Question: Are baby wipes permissible for use on Shabbat?
Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed that one of the forbidden works on Shabbat is “squeezing,” such that squeezing fruits or garments saturated with water is forbidden on Shabbat.
Regarding moist baby wipes which are saturated with liquids, does using them on Shabbat pose any concern of squeezing? We must first establish that the concern regarding squeezing baby wipes on Shabbat is only on a rabbinic level, for according to Torah law, there is no concern of squeezing the wipes due to the minimal amount of liquid squeezed out of the wipe being less than the Torah-prescribed amount required to make one liable for this prohibition. Furthermore, even if there was a Torah prohibition when squeezing out even a small amount of liquid, nevertheless, the Torah prohibition of squeezing on Shabbat applies only when the liquid is being squeezed out of the object it grew within, such as oil out of olives and wine out of grapes where both entities were combined from their inception and squeezing them causes these two entities to separate from one another. On the other hand, baby wipes are not naturally saturated with the liquid they contain and thus, the prohibition to squeeze them is only the result of a rabbinic injunction. Thus, the discussion here is whether or not merely using baby wipes constitutes a rabbinic prohibition of squeezing on Shabbat.
Regarding baby wipes common today which, for the most part, are used to clean babies, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this matter at length and quotes several reasons for leniency in this regard, among them, the fact that these wipes are made from synthetic fibers to which the prohibition of squeezing does not apply, for this prohibition applies only to things which grow from the ground. (There are situations where it is forbidden to squeeze even objects which did not grow from the ground, however, we cannot delve into this at the present time.)
Moreover, Maran zt”l writes that based upon the opinion of the Tosafot (Ketubot 6a), the prohibition of squeezing applies only when one wishes to use the liquid being squeezed out of the solid; however, when the liquid immediately goes to waste, there is no concern of the prohibition of squeezing. Since following usage of the wipes, they are immediately disposed of in the trash and they retain no purpose whatsoever, this is certainly the case here. There is also no room to prohibit using such wipes out of concern for the prohibition of laundering on Shabbat, for on the contrary, as a result of using these wipes, they become soiled.
Based on all of the above reasons along with several others, Maran zt”l would always tell us that baby wipes were permissible for use on Shabbat. Later, when he wrote about this topic in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 4, he discusses this matter in even greater length and he concludes that there is room for leniency in this regard, especially regarding babies, as long as one is careful not to wipe hard so that liquid would be squeezed out. Rather, one should wipe gently, and, in this way, there is certainly room for leniency.
Summary: Baby wipes may be used on Shabbat and Yom Tov; however, one must make sure to wipe gently and not so hard so that there is no concern of the prohibition of squeezing.
Indeed, upon analyzing words of Maran zt”l, it is quite clear that this is not only permitted for babies, but also for anyone else, in cases of need. Maran zt”l verbally confirmed this with us several times.