Brushing Teeth on Shabbat

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Brushing Teeth on Shabbat


The Mishnah in Shabbat (73a) lists Memachaik as one of the avot melacha-scraping, removing a surface to leave a smooth remainder (sandpaper, scraping hairs off a piece of leather to make it smooth) Mimareach-smoothing not by eliminating surface, but by spreading something over the surface.[1]

  • Rav Moshe Feinstein [2] says that it’s definitely forbidden to use toothpaste because of mimachek, but without toothpaste it is allowed just like washing the rest of your body. Seemingly, Rav Moshe meant mimareach the toladah of mimachek. It is also possible that he meant mimachek in that you’re smoothing out your teeth by removing the plaque. Rav Soloveitchik[3] said removing dirt or plaque is certainly not mimachek just like washing dishes is permissible.[4] Mimachek is only when you’re removing something that is part of the essence of the object itself and plaque isn’t that. So they asked him maybe you remove enamel by brushing and he said that if that were true eventually you would have no tooth left from brushing.
  • Rav Ovadia Yosef says even paste is allowed.[5] This is based on the Magen Avraham (316:24) that says your allowed to smear spit on the ground, since if what your smearing gets totally absorbed, therefore its not a problem of mimareach. Similarly, toothpaste doesn’t stay there for a long time. His second proof is that the Rama (Orach Chaim 326:10) doesn’t say that the problem with using a hard soap is mimareach but instead says molid, because the soap only remains there temporarily.
  • Rav Soloveitchik agreed to this[6] He says that even though the ads claim to coat your tooth for 24 hours he wasn’t convinced this was true. And even if it is true, an invisible coating isn’t enough to assur it.[7]
  • The Tzitz Eliezer rules like Rav Moshe.[8] He says that its not same as Magen Avraham because the spit the whole purpose is to get it into the ground, but with the toothpaste there is a purpose in the smearing even if just for a minute. (He says there’s no shiur for how long it has to be there.)


The toothpaste becoming a foamy, more fluid liquid maybe a problem of molid. This problem is raised based on Rashi (Shabbat 51a) which says its asur to squeeze or crush ice on Shabbat because of molid.[9] Shulchan Aruch however holds like the Rambam saying squeezing ice is asur because it looks like squeezing fruit which falls under the category of sechita.[10]

  • Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss[11] prohibits brushing teeth with toothpaste based on this also.
  • Rav Ovadia[12] paskins like the Shulchan Aruch that Sephardim don't have to worry about molid. He adds that Ashkenazim should hold like the Rama and brushing teeth is forbidden for them.[13]
  • Rabbi Herschel Schachter[14] holds that even for Ashkenazim it should not be a problem because molid is solid to liquid not paste to liquid.


Rav Moshe Yonah Halevi Zweig raises the issue that it may be refuah on Shabbat. This is based on the Rambam who says that if you put a certain liquid in your mouth, it is prohibited to put it in if you have intention to heal, but if your intention is just for your breath then its ok. He says, that maybe since there's flouride and the brushing strengthens your teeth it may be asur. Rav Ovadia rejects this and says even if the toothpaste has flouride because even healthy people brush their teeth daily, and the gezeira of refuah doesn't apply to preventative refuah.[15]


Gemara (Shabbat 128b) says there’s no sechita in hair since it doesn’t absorb. Rambam (Shabbat 9:11) paskins like this. However, the Maggid mishnah there says he still holds its asur derabbanan.[16]

  • Rav Moshe and Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss say same with a toothbrush because the bristles are tightly packed and therefore you can’t use even liquid toothpaste and can’t wet it before.[17]
  • The Sridei Esh [18] culls a few reasons that we can be lenient with sechita with a toothbrush.
  1. Says sechita is not a problem because you're not intending to squeeze out the toothbrush so its pesik resha (a consequence that will automatically happen)dilo nicha leh (that he doesn't need) on a dirabanan.[19]
  2. He also says that since main issue involved is sechita (because of mifarek, which is a form of Dash) it is permitted since the water or toothpaste goes to waste when you're done. However, had the issue been libun, the fact that the water or toothpaste goes to waste afterwards wouldn't be enough of a reason to permit.[20]
  3. You can use a towel (Shabbat 147b) because if people go in they need to dry off and if you don’t let them dry off they cant wash and people cant live without washing, so too people suffer without clean teeth.
  • Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says that the first leniency is not true because the people are happy with the squeezing of the toothpaste because that's what cleans their teeth. He also rejects the second because the liquid doesn't go to waste until after it fulfills its purpose. However, he is still mekil with regard to sechita for brushing your teeth for the third reason.[21]

Uvdin Dichol

There is no clear definition of what uvdin dichol is. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman defines it as if you do something during the week that would be assur on Shabbat and then on Shabbat do the same actions with the same objects just a little differently.[22] Rav Moshe defines it as something that is an easily recognizable weekday activity even if it requires no melachot to be done.[23] Mishna Brurah (314:41) says that to use a vegetable grinder to grind eggs or cheese would be uvdin dichol. He also says in (303:87) that you can't use a comb even to lightly brush your hair to one side, but instead should get a special brush for Shabbat with soft bristles so its not uvdin dichol.

Minchat Yitzchak 3:50 and Rav Ovadia say that this would be a problem unless a special toothbrush is used.[24] Rav Schachter said intuitively he feels there’s no problem of uvdin dichol with brushing teeth.[25]


Brushing your teeth can cause the gums to bleed which is asur under the melacha of shochet.[26]

  • Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss says that this would be a problem with toothbrushes especially ones with hard bristles.[27]
  • Rav Ovadia says this isn’t really a problem because people usually don’t bleed, it only happens when you don’t brush often so its davar she’eno mitkaven if you do end up bleeding. And even if one does bleed often, then its pesik reshe its not nichah leh bidarabanan and there may be room to be lenient.


Gemara Shabbat (118a) says you can wash dinner and lunch dishes because you need it for the next meal, but you can’t wash dishes from seudat shlishit because that’s preparing for after Shabbat.[28]

  • Therefore, some say washing the toothbrush for the next day may be this same problem.[29]
  • Rav Ovadia, Rav Moshe, Chacham Benzion Abba Shaul all agree that washing the brush after would be asur.[30]
  • Rav Shlomo Zalman (28:81) says if you normally do something, and its no tircha you can do it on Shabbat, even if theres a benefit for the next day as long as you don’t specifically say its for the next day.[31]
  • Rav Schachter also allows this because people don’t clean it to have it clean for after Shabbat but because people don’t want dirty toothbrushes lying around.[32]

Halachic Summary

  1. Some poskim permit brushing one’s teeth on Shabbat, while some forbid doing so. Some poskim hold that if one does brush his teeth on Shabbat, he should use liquid toothpaste.[33]
  2. It is permitted to use mouthwash on Shabbat.[34]


Related Pages

  1. Halachipedia article on Brushing Teeth


  1. Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 11:5,6
  2. Sh"t Iggerot Moshe Orach Chaim, 1:112
  3. Nefesh Harav p. 168
  4. Gemara Shabbat 50a
  5. Sh"t Yabia Omer 4:30.
  6. Nefesh Harav 168.
  7. Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 83:15
  8. Sh"t Tzitz Eliezer(7:30:8). 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 373) also writes that using toothpaste is an issue of memarayach.
  9. (a dirabanan issur of changing form because it’s so creative it’s like a quasi-melacha.(Shu”t Maharal Diskin 66)
  10. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 320:9 based on Rambam Mishneh Torah Hilchot Shabbat 21:13. This same machloket applies to the permissibility of using a bar of soap. Shulchan Aruch (326:10) permits it, but the Rama there forbids it because of molid.
  11. Minchat Yitzchak (3:50)
  12. Yabia Omer OC 4:29
  13. Yabia Omer Orach Chaim 4:28
  14. Rav Schachter is quoted by Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz between 2:30 and 3:30
  15. Rabbi Zweig in Ohel Moshe (2:98) is quoted by yabia omer (Yabia Omer Orach Chaim 4:29) as comparing it to the Rambam in Hilchot Shabbat 21:24 which discusses the issue of refuah.
  16. Hilchot Shabbat 9:11 and Maggid Mishnah there, (Kesef Mishnah on Rambam 2:11, and Mishnah Brurah 330)
  17. Iggeros Moshe (1:112) and Minchat Yitzchak 3:48. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 373) agrees.
  18. Sridei Esh 1:30 (in 1999 Jerusalem version, and 1:28 in the older version)
  19. The source to be mekil in that case is based on Magen Avraham orach chaim (253:41) and Shu”t terumat hadeshen 64. However, Rama 316:3 disagrees with this assumption
  20. It is a problem of dash and not libun because the Magen Avraham Seif Katan 19 on shulchan aruch 320:15 says that if the garments main function is to absorb the liquid, (which a toothbrush is) then there is no concern that he will come to launder it). In that case, if the liquid goes to waste after violating dash, then it is permitted. (Shulchan Aruch Orach chaim 320)
  21. Rav Shlomo Zalman's opinion is written in a letter in response to the sridei esh that's quoted in Siman 34 of the Sridei Esh.
  22. Rav Shlomo Zalman Meor Hasshabbat Letter 2:2
  23. Iggerot Moshe 4:74
  24. Seemingly then Rav Ovadia would be using a definition of uvdin dichol other than the one's of Rav Shlomo Zalman and Rav Moshe, because for them there is no way to violate uvdin dichol on an action that's permissible during the week. Yalkut Yosef 326:15 writes that it is proper to be strict to get a Shabbat toothbrush to avoid uvdin dichol.
  25. Quoted by Rabbi Lebowitz, using the rule that the Chazon Ish said that the parameters of uvdin dichol are defined by the poskim of each generation (39 melachos, Introduction to Shabbos endnote 522).
  26. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 316:8, Mishna Brurah 30 Mishna Brurah 328:147; 39 Melochos, p. 893-94.
  27. Minchat Yitzchak 3:50
  28. Shulchan Aruch 323:6
  29. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 373)
  30. Iggerot Moshe 1:112, Yabia Omer 4:30, Or Litzion 2:253
  31. Shmirat Shabbat Kihilchitah 28:81(For example: you can bring your tallet home after shul, you can put a sefer back in its place, put a bottle of water back in the fridge) This can also be applied to a toothbrush (This point is raised by Yalkut Yosef 326: 27) although he disagrees.
  32. Quoted by Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz in an article on This is based on a psak by Mishna Brurah 302:19 which allows one to make one's bed on Shabbat for the same reason.
    • Memarei’ach: The Gemara (146a) states that if one smears wax in order to seal a barrel, he violates Memarei’ach, which the Rambam (Shabbat 11:6) explains is a Toldah of Memachaik (smoothing hides).
    • Rav Soloveitchik (quoted in Nefesh HaRav p. 168-9) held that Memarei’ach applies only if one smears a substance onto something else and it forms a new layer; however, the toothpaste dissolves within minutes and thus does not pose an issue of Memarei’ach.
    • Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 4:27) agrees. He supports this position from the Magen Avraham (316:24), who writes that Memarei’ach applies only if one wants to smooth one substance onto another, but not if one merely smears saliva on the ground in order for it to be absorbed. The Tzitz Eliezer 7:30:8 rejects this proof, because smoothing out the saliva doesn’t accomplish anything, but smoothing the toothpaste does serve to clean one’s teeth.
    • Rav Ovadia adds that perhaps it is similar to the Rambam (Responsa 339), who permitted using soap on Shabbat and was not concerned with Memarei’ach. Yet Mishna Brurah 326:30 quotes the Tiferet Yisrael, who thinks that there also is a prohibition of Memarei’ach in using soap on Shabbat.
    • Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe 1:112) writes that using toothpaste is a violation of Memachaik. Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz (“Brushing Teeth on Shabbos”) points out that most likely Rav Moshe meant Memarei’ach, as there is no scraping or sanding done to the teeth that would constitute Memachaik. Minchat Yitzchak 3:48 agrees.
    • Ohr Letzion (v. 2, 35:6) writes that Memarei’ach can be avoided using liquid toothpaste. While this seems to be the opinion of Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata (ch. 14 n. 49 and 102), it is disputed by Tzitz Eliezer (7:30) who argues that Memarei’ach can even apply to liquids.
    • Molid: The Gemara (Shabbat 51b) states that one may not crush ice in order to produce water on Shabbat. Rashi (s.v. Kedei) explains that it is rabbinically forbidden because the “creating” water is similar to a melacha. The Rashba (s.v. VeLi) however, argues that the prohibition is because it is similar to squeezing fruits.
    • The Rama 326:10 rules that it is forbidden to use soap on Shabbat because of Molid. Ginat Veradim 3:14 argues that not only according to the Rashba is it permitted, but even according to Rashi there’s no Molid, since the soap is nullified by the water and there isn’t any noticeable new formation. Yabia Omer 4:28 applies this logic to toothpaste. Menuchat Ahava (v. 2, p. 119) suggests that Molid may not apply in this case where the transformation isn’t visible since it happens in one’s mouth.
    • Rabbi Hershel Schachter (quoted by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz) says that there is an issue of Molid only when changing a solid into a liquid or visa versa, but not if one is changing a quasi-solid paste to a quasi-liquid foam. Ketzot HaShulchan (v. 7 p. 99) agrees.
    • Refuah: Rav Ovadia Yosef (4:29:16) explains that there is no concern of Refuah, since brushing one’s teeth does not heal or remove pain but rather prevents cavities and illnesses. He maintains that this is permitted not only according to the Beit Yosef 328:37, who permits a healthy person to take medicine, but even according to the Magen Avraham 328:43, who rejects the Beit Yosef’s position, because brushing teeth is not clearly a medicinal activity. Ketzot HaShulchan (v. 7 p. 99) and Ohr Letzion (v. 2, 35:6) agree.
    • Sechitah: Rav Moshe Feinstein (1:112) writes that it is preferable not to wet the brush to avoid the Melacha of Sechitah, wringing out a liquid from a solid. Rav Hershel Schachter (oral communication) holds that squeezing out hair is only d’rabanan since it appears like it absorbs liquid; bristles, however, are stiff and clearly don’t look like they absorb liquid. Seridei Eish 1:30, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Seridei Eish), and Rav Ovadia agree.
    • Uvda DeChol: Ketzot HaShulchan (v. 7 p. 99) writes that using a toothbrush is considered Uvda DeChol. Rav Hershel Schachter (quoted by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz), however, holds that there is no issue of Uvda DeChol. Rav Ovadia 4:30 says that it may be a tzorech Shabbat, in which case Uvda DeChol does not apply.
    • Hachanah: Rav Moshe writes that one should not clean off the brush after using it because there’s no use for it until after Shabbat. Yabia Omer 4:30 agrees. Rav Hershel Schachter (cited by Rabbi Lebowitz), though, permits cleaning the brush since people generally do so after brushing because it is unappealing to leave a dirty toothbrush lying around.
    • Chavalah: Minchat Yitzchak 3:48 writes that since it is hard to be careful not to make oneself bleed, one should not brush so as not to violate Chavalah. Rav Ovadia 4:29 writes that this is an issue only for someone who rarely brushes and almost certainly will bleed; otherwise, it is considered a davar she’eino mitkavein and is permitted.
  33. Be’eir Moshe 1:34:7 permits using mouthwash, as he maintains that Molid Rei’ach does not apply to a person’s body. Rivevot Efraim 2:115:23 agrees.
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