"Dirt is not chametz and children are not the Pesach sacrifice," HaRav Shlomo Aviner reminds people. Here is a layman’s halachic guide to the necessary procedures.

How to Clean for Pesach in a Day

by HaRav Shlomo Aviner

The days, and sometimes weeks, leading up to the holiday of Pesach can be filled with stress, anger, even bouts of depression and screaming at the kids. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim in the Old City of Jerusalem, insists that the preparations needn’t be a draining chore. Rather, getting the house ready for Pesach should be as joy-filled as the performance of every mitzvah. “Dirt is not chametz and children are not the Pesach sacrifice,” he reminds people. Here is a layman’s halachic guide to the necessary procedures.

In your opinion, how long should it take to get the house ready for Pesach?

About an hour for the dining room, two to three hours to kasher the kitchen, and another hour to clean the rest of the house. In short, about one day. All herculean cleaning jobs are either extra-strict precautions, or just made up practices.  When people are overworked, they can become irritable and nervous. We have to educate children about the meaning of the Festival of Freedom, not to teach them to get angry, with outbursts like: ‘I told you not to go into this room anymore! Eat on the porch! Don’t touch your toys after I’ve cleaned them!’ A husband and children needn’t tremble in fear as they eat in some remote corner of the house. Often the parents get angry at one another and don’t exchange a smile until the middle of the holiday, G-d forbid. This is hardly setting a positive example of Judaism for the children. Our memories of Pesach should be joyous, not a reign of terror.

What the Rav says is certainly understandable, but nonetheless, cleaning an entire apartment or house is no simple task.

The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch: ‘Every person should sweep his room before Bedikat Chametz, and check his pockets for chametz. Additionally, the pockets or cuffs where you sometimes put chametz also need to be checked,’ (Orach Chaim. 433:11) The Mishnah Berurah (#46) adds: ‘It is the custom to sweep the whole house on thirteenth of Nisan, so that it will be ready to be checked immediately after nightfall on the fourteenth.’  This custom is enough. Beyond that, ‘whoever is stringent deserves a blessing’ — as far as Pesach goes, but not to the point of terrorizing the family and reaching Seder Night in a state of total exhaustion.

Not to sound skeptical, but does the Rav have personal household experience when it comes to pre-Pesach cleaning?

Most of my advice about how to shorten cleaning time was gleaned from housewives themselves. If a woman wants to do a spring cleaning, the week before Pesach is not the appropriate time. General house cleaning can be spread out over the course of the year. We left the slavery of Egypt, and there is no reason to return. The month of Nisan is a happy month. However, if a woman is happy with suffering, she can subtract her back-breaking labor from the suffering of Gehinom, since any suffering in this world is deducted from the suffering of Gehinom.  On the other hand, if a woman finds joy in cleaning the whole house from top to bottom, it is her prerogative to do so. She will sit down for the Seder happily satisfied that she has done a thorough job. The essential point is the distinction between chametz, which must be removed from the house with all the severity of the halachah, and dirt – which needn’t be removed before Pesach.  I am not advocating sloppy housekeeping.  We should relate to chametz with awe and fear, but not all dirt is chametz.

What is the job of a husband? 

If he can, a husband should help his wife. Just as they share the home and their life together, they should share the task of preparing for Pesach.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get down to details. What needs to be done regarding children’s clothes?

There may be cookies in your kids’ pockets. The crumbs must be removed, since a child may put his hand into his pocket and then into his mouth.  Only clothes which will be worn for the immediate season need to be checked. It is unnecessary to check clothes that are put away and will not be worn now, such as winter clothes since it is assumed that clothes were put away clean and folded, and if there were visible amounts of chametz clinging to the garment, they would have been spotted and removed at the time.

Is it possible to simply wash children’s clothes in a washing machine?

Running clothes through a washing machine will not necessarily get rid of all of the crumbs.  Clothes that are worn around the time of Pesach must be checked.


Toys must also be checked.  However, you may put some or all of the toys away, and buy new toys as a present for the holiday.  This serves a double purpose of saving work and making the children happy.

Medicine Cabinets                                                                                                  

These may contain chametz, such as wheat germ oil and alcohol derived from wheat.  To save time, one can simply close and tape the cabinets and include it in the sale of chametz.


You have to check between the pillows.  As a bonus, you may discover lost objects you have been searching for the whole year!


There is no need to clean them – just do not put them on the table where you eat.  The custom is not to check books for the crumbs that remain in them, but to rely of the nullification (See the Haggadah ‘Chazon Ovadiah’ of HaRav Ovadiah Yosef, p. 21).  Clean the books which you will want to read during Pesach. As a general rule, it is nearly impossible for chametz the size of a kezayit (a square inch) to be hidden inside a book!

Dining Room

You do not have to clean everything, just the place where people eat, the chairs and the table. If the chairs are clean, there is no need to do anything further.  If children throw cereal or cake on them and they look dirty, clean them with a wet rag. There are two options when cleaning tables: either kashering them with boiling water, or covering them with several layers of tablecloths and plastic covers.

High Chair

If it is plastic, it may be immersed in a tub with boiling water and cleansing agents. Clean the cracks with a stiff brush. It is unnecessary to take the chair apart, because whatever is in the cracks and holes is not edible for a dog.


This room must be thoroughly cleaned and not one crumb of chametz is allowed to remain. A crumb is not nullified even by a thousand times its volume.


It is preferable not to kasher a dishwasher. During the holiday, you can do the dishes by hand as in previous generations.  It is also possible to use disposable dishes.  While it is possible to clean a dishwasher, it is a lot of work because of the rubber parts and connecting pieces.


If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, it is best not to kasher it. Seal the oven and buy baked goods, or buy a ‘wonder-pot’ which allows you to bake on a stove.


Clean and cover the grates with as much aluminum foil as possible.  Use aluminum foil that is thick enough not to tear, but thin enough to bend and shape.  But this requires much time and effort!  The best thing is to use special Pesach burners.

If you use your year-round burners, before covering them, there is no need to clean them – any chametz gets burned up in the course of use. Regarding the bottom pan of the stove, where everything falls, in general, if some food falls into it, we do not pick it up, and it is considered treif – nevertheless, aluminum foil should be placed over it.  Knobs must be wiped clean.


Clean it, but it does not have to involve a lot of work. Of course, defrost the freezer (if you have an older model which does not defrost automatically) and clean it. It is best to eat all chametz before Pesach, but if expensive chametz frozen-food products are left over, they may be securely wrapped up, labeled ‘chametz,’ stored in the back of the freezer/refrigerator, and included in the list of the chametz sold before Pesach. If you have an old refrigerator with cracks or crevices in the door which is difficult to clean, do not use its inner shelves without covering them with plastic. Similarly, you must carefully clean the door’s rubber parts.

Food Pantry

Do not clean.  It is a waste of time.  Seal all of the food closets, label them with a sign or sticker ‘not to use’ and include them in the sale of chametz.

Cabinets of Dishes, Utensils, Pots and Pans

Dishes, utensils, pots, shelves, and drawers that will not be used on Pesach may be sealed, and need not be cleaned.  There are those who are strict and clean the things which are used for chametz, but one can be lenient for three reasons, each of which would be enough: we sell all the crumbs together with the sale of chametz; the dishes and utensils are already clean since no one puts dirty things away in the cabinet; even if there is ‘chametz dirt,’ it is definitely less than a kezayit (27 cubic centimeters – 3 centimeters square, or a little over a square inch). Sometimes it is easier to paint than to clean. You can paint places where food is stored using a water-based paint, and the gas grates using aluminum paint.


A microwave can be kashered by not using it for twenty-four hours, cleaning it for five minutes and boiling water in it for half an hour. All food cooked or baked in it during Pesach should be placed in a covered utensil.


If counters are covered with thick aluminum foil, there is no need to kasher them. Just wipe them with a rag. If it is complicated to cover, then one can kasher it. Where there are holes, pour floor bleach in them and then pour water from an electric kettle which is still boiling.  It is good for two people to do this: one to pour and the other to unplug the already kashered vessel.


There are a few solutions: 1. Do not put anything into the sink on Pesach, and wash the dishes in the air.  This, however, is unrealistic. 2. Put a plastic bin inside, making sure there is still a direct flow down the drain. 3. Thoroughly clean and kasher the sink like the counters.


It is impossible to clean a toaster. Furthermore, there is no need. Put it in the cabinet of sold chametz.


You have to do hagalah (kashering by completely immersing into boiling water) for the bowl and blades. As for the body of the mixer, wrap it in plastic, making sure not to block the air holes. The best thing is to buy a cheap hand-mixer for Pesach.

Kashering Dishes

This is a tremendous amount of work. It is preferable to buy new dishes.  True, it is expensive. As for pots, it is possible to buy cheap aluminum ones which are useable for seven days. There are inexpensive plastic plates, as well as cheap cutlery.


You have to clean the inside. Take out the mats and gather the ‘chametz dirt’ – there is no need for a vacuum cleaner. Clean the compartments and containers. There is no need to use water or to dismantle the seats. In general, it is not necessary to dismantle anything with screws. If the chametz is accessible, you can take it out without a screwdriver, and if it is not accessible, it will not come out on Pesach either.

Chumrot – Being Strict

If you know that you are being more careful than Halachah requires, and you choose to do so, you deserve to be blessed.  If you accepted a stringency on yourself in the past, and now you want to stop, you have to make a hatarah (having the vow annulled). But if you thought that a particular act was the actual Halachah, and now you realize it is a stringency, you do not need a hatarah.  If you accept a more stringent practice, you should not do it as if compelled, but rather accept it with love.

What if the family is going away for a Pesach vacation?

If you will not be at home during the entire holiday, you can be lenient and not clean for Pesach.  You should sell all of the chametz in the house, including all of the crumbs. If someone is staying in your house, you need to clean the rooms which will be used.  The remaining unused rooms must be closed off with tape.

What about performing Bedikat Chametz before going away?

First pre-sell the chometz in your possession before the bedikah to take effect before noon on the morning before Pesach begins.   If you arrive at your Pesach destination by the evening of the fourteenth of Nisan, perform the search there.  If you arrive on the morning of the fourteenth, you should clean your home well before you leave and check a small room, i.e. the entrance-way.  You must also perform the search for chametz in the rooms in which you will live during Pesach – if no one else has done so.  In these cases, the blessing is only recited on the night of the 14th.

How is the search conducted?

Chametz smaller than a kezayit (the volume of an olive) may not be eaten, but it is not included in the Torah prohibition of ‘Bal Yeira’eh’ and ‘Bal Yimatzeh’ (chametz that may not be seen or found on Pesach (Responsa Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, 1:145).  Regarding the Mishnah Berurah’s statement (Sha’ar Ha-Tziun, 451:6) that chametz which can be seen is included in the prohibition of ‘Chametz She-Avar Alav Ha-Pesach’ (using chametz that was in a Jew’s possession during the holiday) – if it was included in the sale of chametz, there is no problem (see Mishnah Berurah 142:33 and Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 117:15).  Usually, only rooms in which children are allowed to bring sandwiches or cookies are likely to contain such pieces of chametz large enough to equal a kezayit. A room where people don’t carry food need not be cleaned at all.  Incidentally, you must take care not to hide pieces of chametz which are larger than a kezayit, as is the practice before Bedikat Chametz, in case one of the pieces gets lost.  That way, if you do not find them, you will not need to overly bother much to hunt for them, for you can rely on the Bittul Chametz (declaring chametz ownerless) which is recited after the search (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at, 5:149). Start Bedikat Chametz in a place where chametz was used, so the blessing will apply to it.  Only search for chametz in places where there is a reasonable chance of finding it.  Peek around here and there where children might store chametz treats.  Regarding crumbs in the corners of the house, they are not a kezayit, and they are not edible to a dog.  If there is bread behind a cabinet in an unreachable place, no one will get to it on Pesach, and it is considered buried – just as you do not have to search under stones or under the house’s foundations.

Pesach kasher and samaoch!



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