Cleaning and Kashrut Guide
The intent of this guide is to make your life easier, as HaShem intended for it to be. It will hopefully allow you to focus more on the spiritual experience of the 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 Pesah 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 Pesah cleaning. When cleaning the house for Pesah, attention should be given only to places where edible Hametz is used or stored: kitchen, pantry, garage, etc. The purpose of cleaning and searching for Hametz is to:
- Avoid contact of Hametz with the food we prepare and
- Prevent a case of eating Hametz found on Pesah.
To the cleaning and searching we add another protective measure: nullifying the Hametz. For that reason, even if we missed a well-hidden Hametz, no prohibition was transgressed. Before going through 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 Hametz, clean and edible, which I will be tempted to eat upon seeing?
- What are the chances that an edible piece of Hametz, whose flavor has not been spoiled, will be mixed into a hot dish made for Pesah?
If you can answer those two questions with “negligible or infinitesimal”, abort mission and turn to more important things.
You only need to clean cabinets and storage areas where food is stored and which you are going to use on Pesah. If only utensils, paper goods, or non-hametz foods are stored there, there is no need to clean. If food is stored there but you are not going to use it on Pesah, seal the cabinet and rely on the Sale of Hametz.
Cooking before Pesah:
If the flavor of Hametz was mixed with Pesah food before Pesah, the flavor is nullified. You can therefore clean your kitchen the way you normally do, and then, before Pesah, use your regular utensils to make freezable food from kosher for Pesah ingredients. Freeze and enjoy on Pesah.
Kashering the Kitchen and utensils:
The reason for kashering utensils is the concern that flavor absorbed from Hametz will be released into the KFP food. That concern was valid in the past, when utensils 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 Pesah after washing it regularly.
You can wash by hand or in the dishwasher and then use utensils made from the following materials, even if used for Hametz immediately before cleaning:
Glass, plastic, metal, chinaware, Corelle, Bakelite, silicone, stoneware, Teflon.
The only utensils which should be put aside are earthenware utensils (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 food absorbs flavor from utensils, conduct this fun experiment: cook a batch of hot peppers (ghost, habanero, jalapeno) with the strongest spices you have. Rinse the utensil and cook bland rice or pasta in it. Taste the rice or pasta.
Oven: Clean regularly. Wash 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, if the food does 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 (Gas, electric, glass, Corning, Halogen, or Ceran) and broilers, grills, BBQ’s: clean regularly. 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 food splattered on the oven walls, clean it regularly. There is no need to wait between uses.
Shabbat Plata (hot plate/blech): Clean regularly and heat for 10 minutes.
Dishwasher: Can be used for Pesah after the last round of Hametz utensils 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 utensils can be washed together, even without removing chunks of food from them, because the detergent is very powerful, and any flavor “absorbed” in the utensils is destroyed.
Refrigerator, freezer, warming drawers, coffee machines: clean regularly.
Toaster oven, toaster: 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 Pesah, 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, including blades and receptacles: Clean regularly.
Serving utensils: all modern serving utensils do not absorb flavor and could therefore be used for Pesah after a regular wash. This includes Corelle brand and chinaware. Glazed utensils, 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 Pesah, of course!)
Baby bottles and paraphernalia, baby highchair and tray: clean regularly.
Table and benchtops: clean regularly.
Dentures, bite plates, braces, water filters: No special action required. 
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 Hametz mixing into the food. Ask yourself before approaching any nook or cranny if there is a chance that the Hametz monster will crawl out of there and latch itself to your food.
Sinks and countertops: As previously explain the concern when kashering is that flavor absorbed from a Hametz dish will be released into a Pesah dish. The only way Hametz 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 Pesah 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 kosher them. Clean regularly, and if it makes you feel good, pour hot water.
There is no need to seal off cabinets with all-year utensils, even if you are not going to use those utensils on Pesah.
Decorative, non-edible Hametz, such as pasta projects, colored and glued, or colorful pasta in sealed glass jars, does not need to be removed before Pesah.
 Many of the details in this article are obvious, yet I had to write them because years of Kashrut industry and extremist Halakhic rulings have created misconceptions regarding Kashrut.
Cleaning Supplies and non-edible items:
Kosher for Pesah certification is needed only for edible products. Since no one serves Windex shakes with Ajax sandwiches, no cleaning supplies need supervision, and stamping them with any Kashrut symbol borders with deception. For good feeling, you might want to use new dish-washing sponges for Pesah.
It seems obvious that all paper, aluminum foil, and plastic products do not need Kashrut supervision. However, I must mention it here because some Kashrut organization claim that paper goods coated with wax and paper bags are not KFP. To clarify: all paper goods, foil, Styrofoam, and plastic disposables are KFP.
Medicine: all medicine is KFP.
Vitamins: If the pills are swallowed with water, they can be used on Pesah. Chewable vitamins: if the ingredients do not include one of the four grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye), they can be used on Pesah.
Cosmetics and hygienic products, including oral hygiene: all are kosher for Pesah since none is edible, including Listerine strips.
Pet food: The only pet food which can present a problem is dog food, and within the variety of dog foods, the only category which should be preferably avoided on Pesah is baked goods. All other foods, even if grains are mixed in them, are non-edible for humans, and therefore can be used by pet owners for their pets
 Though dog food and cat food look appetizing, and some of them can be and were consumed by humans, continuous consumption of these foods is a health hazard. The confusion around pet food stems from the fact that it is a relatively new phenomenon, and before pet food was commercially made, pets ate their owners’ leftovers. The halakha says that Hametz retains its status as forbidden until it becomes unfit for a dog. That refers to Hametz which was once fit for humans, but dog food was destined from its inception for dogs and not humans. The idea that food retains its status until it becomes unfit for a dog is based on the Halakha regarding purity of foods at the time of the Temple (B. Keritoth, 21:1): כלל אמרו בטומאה: כל המיוחד לאכול אדם - טמא עד שיפסל מאכילת כלב!
The rule is: that which is destined for human consumption [and became impure] remains impure until it becomes unfit for a dog.
R. Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains (Deut. 14:21): אם לא היתה ראויה לאכילה מעולם ("הסריחה מעיקרא"), אין הטומאה חלה, אפילו היתה פסולה רק מאכילת אדם – if it was never fit for humans, it cannot become impure to begin with.
Open packages, bottles, spices, and spreads: if containers or bottles are used to pour from, and no utensils are inserted into them, or if you know that only clean utensils were inserted, they can be used on Pesah. Though some claim that spices, salt, olive, and wine which were used over boiling hametz have become Hametz because of the vapor absorbed in them, this is not true, and they can be used on Pesah.
Rabbi Abadi’s list: A comprehensive list of products which do not bear a KFP stamp but are kosher for Pesah, is available at www.kashrut.org. Here is sample of the list.
- Alcoholic beverages: all alcoholic beverages which are not made of grains or grapes are kosher for Pesah with no need for supervision, including potato, cane, or corn vodka, and agave tequila.
- Baby food: most of Beech Nut mixes of fruits, vegetables, and corn or rice cereal are kosher for Pesah, check the list for details.
- Cereals: Chex – Apple Cinnamon; Chocolate; Cinnamon; Corn; Honey Nut; Rice; Kellogg’s Gluten Free Rice Krispies; Cocoa Pebbles; Fruity Pebbles.
- Yogurt: Many of Dannon and Yoplait flavored yogurts are kosher for Pesah – details in the list.
- Ice Cream: Many flavors of Breyer’s, Edy’s, and Haagen Dazs are kosher for Pesah – details in the list.
- Ingredients: refer to Rabbi Abadi’s list for kosher ingredients (hundreds of them!). In that manner, you will able to determine whether a product is kosher based on the ingredients listed on the package.
- Snacks and candies: Baby Ruth; Butterfinger bar; Bit-O-Honey; Nips; Oh Henry!; Raisinets; Bamba;
There is much more on the list. Check it out.
Flour: all flour is KFP, even if the grains were processed with water, but it can only be used for baking Matzah. The Shulhan Arukh recommends buying KFP flour, but comments that if it is not available one can use any flour. The exorbitant prices of KFP flour today put it under the category of “not available”. You could use this flour to bake Matzah at home, if you observe the dough to make sure it does not rise.
Fresh and frozen fish: Kosher all year round when purchased from a major chain (Costco, Stop and Shop, Whole Foods etc.) or from a reputable fishmonger. The fish can be bought on Pesah.
Spices: all 100% pure spices can be used on Pesah.
Oil, milk, plain yogurt, hard and soft cheeses, soft drinks, jams and jellies do not need Pesah supervision.
Vinegar: When buying vinegar, check the label to see if it is grain vinegar. If so, contact the manufacturer to find out which grain because in many cases it is corn.
Vinegar as an ingredient: When vinegar is listed as an ingredient and it is bought before Pesah, one can rely on the fact that the single word “vinegar” on the label implies fruit vinegar.
Tea: all tea bags and tea leaves are kosher for Pesah.
All pickles (unless you know with certainty grain vinegar was used), olives, frozen vegetables, canned vegetables, dried fruits and of course fresh fruits and vegetables are KFP.
Coffee: All coffee, including instant and granulated is Kosher for Pesah. You can also buy whole bean coffee and grind it at the store.
Starbucks: you can buy unflavored coffee from Starbucks or similar establishments on Pesah. For flavored coffee, and K-cups, check ingredients.
Pure peanut butter, almond butter etc. are kosher for Pesah, including the DIY mixes available at Whole Foods.
Oats, grains, and legumes
Oats: The Mishnah mentions five grains which can become Hametz. Four of them are identified without doubt: חטה, שעורה, כוסמת, שיפון – are, respectively, wheat, barley, spelt, and rye. Regarding the fifth grain there is confusion, and the identification of its Hebrew name – שבולת שועל, with oats, has been contested. I am presenting here the information, not as a ruling in the matter.
Rabbi Yitzhak Abadi does not consider oats to be one of the five grains but does not officially allow their use on Pesah. Prof. Yehudah Felix, the leading authority on Biblical and Talmudic fauna and flora, argues that the Mishnaic species is not oats but a sub-specie of barley which contains gluten and ferments with water. R. Yosef Efrati claims that in an experiment conducted for him by Prof. Moshe Zacks, oats became Hametz.
The arguments against the identification of Shibbolet Shu’al with oats are:
- Oats were unknown in Israel at the time of the Mishnah, so the rabbis could not have referred to them.
- Oats do not contain gluten and do not behave like the other four grains (oatmeal does not rise). They do contain avenin, to which about 15% of celiac patients are sensitive.
In addition, there is the visual/etymological aspect. Oats stalks resemble wheat and barley, but so does rice. The name Shibbolet Shu’al means Fox’s stalk, which probably referred to a grain with long hairs resembling the fox’s tail. That description does not fit oats but rather wild barley, which supports Prof. Felix’s argument.
Legumes and beans: Ashkenazi Jews have a custom of not eating legumes on Pesah. Today, globalization has turned Jewish population worldwide into one big community, and people are aware of each other’s customs. For that reason, Sepharadim and Ashkenazim can adopt the customs of each other, but great caution must be practiced not to infringe upon norms of the community or the family, and either do the transition privately or gradually. This includes using legumes on Pesah.
Those who decide to adhere to the custom should know that the original custom, starting in 14thC Europe, applied only to flour of certain legumes which could have been mistaken for flour made of Hametz grains. Peanuts, soybeans, corn, and quinoa, which were not known in Europe at the time, cannot therefore be part of the custom. Similarly, fresh beans and legumes, or liquids distilled from legumes, such as corn oil, corn syrup, or Saki, as well as legumes by-products mixed with other foods, were never a part of the original Ashkenazi custom of avoiding legumes on Pesah.
It is customary among some Moroccan Jews not to eat rice. Some believe that they decided to follow the Ashkenazi custom, but Rabbi Yosef Messas explains that the custom had practical roots. At the time, only whole grain rice was used. It was shipped, stored, and sold with wheat and the two could easily mix. This concern does not apply to white rice, and today there is no concern even with whole grain because there is great caution not to mix grains for concern of allergies. An additional reason that Moroccan Jews avoided rice on Pesah is that it never was a major staple of the Moroccan cuisine.
In general, all rice is Kosher for Pesah. There is no need to check rice before Pesah since storage and shipping conditions have changed, but it should be checked briefly before cooking on Pesah. In the rare case that a grain of wheat is found in rice on Pesah it should be thrown away.
 כלאי זרעים והרכבה: מסכת כלאים : משנה, תוספתא וירושלמי לפרקים א־ב : בירור הסוגיות ורקען הבוטני־חקלאי, הוצאת דביר 1967, עמ' 24-29
Shopping for the Seder:
Matzah: there is no need to buy matzah marked as Shmurah, since all commercial matzahs are Shmurah. The term Shmurah means supervised, and the difference between the Shmurah and “regular” matzah, is that Shmurah is supervised from the moment of harvesting and the “regular” from the moment of grinding. One is not more kosher than the other, only more expensive, and it is preferable to buy the less expensive Matzah and give the difference to charity.
Alternatively, you can make matzah at home. Any flour is kosher for Pesah, and since it takes a mixture and flour a couple of hours to rise, you should not be worried that it will become hametz under your hands. Even if you want to keep the 18 minutes rule, it is easy since the 18 minutes start from the moment you let go of the dough. If you are kneading, the Talmud says, the dough cannot become Hametz, and it would take much less to make the dough into Matzah.
In this manner, you can have soft Matzah, which will be easy to cut and wrap.
Maror: any bitter herb will do, but there is no need to suffer. Even though today’s lettuce is much sweeter than it was forty years ago, it still counts as bitter herbs. When cleaning lettuce or any other leafy vegetables, there is no need to go on a crazy bug-hunt. Wash the leaves well and look for tiny flies or mosquitos, but not for tiny bugs which require a magnifying glass or intense light.
Saltwater: I suggest you give a try to my tradition. Babylonian Jews use a mixture of lemon and orange juice to dip the celery and the egg in. It is delicious.
Haroset: Moroccan tradition – crushed dates with wine, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg; Iraqi tradition: date honey (silan) with ground nuts or peanuts.
Karpas: the best vegetable to use for Karpas is celery, which is called Karpas in Hebrew. Celery stalks dipped in a mix of lemon and orange juice are delicious and nutritious.
When traveling: if you arrive at a hotel or Airbnb on Pesah or shortly before Pesah, all the rules mentioned earlier could help you settle in easily. If you are expected to pay for food, you do not need to seal off Hametz products, because they do not belong to you. If the host left for you a welcome package which includes cookies, for example, either keep it in a sealed place, mark it with a clear signage, or give it back to the host with an explanation if possible.
You do not need to clean anything again, since these places are kept rigorously clean. Just heat the oven and stove for ten minutes and place a cup of water with some soap in the microwave for 1.5-2 minutes.
Hametz: Search, Sell
Hametz sale: You can include in the sale any Hametz you have at your home or business, even half used packages, since the main point of the sale today is to dissociate ourselves from the Hametz, and not to follow all the technicalities of an official transaction. You can appoint me to be your representative by sending an email requesting that to [email protected] No need to submit information, addresses, or any payment. If you have Hametz in a freezer and you need to use the rest of the space in the freezer, it is fine, as long as the Hametz is clearly marked in a way that ensures that no one will use it by mistake on Pesah.
Searching Hametz: We only look for sizable, edible Hametz. Only children’s rooms and backpacks should be checked. Pockets do not need to be checked, unless you know that your child regularly puts bread in his pockets and then eats it, and you are not going to wash these pants or jackets before Pesah.
Garbage cans: whatever you put in the garbage is not Hametz and not yours anymore. That includes hametz disposed of on the eve of Pesah.
Waiting between Hametz use and koshering: there is no need to wait between the two, including when koshering an oven, though it is recommended not to apply detergents to hot surfaces for safety and health concerns. The reason people used to wait 24 hours between uses was to let the absorbed flavor “go bad”. Since today’s utensils and appliances do not absorb flavor, there is no need to wait.
Stress-Free and Joyous Seder
Karpas: You can eat as much Karpas as you wish. The Iraqi tradition is to use celery and serve other fresh vegetables with it, such as cucumbers. The children are served cooked food, usually rice and meatballs, and there is water and drinks for everyone. Hard-boiled eggs are also eaten at this point, and the children love dipping them in the lemon and orange juice mix. After eating eggs and vegetables, the Seder is conducted with energy and joy.
Wine: you can use any type of wine, red or white, sweet or semi-dry, or grape juice. If you cannot drink wine or grape juice, you can rely on the person conducting the Seder, or if you are conducting, on any other person who does drink.
The minimal amount of wine for each of the four cups, is the majority of the biblical measure called Revi’it HaHin. There are various opinions as to the volume of Revi’it, so you can use the smallest one which is 75cc, or 2.5 fl. oz., and drink its majority which would be 38cc or 1.3 fl. oz., if you can drink.
Starting early: the one element of the Seder which is time sensitive is the eating of the first Matzah. You can start the Seder earlier, and time it so you arrive at HaMotzi after sunset. It will make it easier for the children, and it can solve many problems for the second Seder.