What is the halachic status of a bathroom today? If I walk into a bathroom, say to get a tissue, do I have to wash my hands?

Answer:

The status of today’s bathroom is the subject of a dispute among authorities.

One can be lenient in the matter, and there is no obligation to wash after entry – though some are careful to wash.

Sources:

The question of ruach ra’ah in today’s bathrooms is discussed by several poskim. The Gemara writes it is permitted to speak divrei Torah in Persian toilets, which are not sullied, and some write that this applies to an even greater extent to our toilets. Others wish to defer the proof, but it nonetheless appears that our toilets do not have the same status as those of Chazal. This is especially true for bathrooms in which there is also a bath, a mirror and sink, and so on, which are used for several purposes, and not specifically for bathroom use.

In addition, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (cited in Mikra’ei Kodesh, Yom Kippur, p. 157, note 17) stated that there is no need today to be particular for halachos of ruach ra’ah that are not mentioned in the Gemara. Although he was referring to the halachah of walking 4 amos before netillas yadayim in the morning, the same can be applied here, with regard to netilas yadayim after entering a bathroom.

Because of these factors, some poskim write that one can actually wash netillas yadayim in a bathroom, though several write that where possible, it is better not to do this.

See: Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 17:4; Minchas Yitzchak 1:60 (explaining why it is permitted, but concluding that one should not be lenient under ordinary circumstances); Beis Shlomo 18; Levush Mordechai 182; Eretz Tzvi 110.

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