As we saw above (section 3), Kibus is generally accomplished using water or other cleaning agents. However, even when one does not use water, one may not remove stains from clothing via scrubbing the way one does when washing. One may, however, remove a stain using a shinui. There are two types of stains: mild stains and serious stains. Mild stains may be removed using a minor shinui. When necessary, serious stains may be removed using a major shinui. Let us explain.
A mild stain is one that would not prevent the clothing’s owner from wearing it in public. The Sages forbid removing such a stain by scrubbing it in the way one normally would when hand-washing it. However, one may remove this kind of stain by scrubbing it in an unusual way. Therefore, one may try to remove the stain by scratching it with a nail or a knife. After taking a brief break of a few seconds’ duration, he may scrape at it again. This is because as long as he stops between attempts, this does not resemble scrubbing clothing to wash it. Similarly, one may remove the stain with one rub of a dry rag or handkerchief. If necessary, after pausing for a few seconds one may rub the stain with the rag a second time. As long as the scrubbing is not constant, it is not considered the normal way to wash clothing.
If the stain is so severe that one would not wear the stained clothing publicly, the stain may not be removed by scraping it or rubbing it with a rag, because that is exactly how one would remove such a stain during the week. There are even Rishonim who maintain that doing so is prohibited by Torah law. If, however, a major shinui is used, the poskim disagree whether there is still a rabbinic prohibition to remove the stain. If necessary, we rely on the opinion of those who are lenient. Therefore, at a time of need, such a stain may be removed with a major shinui. For example, one could rub the stained clothing that he is wearing against a door, closet, or bed. Alternatively, if he is wearing the stained clothing, he may rub or scrape away the stain by taking the sleeve with the stain and using the other unstained sleeve to rub or scrape it off in a way that does not resemble normal scrubbing. If the stain is thick, most of it may be removed by scraping it with a nail or a knife, or by rubbing it with a rag, as long as the entire stain is not removed this way. The rest must be removed with a major shinui.
One whose clothing gets dusty may not remove the dust in the normal fashion by shaking out the clothing, hitting it, or rubbing it. However, one may flick the clothing with one’s finger, as this is a major shinui. When a couch is dusty, however, one may beat it to remove the dust. Since a couch is not considered clothing in which one is embarrassed to be seen, beating the dust out is not considered Kibus. However, one may not scrub the couch in the way one normally cleans it.
If something unwanted is resting on a garment but not attached to it in any way, it may be removed. Therefore, one may remove a feather, cotton, a thread, or the like from clothing (Rema 302:1; SSK 15:33).
Let us return to the case of a stain that the owner is particular about. During the week, one would remove it by scraping. Therefore, according to the stringent position, this is prohibited by Torah law. Since this is a case of uncertainty about a matter of Torah law, we are stringent (see BHL loc. cit. citing Behag; SSK 15:27). However, if one uses a major shinui, such as rubbing the stained clothing that he is wearing against the door, then even those who are stringent would agree that the prohibition is now only rabbinic. According to those who are lenient, since this act of rubbing is not a normal act of Kibus, it is permitted. One may rely upon this ruling since it is the majority opinion, the disagreement concerns a rabbinic law, and it pertains to kevod ha-briyot. If one removes only part of the stain by scraping or wiping it once, which is not the normal way of cleaning a stain, he may afterward remove the rest of the stain using a major shinui.