I was looking for a word to use for clothes I recently washed, the equivalent of Italian bucato.

Google Translate gives me three words:

  • Laundry
  • Washing
  • Wash

Looking at the OALD, it seems that laundry would be the correct word. The dictionary says that laundry is a synonym of washing, but when I look for washing, it says that washing is used to mean "clothes, sheets, etc. that are waiting to be washed, being washed or have just been washed" only in British English. (BrE is shown between parentheses before that definition.)
For wash, the meaning the dictionary gives and that is closer to what I want to say is "(especially BrE) an act of cleaning somebody/something using water and usually soap."

Can I use wash when talking of something that I recently washed?

  • "Can I use wash when talking of something that I recently washed?" Clothes, yes. Anything else, no. (Although I had to look in several dictionaries to find the definition.) American Heritage: A quantity of articles washed or intended for washing: The wash is on the back porch. Commented May 1, 2013 at 14:52
  • At first, I wondered about the idiomatic expression: "It all comes out in the wash," but I think the noun wash in that context refers to the act of washing, not the load of clothes. Right now, I'm leaning toward agreement with @PeterShor; I can't think of anything else where wash might refer to the items that have been washed: not dishes, not cars, not food, not floors or windows. But there may be some exception to that rule, like in a cleanroom or a lab or something.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 15:22

2 Answers 2


In the U.S., at least, either "laundry" or "wash" would convey your meaning. I think "laundry" is more commonly used. Either can mean the clothes themselves, or a place or state where clothes go for the cleaning process.

"Please put your dirty clothes in the laundry."

"Please put your dirty clothes in the wash."

"I put the laundry in the washing machine."

"Sally folded the laundry."

"Put the laundry away."

But once you put it in the drawer or hang it in the closet, it's not laundry any more; it's just clothes!


In British English, "washing" would be the normal term to use for clothes that had been washed as in "I am going to hang out the washing" or "put away the washing".

"Laundry" would be more marked or unusual. It is more normally used for the unwashed load or the act of washing (as in "the wash"). "Dirty laundry" is now a more common phrase than "dirty washing" - though this seems to be recent (according to ngram).

My guess is that to a British English speaker's mind "laundry" is closer to the wash and therefore more likely to need washing whereas "washing" can have been washed and still remain "washing.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .