clean [transitive, intransitive] clean (something) to make something free from dirt or dust by washing or rubbing it

to clean the windows/bath/floor

to clean a wound

Have you cleaned your teeth?

The villa is cleaned twice a week.

I spent all day cooking and cleaning.

Ok, your little toddler peed on the chair and his pee is all over the place. Is it wrong to say "Now, I have to clean your pee"?

Or "Now I have to clean the chair"

2 Answers 2


Yes, it is wrong to say just “clean” in that context. To give the additional sense of removal you want, you need to use the phrase verb “clean up”.

For example:

Little Oscar pulled handfuls of soil out of the potted plant onto the floor. I used a dustpan and brush to clean up the soil. [I cleaned the floor, but I cleaned up the soil.]

  • I made a minor edit to your example. A "pot plant" would be a cannabis plant. A plant in a pot is more often called a potted plant.
    – The Photon
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 5:20
  • 2
    @ThePhoton Hahaha - not in my idiolect! The edit is really no problem but here we call it a “pot plant” (with “potted plant” understood but sounding a little prim) and the ambiguity never arises really. The ambiguity you are sensitive to here reminds me our our Australian concern about AmE “Drug store”. Reference: abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/pot-plant-health-check/11209256 Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 5:34
  • Well if your Aunt Nellie has pot plants all around her house you might not have as much need for a drug store.
    – The Photon
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 5:42

We normally clean windows, clean the car, clean the floor etc. which means freeing from dirt and dust something that is dirty. So, telling a child to clean their pee, which is a grammatical sentence, is literally asking them to wash their pee.

Orbital Aussie's answer is therefore correct but I'd prefer to say “clean up the floor” or “mop that up” (mop up the pee).

1. ‘I mopped up the spilt coffee’


If you mop up a liquid, you clean it with a cloth so that the liquid is absorbed.

  • A waiter mopped up the mess as best he could.
  • When the washing machine spurts out water at least we can mop it up.

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