On Passover, in addition to the prohibition of eating chametz—any food made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and “rise”—the Torah tells us that chametz should not be “seen or found” in our possession for the duration of the holiday.1

What does this mean? Do we have to get rid of every crumb in our house?

Well, the Talmud2 tells us that, technically, through a process called bitul (nullification), we can mentally and verbally disown the chametz and declare it as “nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.” In fact, we do this twice: on the night prior to Passover eve, after the search for chametz, and again the following morning, when we burn the chametz. On a biblical level, this nullification would exempt you from the prohibition of owning chametz, even if it’s still in your home.

The sages, however, decreed that simply nullifying the chametz isn’t enough; we need to actively search for and remove chametz from our possession before Passover.3

Let’s dive into the reason for this mandate, which will help us understand how, why, and where we need to get rid of chametz.

Why Do We Need to Get Rid of the Chametz?

The sages mandated the search for and removal of chametz for two primary reasons:4

  • Declaring something ownerless depends on your thoughts. If you’re not sincere in your declaration, the chametz is not truly ownerless.5
  • Even if you truly and honestly declared the chametz ownerless, you might accidentally eat some chametz if it’s lying around, since you’re used to eating it all year.6

Due to these reasons, we need to proactively seek out and remove chametz from our property—before the time when it becomes prohibited to consume on the morning before Passover.

How Much Do We Need to Clean?

There is no obligation to clean per se. Rather, we need to search for and remove our chametz on the night before Passover, and we’re obligated to clean our property in advance in order to make this search easier.7 So, technically, you only need to clean out the chametz from places that you’re obligated to check.

You’ll find that many Jewish households go the extra mile with the Pre-Passover scrubbing and purging, going after even the tiniest of crumbs and bits so insignificant that they are by default ownerless (obviously spring cleaning and decluttering, while nice, have nothing to do with Passover). Indeed, the Code of Jewish Law notes regarding cleaning for Passover that “Jews are holy and are accustomed to conducting themselves stringently, going beyond the letter of the law.”8

Yet at the same time, it's important for the Passover experience to be joyful and pleasant. So try not to overly obsess about things that aren’t required (see below) if it’s at the expense of your mental health or your relationship with the members of your household. If time is limited, prioritize cleaning the areas that are actually halachically required.

With that in mind, we’ll focus on the halachic parameters of cleaning for Passover.

What About Inedible Chametz?

Do you have to get rid of inedible chametz? Well, in Jewish law, there are two levels of inedibility:

  • Unfit for human consumption
  • Unfit to be eaten by a dog

For most purposes, foods lose their non-kosher status when unfit for humans. But for chametz, the Torah forbids us to own (or benefit from) even inedible chametz, such as sourdough starter. So even if the chametz is spoiled and only fit for a dog, it must be destroyed before Pesach.9

Chametz that’s inedible for a dog, as well as ashes from burned chametz, is still forbidden to be eaten—and your eating it elevates it from the status of inedible to edible—but you can own or benefit from it (see Shampoos and Cosmetics below).10

What If You Can’t Get to the Chametz?

Say a wall collapses in your house, creating a mound of heavy rocks. If the mound is three tefachim (10 inches) high, you need not dig through it in search of chametz, since there is little chance that you’ll dig through it and find a snack during the holiday. Instead, you can rely on nullifying the chametz. This applies even if you know for sure that there’s chametz there.

This does not, however, apply in the following scenarios:

  • The mound is less than three tefachim high, or you’re unsure about the height of the rocks over the chametz.
  • You plan on digging up the mound on Passover.

This doesn’t mean that you can intentionally bury your chametz under a mound to avoid the obligation to destroy your chametz.11

Most of us don’t have mounds of rocks in our homes. However, we do have heavy appliances that we rarely (if ever) move. So even if you suspect there may be chametz under your fridge or behind the washing machine, you need not move them to find out—mentally nullifying the chametz in those areas is sufficient.

If chametz is unreachable by hand, such as crumbs or even large pieces stuck in cracks in a wood floor, all you need to do is declare it null before Passover—no tools necessary.12

If, for whatever reason, you neglected to even nullify or sell your chametz before Passover, you would need to destroy any chametz upon discovery, even if it means taking apart the furniture or suctioning it out of your floorboards (consult a rabbi before proceeding).13

What About Little Pieces of Chametz?

You don’t transgress the prohibition of owning (as opposed to eating) chametz for anything smaller than a kazayit, roughly the size of an olive.14 But the rabbis enjoined us to get rid of smaller pieces as well, in case we accidentally come to eat them.15

Ideally, we should search out and destroy the smallest crumbs. But if the piece of chametz is dirty—so you won’t eat it—and less than the size of an olive—so you won’t transgress by owning it—the nullification is sufficient.16

Similarly, if a piece of chametz is stuck onto a wall or vessel, it doesn't need to be destroyed as long as the entire room or vessel doesn't contain an olive-bulk amount of scattered chametz.17

In areas where people walk, you need to search for and get rid of larger crumbs, but small crumbs don't need to be removed since they are presumed to have been sullied by the foot traffic. However, if you see these small crumbs on the floor after the time when chametz becomes forbidden, and if they collectively amount to more than an olive (or in all cases if nullification wasn't performed), you need to gather them and destroy them.18

Which Areas Must Be Checked?

You should check all areas where there is reason to suspect that chametz may have been brought in, even accidentally. This includes places where there's a possibility that chametz was carried in during a meal, even if you’re fairly certain chametz wasn’t actually eaten there. Additionally, any areas where chametz was knowingly brought in at least once during the year need to be checked.19

However, areas where you never intentionally bring chametz and would rarely do so unthinkingly need not be cleaned and checked.20

Practically speaking, an area like a storage room, which isn’t commonly entered during a meal, doesn't need to be checked or cleaned unless chametz has been knowingly brought into it.

Note that if there are small children in the house, it can generally be assumed that chametz was brought into all areas during the year.21

Moving Furniture or Appliances

Furniture or appliances that haven't been moved all year, won't be moved during Passover, and are at least 10 inches tall (such as closets, bookcases, ovens, etc.), don't need to be moved before Passover to clean for chametz underneath. This rule applies even if chametz is visible underneath. However, if the chametz is within reach, it must be destroyed. Additionally, if the furniture is typically moved, it must be moved and cleaned underneath, regardless of its height.22

The Major Exception: Food Prep Areas

It’s important to keep in mind that the prohibition of eating chametz applies not only to the smallest amounts of chametz, but even to the taste of chametz. So the kitchen and eating areas need to be meticulously cleaned, as we don’t want to accidentally consume chametz particles. Cabinets, drawers, and surfaces that will be used on Passover must be thoroughly cleaned and preferably lined. Tabletops and highchair trays should be cleaned and covered. Refrigerators, freezers, etc., must be carefully cleaned and covered. In addition to being cleaned, anywhere where food may be hot—like ovens, stoves and sinks—require kashering if they are to be used on Passover.

Read: How to Prepare Your Kitchen for Passover

Read: How to Kosher Utensils for Passover


It's ideal to keep children's toys away from the Passover table, but it's often impractical. To manage this, stow away complex-to-clean toys without attempting to clean them for Passover. Selling these toys is covered in the sale document for chametz.

For toys to be used during Passover, prioritize washable or checkable ones.

Consider having special Passover toys to keep children engaged during Passover and the pre-Passover rush of cooking and preparation.

Shampoos and Cosmetics

As noted above, you can own inedible chametz over Passover. However, some argue that if something is currently inedible, but can be distilled to (re)produce edible chametz, it’s still considered chametz. Therefore, anything containing grain alcohol (ethyl alcohol) would be considered chametz, even if it's not typically consumed. This includes liquid cosmetics with grain alcohol, which must be removed for Passover.

However, this only applies to liquids, since solids can’t be distilled. So solid substances like stick deodorant or soap, which are inedible and can’t ferment dough, can be owned and used on Passover, although many have the custom to not actually use these items on Passover.23

Products like liquid deodorant that contain wheat germ but no grain alcohol are not considered chametz because they are neither edible nor fermentable and can’t be distilled. So you can keep them during Passover, but many have the custom to not use them.24

Selling Chametz

There's a debate about whether you need to clean out chametz from areas that you intend to sell to a gentile on the 14th of Nissan. The common practice is to be lenient, so there's no obligation to clean rooms, closets or cabinets designated for sale to the gentile and not used during Pesach.

See: Sell Your Chametz Online

Checking for Chametz

As mentioned above, the obligation to clean the house and rid it of chametz is essentially a preparation for the bedikat chametz done on the night before Passover.

See: Bedikat Chametz: Search for Chametz