Cleaning oneself-With what?

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What should one use to clean himself if he lacks toilet paper?

Not to use rough materials: [1] One may not clean himself with earthenware [or rocks, or any material] which is not smooth [and have a rough surface[2]] as doing so is dangerous being that it can tear [or puncture[3]] the membranes of his rectum. [Rather only smooth rocks and other smooth materials may be used.[4]]

Smooth earthenware:[5] In today’s times it is permitted to clean oneself with smooth earthenware. [In the past when the bathrooms were out in the open it was not allowed to clean oneself with even smooth earthenware, as it could have been used for sorcery and had a spell placed on it. Today however that the bathrooms are in private areas, and thus the earthenware is not found freely in the open for the sorcerers to take, this is no longer restricted.[6]]

Grass; paper and flammable materials:[7] In today’s times it is permitted to clean oneself with flammable materials. Nevertheless [even today[8]] one is not to use dry plants, as they are sharp and tear the rectum. [In the past it was forbidden to clean oneself with any dry material which was flammable due to it being damaging to ones intestines. (Thus toilet paper would not have been allowed to be used in those times.[9]) Today however the custom is to use any smooth material, even if it is flammable, as it is viably seen that it does not damage.[10] Thus moist plants may be used, however dry plants may not be used as they are sharp and tear the rectum, as explained above.]

Not to use material that someone else already cleaned himself with?[11] One may not use material that someone else used to wipe himself with, as this can spread a disease (tachtoniyos). However if the fecal remnant is dry then it may be used. Similarly one may use the other side of the material that is still clean. If the material was used to clean ones own excrement, it may always be reused.


Using ones hands:[12] 

Not to use the right hand: One who [is not disgusted[13] and] uses his [actual[14]] fingers to clean himself may not use his right hand to do so, but is rather to use his left hand.[15] 

Not to use the middle finger:[16] It is proper[17] to be careful not to use the middle finger [of one’s left hand] to clean oneself.[18] [However in a time of need one may do so.[19]]

Lefty:[20] A lefty who [writes with his left arm[21] and thus] places his Tefillin on his right arm, using his left hand to tie it[22], is to wipe using his right hand.

Cleaning urine:[23] One may use any hand to wipe off drops of urine which dropped on him upon urinating.

Killing lice:[24] Similarly one may use any hand to kill lice.



May a woman use her right hand?

Many Poskim[25] rule that even women are not to use their right hand, just like the law by men. However there are Poskim[26] which are lenient. 


When cleaning oneself with toilet paper and the like may one use his right hand?

One may use any hand he desires.[27]


Should the right hand be avoided when doing other repulsive acts, such as cleaning a drain and the like?[28]

No. The Sages only required avoiding using the right hand upon cleaning fecal remnant and not by other actions.


When showering, may one use his right hand to clean his rectum area?[29]



[1] Kama 3/16; Basra 3/8

[2] Kama ibid: “And have small indentations”

[3] Basra ibid

[4] Siddur Seder Netilah: “In the times of the Mishnah they would clean with small smooth stones”

[5] Kama 3/16; Basra ibid omits this entire discussion and simply implies that smooth earthenware may be used.

[6] Kama ibid; Rama 3/11 and so rules: Elya Raba 3/9; Shaareiy Teshuvah 3/10;

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule one may not use earthenware even today. [See Bach; Olas Tamid 3/12; Birkeiy Yosef 3/6; Kaf Hachaim 3/25]

[7] Kama 3/16; Rama 3/11; Basra ibid omits this entire discussion.

[8] M”B 3/21; Kaf Hachaim 3/27; and so is implied from Admur here and 312/9 that the allowance and custom of today is only with regards to flammable materials and not regarding sharp, dry, grass.

[9] To note that as far as is known toilet paper only came into use in the 6th century, and did not reach Europe and Western civilization until the 1300’s. 

[10] Kama 3/16

[11] Kama 3/17; Omitted in Basra

[12] Kama 3/14; Basra 3/9; Siddur Seder Netilah: “One who is not disgusted and uses his actual fingers to clean himself may not use his right hand to do so, but rather should use his left hand. Also one may not use ones middle finger to clean being that it has the straps of the Tefillin wrapped on it. “

[13] Basra ibid; Siddur

[14] Basra and Siddur ibid; Omitted in Kama; The addition of this word novelizes that when wiping with toilet paper one may use any hand he desires. See Q&A!

[15] As one uses [the fingers of (Basra ibid)] his right hand to wrap the Tefillin onto his left. [Kama and Basra ibid] It is therefore not proper to use it to wipe oneself with. [Kama ibid]

[16] Kama 3/15; Basra 3/9; Siddur; based on Shlah brought in M”A 3/8; Elya Raba; Kitzur SH”A 4/5

[17] Lit. Tov

[18] As the straps of the Tefillin are wrapped on the middle finger. [Kama; Basra and Siddur ibid. All have differences of wording.]

[19] Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 14

[20] Kama 3/14; Basra 3/9; based on Taz 3/9; Yad Efraim; P”M 3 M”Z 9; Machatzis Hashekel; M”A 3/8; Kitzur SH”A 4/5; Kaf Hachaim 3/20

[21] Kama ibid; Thus even if one does all of his actions with his right hand, nevertheless if he writes with his left hand, this law applies. [ibid; and so is evident from Basra as rules M”A 3/8]

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that if one does all of his actions with his right hand then he is to wipe with his left, even if he wraps Tefillin on his right. [Peri Megadim 3 A”A 8; Levushei Serud; See also Elya Raba; Birkeiy Yosef 3/8; Shaareiy Teshuvah 3/9; Biur Halacha; Kaf Hachaim ibid]

[22] Basra ibid; brought in Kama ibid with change of wording

[23] Basra 3/9; and so rules: Elya Raba 3/8; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 14

[24] Basra 3/9; M”A 3/3; based on Gemara Shabbos 82a, see Kaf Hachaim  3/9

[25] Mor Uketzia; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 14; Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair; Aruch Hashulchan 3/8; See Kaf Hachaim 3/24; Shaareiy Teshuvah 3/9

[26] Machazik Bracha 3/9

[27] Based on Admur in Basra 3/9 and Siddur and so rules Siddur Yaavetz; Shaar Hakolel 1/5, Ketzos Hashulchan 4 footnote 7; Nimukeiy Orach Chaim 3/2; Ashel Avraham Butchach; Likkutei Mahrich; Rashbatz on Rif in Brachos [brought in supplements of Ketzos Hashulchan p. 82; See Tzitz Eliezer 7/2]


In Basra ibid and Siddur Admur writes: “One who uses his actual fingers to clean himself may not use his right hand to do so”. This clearly implies that the preference of using ones left hand over the right hand only applies when cleaning with his actual fingers and not when he uses toilet paper and the like. So understands in Admur: Kitzur SH”A 4/5 [in Lechem Hapanim]; Shaar Hakolel ibid; Ketzos Hashulchan ibid; Kaf Hachaim 3/22, and so rule all the Poskim listed above.

Other Opinions: There are Poskim that are stringent that one is to always use his left hand, even when wiping with a tissue or toilet paper. [Kitzur SH”A 4/5 in Lechem Hapanim; Kaf Hachaim 3/22] The Kitzur SH”A ibid strongly questions Admur’s ruling and rather concludes, as he implies from the Talmud, that even when cleaning with another item, such as toilet paper, ones right hand should not be used. The Shaar Hakolel and Ketzos Hashulchan ibid defend the ruling of Admur, explaining how this is proven from the Talmud.  [Note of Rebbe to Shaar Hakolel ibid: An argument against the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is also brought by the Munkatcher, in his Sefer Nimukeiy Orach Chaim.] [To note that they all mention the same argument against the Kitzur] The Ketzos Hashulchan writes in his supplements page 82 that he found a source for Admur from the Rashbatz.

Ruling of Admur in Kama: It is implied that in Kama 3/14 Admur learned that one may never use his right hand. This is implied from the fact that 1. In Kama he does not mention “one who is not disgusted” and 2. He does not emphasize the fingers. [unlike Basra and Siddur of which both of these matters are written]. This implies that Admur was referring to anytime that one wipes, even using a stone or paper. [See Shaar Hakolel ibid]

[28] Piskeiy Teshuvos 3/6

[29] Ashel Avraham Butchach 3

[30] As the issue with using the right hand is only when it contains feces.


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