Clean vs Cleanse; Cleaned vs Cleansed

Clean vs Cleanse; Cleaned vs Cleansed

Posted on August 22, 2012

PBLI: clean vs cleanse; cleaned vs cleansed

Last August 14, 2012, I jot down an item in my problem-based learning issue (PBLI) list when I was seeing patients in my clinic.

The PBLI is what is the right word to use, wound is “cleaned” or wound is “cleansed.”  I asked myself this question as I was jotting down notes on a patient’s chart after I did a cleaning procedure.

If I make an order on the chart or if I advise a patient, using either word in the active voice, I usually say “clean wound once a day” or “clean wound twice a day.”  I don’t usually say “cleanse wound once a day” or “cleanse wound twice a day.”

How about using either word in the passive voice?  Do we say the “wound cleaned?” Or do we say “wound cleansed?”

Grammarist (http://grammarist.com/usage/clean-cleanse/) says these:

“Both clean and cleanse can be used to mean to remove dirt or filth from. But clean is more often used literally, and cleanse is more often figurative. So cleansing is often spiritual or psychological, while cleaning is usually sanitary or cosmetic.”

My take from Grammarist:

Resolution: From now on, I will use the phrase: “wound cleaned” or “wound is cleaned.”  I will not say or write: “wound cleansed” or “wound is cleansed.”

Is there a place for “cleanse” in the medical language?  I asked further.

Yes, there is.

According to Grammarist, “cleanse”rather than “clean” is also used to mean to rid one’s body or a part of one’s body of toxins and other impurities. This definition is a literalization of the spiritual sense of cleanse.”  “Cleanse the body of toxins and impurities” or the body is “cleansed of toxins and impurities,” one would say.  Not “clean the body of toxins and impurities.”

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