Shaatnez Inspection Service of Seattle
Since 1972
Are your clothes free from both 
wool and linen together?
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Rabbi Chaim Tatel
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Inspection Fees:
Shaatnez removal:
Rates: as of 1 Jan 1997

Explanation of  Shaatnez:

One of the most misunderstood and neglected commandments we find in the Torah appears twice. Although the High Priest's vestments were made from a combination of linen and wool, and tzitzis are permitted to be made from linen and wool, Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 21:11 both tell us that it is forbidden to wear a piece of clothing which combines wool (from sheep) and linen (from flax) in the same garment. The Torah calls this "SHAATNEZ." The Torah doesn't tell us why we're not supposed to wear SHAATNEZ; it just says, "Don't do it."

"Don't do it" laws work pretty well at home when we tell our children, "Don't do it." If they ask, "Why not?" and we answer, "Because I said so," chances are pretty good, they will still obey our command. For modern Jews, however, who sometimes expect REASONS for following Halachah, "Don't do it" commandments are frustrating.

They were frustrating for our rabbis as well. Just as our children try to figure out why we've said, "Don't do it," our rabbis tried to figure out the Torah commandment against wearing wool and linen in the same garment. Even though they weren't always satisfied with their reasons for "Don't do it" commandments, THEY FOLLOWED THE COMMANDMENTS ANYWAY. When the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they said: "Na'aseh VeNishma!" (We will do and we will hear) They agreed to keep the mitzvos even though they may not understand the reasons for them. This is the mark of the Jew - do the mitzvah first, figure out why later.

(Our children frequently try to find a reason for our "Don't do it" so they can get around doing what we've ordered....)

See if you can think of a reason for the commandment, "Don't mix wool and linen in one garment."

Again, let me emphasize that we DON'T REALLY KNOW WHY SHAATNEZ IS FORBIDDEN, but it here's an idea that may help us understand a little about it: Elsewhere in the Torah, we are forbidden to mix different kinds of seeds together to create new foods. We're forbidden to graft one kind of fruit tree onto another to make a new kind of fruit. We're forbidden to breed different kinds of animals together to make new kinds of animals. I think these all have something in common: they hint that we don't think the world is perfect the way it is.

Imagine painting a picture. Your friend looks, ask, "How do you like my picture?" Your friend looks, smiles, and says, "It's terrific! It's perfect!" You smile. Then your friend picks up a brush and says, "Well, how about if you put a little yellow here (dab) and some blue here (splash), and some green, no red, over here (splish)." How would you feel?

Well, that's the way we Jews view the world. We say, "The earth is G-dís and everything in it." G-d created everything, and, when G-d was finished, everything was COMPLETE, finished, perfect.

By making new kinds of plants, new fruit, new animals, and new materials, our rabbis say we're insulting G-d. We're permitted to create synthetic materials (polyester is OK), but we're not allowed to tinker with natural materials. So Shaatnez became an important mitzvah, commandment. They didn't want to go around insulting G-d, right? So they carefully checked their clothes to make sure they didn't contain Shaatnez.

This theory is emphasized by the specific prohibition against linen and wool. These two substances are the extremes of the fiber spectrum. One comes from an animal, the other from a plant. Wool is the warmest of natural fibers; Flax is the coolest. While in practice, many garments do not have any Shaatnez and may be assumed to have none, the particulars vary by garment type. The padding in many garments such as suits or the embroidery thread, such as designs on sweaters (men's and women's) may cause shaatnez problems. The padding filler in many suits is made of assorted rags which may be mixed linen and wool in themselves (so it is not just a worry of linen threaded padding in a wool shell suit).

Well, how do you check to see if you're wearing Shaatnez?

You could look at the label in your clothes to see what they're made of (careful: lana/lino is Spanish for wool/linen). If the fabric list shows a forbidden mixture, don't bother, you probably can't get it fixed. If the label shows "other" it may or may not be linen. The problem is, even if the label says everything is OK (i.e., 100% wool, no Shaatnez), you can't be sure. Labels don't have to list EVERYTHING that's in a garment; they usually refer only to the shell (and ignore padding or ornamental threads). The label can only be used to identify garments that definitely have shaatnez. Thus if the label indicates that the suit (for example) can be good, take it to the Shaatnez Inspection Service of Seattle for testing

What is the process?

Inspection usually takes 30-45 minutes per suit. Samples are taken from several places, including the collar, inside canvas, button threads and holes, sleeve tape, and others. The samples are checked by several methods to verify their content. They are then sent to the Shaatnez Lab in NY for confirmation. Response time is usually 7-10 days.

If a suit is OK, you will be told immediately. If there's a question, you'll have to wait for a card from the NY office for the final answer. If Shaatnez is found in the collar, it can usually be removed. This requires removal of ALL linen fibers. This takes an extra 45 - 60 minutes. You will be given a verified non-linen stiffener. You then have to take the suit to a tailor for restoration.

Where is Shaatnez usually found?

Collar stiffener, button threads, inside canvas, waistband, and other places.

What types of clothing have to be checked?

Men's and women's suits and sportcoats
Winter coats
Wool pants
Linen shirts (there may be wool somewhere)

What types of clothing DON'T have to be checked?

Synthetic material parkas
Cotton shirts

What if I have two suits from the same manufacturer? Can I test one and trust the other?

NO! Many manufacturers use material from many suppliers. Two suits with the same brand may be made in different factories, sometimes in different countries. The kosher status of one does not reflect on any other.