Dear Readers,

My 10-year-old son threw something out there the other day that I wasn’t prepared for. It turns out that he thinks, or maybe just happened to say, that “science wasn’t useful.”

What? What!

I prodded the statement. What about science isn’t useful? I asked. Don’t you ever experiment, dabble with stuff? But he shrugged off the questions.

I went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Stirring instant powder into the hot water, listening to the clink, clink, clink of the spoon against the ceramic, I pondered both his thoughts and my impending duties cleaning the kitchen—and everywhere else—ahead of Passover. Staring into that swirling water, it hit me.

I sat my son down with his own mug and a packet of hot chocolate, pouring boiling water in and letting him carefully stir it. See, I said—science. Someone made that mix just so that it could melt into water and create a tasty drink. I took him over to the dishwasher and poured liquid detergent into the compartment, and then had him push the “Start” button to activate it (later, sparkling dishes). We went to the laundry room, and I told him to pop one of those tablets into the rising water, watching it disintegrate and turn sudsy. We went outside to the driveway, where I instructed him to sprinkle baking soda on some oil left by our car, explaining that it will absorb the rainbow splotch and then we can sweep away the white powder.

But the “aha” moment came that night, when I got out a bottle of rubbing alcohol and his favorite white button-down shirt, on which was a long, blue ballpoint-pen line. Scrubbing the mark, it eventually faded, after which I sprayed stain stuff on it, washed it and voilà—ink gone.

He smiled. He got it.

Years ago, a chavruta (Torah-study partner), who like me had babies at the time and was immersed in all the dishes, laundry and other cleaning that accompanied young children, said she got through it by finding the Jewishness, the spirituality in it all. Clean clothes made her children feel loved and secure, and helped boost their day; home-cooked meals supported their health and ability to learn. She felt closer to G‑d as she went about caring for her family. It was part of her daily holy work and in a way, it was freeing, too.

That’s how many of us feel as we contemplate Passover cleaning. We do so as we approach a time in Jewish history when our freedom suddenly became tangible—to the point where we didn’t even have time for our bread to rise. (Imagine that new edible discovery!) While there may not be a particular methodology involved in brushing crumbs into a dustpan or changing the dishware, there is a mental formula to our preparations, a spiritual recipe to cleansing our homes and heads ahead of the eight-day holiday.

There is, indeed, a science to it all.

Note: The Household Hacks column is filled with helpful cleaning tips to prepare your home for Passover and to use year-round. Feel free to post your favorite tips in the comment section below.

Carin M. Smilk, TJW