[ skwee-kee-kleen ]
/ ˈskwi kiˈklin /
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adjective Informal.
scrupulously clean.
virtuous, wholesome, and above reproach: a squeaky-clean reputation.
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What does squeaky-clean mean?

Squeaky-clean means completely clean—as clean as possible.

The term comes from the squeaky sound that often happens when you run your finger over a smooth, clean surface, like a countertop of a windowpane, or when you rub a strand of wet hair after it’s been washed.

Squeaky-clean is also commonly used in a figurative way to describe someone who is known for having a wholesome and virtuous reputation. It can also be used to describe such a reputation or the actions of such a person.

When it’s used in this way, squeaky-clean can be used both positively and negatively. When used positively, it typically indicates that someone is completely honorable and upstanding, as in Unfortunately for his enemies, the mayor is squeaky-clean—they’ll never be able to dig up any dirt on him. 

However, it often implies that a person’s reputation or public image is fake, artificial, or has been constructed to hide what they’re really like. It can also be used to imply that such virtuousness is excessive or irritating, as in I can’t understand why kids enjoy these squeaky-clean boy bands—what happened to teenage rebellion and rock-’n’-roll?

Both senses of squeaky-clean are used informally.

Example: The floors in my mother-in-law’s house are always so squeaky-clean that you could eat off of them.

Where does squeaky-clean come from?

The term squeaky-clean has been used since at least the 1930s.

Over the years, use of the term has been popular in advertisements and commercials for cleaning supplies and hair products, such as dish soap and shampoo. However, haircare experts debate whether hair should actually be squeaky-clean after you wash it, with some saying that this means it is too dry or has been stripped of its natural oils. Squeaky-clean can also be used to describe things that have been thoroughly cleaned in some other way, such as a computer  hard drive that has been fully wiped of data.

The figurative sense of squeaky-clean is often used in a negative way in the context of politicians and celebrities whose upstanding public image seems a bit too carefully constructed.

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What are some synonyms for squeaky-clean?

What are some words that share a root or word element with squeaky-clean

What are some words that often get used in discussing squeaky-clean?

How is squeaky-clean used in real life?

The literal sense of squeaky-clean is typically used in the context of cleaning products and hygiene products, especially hair products. Its figurative sense is often used in the contexts of politics, often in a negative way.


Try using squeaky-clean!

Which of the following terms is NOT a synonym of squeaky-clean?

A. spotless
B. spick-and-span
C. tarnished
D. immaculate

How to use squeaky-clean in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for squeaky-clean


(of hair) washed so clean that wet strands squeak when rubbed
completely clean
informal, derogatory (of a person) cultivating a virtuous and wholesome image
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012