I've just been putting protective oil on a wooden door using a cloth and was getting the oil onto the cloth using the technique of blocking the tin with the cloth and upending the tin so that a small amount of oil is left on the cloth.

I've used this technique all my life for various things but have never known a word or phrase to describe the action. I also use it when cleaning things with white-spirit or similar. When I had a toothache as a child, my mother used to apply Oil of Cloves to the tooth from her finger-tip using a similar action.

I'm fairly certain we don't have a word in British English, so I'd be really interested if there's a word in use elsewhere in the English-speaking world - or if any other language has a word that we can purloin.

If no-one has anything - let's make one up!

  • A verb for applying some fluid to a cleaning cloth by pressing the cloth up against the container's opening and then upending the container. Let's resurrect tipple. Tipple some cleaning fluid onto a clean rag.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 12:33
  • I like that! You should add that as an answer.
    – Lefty
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 12:35
  • okeydokey, lefty.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 12:36
  • @TRomano As a frequentative of tip, the word tipple can mean to 'tilt,' and that's the closest it comes to the OP's sense of tilting the tin (for whatever purpose.) The more common (primary?) meaning of tipple, however, is unrelated to this context.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:43
  • @Kris, as we (facetiously) say in the States, "Tell me something I don't already know". :-)
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 14:07

4 Answers 4


moisten, dampen, wet, soak apply depending on how much moisture is applied.

  • Certainly any of these are better than tipple, which has certain unattractive connotations.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:59
  • For me, none of these fit the bill. They describe the state of dampness of the cloth after the upending has been performed - not the process of achieving that state. The technique is fairly specific in the amount of fluid that it allows onto the cloth and it's virtually impossible to get it wrong by pouring too much. I think it demands its own verb.
    – Lefty
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 14:40
  • 1
    @Lefty These words are verbs. These are not to be confused with moist, damp, wet, or soaked as adjectives.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 16:13
  • Moisten is my vote. Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 18:58

A verb for applying some fluid to a cleaning cloth by pressing the cloth up against the container's opening and then upending the container. Let's resurrect tipple. Tipple some cleaning fluid onto a clean rag.

Just don't tipple the cleaning fluid! It's a phrasal verb: "tipple...onto".

  • 1
    Please try to provide a definitive source supporting the answer. Also, it helps if some use-case sentences can be included for completeness.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:34
  • Sorry, I see no evidence for this definition in OED, and I've never come across it before. You say "Let's resurrect this word" - I say "Show some evidence it was ever used in this sense". Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:45
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I think this is an attempted extension of meaning -- pl. see my comment under the question above.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:49
  • 1
    This would be a bad choice because tipple has the literal meaning of drinking, and I don't think you wish to suggest drinking potentially harmful chemicals, even filtered through a cloth.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 14:00
  • Resurrect, as in revive the obsolete transitive verb tipple (to throw or pitch something) and combine it with the sense of being upended in the obsolete intransitive verb (cf. topple over) and combine it also with the "consume|use strong fluids" meaning of the verb "tipple" :-)
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 14:01

I think the verb you are looking for this action is: to dab.

To cover lightly with or as if with a moist substance: dabbed the back of the fabric with glue.

[The American Heritage Dictionary]

Some Examples from Google and Google Books:

If you're a shower person, dab some oil on a scrap of cloth and hang it from the shower to release the aroma.

[Kitchen Witch's Guide to Magickal Tools By Patricia Telesco]

Remove the scope from your rifle. Dab some water on a soft cloth. Wipe the outside of the lenses clean with the cloth.


All you need to do is dab some oil on a cotton ball or pad and swipe across your face to remove makeup for a natural makeup remover solution.


Protect your hand with a grill mitt, dab some oil on a cloth, and quickly but efficiently wipe down the hot grills.


  • I have sometimes seen "dab" used as the action of getting fluid onto a cloth - but genuinely don't know whether they mean to use this technique or to pour some liquid into a vessel and then "dab" the cloth into that pool of liquid. I hope you can see that the 2 things are not the same and it would be helpful to have a distinction. I also have a feeling that this use of "dab" may be slightly more common in the US than in the UK.
    – Lefty
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 16:00
  • @Lefty: This is the word for this technique. Another example: you can dab some makeup remover on a cotton pad and wipe your face. You can do a search on Google and see similar examples.
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 16:06
  • @Lefty: Added more examples to prove it is the right verb. I don't know why I got the downvote though. Maybe it is not used in all English speaking countries (though I doubt because it is a very basic verb) but definitely used in North America.
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 18:46
  • @ermanem Again, your examples are ones where I would NOT naturally assume you get the fluid onto the cloth by this process. To me, I "dab" a cloth or sponge INTO a fluid which is in a shallow dish. I might then "dab" the cloth/sponge ONTO something - which implies a lighter touch than wiping or rubbing. I appreciate that you may understand "dab" to mean this process but I don't. EDIT, sorry, I can see you are in US! BTW, the downvote was no from me.
    – Lefty
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 19:17
  • @Lefty: These examples are not INTO. They are ON a something from a bottle or a container. Maybe it is used in other sense too, yes. I'm in Canada. "Dip" connotes INTO the liquid more than "dab".
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 19:19

How about something with "flip[ping]" in it...

"the wig,""the lid," "the bird".... all already taken (too bad. 'cause "the lid" could have worked...

let's see...:

"flipping the cloth" maybe, or maybe "flipping the flop"?

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