“What’s the thing you hate the most about Passover?”
Most Jewish women provide the same answer: Passover cleaning.
It’s hard enough preparing everything else for Passover… but when it comes to the cleaning – it feels like climbing a mountain that has no top (and Moses isn’t even there waiting for us!).
And you know what’s funny? It’s not even the actual cleaning that’s the problem (I actually don’t mind the cleaning – as long as I have my awesome Spotify playlist playing in the background). It’s the overwhelming feeling of not knowing what to clean, how to clean or where to even begin!
Today, we’re finally going to kiss that horrible feeling goodbye!
Let’s go show that Chametz who’s boss!
Important: Before we begin – keep in mind that I’m not a Rabbi, nor do I play one on the internet. If you’re unsure whether something should be cleaned or you should clean it – always ask your Rabbi just to be safe.
Table of Contents
Passover Kitchen Cleaning
There’s an elephant in the room… and it’s hiding in the kitchen.
The kitchen is no doubt the hardest to clean for Passover. That’s why I always prefer starting with the kitchen first and then move to the rest of the house.
It reminds of the famous story about the Rocks, Pebbles and the sand:
Cleaning the kitchen for Pesach = putting in the big rocks first. Every time I’m done with the kitchen, I feel satisfied knowing that from that point on – putting in the pebbles and the sand becomes much easier.
So, without further ado… let’s go clean the kitchen for Pesach!
Let’s start off with the biggest resident in our kitchen: our refrigerator.
To clean your refrigerator:
- First, take everything out of the fridge (this is a good opportunity to get rid of the Chametz in your fridge)
- Take out all the removable parts (shelves, drawers, etc’) – and clean with a warm cloth or sponge.
- Thoroughly clean the fridge interior and surface area
- Wipe everything with a dry towel
- Put everything back in the fridge, and get rid of the food that isn’t Kosher for Passover
To Kasher your sink for Pesach, boil hot water and pour it over your sink (stainless steel only). Make sure you cover every part of the sink, including the drain (you may want to rinse the drain with bleach too) and the water faucet. Don’t be afraid to refill the kettle several times to make sure you covered every spot.
After you’re certain you’ve covered the entire sink with hot water, rinse it once again – this time with cold water.
To be extra-safe, considering using a sink rack for Pesach.
Tip 1: According to Star-K, if your sink is made of China, Porcelain, Corian or Granite – it can’t be Kashered. In that case, you should use a Pesach dish pan (two separate ones – one for meat, one for dairy) that sits on top of a Pesach rack.
Tip 2: Make sure not to use the sink for 24 hours prior to Kashering to avoid the Halacha of “ben yomo” (Avoda Zara 75b), which effectively says that after 24 hours, food that gets absorbed into heated kitchen utensils are nullified.
Give your floors around the house (and carpets, if you have any) a thorough clean: move furniture around, vacuum, sweep, CLEAN the floor like Monica from Friends would!
Now, keep in mind that your floor is prone to collect Chametz throughout Passover… and there’s nothing we can do about it. Whether it’s from our shoes or guests bringing along unwelcome “guests” (Chametz leftovers)… point is, there’s no such thing as a “3-second rule” on Pesach. If something fell on the floor, do NOT pick it up and put eat it… don’t put it on the table either. Either wash it or throw it away.
Passover Dishes & Utensils
When it comes to dishes – you have two options.
- Kasher your current set of dishes for Pesach.
- Getting a separate set of Passover dishes and utensils (like this one)
Which option is best?
Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages.
In fact, let’s compare both options:
- Saves you money
- Doesn’t take up extra room in the kitchen
- Takes more time (and patience)
- You have to know what you’re doing
- You need to Kasher your dishes… Every. Single. Year
If you do decide to Kosher your existing dishes and utensils, you’ll have to immerse it in boiling water first (Hagalah).
Simply follow these steps:
- Fill a pot or container with water and bring it to a boil.
- Add a hot stone or hot piece of metal to the pot so the water overflows and cleanses the outside of the pot
- Pour out the water from the pot and rinse it in cold water
- Fill the pot again and bring it to a boil
- Immerse your utensils inside the boiling water
- After immersing them in hot water, rinse the utensils in cold water
Note: Some dishes can’t be Koshered at all. If your utensils are made of China, earthenware pottery or enamel – you’re out of luck.
Note 2: Wash your kettle, plastic bottles, baby bottles, thermos using the same process.
Note 3: Glassware should be soaked in water for 72 hours, and the water should be replaced every 24 hours – i.e 3 times (Orach Chayyim 451:26).
Dedicated Passover Utensils
- You save time (useful if you’re often the Seder host)
- You can re-use the same set every year
- Costs more money
- Takes extra room
If you decide to get a dedicated Passover set, don’t forget to store, lock and seal the Chametz dishes and utensils in a dedicated Chametz kitchen cabinet. Then, label that cabinet with special Passover Chametz labels so everyone knows not to open that cabinet.
Which option should you choose?
Ideally, you’d want to avoid Kashering utensils (unless you know what you’re doing or if your Rabbi approves of it) and opt for as many Passover-dedicated utensils.
Unfortunately, that’s not always possible…So what you can do is have the best of both worlds. Kasher the dishes & utensils that you can Kasher, and buy the ones you can’t Kasher.
Tip: There’s also a third option: using disposable Passover dishes. But let’s face it – using disposable dishes for a week isn’t really convenient (or environment-friendly).
The dishwasher should also be thoroughly cleaned before Pesach.
- Make sure your dishwasher is empty
- Pour detergent on the racks before running a cycle
- Run a complete cycle
- If you want to be extra careful, run a second cycle 24 hours later on the highest program/mode.
Cleaning the oven deserves special attention, as it’s fairly easy to “miss a spot” and leave a greasy residue (and Chametz) behind.
Before cleaning your oven, make sure the oven hasn’t been used in the past 24 hours to avoid “ben yomo” (Avoda Zara 75b).
- Clear the oven from its contents. Ideally, you’d want to avoid using your everyday oven racks during Passover and use dedicated metal racks for Passover when possible.
- Clean the oven interior thoroughly with an oven cleaner. Make sure to go over the cracks, corners and “edge areas”.
- Heat your oven to the maximum temperature for 1-2 hours until the racks turn red.
Tip: If you’re not planning to use the oven on Passover, none of this is necessary!
First, make sure the microwave hasn’t been used for the past 24 hours.
- Remove the microwave glass plate and clean it properly.
- Clean the inside of the microwave
- Fill a bowl of water and heat it in the microwave till the chamber is filled with steam (about 7-10 minutes)
- Either place a new glass plate in the microwave during Passover or cover your existing one with cardboard or contact paper (after you’ve cleaned it properly)
Tip: Make sure to cover the food you heat in the microwave during Pesach (actually, you should probably do this during the rest of the year as well).
Stove & Stope-top
Give your stove (including the knobs) a thorough clean with a warm cloth and strong cleaner.
Pay particular attention to gas stove grates – they’re a bit trickier to clean. In fact, you may want to soak the grates in hot water and a strong cleaner for a few hours to get rid of burnt-on food (alternatively, you can put them in the oven and Kasher them simultaneously with the oven).
After you cleaned the stove, cover the stove-top with heavy-duty aluminum foil (make sure it doesn’t interact with the stove burners!)
Electric Mixers & Blenders
Honestly? Just skip your electric mixer and don’t use it for the week. You simply can’t guarantee to get rid of all of the tiny Chametz particles that are lodged in the base of the mixer.
If you really need one during Passover, just buy a cheap one you’ll use just on Passover, and then store it in a dedicated Pesach cabinet for the rest of the year.
Electric Warming Tray & Blech
It’s debatable whether a Shabbat hot plate can be kashered for Pesach. Most hot plates don’t reach a high enough temperature to qualify for Libun Kal (Kashering by heating).
So if you’re strict – you may want to avoid using it altogether (or get a new one you’ll use just on Passover).
If you do decide to Kasher your electric warming tray, follow this process:
- Clean it with a kitchen scrub and a strong cleaner.
- Plug it in and let it heat for an hour or two
- Cover it with aluminum foil during Pesach
Hot Water Urn
To clean your hot water urn:
- Fill it mid-way with warm tap water
- Fill the rest of with boiling water from the kettle
- Clear the water from the urn.
If you’re planning to use your food cabinets on Pesach – then they too require proper cleaning.
- Clear the cabinet of its contents
- Wash the cabinet with a kitchen cleaner
- Separate the Chametz from the non-Chametz
- Place the non-Chametz food back into the cabinet
- Get rid of the Chametz
If you’re not planning to use a certain food cabinet on Passover – there’s no need to clean it. Simply get rid of the Chametz in that cabinet, then lock it, cover it, or seal it so people don’t accidentally open it on Pesach.
Teeny tiny pieces of food tend to get lodged on top of kitchen counters, so pay extra attention to those.
Use a cleaner with warm water, maybe even a little lemon (especially if your countertop is marble) and wash your kitchen countertop like a champion.
Dining Room & Living Room
Mission Kitchen = Completed!
Now, it’s time to move to the main Pesach scene – where we actually celebrate the Passover Seder: the dining room!
And yea, the living room too – because that’s usually where our guests hang out when they arrive, and before they leave (usually for a nice cup of tea).
Dining Room Table & Chairs
Try to make your dining room table and chairs sparkling clean. Use a cloth (or scrub), cleaning spray and really clean it!
You can Kasher your tablecloth for Passover by properly washing it in hot water and soap or throwing it in the washing machine.
However, make sure no stains remain afterward (some stains are tough to get rid of, despite what the detergent commercials say).
To be on the safe side, you can get a few cool-looking Passover tablecloths you can use every Pesach.
Passover Dish Towels & Kitchen Towels
Just like tablecloths, you can use towels if they’re properly cleaned and if no stains remain. If you’re unable to get rid of the stains, you’re better off using Passover towels.
Couches & Sofas
Remember that bag of chips your kid had on the couch? Or the delicious popcorn you ate last week while watching Netflix? Odds are when you’ll lift your couch cushions – you’ll be in for a big surprise.
So grab that vacuum cleaner, lift the couch cushions, and vacuum those nasty crumbs.
“Go to your room! In fact, go to every bedroom!”
Don’t worry, you’re not getting grounded or anything… you’re just clearing the Chametz that may have accidentally (or intentionally) slipped into the bedrooms.
Beds & Sheets
Bad news: You should buy a new bed for Pesach!
Just kidding… (did I “get” you?)
You can continue sleeping on your comfy bed… just make sure to change the bed sheets and pillowcases before Pesach so you’re not accidentally sleeping on stains of Chametz.
Closets & Wardrobes
Closets or wardrobes aren’t the typical hiding places for Chametz… but, you never know:
- What if someone got lazy and put their dirty sweater filled with Doritos crumbs back in the closet?
- What if there’s an old beer bottle sitting in the closet somewhere (eww! It’s probably warm anyway! Throw it out!)
- What if you still have leftovers of the Mishloach Manot you got for in there somewhere?
Bottom line is – better safe than sorry.
Are clothes Chametz? They could be…
“Surely you’re joking, Rebecca!”
If you’ve got Cheetos crumbs on your clothes, chocolate stains on your sleeve, those clothes are Chametz and you should BURN them!
Just kidding… No burning needed. Just make sure to wash them properly beforehand, yes?
The Unusual Suspects
You’ve taken care of the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedrooms… anything else we’re missing?
Think of places where you wouldn’t normally expect to find Chametz, but at the same time wouldn’t surprise you if you do all of a sudden discover a few Chametz crumbles popping their head up.
ANYWHERE where your fingers might have touched after eating a delicious bowl of Chametz.
Note: I’m not saying you should grab a glass magnifier and start going over every little corner in your house. There’s definitely such a thing as “too much”. But a quick scan and perhaps a quick wipe wouldn’t hurt.
Let’s hope none of us is having any big meals in the bathroom…
But, would it be a huge shock if you found out that someone (Ehm… perhaps even you?) grabbed a piece of chocolate or a tiny snack on their way to the bathroom?
Bottom line is – give your bathroom a quick scan and make it all nice and tidy before Pesach…
“Oh gosh! My kid has like a million different toys. Don’t tell me I need to scrub ALL of them one by one!”
Relax. I’m not planning on sending you back to Egypt anytime soon.
Cleaning every single toy your kids put their hands on is overkill, and completely unnecessary.
Instead, here’s what I recommend:
- Make sure your kids don’t bring toys with edible Chametz to the Seder table. If it has Chametz, give it a quick clean.
- Give your kid’s toys a bath. Next time you’re giving your kid a bath, throw a bunch of their favorite toys in there too (no, I don’t just mean the rubber ducks)! Or, if your kid has (too) many toys – just throw your toys in the bath and give them a good wash.
- Buy your kids Passover toys. The best thing you can do is get your kids special Passover toys! It’s the best way I know to keep the kids engaged (read: NOT bored) while you’re cleaning.
Door Knobs & Light Switches
Where else do we rub our smudgy hands throughout the year?
Every time we enter a new room – we reach out to two places: the door know, and the light switch.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that by now – they’ve accumulated a ton teeny tiny particles of Chametz.
So grab a wet cloth and give those a nice wipe.
Laptops & Computers
Using the same logic as we did before… what are the odds we’re getting smudges all over our laptop and computer keyboard? I think pretty high…
Heck, I’m eating a Chametz energy bar as I’m writing this (I’d better read my own article before I clean for Pesach)!
Even though you (hopefully) don’t live in your car, odds are you’ll spend some time in it during Passover (unless you’re taking a trip for Pesach… lucky you!).
Vacuum your car seats and floor, clear the garbage tray, get rid of those sweets you have on your dashboard…
Make your car great again!
Getting Rid of Chametz
You’ve spent hours (days? weeks??) cleaning your house to get rid of all the Chametz…
Congratulations! First, go get a (Kosher for Passover) drink, you deserve it!
But don’t get too drunk! Remember – you still have to get rid of the leftover Chametz.
Here’s how it’s done…
Removing the Chametz
There are three ways to get rid of Chametz:
- Burn the Chametz (Biur). The night before Passover, we perform a Bedikat Chametz (more on that later) to gather the last few Chametz pieces left in our house and burn it in what’s called a “Biur Ceremony”.
- Nullify the Chametz (Bittul). Before the Bedikat Chametz and before burning the Chametz, we recite a blessing, declaring that any Chametz left in the family’s position is considered ownerless, and therefore nullified.
- Sell the Chametz (Mechirah). You can sell any Chametz you have left to a non-Jew, which you can then regain after Pesach is over by “buying” the Chametz back.
“But I don’t know any non-Jew who I can sell my Chametz to…”
Don’t worry, most people don’t. I mean, could you imagine what an awkward phone call that would be?
In most cases, there’s a local Rabbi (often the community Rabbi) who acts as a proxy between you and non-Jews who are willing to temporarily own the Chametz for Passover.
In other words – you “sell” your Chametz to the Rabbi, the Rabbi then sells it to the non-Jew, and after Pesach, the non-Jew gives you the Chametz back (unless he couldn’t resist or had the munchies).
The night before Passover, Jews all across the world transform into a group of Jewish Sherlock Holmes.
The suspects we’re looking for? Chametz!
We grab our special “detective gadgets”: a candle, feather and wooden spoon (you can get a Bedikat Chametz kit here)… and go on a Chametz hunt!
PSSST: Don’t forget to wrap 10 pieces of Chametz and plant them around the house. Otherwise, it would be embarrassing to go on a hunt and not find anything, now would it? Don’t tell the kids!
Together, we search the house looking for the pieces of Chametz hiding in the dark.
When you (by you, I mean mostly the kids… don’t spoil the fun, please) find a piece – you sweep the Chametz with the feather into the wooden spoon, and from there into a bag (we’ll return to the bag in a moment).
Phew… I don’t what’s more exhausting: cleaning your house for Passover or writing about how to clean your house for Passover.
But I do know this: Pesach cleaning is much easier (dare I even say, enjoyable) when you’re armed with a simple Passover cleaning checklist you can easily follow.
Note: While I tried to cover including everything I could think of in this article, I’m sure I left a few things behind that I haven’t thought of. Don’t forget to add them to your Passover cleaning list (then come back and tell us about it in the comments so I can add them to this list as well).
Remember: Take your time… Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
And don’t forget to share the workload with the rest of your family! Nobody said you should try to be Wonder Woman (even though Gal Gadot is Israeli) and try to clean your house all by yourself.
In fact, you can work together as a family and pretend you’re going on a treasure hunt… except you won’t be hunting for treasure (that’s what Passover gifts are for), you’ll be hunting for Chametz 🙂