Slippers that are specifically meant for use in the bathroom might be an entirely new concept for you especially if you are used to keeping your shoes on around the house. However, bathroom slippers are actually more prevalent than you might expect, and it might even help to know how to use them when you visit countries such as Japan where they are a must-have in many households. Here is what you need to know about bathroom slippers and how they are used.
What are bathroom slippers? As the name suggests, bathroom slippers are a type of footwear that are designated to be worn in the bathroom only. These slippers are typically placed at the entrance of the bathroom so that they are not confused with other slippers that may be worn within the home.
In Japan, bathroom slippers, otherwise known as toilet slippers are common in private homes as well as hotels, restaurants, and some business premises. They are often labeled with the word “Toilet” or with toilet icons. If you have your house slippers on, you are required to remove them and put on the toilet slippers in order to use the toilet area. Once you are done, it is important to remember to slip off the toilet slippers and put your house slippers back on. In many Japanese homes, the toilet area is usually separate from the bathroom. As a result, it is not acceptable to wear toilet slippers in the shower/bath area. In other parts of the world, bathroom slippers are commonly used in communal shower spaces to protect the feet from grime and potential infections.
You can look at bathroom slippers in two different ways: special footwear that you might be required to wear in some Japanese homes or hotels, and footwear that you might wear while using a communal shower for hygienic purposes.
Japanese bathroom slippers
In Japanese culture, bathroom or toilet slippers are restricted for use in the toilet area. The main purpose for this is to ensure that the dirt that tends to accumulate at the bottom of the slippers is not spread to other pairs of the house.
Toilet slippers are worn in a good number of homes and even some restaurants/businesses. They are usually found sitting at the entrance to the bathroom. In traditional restaurants, they are even clearly marked “Toilet” as a reminder. The use of toilet slippers in Japanese homes furthers the cultural purpose of not wearing shoes indoors- in theory, they confine the dirt and germs to the toilet.
In the beginning, you may have trouble remembering to slip on the toilet slippers before using the bathroom as well as slipping them off once you are done, but a few looks of disapproval and pity from your hosts for committing this cultural faux pas, it will become second-nature.
The bathing room in Japanese homes is extremely revered, and the hygiene is of utmost importance. Therefore, wearing toilet slippers should under no circumstances be worn in the vicinity of the bathtub.
If you end up forgetting to remove the toilet slippers once you get out of the bathroom and someone sees you, consider bowing politely and saying “sumisasen”, which basically means pardon me/excuse me and return them to their rightful place. Most hosts are understanding, and they will likely shrug it off as long as you don’t go overboard. To make it easy for the next person who plans to use the toilet area, consider leaving the toilet slippers in a convenient and noticeable spot or exactly where you found them so that they are easy to slip on. Furthermore, by putting the slippers in a visible spot after using them helps to indicate that the room is not occupied.
You might find the culture of sharing slippers with people you don’t know too well a little strange, but since socks or indoor slippers are typically worn within the home, you don’t have to worry about your feet touching the inside of the slippers- unless you opt to do otherwise.
What are shower sandals?
Shower sandals are footwear that you might use in a bathroom if you use the shower with roommates, and especially if you take a shower at the gym or in a dorm.
Communal showers and potential disease
Showers are considered to be areas where you go to get clean. Communal showers found in college dorms and at gyms may seem clean if you are not too keen. However, the average stall shower may contain just as much bacteria as an average public toilet. Dorm showers are also similarly filthy.
Therefore, showering barefoot puts you at risk of nasty diseases such as athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections. In addition to this, you may also be exposing yourself to more harmful bacteria that could result in everything from flu to staph infection. These types of bacteria are able to survive and thrive even in the cleanest communal shower. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that a busy shower in a standard college dorm or gym is not cleaned every time that it is used. As a result, even when the shower is cleaned and disinfected at the beginning of the day, it is re-infected within a few hours.
Therefore, one of the ways you can protect yourself when using a communal shower is by wearing shower sandals at all times, both when you are making your way to the shower as well as when you are actually using it. To avoid the spread of bacteria, you may be better off using these slippers strictly in the bathroom only.
Factors to take into consideration when purchasing a shower sandals
- Slip-resistant – Everybody, at one point or another, has slipped in the shower at least once or twice. This may be as a result of being barefoot or wearing flimsy footwear such as flip flops that offer little to no traction. Falling in the shower can be potentially dangerous, and it can also cause a nasty bruise to form. Opt to wear shower sandals to avoid such risks.
- Water resistance – A good pair of shower sandals should be water resistant as well. Sandals that have this feature don’t take too long to dry after they have been used in the shower, and as a result, this prevents them from potentially becoming breeding grounds for bacteria themselves.
- Durability – Look for shower sandals that are durable. As a gym goer, a college student, or someone with a roommate, chances are that you will be using the sandals on a daily basis. Using sandals that are of low quality or poor construction may be problematic, especially when they break while you are in the middle of a shower. The best types of shower sandals are those that are designed to be used for the long term, so you will want to go for a pair that is of good quality.
- Comfort – Comfort is always important when choosing any type of footwear, including shower sandals. Since you will likely be wearing the sandals on a daily basis, they might cause blisters to your feet if they are too tight or the material of the shoe roughly rubs against your feet. Furthermore, if you are a college student, the walk from your dorm rooms to the showers and back may be a lengthy one, so comfortable shower sandals are of utmost importance.
Types of shower sandals
Some of the most common bathroom slipper options are:
- Slides – These are shower slippers that can be worn by both men and women. They offer a convenient way to protect your feet, and they dry quite quickly after having been used. There are a lot of designs and colors to choose from, so you are highly likely to find a pair that will suit you.
- Crocs – Crocs are a design of clog slippers that strategically placed holes to allow water in so that you can clean your feet. They are less likely to slip off when you have them on. Additionally, they are generally more secure and easier to walk in, particularly on floors that are already wet and slippery, as is often the case in a busy gym or a college bathroom. Croc clogs are also lightweight, making them easy to walk around in even when there is a lot of water.
How to care for your shower sandals
Over time, grime builds up on your shower sandals, so it is important to keep them clean. Here are a few tips on slipper maintenance.
- Check the label to see if they are machine washable. If they are, toss them in at the right temperature and opt to use a short, slow spin.
- Alternatively, you can also wash them by hand using a soft brush and soapy water.
- Avoid wringing the slippers as a way of drying them – this will cause them to lose their shape. Instead, wipe them dry using a towel.
- Use bicarbonate of soda as a refresher to keep unpleasant odors at bay. Simply sprinkle some of it in the slippers and leave for a few hours before rinsing them.
Whether they are being used in Japan homes to keep bacteria from the toilet from spreading to the rest of the house or as a way to protect feet from the often grimy floors of common showers, bathroom slippers, or shower sandals may be just what you need to maintain hygiene and keep your feet healthy.