Claudia Winkleman sparks debate about asking guests to take shoes off in your home

Do you ask guests to remove their shoes in your home – and what do etiquette experts say about this request?

Claudia Winkleman
(Image credit: Getty Images / Mike Marsland / Contributor)

We’ve all got our own preferences for house guest rules in our homes – some of us like them to treat our home as their own, while others might prefer a bit of healthy distance during a visit.

Whatever your style, we can all agree that it’s important to be respectful when visiting someone else's home (so long as those guest bedrooms are up to scratch). But where do you stand on the issue of shoes in the house? It’s a hot button topic for sure, which Claudia Winkleman displayed when she unknowingly kickstarted a debate about the issue this past week.

So is it actually okay to ask people to remove their shoes when they visit – do you do it, and would you mind someone else asking you to do so? We also dive deep into whether it’s a good idea cleanliness-wise, too...

Shoe storage cabinets mounted on the wall in a hallway with a shelf of ornaments against a blue wall

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Should you ask guests to take their shoes off in your house?

Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman appeared BBC Radio 4’s 101 with Paul Merton earlier this week, and the pair got onto the topic of people asking guests to take their shoes off in their homes.

Sparking the debate, Claudia admitted that she doesn’t like being asked to take her shoes off in someone else's home, joking that 'It’s entirely selfish. I’m footwear and a fringe, there is nothing else.

'So if they ask me to take my shoes off, then what else is there? I don’t have anything else.'

Though we’re sure Claudia’s comments were pretty tongue-in-cheek, it clearly struck somewhat of a nerve with a few listeners, with a couple of them agreeing that they don’t like when people ask this.

Shoes and boots lined up in a hallway with floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

One listener agreed with her wholeheartedly, writing on Twitter, 'Claudia Winkleman complaining about people who tell you to take your shoes off when you go to their house *nods head off*', with another person saying that it, ‘Makes you feel like you’re 12.'

Here at Ideal Home, we can see both sides – it can be uncomfortable to be asked to take your shoes off in the hallway of someone else’s home, but for some, it may just be an issue of hygiene, or a desire to keep their carpets as clean as possible.

The request can also vary depending on the situation, too. You're unlikely to need to take your shoes off if you're just popping in for a quick drink, but it may be more acceptable for a longer stay, so long as there are sufficient hallway storage options.

We spoke to an etiquette expert, who explained that whatever the situation, it’s important to respect the rules of other people’s homes. Laura Akano, founder of Polished Manners, said, 'On arrival at another person's home, the onus is on the owner of the home to request that their guest should remove their shoes. And as a polite guest, you could also ask if a request is not made, especially if there are signs that this is the norm.'

Hallway with navy walls, bench, mirror and tile flooring.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'As a guest, it is important to respect the host's request to remove your shoes and not refuse, unless there are personal or medical reasons that mean you can't.'

In fact, Laura explained that you may not always know the exact reasons for the request, suggesting that it’s normally better to be polite. 'There are various reasons a host might request that you remove your shoes, such as allergies or for religious and cultural reasons.'

However, hosts should always make sure their guests are comfortable too, she said!

'A good host will ensure they provide shoe covers or brand new disposable slippers for guests. Or even better, they will inform their guests in advance so they can bring a pair of slippers or socks with them.'

White cupboard without a door

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Then there's the matter of whether or not it's a more sanitary option, too. A University of Arizona study actually found that potentially harmful bacteria was found on the inside and outside of 96% of the shoes they surveyed in their research, including E.Coli and even meningitis!

'Shoes are a common vehicle for bringing major contaminants into the home,' Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., MSPH and chair of the department of community, environment, and policy at the University of Arizona, confirmed.

But it's important to note that unless you have direct contact with the floor, this is unlikely to be too harmful – although we can probably all agree it's pretty gross. Time to get the best vacuum cleaner out, then!


 Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist and editor, now working in a freelance capacity specialising in homes and interiors, wellness, travel and careers. She was previously Lifestyle Editor at woman&home, overseeing the homes, books and features sections of the website. Having worked in the industry for over eight years, she has contributed to a range of publications including Ideal Home, Livingetc, T3,Goodto, Woman, Woman’s Own, and Red magazine