Mold and Shoes: Everything You Need to Know

Mold and Shoes: Everything You Need to Know

Every day of our lives, we stride through the world with our shoes beneath us. To work, and the grocery store. To see family and friends. To our home at the end of a long day.

Our shoes come into contact with far more surfaces than we likely realize. The waxed floor at the grocery store, the pavement of the gas station parking lot, the tile of the restaurant bathroom.

Modern shoes are made to last. The rubbery, sometimes foamy material in the modern shoe sole is amazing for cushioning our steps and driving us forward into the future. But that same material is also amazing at something less desirable—soaking up mold spores, fungus, germs, and viruses.

remove mold from shoes

Our shoe soles provide the ideal environment for these unwanted visitors to flourish. They absorb moisture and organic materials like fecal matter, which provides a perfect little petri dish for molds and pathogens of all kinds. Every step we take, we spread these dastardly passengers in our wake.

This is an unfortunate reality that many of us prefer not to think about. After all, what are we to do about it? How can we reliably remove mold from our shoes?

Common Shoe Molds and Health Risks

Mold is a form of fungus that loves dark, damp environments. While it’s important to note that not all molds are harmful, there are also many that are indeed quite harmful to your health and wellbeing. Certain species love to thrive in and on our footwear, posing potential health hazards upon prolonged exposure.

shoe mold

Cladosporium is one of the most prevalent types of outdoor molds. It's commonly found on decaying plant matter and grows on shoe soles exposed to natural surfaces. Exposure to Cladosporium can lead to health issues including respiratory issues, sinus infections, and skin infections—especially for people with allergies or weakened immune systems.

Aspergillus is a type of mold that thrives indoors, outdoor, and on shoe soles. Exposure to Aspergillus can result in fungal asthma, skin infections, and Aspergillosis—a type of lung infection that can cause serious problems for individuals with weakened immune systems.

Penicillium is another common mold found on shoes. Penicillium molds are often found in damp or water-soaked areas, including on shoes regularly exposed to moisture. Penicillium is particularly problematic for people with allergies and asthma. Certain species of Penicillium can produce mycotoxins, a toxic substance that is dangerous to inhale.

The health risks associated with mold vary quite a bit based on the varietal. But there are common themes:

  • Respiratory issues like coughing, wheezing, throat irritation, asthma exacerbation, and nasal congestion
  • Allergic reactions which commonly result in skin rashes, itching, or eye irritation
  • Fungal infections may affect the lungs, skin, or other organs of people with weakened immune systems
  • Sinus infections and their accompanying headaches, facial pain, and nasal discharge
  • Mycotoxins, which can cause serious neurological problems when ingested, inhaled, or touched

dangers of moldy shoes

Regularly disinfecting shoe soles before entering our homes is incredibly important to protect our families. Disinfection procedures, whether utilizing simple homemade solutions like vinegar or employing specialized shoe-sanitizing mats, effectively eliminate mold and reduce the potential transmission of harmful pathogens.

Disinfectants for Removing Shoe Mold

All disinfectants are not equally effective against mold. While many disinfectants can kill surface mold to some extent, specific products are better suited for mold removal and prevention. Particularly considering the spongey nature of our shoe soles, you need to saturate the sole effectively to fully disinfect it.

To begin with, you need to choose the right disinfectant. Look for disinfectants explicitly labeled as effective against mold and mildew. Products containing ingredients like quaternary ammonium, bleach (sodium hypochlorite), hydrogen peroxide, or certain fungicidal agents are usually your best bet.

Make sure you read the label thoroughly when choosing your shoe disinfecting product. Ensure that the disinfectant you're using is intended for use on the surfaces where mold is present. Some disinfectants can actually damage your shoes over time.

Follow the instructions for your shoe disinfecting product carefully. Proper application is crucial. Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding contact time and safety precautions. Using the disinfectant as directed ensures that it will be effective against mold and provide the best safeguard for your family.

disinfectants for moldy shoes

While many disinfectants can effectively kill mold, some might not be as effective or might not specifically target mold. Here are a few common disinfectants to avoid.

While ammonia is a potent cleaner and disinfectant for many surfaces, it may not be as effective against mold. It can kill some types of mold on non-porous surfaces, but it might not eliminate the spores entirely or penetrate porous materials where mold can thrive.

Alcohol-based disinfectants like rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) are excellent for killing bacteria and viruses on surfaces. However, they might not be as effective against mold, especially on porous surfaces where mold can penetrate deeply.

Many general-purpose cleaners might claim disinfection capabilities, but they might not specifically target mold. They can clean the surface but may not eliminate mold spores or prevent their regrowth effectively.

Vinegar, essential oils, and other natural cleaners are great for general cleaning and may have some mild antifungal properties. However, they might not be potent enough to eradicate mold completely, especially for severe infestations.

Shoe Hygiene is Crucial

Shoe Hygiene is home hygiene. Consider the totality of what commonly lives in shoe soles, and the importance of regular shoe hygiene habits becomes clear.

Shoes don’t just carry fungi like mold on their soles. They also carry all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and other toxins. As our society becomes more informed about shoe germs and the role that they play in disease transmission, the need for a more comprehensive shoe hygiene solution becomes urgent.

People are often under-informed about the realities of germ composition on their shoes. They focus on the germs inside—perhaps because that’s where you place your foot—and overlook the outside. But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the germs on your shoes live in the external soles, not inside the shoe.

shoe hygiene

It makes sense if you think about it. How many gross surfaces does your inner shoe come into contact with? Few, if any. Most people change their socks regularly and maintain relatively good personal hygiene.

Now think about all the surfaces that your shoe soles come into contact with. Public bathrooms. Parking lots. Doctors offices. Gym locker rooms. The list goes on and on.

A study by the University of Arizona found that the average shoes carry over 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside, versus less than 3,000 units of bacteria on the inside. The overwhelming majority of those pathogens are living on the bottom of your shoes.

That’s right—over 99% of the microbial load on your shoes is found on the bottoms of your shoes, not inside your shoes.

A few common bacteria found in shoes include E. coli, Clostridium difficile, and MRSA.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) normally live in the intestines of animals and people. But they become a problem when they spread outside of the intestinal tract, often through fecal matter, and get into places they shouldn’t be. E. coli infection can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever, and in some rare cases can lead to kidney failure and death.

Clostridium difficile is a highly contagious bacterium that causes diarrhea and colon inflammation. It’s estimated to cause almost half a million infections and around 15,000 deaths in the United States each year. C. difficile can cause diarrhea and serious infections of the large intestine and is very hard to kill. Clostridium difficile is particularly dangerous to the elderly. One in 11 people over age 65 who develop a C. diff infection die within one month.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureua, a type of bacteria that is highly resistant to antibiotics. MRSA causes skin infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and surgical site infections. Once the germ enters the body, it can spread to bones, joints, the blood, or any organ such as the lungs, heart, or brain. MRSA infection is particularly dangerous in healthcare settings. Infections from healthcare facilities tend to be severe, and can lead to sepsis and death.

Mold and Germ Prevention on Shoes

It’s not enough to deep clean your shoes once they show signs of infestation. You need to build a system for preventing molds from entering your house to begin with. Otherwise, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle.

But any new habit can be challenging. Here are a few tips on making shoe hygiene, and thus mitigating infestation potential for your home, a part of your daily routine. Be specific and define your habit clearly. Don’t just say “I’m going to clean my shoes more often.” Instead, specify when, where, and how you’ll do it.

Try this instead: “Every day, I will disinfect my shoes immediately after walking in the door, before putting my shoes away. I will do this because I value my health and care about my family.”

Feels a lot more real that way, doesn’t it?

You need to commit to the habit consistently for it to stick. This is especially important when it comes to setting rules and standards for young children. Kids get into all kinds of nasty surfaces and forget about it almost immediately. Instilling this routine into their lives is perhaps even more important than instilling it in yours.

Prevent the Shoe-borne Spread of Mold and Fungus

Look—the growth of mold in and on our shoes is a genuine concern for our health. There are only two ways to be proactive about curbing the spread of fungus through our living spaces: spacial decontamination and shoe disinfection. Without these two safeguards in place, we contaminate indoor spaces and expose the people around us to unnecessary health risks.

Shoe hygiene is an investment in our health, our family’s health, and our community’s health. Do your part and keep people safe.

A New Era of Shoe Hygiene
shoe disinfecting mat

Everywhere we go, we leave dangerous germs and viruses in our footsteps. The science is clear—our shoes are one of the most dangerous sources of contamination and illness in today's world.

The Shoetizer is a ground-breaking product that disinfects and sanitizes your shoes in seconds.

Powered by an EPA-registered disinfectant, the Shoetizer eradicates over 99% of harmful bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Afterward the device leaves a protective film on your shoes that kills germs and pathogens on contact for up to 24 hours.