- Being away for the holiday:
If you are going away and no one will use the house at all during the holiday, you may close up all the rooms that will not be used, sell all of the chametz, and do no Pesach cleaning at all. If some part of the house will be lived in on Pesach, that part alone must be cleaned. If one leaves his permanent home before the eve of B’dikat Chametz, he performs the search wherever he is that evening. If he is still at home, he should clean the smallest room of chametz. Of course, there must be no chametz left in that room to be sold. Later, he must also perform the B’dika with a bracha in the rooms in which he will live during Pesach – if no one else has done it for him.
Chametz smaller than a k’zait:
Rooms into which chametz is not normally brought need not be thoroughly cleaned, as the chance of finding a piece of chametz the size of a k’zait (3 centimetres or a little over an inch square) is negligible. Chametz which is less than this size may not be eaten of course, but it is not included in the Torah prohibition of “bal yeira’eh” (Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim, I: 145, Mishna Brura, and Chazon Ish), especially if one has sold his chametz. Usually, only rooms in which children are allowed to bring sandwiches or cookies are likely to contain such big pieces of chametz. Incidentally, one must take care not to hide large pieces of chametz before B’dikat Chametz, in case one of the pieces should get lost (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at 5:149).
One must only search for chametz in places in which there is a reasonable chance of finding chametz. It is nearly impossible for an inch square of chametz to be hidden inside a book! If there is a chance that the book has chametz in it, it must be thoroughly checked. However, most books do not need to be cleaned or checked. Cleaning and checking a sample is sufficient. It is customary not to place books that have not been checked for chametz on the table during Pesach.
Parenting and Pesach:
When your children are on vacation, it’s better to spend the time with them, playing, preparing for the Seder, taking family trips, etc., and to do the heavy cleaning some other time – preferably spread out over the whole year. We were freed from slavery when we left Egypt, and should not allow ourselves to be too tired to enjoy the Seder and the Pesach holiday. Husband and wife share their lives, their children, their home, and their Pesach cleaning! If the husband is on vacation too, this may be a good time to leave him with the kids, and give the wife a vacation! Our first priority is to try to make the Seder an unforgettable, inspiring experience for all.
There may be cookies in your kids’ pockets. Even the crumbs must be cleaned, since a child may put his hand into his pocket and then into his mouth. However, it is unnecessary to check any clothes that are put away and will not be worn now. Running the clothes through the washing machine will not necessarily get rid of all the crumbs. The clothes must be checked. Toys must also be checked. However, you may put some or all of the toys away and buy new toys for the holiday! That serves a double purpose of saving work and making the children happy.
Medicines and Toiletries:
These may contain chametz, such as wheat germ oil and alcohol derived from wheat. Close all the cabinets, sell the chametz, and buy Kosher L’Pesach.
Sofas and Chairs:
Clean in all the crevices. This is an interesting opportunity to find all sorts of lost possessions.
Chairs should be wiped if they are dirty. The table should be kashered with boiling water. Alternatively, it may be covered with several layers of plastic and cloth tablecloths.
If it is plastic, it may be immersed in a tub with boiling water and cleaning agents. Clean the cracks with a stiff brush. It is unnecessary to take the chair apart.
This room must be thoroughly cleaned and not one crumb of chametz left. It is preferable not to kasher a dishwasher. If necessary, use disposable dishes. If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, it is best not to kasher it. Seal the oven and buy baked goods. The stovetop should be replaced, or special Pesach burners should be purchased if possible. If not, clean, and cover with as much aluminium foil as possible. Use aluminium foil that is thick enough not to tear, but thin enough to bend and shape. The control knobs should be wiped clean. The refrigerator and freezer must be defrosted and thoroughly cleaned. It is best to eat up all chametz before Pesach, but if expensive chametz food products are left over, they may be wrapped up well, labelled “Chametz”, stored in the back of the freezer/refrigerator, and included in the list of chametz sold before Pesach. If you have an old refrigerator with cracks and crevices that are hard to clean, you should cover the shelves, door, etc. with plastic. Dishes, shelves, and drawers that will not be used on Pesach may be sealed, and need not be cleaned. Incidentally, there are parts of the kitchen that it is easier to paint than to wash. A microwave oven may be kashered by not using it for 24 hours, cleaning it thoroughly, and boiling water in it for half an hour. All food cooked or baked in it on Pesach should be placed in a covered utensil. It is best to cover the workspace around the sink etc. with heavy-duty aluminium foil (after wiping it clean). If this is not possible, it may be kashered by cleaning with bleach in all the crevices and then pouring boiling water from an electric kettle that is still boiling. (This is best done by 2 people working together.) The sink may be cleaned and kashered or covered in the same way. A toaster cannot be properly cleaned or kashered. It should be put away with the chametz. The body of a large mix master, blender, food processor, etc. may be cleaned and covered with plastic (leaving air wholes open). Beaters and bowls must be kashered or replaced. It is preferable by far to buy a new, small one just for Pesach.
This is a tremendous amount of work. It is preferable to buy new dishes.
They must be thoroughly cleaned, including all compartments, under the rug, etc. But there is no need to use a lot of water or to take the car apart. In general, pliers are not an essential tool for Pesach cleaning. Chametz that is inaccessible without taking the car/house apart will not be seen or eaten on Pesach.
Chumrot – Being Especially Strict:
If you know that you are being stricter than halacha requires, and you choose to be so strict, you are to be commended. However, if this becomes too hard to continue, you may perform “hatarat nedarim”. In general, we should not force ourselves to take upon ourselves “chumrot” unless we really want to.
In light of what is written above, it should take about an hour to clean the house, another hour for the dining room, and two-three hours to kasher the kitchen. In short, about one day! Anything more than that is just making ourselves tired and irritable with the children – and that is definitely not setting a positive example! Our memories of Pesach should not be of a reign of terror. Involving the whole family in the Pesach cleaning and making it a happy, exciting experience is our goal. We should set our priorities before we begin, and finish cleaning the kitchen and dining room before we clean what is not chametz in the rest of the house. The Shulchan Aruch writes: “Every person should sweep his room before Bedikat Chametz, and check his pockets for chametz.” The Mishna Berura adds: ”It is the custom to sweep the whole house on 13 Nisan, so that it will be ready to check immediately after nightfall on the 14th.” Anything more than that is a chumra, and should not come at the cost of health and happiness. Even if you do more than I have outlined here, just knowing that it is a chumra reduces the stress involved. I am not advocating poor housekeeping, just noting that not all dirt is chametz. Cleaning should be spread out over the whole year, so that our families and we do not suffer before Pesach.
We wish you all a HAPPY and kosher Pesach. We must celebrate the Seder rested and happy, so that it inspires our children and us with faith in Gd, the Redeemer of Israel.
The above article is only a guideline to Pesach cleaning. Any questions should be addressed to one’s local Rabbi.