What Does Clean As A Whistle Mean?

Clean as a Whistle Meaning

Definition: Very clean.

This expression serves to emphasize the cleanliness of a person or thing.

Origin of Clean as a Whistle

In the early-1800s, this expression had a different meaning. It described something that was totally finished, or thoroughly completed. It may have supplanted the phrase clear as a whistle, which related to the clear sound of a whistle.

Some sources speculate that it is related to the whistling sound a sword makes as it cuts through the air, or a reed slicing through the air.

Examples of Clean as a Whistle

clean as a whistle originThe dialogue below shows two university students. The man has a cold, and the woman offers him a tissue.

Nisha: Hey, Alan. Are you okay? You sound like you have a cold.

Alan: No, no, I don’t have a cold. I’m fine. ACHOO!

Nisha: You’re sneezing all over.

Alan: (Sniffles) No, I’m not.

Nisha: You obviously need a tissue. Here, take this one. I always keep a few spare tissues in my purse just in case someone needs one.

Alan: No, thanks. Those tissues look dirty.

Nisha: They’re just wrinkled from being in my purse, but I can assure you they are as clean as a whistle.

Alan: Okay, fine. Thank you.

meaning of clean as a whistleThe second dialogue shows a father and son. The father is observing his son make pizza.

Son: Okay, I’ll roll the dough out over here.

Dad: Hey, wait! Before you put the dough down on the counter, you need to make sure the surface is as clean as a whistle.

Son: It looks clean.

Dad: It is possible for something to look clean but still have germs. Use this cleaning product to wipe off the area first.

Son: Okay, I will.

More Examples

The article excerpt below is about how often parents should bathe their children.

  • It all seems pretty straightforward; wash your kid if he stinks or is visibly dirty, but otherwise we can relax a bit on being clean as a whistle. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is about how a late show host who licked a clean iPad.

  • Finally, it was showtime. I’d changed the iPad’s lockscreen to the Late Show logo, I’d loaded up the iPad with a scanned image of the blue card with the iPad Top Ten, the battery was at maximum, it was clean as a whistle, there was no content on the device that would confuse the bit or the host, and everything was in working order. –Chicago Sun Times


The phrase clean as a whistle describes a person or thing that is immaculately clean.