There is much discussion as to whether one may use baby wipes on Shabbat. The primary concern is that one may violate the prohibition against sechita, squeezing. On Shabbat it is forbidden to squeeze liquid that is absorbed in a cloth, or any solid material for that matter. There is also a concern that using the wipes might also be a violation of the melacha of melaben, laundering.
A number of authorities forbid the use of baby wipes on Shabbat due to the concern for sechita. This is because wiping the baby causes the absorbed cleansing liquid, which is intended to clean the baby simply and thoroughly, to be extracted. The wiping motion, therefore, is a form of squeezing. According to this approach, since the wiping is intended to extract and make use of the liquid that is absorbed in the wipe, it is a violation of the melacha of mefarek (of which sechita is a sub-category) and is forbidden accordingly.1
Other authorities are more lenient and permit the use of baby wipes on Shabbat.2 Among the reasons for this is that the prohibition against squeezing does not apply when the extracted liquid is insignificant, rendered useless, or is essentially unintended.3 Also, many companies manufacturing baby wipes claim that the wipes are manufactured with the objective that the soapy liquid remain on the surface of the wipe and not be overly absorbed into it.4 This is intentionally done so that unnecessary pressure is not put on the baby in extracting any of the cleansing liquid.5
As mentioned, there is also a concern that using baby wipes might be a violation of the melacha of melaben, laundering. This is because when one squeezes a clear liquid out of a cloth or garment, one is essentially laundering the garment in the process. Nevertheless, most authorities dismiss the concern for melaben with regards to baby wipes. Among the reasons for this is the “paper towel precedent.” It is permissible to use a wet paper towel to clean a surface on Shabbat and there is no concern that one may “launder” the paper towel in the process. This is especially true since the paper towel is dirtied in the process of using it, and as a result, it is quickly thrown away.6 This parallels the use of baby wipes, which are certainly soiled in the course of their use and quickly disposed of.
There are additional considerations for ruling leniently on the issue of using wipes on Shabbat, especially with regard to babies and children. Indeed, many authorities strongly encourage cleaning oneself after a bowel movement with a liquid medium for added cleanliness.7 It is reported that Rav Moshe Feinstein permitted the use of all brands of baby wipes on Shabbat.8 Many contemporary authorities rule similarly,9 although a number of others rule stringently.10 While stringency might be commendable, those who use baby wipes on Shabbat certainly have what to rely on.
- Minchat Yitzchak 10:25; Shevet Halevi 8:23.
- Har Tzvi 1:190; Yalkut Yosef 320:38; Ohr Yitzchak 171; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 14 note 94.
- See for example Seridei Aish, OC 30.
- The ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein cited in The “39 Melachot” by Rav Dovid Ribiat, ‘dosh’ note 137.
- The “39 Melachot” by Rav Dovid Ribiat, p. 353 and ‘dosh’ note 137.
- Igrot Moshe, OC 2:70; Rivevot Ephraim 6:194:3.
- Shulchan Aruch HaRav, OC 3:8; Beir Heitev, OC 3:16; Ben Ish Chai, Vayeitzei 11; Mishna Berura 3:31, 76:18; Kaf Hachaim, OC 3:35, 76:26.
- Rivevot Ephraim 6:194:3.
- Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata Chapter 14 note 94; Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 320:38; Peninei Halacha 14:6; She’eilat Shlomo 3:114.
- Minchat Yitzchak 10:25; Shevet Halevi 13:59. See also Rivevot Ephraim 7:118.