Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Have Toilet Paper on Shabbat

Taking on Shabbat observance will reveal details of your life that you have never considered before.

For instance, you take toilet paper for granted. I promise you do. But then someone (or a book or website) will tell you, "Oh, you can't tear toilet paper on Shabbat." And then you will be confused.

Rinse and repeat for most Shabbat "rules." This is why knowing other observant Jews is so important. They can help you learn the "tips and tricks" required to implement the halachot of Shabbat. But since toilet paper is a fundamental issue, let's discuss it here.

You have a couple of options:
  • Put out a box of tissues. Cheap, store-brand tissues are less likely to leave behind pieces when used as toilet paper.
  • Don't use tissues whose corners are connected (like a perforation). In that case, you can take the tissues out of the box ahead of time, separate them, and lay them in a pile on top of each other.
  • Pre-tear the toilet paper and place it in a basket/pile. (You can use a razor to cut a whole roll of toilet paper at once!)
  • In an emergency, you can tear it in an unusual way. I recommend an elbow or corner of a wall. Of course, this should not be your regular Shabbat method.
The problem is when you mindlessly reach for the toilet paper and tear it like normal. I recommend removing the toilet paper from where it normally sits. When you reach for the toilet paper and you're half-asleep, it won't be there.

Enjoy using the bathroom guilt-free on Shabbat! Don't bother trying to explain this to your friends and family. They will think you're insane.


  1. Forgive my ignorance, but why can't one use papers that are folded into one another?

    Is it possible you're thinking of packages where the separation is not 100% complete, but a tiny corner remains attached (perhaps to aid in popping up the next piece)? These, indeed, may not be used, as they will inevitably be torn during use (note: I haven't been in the US, but my understanding is that this is fairly rare these days).

    Another method for "tearing" without tearing is to use the toilet paper while attached, let a bit extra fall into the bowl, and flush normally. The water plus pressure will rip the toilet paper on its own. Without getting excessively graphic, one may not want to remove the paper from the bowl and leave it hanging, for reasons that should be obvious...

    This may have a halachic advantage, as the tearing will probably not be done on the perforations. There may be a reason to view this as less severe than tearing on the perforations, even in a non-normal way (elbows, etc)

    1. Originally posted: November 10, 2011 at 12:02 PM

      That must be it! I must have misunderstood the explanation. I've corrected the text above.

      And interesting tearing method. Sounds potentially messy. As for a "halachic advantage," the beauty of cheap toilet paper (which I also advocate) is that it tears pretty much everywhere.

  2. It's not really messy, but, like you said, "Don't bother trying to explain this to your friends and family. They will think you're insane." ;)

  3. I've found that the off-brand, or store-brand tissues often have the corners connected, which is a really annoying discovery on a 3-day Yom Tov, let me tell you.

    Target brand, however, has never caused a problem for me, nor have any of the name brands.

    Thanks for another informative post. :)