Scraping By

Scraping By

By Mordechai Schmutter

As a writer, I tend to spend a lot of time cleaning, mostly to push off writing articles.  Except before Pesach, when I write articles to push off cleaning.  So today, the plan is to write an article about cleaning.  I think the universe is going to explode.  But at least if it does, I can use that as an excuse to push off doing both of those things.

So this week, I’m presenting a bunch of cleaning tips, which you can read as long as you bear in mind that my cleaning methods aren’t so much about getting results as they are about pushing off doing other things.

If a woman made a neder and her husband annulled it,
there is nothing binding upon her.
What does she need forgiveness for?

NOTE: If you have a cleaning lady, this article is probably not for you.  Have one of your butlers or chauffeurs give this to her one evening while they’re eating at the servants’ table in the other room.

  1. Your house will never be a bigger mess than while you’re cleaning for Pesach. If your house didn’t need cleaning before, it will now.
  2. Pesach cleaning may seem overwhelming, but the key is to remember that some people say that, for example, you don’t have to clean under your refrigerator, because if you don’t move your refrigerator all year, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t move it on Pesach either. But this isn’t necessarily true, because that’s how the world works – you just know that the one year you don’t do it will be the year your kids decide to hide the afikoman by tossing it on top of the fridge and hearing it slowly slide down the other side.
  3. In order to stop garbage from piling up all over the house, keep garbage cans everywhere. That way, everything will always be in a garbage. Or near a garbage.  Or floating on top of it.  And taking out the garbage will be a three-hour process of pushing trash down with your foot and lifting ripped bags out of cans while someone else pushes down.  I actually have a small garbage can near my desk, and for some reason everyone in the house uses it more than they use the full-size garbage can in the kitchen.  They literally travel across the house to put things in this garbage, so most of the time I’m sitting at my desk and wrinkling my nose at the faint smell of old banana peels.  So I’m thinking of putting my little can in the kitchen and putting the full-size can near me.
  4. You can clean the drain of your sink by getting rid of an entire bottle of cleanser. You can also do the same with your garbage can or recycling bin.
  5. If you have any spoons that have at some point become treif and you cannot see a time in your life that you will ever remember to kasher them, you can use them to scrape things off your stove or the inside of your fridge. It’ll be your treife spoon! Every Jewish family needs one treife spoon.  You can also pull it out when someone who isn’t Jewish comes for a meal.
  6. If you have an entire room that’s dark and dingy, clean your light bulbs. Make sure to do this in the dark, though, using oven mitts. Or a yarmulke.
  7. You can find several old yarmulkes behind the bed in your kids’ rooms. Most of these will actually make your bulbs dustier.
  8. If your stove grates are too big for the sink, you can wash them in the bathtub. With the kids, I guess. Or have them do it.
  9. Don’t forget to clean the underside of your upper kitchen cabinets. You don’t see the gunk, so it’s not baal yeiraeh for you, but your kids see it the whole Pesach. Especially the cabinet over the popcorn popper.
  10. To remove gum from something, such as a shoe or a yarmulke, stick it in the freezer for a while, and then occasionally go at it with a treife spoon. If there’s gum on your area rug, call your local supermarket and see if you can rent their Pesach freezer truck.
  11. You can polish silver with a banana peel. In fact, this is a great solution if it’s Erev Pesach after the zman, and you just realized that you locked your silver polish in the chometz closet. Unless you’re minhag is to have an issue with fruit peels.
  12. Some experts say that for a homemade (and kosher l’Pesach) silverware polish, you can mix milk and lemon juice and soak the silverware in it overnight. The only downside, that I can see, is that the silverware will be treife. But then you can use it to help scrape things off when you’re Pesach cleaning.  You can get the whole family in on the action!
  13. Don’t forget to clean your strollers. You know all that food you gave your kid so he’d stop screaming, and then he was quiet for a while? Well, he didn’t eat it.  It’s all still there.  A year’s worth.  We’re not even sure why he was quiet for a while.
  14. A lot of people advise giving your kids Pesach snacks to eat in the rooms you’ve already cleaned. Like you’re not going to see the Pesachdikke crumbs on the floor and freak out and reclean the entire room. No, you’re going to get down on the floor, pick up a piece, put it in your mouth, and say, “Yuck!  Ok, it’s Pesachdik.”
  15. No matter what you do, there will always be a small line of dirt that won’t go into the dustpan. This happens all year. You sweep a pile of dirt into the dustpan, and then you back up and sweep again, and then you keep backing up across the house, then you change angles a few times, and then you just say, “Forget it,” and give it a big sweep, scattering that little bit of dust all over the house, on the theory that if you don’t see it anymore, it’s not there.  Well, when you’re cleaning for Pesach, you need to vacuum up that little line.  I don’t actually know what they did before vacuum cleaners were invented.  On their dirt floors.
  16. Make sure to clean whatever sefarim you’re going to bring to the Pesach table by taking them off the bookshelf, blowing off the dust, wiping the outside, and vacuuming between each page. Some people just have a rule that they never bring sefarim to the Shabbos table all year – which I guess means no divrei Torah – all so that on Pesach, they can bring every sefer they own to the table at once.
  17. One thing people often forget to clean is their cleaning supplies. Some people might ask, “Why do I have to clean my sponge? I pour soap on it every day!”  Yeah, and then you rub it against your dirty plates.  “Yeah, but those plates have food!  How bad are they?”  Well, some of the food on the sponge is last month’s food.  Seriously, smell your sponge.  Are you putting your sponges in the fridge at least?
  18. You can clean odors out of your fridge by refrigerating an open box of baking soda, if you can fit it in among all the rotting food. Or by removing the shoe.
  19. Apparently, a lot of the tip sources I’ve been looking at care less about chometz and more about hygiene. Like one of the articles said that if you want to keep your sponges from getting moldy, stand them upright using binder clips. Which is all well and good if you’re not Jewish and have exactly one sponge in your kitchen.  The typical Jewish family has at least seven – fleishig, fleishig Shabbos, milchig, milchig Shabbos, pareve, pareve Shabbos, and treife.  (There’s no treife Shabbos.  I don’t actually know why there’s a milchig Shabbos.)  Every kosher house has a treife sponge.  Maybe it’s for washing your treife spoon.  So we’d have to have a row of like seven sponges standing up, and every time you knock one over, they all fall like dominoes, and the last two land in the sink.  In the same pot.  And now you have more than one treife sponge, or, at best, you have to bring a soggy, stinking sponge to your rabbi.
  20. You can clean your treife sponge by putting it, along with some dish soap, into your treif microwave.
  21. There’s no need to buy vacuum cleaner bags. Vacuum cleaner bags are a scam. You can just stick your finger into the opening in the bag and pull out dirt over the garbage can while coughing hysterically.  Though your husband, who’s sitting right there, won’t be thrilled.  He’s finally trying to work.

(Cough cough)!  Did the universe just explode?”

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist for The Jewish Press, and has written three books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


Previous articleIn Praise Of Chasidism
Next articleBlemish Control For Occasional Acne