Religion & Beliefs
How To: Clean For Passover
It’s the time of year again when some people go apeshit in their attempts to clean all chametz from every last crevice of their homes. You can skip the spring cleaning in favor of a Passover vacation, or you can … Read More
It’s the time of year again when some people go apeshit in their attempts to clean all chametz from every last crevice of their homes. You can skip the spring cleaning in favor of a Passover vacation, or you can do the massive purge and give your home the sacred scrubbing it probably needs. If you do the latter, don't go overboard: There are some specific rules about what you need to do in order to fulfill your halachic obligations, and after that it’s just picking up and throwing out however much junk you want to get rid of. Here are some rules and tips:
- There are two requirements for cleaning: Biur chametz, which is the act of getting rid of the chametz, and bedikat chametz, destroying the chametz. The first one is easy. You can actually still have the chametz in your home as long as you consider it to be dust—valueless and without an owner. That said, it’s hard to rationalize Girl Scout cookies as valueless, no matter what you tell yourself. That's why the rabbis instituted bedikat chametz, which is much trickier. In addition to writing off chametz as dust, you also have to search out any chametz you can find, and destroy it.
- The top priority when cleaning for Pesach should be the kitchen. You should clean inside your fridge and freezer, give the stove top and oven a hardcore scrubbing if you don’t have a self-cleaning setting, and get into all of the crevices of your cabinets, pantries, and drawers.
- After the kitchen, the dining room and other eating areas are where you want to focus your energy. These are the places where you’re most likely to have crumbs of old food that’s still edible, and thus technically chametz.
- Chametz is a technical term for anything that has resulted from a grain fermenting. But we only have to get rid of edible chametz, or chametz that would count as food. A bagel crumb that has been sitting on your kitchen floor for a year doesn’t count as edible chametz because you wouldn’t consider it food. So technically, an old bagel crumb is no problem. (Don’t worry about the possibility of a baby eating that bagel crumb—just because a baby eats it doesn’t mean it’s food. Babies try to eat all kinds of things that aren’t really food. The bagel crumb still isn’t chametz). That said, why haven't you swept your floor in a year?
- There’s one other category of things that you don’t have to worry about. Anything a dog wouldn’t eat doesn’t have to be removed or destroyed. I don’t know why you’d want to keep it in your kitchen if a dog wouldn’t eat it, but I won’t judge.
- Either you’re going to get rid of as much chametz as possible, or you’re going to make sure that any chametz that might be around the house would be considered inedible. Even if you only give the kitchen corners a half hearted attack with some kind of cleaning solution, whatever chametz is in those corners will be tainted by the cleaning solution and is no longer edible, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
- Though it’s important to be vigilant about cleaning for Pesach, you should be careful with cleaning solutions that could harm you or your family. Every year, Israeli hospitals have a sharp increase in cases of children being poisoned after being exposed to toxic chemicals while their families clean for Pesach. Read labels carefully, and keep the house well ventilated when using strong chemicals. Even better, use a non-toxic "green" product, such as Simple Green.
- Finally, relax! If you’re so stressed out by cleaning that you can’t enjoy the seders, you’re working way too hard. Pesach should be fun, not a yearly peak in blood pressure.