Is It Rude to Ask Guests to Take Off Their Shoes When Entering Your Home?

Here's how to make sure both you and your guests feel good about your "no shoes" policy.

boot tray for home entrance
Photo: Kirsten Francis

There are many reasons to have a "no shoes" policy in your home—cleaner floors and better health, to start. But does asking your guests to take theirs off as soon as they cross your threshold cross the line? Liz Bryant, president and founder of Liz Bryant Business Etiquette in Richmond, Virginia, shares her tips on when—and how—to ask your visitors to remove their shoes so that each one feels like welcome guest (and not someone on their way through airport security).

Give advanced warning.

Your ultimate goal when hosting guests is to make them comfortable and welcome, but when your first order of business upon their arrival is asking them to remove their shoes, they might not feel that way. To avoid that initial awkward shuffle at the door, Bryant suggests letting company know ahead of time that your home is a shoe-free place. To keep this friendly, your request should be light, she says: "Something simple like, 'We have a no-shoes policy here at our house, so when you come over please bring your favorite slippers or comfy socks' works."

Set up a changing station.

If you are going to ask your guests take off their shoes, give them a comfortable place to do so. "Make sure you have a place near the front door where guests may sit to change their footwear," she says, adding that there should also be a convenient spot for storing shoes. The last thing you and your guests want is to have to try and wrangle their way through piles of discarded footwear.

Bryant also suggests keeping a supply of single-use slippers on hand so that your shoeless guests feel more at home. "They can be used when someone forgets the 'no-shoes' policy, if they arrive with muddy boots, or if they stop by unaware of the rules of the house," she says.

Think about the type of event you're hosting.

If the event you are hosting is more formal, guests may be reluctant to take off shoes that are part of their attire. "I would host such an event elsewhere or, if an outdoor space at your home is appropriate, use that so guests may keep their shoes on," Bryant says.

Always be gracious.

If you failed to let your guests know that you have a no-shoe policy in your home because you did not decide you had one until someone shows up with dirty footwear, asking your friend to take off his or her shoes may feel rude—especially if the rest of your guests are still wearing theirs. To avoid feeling like your request is out of line, or making your friend feel singled out, Bryant says to frame your shoes-off request in a way that makes you sound helpful, instead of worried about your flooring: "Use language such as, 'Oh my, we really must do something about that mud puddle out front. Let me take those shoes from you so you'll be comfortable during our visit.'"

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