by Rabbi Aaron Tendler
Lichvod Rav Tendler
Is there a problem on Shabbos – when the floor gets so dirty and filthy – to put a bit of water/ hot water/ or spray cleanser on a particular spot and wipe it clean with a towel or a paper towel. One could use just a bit of water or cleanser – so that it wouldn’t make the cloth or paper towel very wet at all. Is this mutar or oser? Can you please explain the halacha and the whys and hows of it – and also if this oser – can you explain a way to do it that would be acceptable?
I find that there are so many halachos of Shabbos that are not well known – and people end up making so many mistakes out of ignorance.
Thank you very much!
Name and Seminary withheld upon request
Thank you for your question. There are a few different situations that need to be discussed to properly answer this question:
1) It is best to avoid cleaning a floor on Shabbos unless absolutely necessary, because of the Halachic complications it will cause. If absolutely necessary, it would be allowed to use a Sponja stick (in America it’s called a squeegee), but care must be taken that the dirty liquid be “sponjaed” (did I just invent a new verb?) down a drain, and not in a manner in which it will drain onto the ground. Water and a bit of cleaner may be used as well, but no cloth should be used in the cleaning process. If there is some moisture left over, it may be blotted up as in the situation of a small spill below.
2) If there is a small amount of liquid that has spilled on the floor, in a manner that any cloth used to pick it up would not get so wet that a significant amount of water could easily be squeezed out of it, one may use a cloth or (pre-cut) paper towel to blot it up, but must be careful not to squeeze it when picking it up.
3) If a large amount of liquid has spilled on the floor, it is permitted to lay a cloth or towel on top of the spill, but it should not be picked up by hand, only with a pole (e.g. a broom handle) to prevent squeezing out the water. It is permitted to leave it there, even if people will walk on it. If one is using napkins or paper towels to blot up such a spill, it is permitted to pick them up with your hands and throw them in the garbage, since there is no concern that you might squeeze them out to reuse them.
For more information on this topic, please see Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso, Vol. 1 Perek 23 Halachos 6-7.
Rabbi Aaron Tendler
PS I am posting here an article which has previously run in Jem Sem that discusses other Hilchos Shabbos issues which you may find interesting and helpful.
Question: Although I know that Shabbos is supposed to be a time of Oneg and pleasure, I find that it becomes a time of discomfort for me because I’m unable to put on makeup, brush my teeth or hair, and properly wash up. It is also uncomfortable to do dishes in cold water and not be able to scrub them properly. Are there any tips that you can offer that may make Shabbos more pleasant for us? Thank you.
Answer: Thank you for your question. You bring up an excellent point in that Shabbos is supposed to be a pleasurable time, and it is important to realize that if it isn’t, it isn’t because Halacha makes it an uncomfortable time, but rather because people are unaware of how to do the things that would make them more comfortable in a permissible manner. We see that Chaza”l went out of their way to give us the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Neiros to minimize discomfort on Shabbos and thus increase Sholom Bayis. In this vein, I’d like to share with you some tips for doing the things you mention above on Shabbos.
1. Brushing Teeth on Shabbos
The Halachic issue involved in brushing one’s teeth on Shabbos is MiMareach- changing the toothpaste from a solid to a liquid while brushing. Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatz”al (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 1 Siman 112) states that it would be permitted to use a toothbrush with liquid on Shabbos, but not toothpaste. The correct way to brush your teeth, therefore, would be to put some water or mouthwash in your mouth, and then insert the brush (it sounds harder than it is!) and brush around. You should not insert the brush into the mouthwash and then into your mouth, this is forbidden Rabbinically because of Sechitas Saaros- just like we may not squeeze a liquid out of our hair. It is preferable that you have a special toothbrush set aside for Shabbos use. If your gums frequently bleed, it is still permitted to brush, but a soft brush should be used.
If you don’t have mouthwash available, you can squeeze some toothpaste into a cup of water and allow it to dissolve by itself. This is permitted even on Shabbos. Before Shabbos, you can actually stir it or shake it up, so that you will have your “homemade mouthwash” for use on Shabbos.
2. Brushing Hair on Shabbos
The Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 303:27) states that we may not use a hair brush or comb on Shabbos, as it is inevitable that some hair will be pulled out. However, the Rema there says that a person may use a soft bristle brush (“a pig’s hair brush”) to gently fix their hair, since it isn’t inevitable that hair will be pulled out in this manner. This is the kind of brush used for brushing a man’s felt hat, or polishing shoes. It is permitted to use such a brush (on your hair- not on the hat or shoes!) on Shabbos, but the brush should be designated only for Shabbos use.
3. Cosmetics on Shabbos-
Adding color to one’s face is not allowed on Shabbos because of Tzeviyah- dyeing. This is not allowed according to all opinions, even on a human being. A person may obviously put on makeup before Shabbos that will last throughout Shabbos, but there is no Hetter to apply colored makeup, even if it is in non-oil base and powder form, on Shabbos itself. Please see the Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, Chapter 15 footnote 158 for further discussion on this. Those who permit “Shabbat” cosmetics do so based on the assumption that women are so vain that they will put on makeup no matter what, and it is important to find the most permissible manner for them to do so. With all due respect, I take issue with them on this.
However, I would like to provide the following helpful hint for looking beautiful on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Chaza”l teach us…”Havei MiKabel Ess Kol HaAdam B’Seiver Ponim Yafos”, we should greet every person with a beautiful face. What should a person do if they aren’t beautiful? The answer is, there is no such thing as a person who is smiling who isn’t beautiful!! Therefore, if a person is concerned that they should look beautiful Shabbos morning, all they need to do is put on a big smile, and they’ll look great. Try it! It really works!!
4. Doing dishes-
The issues involved in doing dishes on Shabbos are the use of hot or warm water, scrubbing the dishes, and the type of soap used.
Regarding the water, if you would like to use warm water on Shabbos there are two ways that this can be done- one simpler than the other. The simplest way is to fill up a basin with hot water right before Shabbos, and cover it tightly, and put the dishes into it with soap after the Seudah, and after scrubbing them (in the manner we’ll shortly advise), rinse them off in the sink under cold water.
The second method is a bit trickier. The problem with using hot water on Shabbos is that when you turn on the hot water faucet, hot water flows from your boiler to your sink, and there is an intake of cold water which replaces the hot water. When this cold water flows into the boiler, it becomes hot, and therefore you are cooking it, and violating the Melacha of Bishul by using the hot water. In other words, the problem is not the use of the hot water, the problem is that you are causing cold water to flow into the boiler and be cooked. Many boilers have a valve which enables you to turn off the cold water intake. You should check with a plumber before doing this, but if you would close that valve before Shabbos you would be permitted to use hot water from your faucet on Shabbos for doing dishes and washing up.
We may not use a sponge or scrubber on Shabbos, because of Sechitah, as we mentioned above regarding a toothbrush. However, we may use a plastic pad which does not absorb liquid at all, i.e. if you would squeeze it after using it in liquid nothing would come out. My mother-in-law saves her onion bags for doing dishes on Shabbos, and they work perfectly!
Many have a Minhag not to use liquid soap on Shabbos, especially not the thick American kind, as they are concerned that when you scrub with it you are changing its form and liquefying it further. They are also concerned that creating bubbles might be problematic on Shabbos. However, even if you have such a Minhag, there is a simple way to take care of this. Dilute the soap- even on Shabbos- by pouring it into a cup or bowl of water- and then use it as you wish. Since it “liquifies” by itself, it is permitted to do this on Shabbos and subsequently use the diluted soap as needed. No bubbles are created if it is poured into the water, rather than running the water onto it. Even is some bubbles are created afterwards while you scrub the dishes, since it isn’t a thick lather it is not a problem.
This may also be done for liquid hand and facial soap.
Take care, and have a wonderful, enjoyable, and beautiful Shabbos!
Rabbi Aaron Tendler