How To Clean For Passover — Without Losing Your Mind

The intent of this guide is to make your life easier, as G-d intended for it to be. It will hopefully allow you to focus more on the spiritual experience of the Passover Seder night and spend less time, money and energy on unnecessary cleaning and on purchasing expensive certified Kosher products.

Even if you are not planning to spend Passover at home this year, you might benefit from some general laws of Kashrut offered here.

Cleaning the house:

Spring-cleaning is fun for some people, but it should not be confused with Passover cleaning. When cleaning the house for Passover, attention should be given only to places where edible chametz, products made of or crumbs leftover from wheat, barley, oat, spelt and rye is used or stored: the kitchen, pantry, garage, etc. The purpose of cleaning and searching for chametz is to avoid contact between chametz and the food we prepare during Passover and to prevent a case of eating chametz found on Passover. Thankfully, at the end of our cleaning and searching, we add another protective measure: nullifying any remaining chametz. For that reason, even if we missed a well-hidden speck of chametz, no prohibition was transgressed.

Before going through all of your toys, removing books from shelves and checking clothes’ pockets, ask yourself these questions:

What are the chances that I will find here a piece of chametz, clean and edible, which I will be tempted to eat upon seeing?

What are the chances of that an edible piece of chametz, whose flavor has not been spoiled, will be mixed into a hot dish made for Passover?

If you can answer those two questions with “negligible or infinitesimal,” abort mission and turn your attention to more important things.

Kitchen:

You only need to clean cabinets and storage areas where food is stored and which you are going to use on Passover. If only dishes, utensils, paper goods or non-chametz foods are stored there, there is no need to clean. If food is stored there but you are not going to use it on Passover, seal the cabinet and rely on the sale of your chametz.

Cooking before Passover:

If the flavor of chametz was mixed with Passover food before Passover, the flavor is nullified. You can therefore clean your kitchen the way you normally do, and then, before Passover, use your everyday dishes and utensils to make freezable food from kosher for Passover ingredients. Freeze and enjoy on Passover.

Kashering dishes and utensils:

The reason for kashering dishes is the concern that flavor absorbed from chametz will be released into the kosher for Passover food. That concern was valid in the past, when dishes were made from porous, low-quality materials. In today’s modern kitchen, this is almost non-existent. Therefore, unless you know for sure that even after thoroughly cleaned, a utensil transfers flavors from one dish to another, you can use it for Passover after washing it regularly.

You can wash by hand or in the dishwasher and then use the following, even if used for chametz immediately before cleaning: Glass, plastic, metal, china, Corelle, Bakelite, silicone, stoneware and Teflon.

The only dishes which should be put aside are earthenware dishes (which are not widely used in the common kitchen). Wood utensils can be cleaned thoroughly, and if you are concerned about flavor absorbed in them, soaked in water with detergent for a couple of hours.

When in doubt whether dishes or utensils absorb flavor, conduct this fun experiment: cook a batch of hot peppers (ghost, habanero, jalapeno) with the strongest spices you have. Rinse the dish and cook in it bland rice or pasta. Taste the rice or pasta.

Kashering Appliances:

Oven: Clean it regularly. Wash the racks. Turn the oven to 450° Fahrenheit and leave on for 20 minutes. Avoid the self-cleaning feature as it operates on extremely high temperatures and would ruin the oven.

A note on using oven for meat and dairy: The smallest standard ovens today are big enough, by halakhic standards, to be used simultaneously for meat and dairy, as long as the dishes do not splatter. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, you can use the oven for those dishes consecutively, with no need for cleaning, waiting for it to cool down, or kashering between the two dishes.

Stove top, broilers, grills and BBQ’s: Clean them regularly, then turn on high for 10 minutes.

Non-Kosher BBQ: if you are traveling and would like to use a public BBQ, on Pesah or year round, it is preferable to cover it with thick aluminum foil after it is well heated.

Microwave oven: Clean the turntable and the oven regularly. Put in the oven half a cup of water with a drop of dish soap and a wooden stick (to avoid explosions) for 90 seconds.

During the year, there is no need for separate microwave ovens. In case a meat or dairy dish splattered on the oven walls, clean it regularly. There is no need to wait between uses.

Shabbat Hot Plate / Blech: Clean regularly and heat for 10 minutes.

Dishwasher: Can be used for Passover after the last round of chametz dishes was washed, with no waiting period or cleaning necessary. For good feeling, you could run it empty for the shortest cycle and clean the filter. During the year: There is no need to have separate dishwashers for meat and dairy. Meat and dairy dishes can be washed together, even without removing chunks of food from them, because the detergent is very powerful and any flavor “absorbed” in the dishes is utterly destroyed.

Sinks and countertops: As previously explained, the concern when kashering is that flavor absorbed from a chametz dish will be released into a Passover dish. The only way chametz flavor can be transferred from sinks and countertops to your food, is if boiling pasta water spilled or a hot loaf of bread was placed on them, and then hot Passover food was put directly on that surface (a piece of meat, for example). No one eats foods which were placed in that manner on countertops or in sinks, and in any case, they do not absorb flavor. Therefore, there is no need to have separate sinks for meat and dairy, and there is no need to kasher them. Clean regularly, and if it makes you feel good, pour hot water.

There is no need to seal off cabinets with all-year dishes, even if you are not going to use those dishes on Passover

Refrigerator, freezer, warming drawers, coffee machines: clean regularly.

Toaster oven and toasters: clean like an oven and leave on high heat for ten minutes.

Upright smoker: Run one cycle of burn-through.

Sandwich maker, waffle maker: If you need to use those on Passover, clean them as you normally do and then turn on high for ten minutes. (Make sure that the Teflon is not scratched, and flavor is not transferred from one food to the next. If there is a need, test it by making a strongly flavored waffle mix, baking it, and then, after cleaning, baking another mix, this time bland.)

Electric knife, KitchenAid, food processors: Clean regularly, including blades and receptacles.

Serving dishes: All modern serving dishes today do not absorb flavor and could therefore be used for Passover after a regular wash. This includes Corelle brand and chinaware. Glazed dishes, even if chipped, can be used in the same manner, though caution must be taken.

A note on flavor absorption

Color is not taste. Plastic utensils and Tupperware sometimes retain color from spices such as paprika and turmeric, but that does not mean that flavor is also absorbed. When in doubt, put hot flavorless rice in the colored utensil and then taste it (before Passover, of course!)

There is no need to clean inside or behind vents in ovens, microwave ovens, and refrigerators, or remove, as some Kashrut guides recommend electric panels and tubes.

Remember that the cleaning is performed to prevent the possibility of an edible piece of chametz mixing into the food. Ask yourself before approaching any nook or cranny if there is a chance that the chametz monster will crawl out of there and latch itself to your food.

Preparations Outside of the Kitchen


Baby bottles and paraphernalia / baby high chair and tray: Clean regularly.

Table, chairs, and benchtops: Clean regularly.

Dentures, bite plates, braces, water filters: There is no need to do anything special.

Decorative, non-edible chametz: Such as pasta projects, colored and glued, or colorful pasta in sealed glass jars, does not need to be removed before Passover.

This story "How To Clean For Passover — Without Losing Your Mind" was written by Haim Ovadia.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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