Expressions with ‘Wash’ and ‘Laundry’!

The listening lesson “The Laundromat is about doing laundry. In this vocabulary article, you’ll learn some English expressions with ‘laundry’ and ‘wash.’




to air your dirty laundry (in public)

= to talk about private problems in public
= the ‘dirty laundry’ is things that should otherwise be kept private, such as family secrets, scandals, or problems with your spouse/partner or children
= often if it doesn’t embarrass the person ‘airing their laundry it embarrasses the people listening

There are different versions of this expression:

  • The British say “wash your dirty linen in public”
  • You could also say: “don’t wash your dirty laundry in public”

After the embarrassing airing in public of their dirty laundry by his wife, the politician was forced to resign.

Husband (in public): “My wife is furious at me for forgetting her birthday! We haven’t had sex in 2 weeks!”
Wife:“Let’s not air our dirty laundry in public!”

The company cancelled its press conference for this afternoon. They are trying to prevent their dirty laundry from being aired in the press.


to wash your hands of (something)

= you refuse to have anything to with something that you were previously responsible for
= you intentionally distance yourself from a problem or situation (that you were once involved in)
= usually you wash your hands of something because you are upset, angry, disgusted, you lose interest in it or you don’t believe in it anymore

After Tiger Woods’ affairs became public, many sponsors washed their hands of him.

I have gone out of my way to help my son find a new place to live, but he is very hard to please, so I’ve washed my hands of the whole situation.

The new department manager has taken over the project so I’ve washed my hands of it!


to wash your mouth out with soap

= a common expression that parents often tell their young children after the child has used a swear word or other bad language! Usually it is an empty threat as the parent does not intend to actually wash their child’s mouth with soap.

If I ever hear you say that again I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap!


5 Comments on Expressions with ‘Wash’ and ‘Laundry’!

  1. Sinh
    August 29, 2010 at 8:24 am (5 years ago)

    Teacher Melanie,

    Thank you so much for your nice post. It's really useful. I've just learned a new lesson.

    The expressions with "wash' and 'laundry' which you suggested remind me of relating expression, that is, 'money laundering' :D

    Once again, thanks.

    Best regards,

    – carrot (a member of EC) –

  2. Sinh
    August 29, 2010 at 8:31 am (5 years ago)

    Ah, Teacher Melanie, I think, u might have mistyped. I mean, in this sentence "The new department manager has taken over the project so I’ve watched my hands of it!"

    There should be 'washed' instead of 'watched' as u typed. Right?

  3. N'DJA Hugues Blanchard
    August 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm (5 years ago)

    Hi Melanie,

    Thanks for your post, it made me feel well
    because I've just learned new expressions.

    Best regards


  4. Teacher Melanie
    September 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm (5 years ago)

    Hello Carrot & Hugues!
    Thank you for visiting my website & leaving a comment! I'm happy this post was useful for you : )

    Thank you for letting me know about the typo! Of course it should be 'washed' : ) I have corrected it now.

  5. aboobakkar
    May 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm (2 years ago)

    dear melanie,
    aren’t there any ways to teach vocabulary using dictionary?


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