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Chapter 122:9a
Between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'av

9a. Laundry should not be washed during these nine days [between Rosh Chodesh Av and Tish'ah B'av], not even a shirt or garment that one does not plan to wear until after Tish'ah B'av (1). It is even forbidden, [during these nine days], to give the garments to a Gentile for washing (2). A Jewish woman is allowed to wash clothing belonging to a Gentile (3). Within the week that Tish'ah B'av occurs, however, she should refrain from doing so (4).

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Washing one's laundry makes it look like one is taking one's mind away from a focus on mourning (Mishna Berura 551:21). The prohibition includes even washing bed linen, handkerchiefs, tablecloths and towels. The clothing of children who are at the age when they're constantly making themselves dirty, may be washed even during the week in which Tish'ah B'av occurs (Rav Shimon Eider: "A Summary of the Halachos of the Three Weeks")

(2) It is permitted to give the clothing to the Gentile before Rosh Chodesh Av, even if they will be washed during the week in which Tish'ah B'av occurs (Ibid.35).

(3) The prohibition against washing clothes is not because there is something intrinsically wrong with the act of washing (like there is on Shabbos), rather its purpose is to show an outward expression of mourning and to minimize joy, reasons which do not apply when one is washing the clothing of Gentiles (Ibid. 42).

(4) The problem here is "mar'is ayin," that is, people will think that she is washing her own clothing. Therefore, if she washes the Gentile's clothing in private, it is permitted. It is important to note that if people would suspect that one is violating a Biblical prohibition (as opposed to the prohibition of washing during the nine days, which was enacted by the Rabbis), then the act would be prohibited even in private (Sha'ar Hatziyun 551:44).

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