This is really funny, but I'm writing a story, and need to describe an action I've done and seen others do almost all my life - here in Uganda at least, but I can't seem to find the word or expression for it!

Basically, as part of the process of washing most clothes, especially shirts/t-shirts, after one had finished washing the fabric in water, right after the final rinsing (not using a machine, but bare hands), and right before placing the fabric on a hangar or wire to let it dry, there's this action we do:

for a shirt for example, you hold it by its base on both ends, and doing a motion as though using the shirt to blow out a fire, cause more water to be lost from the fabric, and also to help lessen the possibility of creases forming in the fabric prior to hanging it out to dry.

It's the above act that I can't find the right word(s) for, and if anyone here knows of or has seen this act being done, maybe they might offer some suggestions?

Note: I'm almost close to 30, but don't think I've ever heard anyone describe that action with a word, yet it's so common [here] :-)

  • 2
    I'd consider shake or wave. Neither is very specific, and you might need an adjective to indicate how gently or forcefully you are shaking. Feb 22, 2016 at 22:35
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    I quess I'm a bit more impatient and therefore rougher with my wet shirts, because I actually "snap" them to help them to dry!
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 22, 2016 at 23:07
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    I'm pretty sure that shaking or flapping the shirt at a fire, which is what I get from your description, would in fact make it burn all the harder.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 22, 2016 at 23:45
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    Until I read your description I thought "sniff it to see how bad it smells", but Nathanial has the right answer.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 23, 2016 at 0:02
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    @Papa Poule Why not post snap as an answer?
    – ab2
    Feb 23, 2016 at 3:29

6 Answers 6


Consider to shake out. Example usages:

If you don't have time to fold a load immediately, shake out the pieces and lay them flat in the laundry basket (CNN)

Shake out clothes when you remove them from the washer. (NJ Laundromats)

Shake out clothes from wringer and drop into fresh, warm suds. (Approved Methods for Home Laundering)

  • Yep, that's the phrase that I immediately thought of. Of course, the OP wants a single word, but good luck with that.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 23, 2016 at 0:00
  • "Shake out" surely sounds so much like it, though even "air out", suggested elsewhere comes so close. Thanks good folks! Story will now proceed :-)
    – JWL
    Feb 23, 2016 at 4:50
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    @nemesisfixx - "Air out" is something entirely different. It's something you might do with a piece of stinky laundry -- place it on a clothesline outside to "air out".
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:22
  • @HotLicks now that's funny :-) I hadn't used it yet, preferring "shake out" instead.
    – JWL
    Feb 23, 2016 at 19:22
  • This is good. Even better: Give it a [good] shake. Sep 15, 2019 at 0:45

I call this whipping...essentially one makes a small snap that is akin to cracking a whip. The speed of which expels water very quickly and smoothens the fabric.

  • Sorry, I must have accidentally hit the wrong button. The issue here is that "whip" has already been suggested, above. Feb 24, 2016 at 2:17
  • no problem, whip was suggested, I added the idea of a possible origin to justify the active form of the word
    – rAntonioH
    Feb 24, 2016 at 2:20
  • +1 (yesterday) to @currypower for mentioning it first and +1 to you for mentioning the "snap" it makes.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:25

I believe flap may come close.

to sway loosely usually with a noise of striking and especially when moved by wind

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flap


Before you hang your clothes to dry, you should flap them to help lessen the possibility of creases forming in the fabric

  • 1
    Doesn't seem like such a terrible suggestion. Thanks.
    – JWL
    Sep 19, 2019 at 15:25

I think the word you're looking for is wringing.

Definition of to wring: squeeze and twist (something) to force liquid from it.

Synonyms: squeeze, scrunch, twist. You could indeed squeeze the water from the clothes, but wringing has a more accurate description regarding clothes.

EDIT: Are you talking about the motion of shaking the clothes out AFTER they've been wrung out? If so, the words wave and shake come to mind. I usually say "I'm airing out the clothes" so airing out might be an appropriate phrase, though I don't know how commonly used that is.

When I say "to air out" clothes, I'm referring to the motion like shaking out sheets over a bed. I think that's a good description of the movement.

  • 2
    Read the description of the action carefully. He is trying to avoid wrinkles, and the action is like what you would do to put out a fire. Feb 22, 2016 at 23:09
  • Ah, you're right. I just saw the part where she said "right after the final rinsing" and assumed she was looking for the word wringing. I've edited my answer.
    – Abs
    Feb 22, 2016 at 23:11
  • I think to most in the US "air out" means something entirely different.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:23
  • I do live in the US...?
    – Abs
    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:08
  • "Airing out" is passive rather than active. "Airing out" is allowing something that is not freshly washed to hang, to remove odors from storage or from use. All over England, one can see down comforters "airing out" over balconies, to allow odor from perspiration to diffuse.
    – Theresa
    Apr 28, 2017 at 1:29

I was taught "wringing" as in "wringing out the water" and that's what I've been used to hearing as I've grown up.

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    Read the description of the action carefully. He is trying to avoid wrinkles, and the action is like what you would do to put out a fire. Feb 22, 2016 at 23:09

I think you mean unravel the clothes. After you wring the wet clothes, you unravel them.

Does this help to enlighten you?

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