(CNN) -- Holiday parties at home are part of many people's schedules, and those hosts concerned about germs face a dilemma: Should I ask my guests to take off their shoes at the door, especially if the gathering is a cocktail or formal, or if the guest is a shoe addict like Carrie Bradshaw?
In a 2003 episode of "Sex and the City," Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is asked to leave her $485 Manolo Blahnik shoes at the door during a New York baby shower hosted by her friend Kyra (Tatum O'Neal) and soon discovers that they were stolen.
- These 6,000-Year-Old Sandals Found in a Spanish Cave Are the Oldest Shoes in Europe
"I hadn't even completely turned the party around," Carrie laments later at a lunch with her friends. The iconic TV personality was forced to walk home in his party dress and an old grey pair of sneakers lent to him by the hostess.
"Why the hell did you take your shoes off?" asked Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), Carrie's friend.
"We had to do it," Carrie explained. "For their children, we apparently drag things in our heels that make children sick."
Sarah Jessica Parker, as Carrie Bradshaw, returns home wearing borrowed sneakers in an August 2003 episode of "Sex and the City" aired on CNN-owned HBO. Her Manolo Blahnik heels were stolen after her friend asked guests to leave their shoes at the front door. (Credit: HBO/Everett Collection)
While the episode, "A Woman's Right to Shoes," was designed to discuss the dilemmas faced by single people in a world centered around families with children, the underlying question — and debate — around footwear and health remains: Is there meaningful evidence that going shoeless slows the spread of germs in a home?
"Absolutely," says Gabriel Filippelli, a professor in the department of earth sciences at Indiana-Purdue University in Indianapolis and executive director of the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University.
"We can track all kinds of bacteria, but certainly some of the ones we're most concerned about are E. coli that cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting," he explained. "There have been studies where samples have been taken from the soles of shoes and something like 99% of shoes have tested positive for fecal material."
Heavy Metals & More
However, bacteria are not the only danger that accompanies the dust and dirt surrounding rural and urban homes, gardens, and parks, according to Jill Litt, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who currently works as a principal investigator at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, or ISGlobal. in Spain.
- Australia is experiencing an intense flu season, and it could be a sign of what's coming in the U.S.
"Studies have shown that in urban areas where there are older homes, lead from dust can reach the house through the surface of shoes," he said. "Other studies have shown that pesticide residues can be brought in from gardens through shoes."
Heavy metals such as lead, copper and zinc permeate the soils of parks and urban streets with decades of pollutants, while pesticide levels can be elevated in rural agricultural areas, Litt added.
Homes built before 1978 are very likely to contain lead paint, which can chip, flake and disintegrate into hazardous dust, experts say. There is no safe level of lead at any age, but children are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of heavy metals and pesticides because of their small size and proximity to pollutants when crawling, rolling, and playing on the floor of the house.
"For young children, direct hand contact is one of the main routes of exposure to toxic substances and infectious disease agents," says Litt, who also directs Reimagining Environments for Connection and Engagement: Testing Actions for Social Prescribing in Natural Spaces. Funded by the European Union, the project aims to combat loneliness with natural spaces.
Before you ask people to take off their shoes, make sure the house is as dust-free as possible, experts say. Never vacuum or sweep first with a broom, as you will only be able to remove all the toxins and transport them through the air. Instead, use a damp or spray mop. While it's counterintuitive to add water to dirt, it's actually the best way to flush out toxins, Litt says.
- OPINION | Are you fascinated by shoes?
The same applies to any horizontal surface, says Filippelli, but stay away from feather dusters. "Wipe horizontal surfaces more regularly with a damp cloth, i.e., windowsills, tables, coffee tables, chair bottoms, chair seats, and other furniture, in addition to the floor."
Use the "three buckets" method if you live in an older house with lead paint or in an area with high levels of lead outside. Have a bucket ready with an all-purpose cleaning solution, a rinse bucket, and an empty bucket.
"Some people also use a very weak solution of vinegar in the wash water, which works very well," Filippelli said. "There are some super sterilants on the market, but when cleaners are really good at killing bacteria, they're usually not very good for us as humans. Whenever something gives off a super strong smell, you have to think about it at least twice."
Dip the mop into the cleaning solution, wring out the excess water into the empty bucket and start scrubbing, starting at the furthest point from the door. Work your way up the door, using the clean water as a rinse as you go. Flush water down the toilet when it looks dirty or with each new room, don't flush it outside.
"The highest concentration of germs is at the inner entrance, and the levels drop as we move away from this area," Litt explains. "Carpets hold a lot of dust, so it would be one of the things I would remove if you're worried about dust and potential health issues."
Carpeted areas should be vacuumed with an appliance that has a high-efficiency particulate air filter, or HEPA, not bagless vacuums, and dispose of the bag or filter in an outside trash can when finished.
Think about the comfort of your guests
Taking off your shoes at the door may be the best way to limit the entry of germs and potentially toxic dust, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about your guests' comfort, says Filippelli. Providing washable slippers or non-slip socks can be a thoughtful gesture.
"I don't like to walk around with bare feet inside, so here's my trick. I have some warm slippers on my doorstep; A lot of other cultures do it too," he explains.
"In any Asian, or even Middle Eastern home, there's usually a small cubicle right inside the door with washable slippers. You have to take off your shoes, grab your sneakers and put them on."
Would that have solved Carrie's problems of taking off her shoes? No, those were solved when he asked Kyra to buy new Manolos as a gift for Carrie's impending wedding... with herself.
"Is that all you asked for?" Kyra asked the clerk, as her children ran around the swanky Manolo Blahnik store on Madison Avenue.