In order to ease the burden of cleaning and preparing for Pesach, we bring here an instruction sheet (published annually in the community of Elon Moreh) with the guidelines for cleaning homes before Pesach.
To make the task of housecleaning for Pesach easier, it is a good idea to divide the house and its contents into four categories, each with its own halachic criteria.
1) Places where chametz is never brought.
Upper shelves of closets and bookcases, sealed cans of food, lower shelves of closets (assuming there is no baby in the home), books (so long as one ensures never to bring them to a table with food).
These do not require cleaning, nor need they be checked for chametz.
2) Places where chametz is brought but will not be used at all for Pesach.
An oven that will not be used for Pesach, chametz utensils, pots, oven racks, dishes, etc., children’s toys that they will not play with during Pesach, a room or house that will not be used at all during Pesach, or clothing with pockets which will not be worn on Pesach.
These should be generally cleaned so as to ensure that no visible chametz remains. The item should be hidden, or a note should be attached to it, “Not for use on Pesach”. A room, apartment or home (that will not be used over the Chag) should be cleaned and closed. There is no need to clean every crumb or search for chametz. One must do “bittul” (= renounce ownership) over all the crumbs that might remain in one of these places.
3) Places where chametz is brought and that will be used on Pesach.
Refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, books normally read at the table, car, children’s toys that they will play with over Pesach, beds (children often bring chametz into bed), pockets – particularly in children’s clothing, bags and knapsacks.
They must be cleaned thoroughly and checked for chametz on the night before Erev Pesach by candlelight. (If there are many such places, they may be checked by candlelight on an earlier night, without a beracha.)
4) Chametz or foods containing chametz, which are forbidden on Pesach.
Actual chametz – Cakes, noodles, crackers, soup nuts, prepared shnitzels, falafel balls, beer, whiskey, soy products and the like, white flour, cereals, granola, toasters that cannot be cleaned from all crumbs. Also – products containing chametz – soup mixes (which contain flour), mayonnaise (which contains flour), medications without kashrut certification for Pesach.
Actual chametz should be either burned/destroyed before Pesach or sold to a non-Jew through the agency of the rabbi. Some have adopted the stringency not to rely on the sale of actual chametz, and to destroy it instead. Products that contain chametz (as opposed to pure, actual chametz) are to be sold, as should a toaster.
Summary: Before we turn our houses upside-down, let us take a second to think carefully where we really need to clean and which criteria apply to every location and item. This way, we will begin Pesach as required by halacha, but at the same time without the fatigue and tension.
Chag Kasher Ve’samei’ach!!
Note: These guidelines are not absolutely binding; questions should be directed to your community rabbi.