From the Rav’s Desk: Drying one’s hands on his shirt on Shabbos

  1. Question: [Thursday, 2nd Sivan 5781]

If my hands are wet and I don’t have a towel, may I wipe my hands on my shirt on Shabbos?


In general, it is best to use a towel for wiping one’s hands on Shabbos. [This is in addition to the general adherence even during the week to never wipe one’s hands on one’s clothing after washing for bread due to that it leads to forgetfulness.] Nonetheless, if a towel is not available, then it is permitted for one to wipe his hands on his shirt or other clothing which are clean. However, initially it is best for one to shake the water off his hands before he does so [and this applies even prior to wiping one’s hands on a towel]. One may not dry his hands on an area of the clothing that is dirty and thereby clean the clothing in the process.

Explanation: In general, it is forbidden to wet clothing on Shabbos, and cause them to get wet, due to both the laundering and squeezing prohibition, as the mere wetting of an item is considered laundering according to many Poskim, and as well we suspect one may come to squeeze the water out of the clothing and transgress the squeezing/Mifareik prohibition. Nonetheless, it is permitted to do so for the sake of drying oneself, such as to dry one’s hands after washing them, or to dry one’s body after Mikveh. The reason for this is because the act of drying is not considered an act of cleaning but rather an act of dirtying. [Nonetheless, it is initially proper for one to shake the water off from his hands and body in order to diminish as must as possible the wedding of the garment.] Likewise, the sages never decreed against drying oneself on Shabbos even on clothing that one in general is particular against getting wet, being that this is a decree that the congregation cannot uphold, as it would in essence prohibit bathing on Shabbos. Nonetheless, we conclude that in order to negate the worry of squeezing completely, it is initially best to use an item designated for getting wet and hence one will not be particular to squeeze it, such as a hand towel. However, if it is not available then certainly one may wipe his hands on his clothing. This, however, only applies if one’s clothing is clean, however, to wipe one’s hands dry on a stain on one’s clothing, and thereby also clean the stain in the process, is forbidden.

Sources: See regarding wiping ones hands on clothing on Shabbos: Admur 301:60 from where it is implied that one may dry his hands on even clothing that are not designated for this purpose, such as a shirt, although he concludes that it is best to use a designated garment such as a towel; 302:21 that it is permitted to dry ones hands on a towel or on clothing that has urine on it being that this is considered a way of dirtying and the not a way of cleaning, although it is best to shake the water off the hands prior to drying. Likewise, he states there that this allowance only applies if through the act of drying ones hands one does not clean away a larger dirt such a feces; 302:23 that one may dry his hands even on a garment that one is particular to not get wet, as the sages never decreed against it; See Tehila Ledavid 301:45 and 302:11 The following Poskim are all lenient as rules Admur: Elya Raba 302:26 and 33; Ran Shabbos 62b; Sefer Hateruma 244; P”M 302 A”A 22; Tosefes Shabbos 302:32; M”B 302:51; Kaf Hachaim 302:77; Piskeiy Teshuvos 302:24; The following Poskim are stringent: M”A 302:22, brought in M”B and Kaf Hachaim ibid [unlike M”A 301:58 regarding a towel after bathing that it is only proper to be stringent]; See regarding not to dry ones hands on one’s shirt when washing for bread: Admur 158:18; M”A 158:17; Tashbeitz 287; Elya Raba 158:23; Soles Belula 158:2; P”M 158 A”A 17 questions whether this applies only to a shirt or to all clothing; Yifei Laleiv 158:10 writes that based on Horiyos 13b it seems that it applies to all clothing; Kaf Hachaim 158:87

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