The horrors floating around in your home

Originally published at: The horrors floating around in your home | Boing Boing


Yes, the common USian habit of tromping around inside with shoes that carry who knows what inside is indeed disgusting. We should take them off!

As with wearing a mask, though, good luck getting all that many of us to do something even mildly inconvenient for our health, let alone that of others.


including the contaminants tracked in by shoes that are worn outside the home

I have faith that pretty much any outdoor pathogen will be instantly killed by whatever the fsck is going on inside my teenager’s shoes. Holy hell.


We’ve always taken our shoes off in the mud room. Most guests see our shoes and remove their shoes.

The only people that were allowed to keep their shoes on are/were my mom and dad. When covid hit I did supply disposable booties.

My dad got up every morning got completely dressed including shoes and left them on until bedtime no matter where he went.

I only put shoes on to go outside but I do have street shoes and around the house shoes.

We also change clothes as soon as we get home. We have street cloths and house clothes.


A colleague who focused on healthy homes took part in a study out in WA way back when. They sampled a bunch of homes - sampling meant they’d vacuum a few square feet of carpet with these vacuum cleaners that had sensors and would signal when the machine wasn’t picking up any more stuff from the carpet. Then they’d analyze what had ended up in the bag.
What they found was shocking. There were chemicals that had been outlawed decades prior. I believe DDT was mentioned.
And other discontinued toxins that, if they’d remained outdoors, would’ve been broken down by sun and water over time, but since they were safe inside, had persisted.
We don’t wear shoes indoors, and now I’m very averse to carpeting. :nauseated_face:

(And to clarify, the sample homes were by no means “filthy” to the naked eye. Turns out, most people vacuum until it looks clean. He said using the sensor vacs made him realize how looking clean, especially for carpets, isn’t at all the same thing as actually being clean. )


Thanks, good reminder actually to mask while vacuuming. And while dusting. :grimacing:


And even better, if one can afford it, if you move into a previously occupied space that has carpets, splurge for a good deep cleaning.
(He accompanied his presentation with photos of adorable babies crawling around on carpets and the dust getting kicked up and them putting their little hands in their mouths. It really made an impression!)


Yeah, any natural fiber carpet or rug that cannot be regularly washed (in a residential washer or taken in to a professional carpet cleaner with industrial-sized machines) is a liability to IAQ.

Even recycled PET plastics that go into carpeting shed antimony into indoor air.

I wish that carpeting using recycling materials did not perform so regrettably.

Also not ideal:

  • Plastic window coverings (including blinds and synthetic cloth curtains) because they break down into indoor particulate matter that people inhale.

  • Candles with lead wicks.

  • Some “air fresheners.”

This list is long when considering best IAQ practices.


Wait, what!?

Yeah, that can’t be good.


Including but not limited to:


The lead metal makes the wicks burn more slowly.

At some point, metal core wicks became more regulated and supposedly we don’t have to worry about lead being in candles sold in the U.S. I have still found some candles (especially imported) to have some kind of metal core wick. Yikes.



Makes sense I guess, even in winter, to at least open the windows sometimes. And to get out for frequent walks. (I often work at at home, so I spend a LOT of time there. Which is a privilege, but…sigh.)


(see also )


I’ll just repeat my personal experience.

As I said, the machine in the video was a lot nicer than ours.


When we built our house almost 30 years ago (crap I’m old) we decided last minute to put in a whole house fan.

The builder said he would install it if we picked it up.

I brought home a fan for a 4,000 sq ft house, our house is only 1,600 sq ft. They had to add extra gable end vents so we wouldn’t blow out the attic vents.

We can change the air almost instantly. It’s awesome in the winter when it gets too stuffy inside.

During covid we have backyard get togethers but we let people inside to use the bathroom. We leave the window cracked and turn on the fan. Germs don’t have a chance to settle on anything.


You’ll only get me to take off my shoes indoors from my cold dead feet. Then I’ll be wearing coffin shoes.

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There’s a world of difference between going outside and breathing in a densely populated urban area, and going outside in a less populated [suburban or exurban] area.

And even less populated areas have had reversals of fortune thanks to climate change etc.:

And there’s a huge difference between opening a window in one’s living space in an area with heavy vehicle traffic or industrial (air) pollution, and opening a window in area without, say, oil refineries, a major interstate highway, etc.

Heaven forfend that the least of us on the economic ladder have any right to breath clean air:

For some people, outside air quality is actually worse than indoor air quality.
So they seal their houses against the bad stuff outside.
That seems like a good idea to solve an immediate threat, until one’s wall-to-wall carpeting and glues and rug padding break down, turning into tiny particles in the air, which end up in human lungs. Offgassing from foam-cushioned upholstery and glues used to make particleboard and oriented-strand board, carbon monoxide from natural gas pilot lights from stoves, ovens, poorly-vented water heaters and HVAC systems, etc. all build up inside that sealed living space.

I haven’t even mentioned mold wrt IAQ yet.
Or that multi-family rental housing often employs periodic spraying of pesticides to tamp down cockroaches, termites, ants, etc. sometimes inside and outside, sometimes just outside.

There’s a line somewhere between sterile conditions and having air in one’s house that is least harmful.

We too have a “no shoes inside the house” policy. I’ve been to places where people spitting on the pavement is common, public urination (hey, urine is sterile, so… no problem, right?) near mass transit access points is common, and where animal poop is everywhere. We’ll keep our no-shoes-indoors policy, thanks. We are fine with not tracking all that into our living space.

We ripped out all the carpeting here years ago. It was… instructive… what was in it and under it. We change our pleated media HVAC filter less often now. Our IAQ is better.


And yet most of the time people aren’t sick.

Is the proposal that we should live in plastic bubbles without any contaminants, because that will keep us healthy?.. we go outside! some people spend most of the time outside… are they sicker than people who stay inside all the time. I encouraged my children to play in the mud, and I think they’re better for it.

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We’ve got cats; one who horks somewhat frequently. Shoes or slippers are a necessity in the house, and we do usually trek right in with our street shoes, seasonally dependent.

But pondering on the cats further, this means that whatever we track in, they’re licking off their paws (along with cat litter dust, carpet chemicals, and their own asses). So are we poisoning our pets? Hmmm.


This. is. so. weird. to. a. Canadian.

When we moved to the US, it was weird in both directions - needing to ask people to remove their shoes everytime they came over, or getting weird looks when we’d remove our shoes as soon as we came in the house.

It’s been a good five years since I stopped walking around barefoot at home, though - I now have indoor crocs (which are really my outdoor crocs I worse all the tread off of over time), which never see the outside world anymore.

DustSafe sounds neat, they 1) have my donation, and 2) will soon have my dust. For science!

I’m pretty amazed by this data, though! One-third is brought in through wind or feet? That’s wild! I wonder what effect household air filtration has. We have a large filter on every level of the house, as well as one in our bedroom and I have one in my office here, all at least HEPA grade and presumably right-sized to the room in question, but I wonder how much of an effect they actually have?