Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Soaking cloth pads on Shabbat

12 December, 2006

Question:

As a child, I was taught that on Shabbat and Yom Tov it was within Halachic boundaries to leave lights on in some rooms before sundown so we would not be in the dark. Since we would not be turning appliances on and off, we would not be violating Torah law.

As an adult, I've applied the same theory to my use of cloth pads. On Friday afternoon, I fill a large container with clean, cold water. If I need to soak my pad, I simply remove it and place it in the container – it's no more work than removing a disposable pad and placing it in the trash. Then on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, I rinse and wash them.

The trick to this is to have a large supply handy, but no matter how large the supply, it's gentler on the earth than filling up landfills with disposables!

I never thought to consult my rabbi about this, though. Is it reasonable to believe that I'm adhering to Halacha, though?


Answer:

We understand that you have been making every effort to adhere to halacha.  However, the practice you describe is not permissible on Shabbat.  Placing a garment in water to soak during Shabbat is sheriyah (soaking), an action prohibited in the context of the melachah (category of forbidden labor) of melabein (laundering).  It is not permitted even if you will not touch the garment again until after Shabbat, even if there is no soap in the water, and even if the water is cold.

This case is not analogous to that of passively leaving lights on, since here you are actively placing the cloth pads into the water.

Instead, we suggest depositing soiled cloth pads in an empty container and washing them after Shabbat.


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