By: The OU Kosher Halacha Yomis Team
I have a beautiful milchig tablecloth that I rarely use. I would like to use it for fleishigs instead. Is it permissible to switch a tablecloth from milk to meat or from meat to milk?
The Magen Avraham (509:11) writes that the minhag is not to permit kashering utensils from meat to dairy or from dairy to meat. If this were allowed, an individual might purchase only one pot or one knife and constantly kasher it back and forth. This type of arrangement will inevitably lead to mistakes.
Nonetheless, the Magen Avraham (OC 173, introduction) implies that one may eat cheese on a fleishig tablecloth so long as it was washed well before doing so. Apparently, the Magen Avraham distinguishes between meat and dairy vessels and meat and dairy tablecloths.
Why are they not the same? The difference may be that changing the status of a vessel can only be accomplished by kashering with boiling water. If a person would change a vessel from meat to dairy, we are afraid they may forget to kasher in between uses. However, fabric can be rendered kosher with a standard washing, as explained in a previous Halacha Yomis. Since it is common to wash tablecloths between uses, we are not concerned that one might forget to wash it between meat and dairy.