By Mordechai Schmutter
Pesach is a holiday steeped in tradition, and there are few traditions as beloved as the column where I attempt to answer some commonly asked questions, depending on how loosely you define the word answer. My point is that there are few Pesach traditions as beloved as this one, because all the rest of them are way more beloved, and the way we know they’re beloved is based on how much we complain about them. We only complain about those we love.
I’d continue with the introduction here, but frankly, none of us have time for this.
Q. Pesach cleaning is so overwhelming for me. My house is way too big, the cleaning staff takes forever to clean the wine cellars, and at this rate they’ll never vacuum the jet in time for us to fly to our hotel in Europe. What ever shall we do?
A. Um . . . I don’t know how to talk to you. This column is for regular people with more common problems. For example, one of our more commonly asked questions is . . .
Q. I can’t get my chametz to catch fire. Any tips?
A. Unfortunately, no. After several abortive years of working against the clock trying to get it to light and finally having the manila envelope catch fire, only to watch it slowly burn down and have the bread tumble out, completely unharmed, I started going to the communal bonfire, the logic being that there are professional pyromaniacs involved, and I’m probably okay. A lot of people say it’s a good idea to throw in old Havdalah candles, but I never have an easy time lighting the wicks on those either.
Q. I’m overwhelmed. Do I have to clean the entire house for Pesach?
A. No. If you don’t have time, you really only have to clean the places you have reason to suspect contain some kind of chametz. (Chametz is anything (a) that is made from the six major types of grain—barley, rye, spelt, oats, wheat, and whole wheat; (b) that has been allowed to rise; and (c) that doesn’t burn, no matter how long you spend deliberately setting fire to it.) In fact, I read an article recently that said, “You really only have to clean the rooms where your kids are allowed to bring sandwiches and cookies.” That’s right. Because if your kids aren’t allowed to bring cookies into a room then in all likelihood, there are no cookies in that room.
So I say we should all daven that the writer of that article should have kids, if only to teach him an important life lesson. In everyone else’s experience, if your kids aren’t allowed to bring food into a certain room, then the food remnants in that room will just be better hidden.
Q. But my kids are teenagers now. So I should be okay, right?
A. Yes. Because teenagers can go an entire night in their rooms without eating anything.
Q. Okay, but when they grow up and move out, I should be okay, right?
A. Yes, of course. Unless you have grandkids. But in that tight window between when you marry off your last kid and when you start having grandchildren, you should be okay. Most people don’t have that window, baruch Hashem. They have overlap. That’s why eventually, older couples give up and start going to their kids for Pesach.
Q. What is the best cleaning product to use?
A. That’s a really good question. A few months ago, I attended a lecture on the best cleaning product ever made. Actually, it wasn’t a lecture. It was a sales pitch. I was in a price-club store, buying the biggest package of pancake mix I had ever seen in my life, when an announcement came over the PA system saying that there would be a demonstration featuring free giveaways, because if there were no free giveaways, no one would come to the demonstration. (That last part is me talking. They didn’t say that over the PA system.)
It turns out it was a guy demonstrating a new microfiber mop. He had several different floor surfaces, and he spilled various things on them and demonstrated that he could use the mop to clean any of those surfaces. But the mop wasn’t what he was giving away free. The mop was 30 bucks. Also, you had to buy it directly from him, despite that we were in a store that had a checkout near the front for buying things, and the store had other mops, some of which were also microfiber, and all of which were less than $30. And besides the fact that if I spent $30 on a mop, I’d be afraid of getting it dirty.
What he gave out for free, at the beginning of the demonstration, was a little microfiber square with which to clean our glasses. His point was that we’d all seen glasses cleaners, and every one of us had one, because when you buy glasses they always give you one for free, so the only people who didn’t have glasses cleaners are the ones who don’t have glasses anyway. Although the guy did make a point of saying that you can use it to clean your friends’ glasses, as if people are really snatching glasses off their friends’ faces and casually cleaning them while trying to continue the conversation. But his point was that these squares are great on glasses, hence the mops are great on floors. Even floors that are not made of glass, I guess.
Of course, just because in a demonstration he could clean some flooring samples that are two tiles by two tiles on which he’d spilled something not ten seconds earlier that was preapproved by his bosses as something he was allowed to spill on the tiles, doesn’t mean that this mop could clean an entire living room and dining room with heavy foot traffic and kids trekking back and forth spilling soda and licking the floors.
I actually have a microfiber mop at home, and it doesn’t last me an entire floor. I have to keep taking off the microfiber part and putting it in the laundry, and it takes me four loads of laundry to finish cleaning my dining room.
So I didn’t buy the mop, but I did walk around the store, looking for other insanely big things to buy. I later passed the guy between demonstrations and saw him cleaning his glasses by breathing on them and wiping them with the tail of his shirt, like everyone else does, even though he had microfiber coming out of his ears and a million little squares that he was giving away for free.
So to answer your original question: Even according to the guy selling microfiber mops for 30 bucks each, the best thing to clean with is your shirt. (On that note, the best thing to polish silver with is an undershirt.) So I was thinking that it would be cool if they would set up presentations in clothing stores where they would showcase an item of clothing and point out what kinds of surfaces you could clean with it.
Q. How do I get major stains out of my carpet?
A. I would suggest you use your shirt. The best idea, though, and what many people do before Pesach, is to rearrange the furniture in the room to conveniently cover the stains. If the stains are on your couch, you can also consider buying an insane number of throw pillows. Another thing that people do is sprinkle baking soda over the affected area, especially if you have baking soda in your fridge and you’re cleaning out your fridge for Pesach and have no idea what to do with it. Also, a lot of people get stains out using vinegar, if you don’t mind the entire house smelling like a bucket of pickles that tipped over. Or perhaps you could mix the vinegar and the baking soda in large amounts, and in no time at all, your whole carpet will be covered.
Q. Fine. Now how do I get that off the carpet?
A. Um . . . We’re out of time here. I have 20 pounds of pancakes I have to “get rid of.” v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.