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Baby Wipes on Shabbos

6 Adar II 5771
The Question:

Can one use baby wipes on shabbos in changing a baby?

Answer:

It is permitted to use baby wipes, provided one uses them gently, so that one will not actually squeeze out water.

Sources:
This question has been widely debated in recent times. Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (14:33, note 94) quotes from Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l that it is permitted to use baby wipes. Although some claim (Orchos Shabbos, Birur Halachah 7) that Rav Shlomo Zalman reversed his position, Rav Y. Noyvert has attested to the fact that a short time before his passing Rav Shlomo Zalman reiterated his lenient position on this matter, and the ruling appears in the new edition of Shemiras Shabbos (14:37).

Shevet Halevi (XIII, no. 59) writes that one may use the wipes gently, ensuring that no actual squeezing of the liquid in the wipes takes place. Yet, at the end of his response, he writes that he was shown that this advice is difficult to carry out, and out of concern for sechitah on Shabbos, he concludes that the wipes may not be used.

However, Rav Asher Weiss, in a still unpublished responsum, writes that after consultation with manufacturers of the wipes, he gathered that the liquid is primarily on the surface of the wipe rather than absorbed within it, and the wipe is actually made of special non-absorbsive material. Therefore, is used gently, one cannot say with any certainty that liquid will be squeezed from the wipe, and it remains a davar she’eino mitkaven, which is permitted.

Some authorities (see Orchos Shabbos, loc. cit.) brought scientific evidence that some liquid is always squeezed out of the wipe, but Rav Weiss argues that this is irrelevent to the halachic discussion, for our definition of “squeezing” does not depend on the scientific view, but rather on how the matter appears to the human eye, and because no squeezing can be discerned, it follows that it is permitted. He also adds a number of additional considerations that lean towards a lenient conclusion.


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