exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency acceptable health risk. Interestingly, homes with garden access had higher dust concentrations of lead and arsenic.


Without having to go through the whole survey again - this is a link to the results Survey reveals interesting divides in our culture - ABC News
The majority of “shoes off” are in rural & regional, where removing your work boots before coming inside (think mud, cow poo, stones etc) is usual and in some businesses, required.

I have not looked at the DustSafe program or looked for the lead & arsenic levels, but given the amount of sweeping and vacuuming in our timber floored house, I doubt there’s higher levels, particularly given our low soil levels for these. But I guess, if you lived in Mount Isa and had carpet you didn’t clean - Yeah, maybe.


Somewhat of an oversimplification. Households having new Australians from predominantly Asian and South Asian family backgrounds regularly doff their shoes at the door because it is their tradition. A good 1st and 2nd generation neighbour family with roots from eastern Europe do likewise. 25% of ‘us’ were born ‘not here’ and all of those 25% do not live in rural or regional areas where they track whatever on their shoes.

As a transplanted American who grew up in an anthracite coal mining area, miners always ‘took off’ and ‘hosed off’ prior to entering their homes. Taking my possibly faulty analysis from my youthful days a step too far, many people who can afford new carpets every few years and having them cleaned regularly consciously or subconsciously do not give a second thought to shoes-on or off as part of their economic status but most respect others traditions as traditions, not related to cleanliness - unless there is something obvious.


Yes, there may be biosecurity reasons for it to be required or, if not required, desirable.

I think we would need actual survey results to provide a breakdown of “shoes off”, not by ancestry but by nature of location.


No shoes off. Have no carpet, have timber floor with Flotex/Walkatex mats. I don’t like carpet, especially fitted carpet. Take the Flotex outside, every so often, scrub it with dishwashing liquid and dry on the washline and like new. Same through the whole house, except for laundry, bathroom and toilet. Vacuum the mats and floor, and mop the floors on a Friday. Have Flotex in the back of my 4WD and caravan.

If I have been in the workshop, take off my workshop boots and put on my normal shoes. I don’t go without shoes much. Have great doormats like rigid grass that takes any sand and stuff off the soles, and then good door mats shoes get another good wiping. Occasionally put slippers on in the morning or evening.


For more information this is a map tracking samples that have been submitted. https://www.mapmyenvironment.com/
You can select either dust (inside) or dirt (outside) for any of the major cities, then zoom in on areas around your home suburb. I became interested because of all the fine microplastic pollution that is being found in our home dust. The tracking of metals and metalloids in the soil may be of interest to home veggie growers.


It’s interesting to note the sample source and results provided. The samples appear to be very site specific, looking to those in areas nearer to home we are familiar with.

Many appear to be targeting sites that were potentially contaminated through past or present activity. Arsenic for instance is in particular associated with past sites used for cattle dips. One would expect such sites to be targeted for sampling.

Similar can be said for other industrial or agricultural activities. Until relatively recently it was the norm for most rural and many regional properties to dispose of all waste/rubbish on site, aided by routine burning. Is it possible scattered results from outer urban (ex farming, etc) and regional sites were targeted testing of suspected dump areas?

Is there a risk that many casually looking to the data will incorrectly interpret the results as indicative of the broader environment?

Whether individual sites the results apply to were subsequently cleaned is also not evident. Each state/territory has a management plan including site identification. It’s a concern contaminated sites exist. It’s not evident how the levels of contamination mapped can provide a reliable guide to one’s own back yard.
EG Contaminated land | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

We are mostly a change shoes household, Japanese style slip ons for summer.
No desire to bring Q-fever into the house, knowing it’s present on our block.


If you are interested you can provide dust or dirt to be tested (small fee applies).

It’s useful to know what resources are available. It’s a slightly different discussion/topic to the OP. For a larger site such as ours, knowing the prior agricultural history or being able to identify an area that is showing signs of prior contamination is prudent.

As well as shoes/boots off, similar separation practices apply for the clothing worn while working across the acres and revegetation. It’s an interesting adjunct to ask how many home gardeners etc look to the outdoors of an urban lot as an extension of the inside? It’s likely there are a diversity of practices as there are for ‘shoes off’ households.


We are a shoes off household…and have been for two decades (since 2003 when we lived in China). In China it is customary for removing shoes when entering a dwelling. We were told that they don’t want 3500 years of human development in China to enter one’s house in the bottom of one’s foot.

Returning to Australia we kept the same practice. There are advantages…but also disadvantages to either leaving shoes on or taking them off.


I’m diabetic so I always wear shoes inside and outside.


My feet get cold, so I am not a fan at all :slight_smile:

I have stayed with some friends in Germany who had that rule, however they had a large supply of “house slippers” for guests, so getting chilly feet was not a problem. It my, albeit limited, experience that is not common.


Many years ago my children tracked dog poo all over the carpeted stairs. Shoes off policy was immediately installed and my children have continued that policy in their homes.


I and my partner are both of “European” descent (different ancestries ) and we certainly do take our outdoor shoes off and wear indoor shoes (flip flops in summer and slippers in winter)…It cuts down the amount of cleaning - oil from carparks, mud from garden, gravel from pathways…

I am appalled when I see people wander about the shops shoe less and wonder what their homes look like, as their feet are black!


For those that didn’t read the results of the survey:-
Approx 50,000 answered the question of leaving footwear off when entering a home (not sure of the exact wording), although nearly 60,000 did the survey.

  • 29% said they expected “shoes off”
  • Of these 21% were of European Descent, 74% were not
  • The higher the income the more likely to be “shoes off”
  • Rural & Remote electorates were more likely (35%, 34%…) to go Shoes Off, the lowest percentage were in South Aust urban areas (11%, 10%, 9%).

I was perplexed by that question when I did the survey years ago (and might not have answered it). Mr Z takes his boots off because he does not want to track stones, grease, swarf into the house. His sons kick off their thongs because their wives (who do the housework) don’t want dirt tracked through carpets. For others it is comfort, the boots go off, the slippers, socks, thongs go on. I have not met anyone who does it for cultural reasons, apart from some who do it because parents, grandparents did it.


I lived in Germany for 3 years and most households (including ours) had lots of slippers by the door for guests.


Welcome to the community, @Kathel.
It’s always helpful when first hand experience is offered. What suits the great outdoors and streets vs clean and comfy indoors.

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Thank you for your welcome.