How Bad Is It Really to Never Wash Your Slippers?

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Your feet will thank you if you wash your slippers every now and then.
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If you have a trusty pair of slippers that you love, chances are you're wearing them every day. But when's the last time you actually washed them?

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Slippers that haven't seen the inside of your washing machine in a while might start to harbor some funky inhabitants, says Alissa Kuizinas, DPM, a podiatrist in Concord, Massachusetts. And in some cases, your feet or toenails could potentially pay an unpleasant price.

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The good news? You may not have to wash them as often as you think.

Read on to learn if it's bad to never wash slippers, and how often to wash your cozy house shoes.

Possible Effects of Never Washing Your Slippers

Unlike unwashed sheets or workout clothes, your dirty slippers aren't exactly a major biohazard.

But the longer you go without washing them, the more likely they are to house germs or irritants that could potentially affect the skin on your feet.

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"Slippers can harbor bacteria and fungus, which causes athlete's foot and fungal toenails, along with viruses that cause plantar warts," Dr. Kuizinas says.

Nasty germs aside, the insides of your slippers can also accumulate dead skin cells, dust or other debris that could potentially make your feet itchy or irritated, she adds.

Your likelihood of actually running into a problem depends on ‌how‌ you wear your slippers, though. If you tend you wear your slippers with socks, your risk of the above is low, as socks form a barrier between your feet and slippers.

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But if you're going sock-less, your feet are bringing more gunk into your slippers — and they're more prone to coming into direct contact with whatever stuff is already in the shoes, Dr. Kuizinas adds.

The situation might also get worse if you tend to have sweaty feet, as perspiration creates a warm and humid environment that allows infection-causing germs to thrive, she adds.

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Another thing to consider: If you wear slippers outdoors ‌and‌ indoors, you're likely tracking dirt and germs from outside onto your floors. That includes unhealthy bacteria like Staphylococcus and Clostridium difficile (or C.diff), according to a November 2016 study in the ‌Journal of Applied Microbiology‌.

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How Often Should You Wash Your Slippers?

It's a good idea to toss your slippers in the wash regularly. But what exactly does that mean?

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According to Dr. Kuizinas, "a good rule of thumb is to wash them when there is any visible debris or dirt, any malodor or any moisture present inside of the slippers."

That might mean once a week if you're going sock-less, sweat heavily or put your slippers on to grab the mail or take the dog out, for instance. Beyond that, you could probably get by with just a few washes a year (especially if you wear socks with slippers and never wear them outside), Dr. Kuizinas says.

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You don't necessarily have to mark your calendar, though. When they start to smell a little funky or look like they could use a wash, that's your cue to stick them in the laundry, she says.

Tips to Wash Your Slippers

Your slippers' fabric and construction will determine how you can launder them.

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A pair of suede or silk slippers, for example, aren't going to fare well in the washing machine, says Teresa Hunsaker, a family consumer science educator with Utah State University Extension. Inexpensive slippers made from terry cloth, polyester or cotton, on the other hand, are easy to wash in your regular cycle.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Check the Label

If the label says they're machine-washable, follow the instructions on the care tag. Chances are, "they can be laundered on a gentle cycle with warm water and regular detergent," Hunsaker says.

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2. Try Air-Drying Them

As for sticking slippers in the dryer? Again, the instructions on the care tag will offer the best advice.

Air drying is generally your best bet, as it will preserve the life of the fabric, padding and any glues used to hold the slippers together. If you must stick them in the dryer, use the low- or no-heat option.

3. Make Sure They're Fully Dry Before Use

Just be sure to let your slippers dry fully before putting them back on. Any moisture on the inside can encourage germ growth, Dr. Kuizinas says.

4. Invest in an Easy-to-Clean Pair

If you've realized your slippers are tough or impossible to wash, consider investing in a pair that are a little easier to clean. A great option are the Allbirds Wool Dwellers, which are cozy, can be tossed in the wash and air-dry quickly.

Another comfy, inexpensive pair are the Dearfoams Washable Memory Foam Clog.

So, How Bad Is It Really to Never Wash Your Slippers?

While it's fairly harmless to let your slippers go a little while without a wash, the answer really depends on how and where you wear your slippers.

"If you always wear socks with slippers, they never get wet and there's no visible debris, the risks [with never washing them] are probably pretty low," Dr. Kuizinas says.

"But if you wear them without socks, perspire a lot or get them wet, the risk [for fungus and bacteria] becomes substantially higher," she adds.

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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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