How I Clean My Kitchen for Passover (and Spring!)

published Mar 30, 2015
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(Image credit: Pablo Enriquez)

Cleaning the kitchen for Passover is a surprisingly serious business. Observant Jews go to great lengths to rid their kitchens of all chametz (any products made from wheat, oats, barley, spelt, or rye) and make physical and spiritual separations between their year-round kitchens and their Passover kitchens. The first year I attempted the task, I started out strong with heaps of enthusiasm and a fresh pair of yellow rubber gloves to boot.

Flash forward many hours later, and I finished in a heap of complete and profound exhaustion.

I felt about as wrung-out as the stained rag perched on the edge of my wash bucket.

But here is something no one warned me about: It was also exhilarating. Because after all of the sorting and tossing, the scrubbing and shining, my kitchen felt bright and airy instead of the cluttered and stained mess it was before. I realized that Passover had given me the excuse and the motivation to get started on my spring cleaning.

This year, whether you personally celebrate Passover or not, use the holiday as inspiration to give your kitchen a fresh start. Here’s what I focus on and what I do.

(Image credit: Pablo Enriquez)

How I Clean the Kitchen for Passover

1. Clean out the pantry.

For Passover, it is customary to round up and sell or otherwise get rid of all leavened and flour-filled foods. The first stop is often the pantry, which houses pasta, crackers, cookies, and countless other treats that are forbidden to the holiday.

Each year, while I gather up the half-used boxes of couscous and wipe away any wayward crumbs from the shelves, I take an extra moment to check if anything in my cupboards has been, ahem, forgotten and grown stale. If so, into the compost or trash it goes. This way, when the holiday is over, I start with a clean slate.

2. Clean out the refrigerator.

Speaking of forgotten foods, when was the last time you really took a good, hard look at that row of condiments lining your refrigerator door, or completely emptied out the vegetable crisper and gave it a thorough scrub? Now is the time. Clear everything off the shelves and toss out anything expired or past its prime.

Then, fill the bathtub with soapy water, remove the inside shelves, and give them a soak. Thoroughly wipe down all interior surfaces, and don’t forget to dig the grime out from the accordion folds in the rubber gasket that keeps the door shut.

Finally, run your washcloth over the front of the refrigerator door. Holiday or not, a bright and gleaming fridge is worth celebrating.

(Image credit: Pablo Enriquez)

3. Degrease the oven.

A well-loved stovetop or oven is no stranger to grease — whether you are roasting a chicken or deep-frying latkes, the stuff just gets everywhere. The stovetop is easy enough to clean with a natural powder cleanser like Bon Ami and a bit of elbow grease, but I find getting the oven really spotless requires the harder stuff.

Cleaning the Oven

Open the windows to get good ventilation, then coat the inside of your oven with a layer of Easy Off and let it hang out. A few hours later and the most stubborn grease splatters wipe right off.

4. Sanitize the sink.

You use your sink to clean dishes, but how often do you clean the sink itself? Before Passover, I scour the sink with powder cleanser, then say goodbye to any lingering sediment or bacteria by pouring boiling hot water all over the surfaces and directly down the drain.

5. Sweep the floor (like, really sweep it).

I know I am not the only person guilty of shallow sweeping. You know the kind — when you give your kitchen floor a cursory once-over with the broom, utterly ignoring the corners and any square footage of floor space that falls under the counter. This lackadaisical approach does not cut it on Passover. Pull out all the stops by moving your butcher block, oven, and even your fridge aside to sweep up every hidden crumb. Follow up with an equally thorough mopping.

(Image credit: Pablo Enriquez)

6. Make everything shine.

When I was a kid, my mom always tasked me with the job of polishing our family’s heirloom silverware so we could set the seder table. We only used it once a year on Passover — the rest of the time it lived in a velvet-lined box under my parents’ bed. I loved perching on top of a carpet of spread out newspapers and running a silver polish-dolloped rag over the spoons and in between the tines of each fork.

These days, I do not have a collection of real silverware. But I do take the opportunity to shine the bottoms of my copper pots with lemons and coarse salt. As long as something is shining, I feel the holiday spirit.

What else do you clean to get ready for Passover or spring?