Two Home Rules for Cleaner Floors

Photo by Helga’s Lobster Stew

There are two rules in our family to help us stay ahead of the dirt and crumbs on our floors and carpet.

I’ve been a long-time reader of Simple Mom, and one of her early posts was about taking your shoes off at the door before you go in the house. Readers shared strong opinions in the comments!

We take our shoes off. We haven’t always, but the near-white carpet in our new apartment made us want to start doing it. It is effective to keep the floors clean, and we like wearing our slippers around the house.

(Although I take my shoes off, I don’t ask our guests to do so if they aren’t accustomed to it. I’d rather have a little bit of dirt tracked inside than make a guest feel uncomfortable in my home, since it’s not a standard practice here in the U.S.)

We’ve noticed another habit that has significantly reduced the number of spills, spots, splotches, and noticeable stains on the carpet.

It’s one of our most important rules for household upkeep:

Not on the couch.

Not in the bed.

Not in front of the computer.

Not in the living room.

Food stays at the table.

I sincerely encourage you to make this rule in your family, unless you like kneeling down to scrub the carpet.

Photo by chadmagiera

But what if the carpet is already dirty?

If your carpet has bad odors, sprinkle baking soda generously over the carpet and then sweep it in with a broom. Let the baking soda sit overnight to absorb the odors, and then vacuum it up the next day.

For spills and spots, first soak up new liquid spills with a towel. Then try to clean the spot with a towel and plain hot water. If you need to use carpet cleaner, be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove residue which attracts more dirt. An oxygen cleaner like OxiClean removes stains, but this should be rinsed well too so that the spot doesn’t end up lighter than the rest of the carpet.

Related Post:
vacuumPut the Voom Back in Your Vacuum

When you have small kids it’s easy to enforce the rule. With older kids and husbands, old habits can be hard to break, especially when it involves snacking. What do you do?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. The rule out our place is eat on the black tiles. No food is to be taken off. It makes living in a very open space where the kitchen (with the black tiles) flows into the dining room and living room (which thankfully have wooden floors) much easier and our floors cleaner :)

    Kristin´s last post…Before I pack it: My Travel Album

  2. We ask guests to take their shoes off in our home, unless they have some orthopedic issue. And eating at the table, well… absolutely. Even with those 2 rules we vacuum the floors everyday because 1) we have a small house and it’s easy to do and 2) my kids craft every day and there are bits of fabric, paper, cornmeal, clay and who knows what else left behind from their creative genius and 3) I just like a clean floor when I go to bed because it means a clean floor when I start the next day.

  3. I like your rules. I have a slight vacuuming/sweeping obsession. I do it everyday. We have a dog for one. We have all “hard” floors – no carpet. It just really needs it. And, like Renee – I like clean floors.

  4. Ugh, our carpets are currently in need of a serious cleaning. When there are a lot of crumbs around our sofa, I (very nicely) ask my husband to vacuum them up, because they’re his crumbs. He does, and usually he hates vacuuming so much he won’t eat on the couch again for a while. It never lasts forever, though! *sigh*

    Anna´s last post…Is There Such a Thing As Owning Too Much Clothing?

  5. how perfect that you posted this today because we’re having the carpets in our apartment cleaned today. i really need to enforce the “food at the table” rule. it’s good not only for the carpets, but for more togetherness as well.

  6. I think that obtaining a truly clean floor would involve putting our dog up for adoption. :-) But in the meantime, I have developed a love for sweeping– it is quiet enough that I can do it while the baby is sleeping, an activity that my toddler can become involved in (she has her own broom), and quite effective on hardwood floors. Yes, we still vacuum once a week or so, but sweeping does a surprisingly good job during the in-betweens.

    Adele´s last post…Praying

  7. I wish that everyone would take off their shoes when coming into my house! I can not stand walking around in socks and stepping on crumbs, or even worse a wet spot on the floor! I really try to make sure my little ones only eat at the table so that does help the crumb situation. My in-laws NEVER take off their shoes when entering my home and it makes me crazy! They don’t even wipe their feet off! It is really snowy here now so they leave water spots all around my house. (AAAAHHHHHH!!!) The worst thing is they come over nearly ever day! I am always washing my floors because of them. They just think that the shoe rule doesn’t apply to them. (it does bug my hubby too)

    • irsihbell says:

      Have you tried asking them to remove their shoes?
      Let them know you ask everyone who enters your home to remove their shoes because it helps keep the carpeting/floors clean. My Dad doesn’t like to take his shoes off when he comes over, either. But he does if I ask him. What is it about parents anyway?

    • maybe buy a nice pair of slippers for each of them to wear at your house? When they come over next show them and mention that you thought they might like to make themselves more comfortable :P

  8. Another idea is to put rugs in high traffic areas, even over carpet. It can add color to your house and it really helps when you have a small house or apartment that gets hit really hard.

    My husband is Asian so he and his whole family take off their shoes at the door so we have mats and a towel to clean up any melted snow near the door. However, I really like to wear my shoes in the house because I’m not used to this practice so I have a pair of shoes that I just wear inside. We lived in California for a while and it’s very interesting to see that many Asian guests feel more comfortable taking their shoes off at your house even if, as a European, you prefer to wear shoes as the host.

  9. So glad this topic bugs others as much as it bugs me. I have SUCH a strange issue with clean floors. I obsess about shoes coming in the house and what people might have stepped in in the outside world. Oy, it haunts me!

    We have a “no shoes on the carpet” rule and we are OCD about wiping our dog’s feet after he comes in from outside. But, it’s still a never ending battle.

    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last post…Assignment: purse de-clutter, or do this now, you’ll be glad you did later

  10. I have a hard time grasping the idea of wearing dirty shoes in one’s home! To me it is largely a health issue and I think visitors should respect a home owner’s preferences like they would if you said there is no smoking in your home. I have a pair of “indoor-only” flipflops I wear inside (easier on my joints) and have friends who also have a pair of crocs, say, just for inside use. Eating is done at the kitchen table or sometimes at our basement coffee table where we all enjoy a pizza/movie night (or other snacks) on occasion.

    • I used to live in a tiny house with a tiny table so when we had dinner guests we’d eat outside (weather permitting) or in the living room. Thankfully, we had hardwood floors. I think having guests is important so we can flex where necessary.

  11. I never knew that taking your shoes off wasn’t common in the U.S. We always did it growing up, but now I have to remind my husband when he comes home (gently of course). Everyone has their thing that makes the house feel clean to them. For me it’s floors. If the floors are clean then the house is clean. Even if the toilet is a disaster.

    Shannon´s last post…Responding to Negativity with Encouragement

  12. My kids and I love going barefoot. As soon as we hit the door, the shoes fly off. And if we do happen to keep our shoes on, we walk on the tile only. We have a “no shoes on the carpet rule”. When friends come over, the guests see our shoes at the door and normally take theirs off. When we built our house, we made sure we had a tile “path” in the high traffic areas. We, also, have the food in the kitchen only rule. After 3 years in this house, I have zero carpet stains. Yeah!!

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last post…Start Overcoming Busy Right Now – Stop Obsessing!

  13. AlaskanAndi says:

    In Alaska, it is custom to take your shoes off at the door. Can you imagine the muck that would end up in the house if not! Snow, mud, de-icer, kitty litter, sand. That would make for some pretty disgusting floors. I had a friend that would leave a basket of slippers by the door. When someone wore a pair, they would leave them out, she would wash them with the laundry and put them back. We are pretty serious about the no shoes in the house rule around here.

    • I am in Alaska as well. I was going to comment that it is “normal practice” in this part of the US ;). I have inside only shoes as well. In fact when I was visiting my mther in California, she took me to meet a friend of hers, and I just couldn’t walk on thier beautiful hard wood floors with my shoes on…even though they don’t remove their shoes.

  14. Dirty looks. If that doesn’t work, I make them clean up their mess themselves. Maybe it’s mean, but it’s effective…and fair.

    Meg´s last post…Put Your Comments Where Your Mouth Is

  15. So, I’m sure everyone is leaving out the step of putting your shoes up after you take them off, right? My mom is remarried and her new family takes their shoes off at the front door. So you have 4 people’s shoes stacked up in the entry way (and back door) of the house. I have nearly broke my ankle trying to navigate through the entry way of her house.

    THAT drives me nuts! To me, that’s just a big pile of clutter.

    What am I missing here?

    • We keep the current pair of shoes by the door. So for our family of three people and a baby, there are three pairs of shoes lined up in a little row in the entryway. The rest of the shoes go in the closet.

      • We have shelving in the entryway – one shelf per person. Each shelf holds at least four pairs of shoes and a little basket for mitts, bike helmets, etc. Currently our shelf is a built in but in the past I’ve also used an inexpensive IKEA shelf (about $20).

  16. Similar to Anna’s comment about Asian custom, in Hawaii it is typical to remove one’s shoes (or “slippahs”) at the door. I adopted it in my California home after my first few visits to Hawaii. You can buy cute signs or tiles in Hawaii with variations of “please leave slippahs at door” to post at your front door. Some thoughtful hosts leave a variety of sizes of inexpensive house slippers at the door for guests who are not comfortable going barefoot. It always makes me smile when I arrive at my home away from home on Kauai and slip my own slippahs off at the door.

  17. we dont wear shoes in the house. we made the mistake of putting in near white carpet so no shoes. ive upset many a deliverer that had to come in, and plumber and handy man by having them take them off too but I tip well so they get over it. I have learned (by having two dogs and 1 loves the dirt) thats its fairly easy to clean spot up and I have the carpet cleaned several times a year. and because of the dogs our shoes are put up right away or else theyre eaten up.

  18. I grew up taking my shoes off at the door. It was a rule in our house, and I was always confused at friends’ houses where they didn’t! It isn’t relaxing to have one’s shoes on in the house.

    We try to keep the eat at the table rule, but there are times my husband permits the kids to eat at their desks (they each have a desk in our family room) so they can eat while watching a movie. This is a special treat.

    I long ago realized that the carpet was not going to last forever no matter what we did, but we had to figure out how to deal with the inevitable stains. What saved our carpet (and our marriage, come to think of it) was buying a Rug Doctor. We have beige carpets and this thing takes out the stains like nobody’s business. We bought it a year ago, and it has paid for itself already. We lend it to friends when they are in need, too.

    If you have a Rug Doctor, no need to buy the cleaner! 2 gallons of water (or all the water it will hold), 1/4 cup laundry detergent (sometimes less), and 1 capful of bleach. Yes, bleach. Handy tip: the more soap you put in your carpet without thoroughly rinsing out, the more dirt your carpet will attract.

  19. Jackie @ Lilolu says:

    We use to take our shoes off but we’ve been slacking for a while. My floors are definitely paying for it.

  20. When I received a swivel-type sweeper from my Dad for Christmas, I scoffed, thinking I had all the brooms, mops, vacuums I needed for any job. i CERTAINLY didn’t need another device crowding my tool closet. BUT my floors have never been swept as thoroughly or as often since my 5-year-old son has become enamored of this mostly red-colored piece of equipment. He will use the sweeper after breakfast and after dinner, even picking up the cat’s dishes and sweeping up cat food. He sweeps our entire 2nd floor living area and then delights in squeezing the little buttons that control the opening of the trap door to empty the debris over the garbage can. I can’t hazard a guess as to how long this new self-motivated responsibility will last before I need to gently remind him to do it, but I’m enjoying every minute of it!. PS We take our shoes off at the back door and have lots of shoe rack space for multiple pairs. Works for us!

  21. Wow, I am amazed at how many of you require shoes to be removed in your homes! I find it just a little too much for my taste and would much prefer my guests to feel comfortable in my home to worrying about whether or not they have holes in their socks or foot odor. Besides, in the homes where I have been expected to remove my shoes I have rarely ever seen a bench or chair to make it more comfortable to do so. I have to wear lace up shoes due to a bad ankle and can’t just slip mine off. I suggest you get really good matting at all doors, both inside and out.

  22. I grew up with ‘no shoes inside the house’ rule and it was wonderful. We always had plenty of house slippers available for guests and when we would go over to somebody’s house for dinner we’d bring our own house slippers because everybody had that same rule. (I grew up overseas) I wish I had enforced that rule in my own home because dirt gets tracked it. I guess the only answer to keeping the floors clean is vacuum and swiffers.

    Peanut´s last post…Betty Crocker would be proud…NOT

  23. Re food at the table, we had to start enforcing this rule when our youngest was diagnosed with food allergies four years ago. We mostly all eat the same food, but my other two kids eat enough “unsafe” items that we couldn’t take a chance of crumbs or spills. I’ll admit I’m not the neatest housekeeper out there, but we had no choice with this one, so it’s an iron-clad rule. Wow! What a difference it makes. It’s also just plain more civilized to eat only at the table, don’t you think?

  24. Growing up we had a no shoe policy in our home. Probably stemming from my father’s Asian Indian background. My mother never had an issue politely telling guests to remove their shoes at the door. Only a couple of my relatives (on her side) ever ignored her requests, and they were quickly told to do what she said by another extended family member. I now live in Hawaii, and the custom here is shoes off at the door. I am a terrible housekeeper (it’s actually my resolution this year to work harder at keeping our home tidier), so I don’t mind if people leave their slippers on, since I run outside all the time without slippers on. Though most people still take their shoes off at the door. I wish my dog wouldn’t track in so much dirt too. I think I need to get back to cleaning the floors everyday. My house was much cleaner that way.

  25. Completely agree with you! I am from India and we take off our footwear as soon as we enter one’s house. We follow the same rule here in US too! Though things are cleaner here compared to India, I dont want to think where my shoes have been throughout the day – public restrooms, particles of dog poop on the grass… and what not! Whem someone comes to our house (cable guys, etc), I ask them to take their shoes off at the door! Yes, my son will turn 9 next month and he has to eat at the table and that keeps most of the furniture clean (though we find his toys and pencils all the

  26. We come from a culture that isn’t mad for shoes seriously… my kids have at most one pair (in fact one or two of them don’t have any at the moment!!!)… Many kids in South Africa go to school with nary a thought for shoes…If a child arrives at our house to visit the first thing is take their shoes off (they really are just for show!!!) it just gets too hot here!!! So dust is dust and what is outside comes inside… But we have a very strict food rule, always have: At the table or out the door on the grass and that makes a huge difference to dirt around the grass… I cannot begin to imagine food in folks beds or on the couch… No… I never understand why people think breakfast in bed is a joy – euch all those crumbs just make me feel skrichy thinking about them!!!

    se7en´s last post…Fabulous Friday Fun – #2 and a GiveAway…

  27. Kimberley says:

    Aloha Rachel,

    Although it is not a common practice on the mainland to remove one’s shoes when entering a home, it is here in our 5oth State of Hawaii. And, I have absolutely no problem with asking our mainland friends to remove their shoes when they visit. We even have a sign at the front door that says “Mahalo for removing your shoes”. Mahalo means thank you in Hawaiian.

  28. Most of our guests go ahead and take shoes off without our asking. There is a pile of shoes at the door where they come in, which passes a message along that shoes are not needed in our home. It also seems to be a pretty standard practice among my friends in Chicago – we walk around in so much mud and dirt and sludge that there’s no way we’d want that in our homes.

  29. I have another rule: no pets allowed indoors. Dogs, cats stay outside. Other than the hair they also bring in parasites and cause problems for those in the family with allergies. (We live in the country and they have plenty of room outdoors.)

    We built our house and have stained concrete floors just because five kids under 9 are messy. I don’t care how many rules you make, it’s going to get gross. We do break glasses, but it’s better than trying to clean up a potty accident out of carpet!!

  30. funny to happen upon this post. we were helping my brother move into his home and my 5 year old commented on taking shoes off. it is a rule in our house. keeps the floor and our inside environment cleaner.

    nicola´s last post…fitting in and trying something new

  31. We take our shoes off both for comfort and to keep the carpets cleaner. Because we have a shoe shelf right near the doorway, people very often decide to take theirs off too, which is nice. But we rarely ask a visitor to remove their shoes. We do have our nieces and nephews ditch their shoes because kids’ shoes tend to be dirtier. I often take my shoes off at other people’s homes too, for the same reasons I do it here at home.

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  32. Elizabeth says:

    I never realized that it was odd to ask guests to take their shoes off in your house! We ALWAYS took them off when I was growing up and I’ve just kept doing it. It makes so much sense to keep the outside dirt (and chemicals and who knows what!) off of the floors when you have babies crawling around on them!

    Also, I just found a GREAT way to get certain stains out of your carpet. My son spilled fruit punch and try as I might I could not get that red out! So I looked online and found a solution!
    Soak the stain with a mixture of hot water and dish soap (just a few drops of soap!). Cover the stain with a clean, dry, white towel. Set your iron on high steam and simply iron over the towel. Believe it or not, the stain lifts right up into the towel and out of the carpet. Make sure you test it in a hidden spot first, just in case your carpet does not like the high heat! (thought for sure mine would melt, but it didn’t at all!)

  33. Can anyone give me ideas how to deal with the dirt that the dogs bring in? We have a combination of wood and carpeting throughout our home. We all wear shoes in the house because the dogs bring in so much stuff. The dogs staying outside isn’t an option, we have big (2 labs) city spoiled dogs.

  34. I could imagine insisting my guests, especially my parents or in laws, take their shoes off when they enter my home. I would rather vacuum after they leave that make them uncomfortable or risk their safety on hardwood steps throughout my home.

  35. I didn’t know that taking your shoes off wasn’t common in the US (i live in Canada). I can’t imagine having to shampoo my carpets all the time, my son and i are always playing on the floor!
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