I'm looking for an effective verb to describe "sloppily drying" yourself with a towel. I feel like there a single action verb is out there, but I've been thinking for a long time and haven't come up with one.

The sentence to complete is: "I [sloppily dry] myself with the towel, missing a few spots here and there, and storm out the bathroom." I'm hoping to replace the bracketed part with a single descriptive verb. The context is that the narrator just finished taking a shower and is fuming. So he wouldn't be focused on carefully drying himself.

Here's another visual of the action I'm trying to describe: imagine a little child is really excited to go play with a new toy, but the parent tells the child to take a bath first. After the bath, the parent can barely contain the excited child. The parent only gets to [sloppily dry] the child with a towel before the child bursts out of the bathroom to go play with the toy.

I don't like "dry" because it's not a strong visual. For example, the Merriam Webster website says the verb definition of "dry" is "to make dry" which is pretty much non-visual. "dry" describes the end result of the action, but not what the action looks like.

"Scrub/scour myself with the towel" is visual, but there's no sloppy feeling to it anymore.

"Frisk" seems to have the sloppy feeling to it (if you think about a TSA/security agent quickly frisking you at the airport), but it doesn't seem like an appropriate way someone can use a towel.

Thanks for the help!

4 Answers 4


Draw from implied imagery using words that may seem unusual in the situation.

Generally, good writers advise to avoid adverbs. Use a word that speaks for itself, bringing your meaning from its situation.


"slopping" (oneself with a towel)

Slopping myself with the towel, I gazed out the window at the commotion below.

Since "sloppy" is the description you are going for, simply use "slop" as your verb.

"flopping" (the towel)

I stepped out of the shower, grabbed the towel without looking, then started flopping it around my body.

The advantage of "flopping" is its phonetic similarity to "sloppy", the idea you are going for.

"dabbing" (oneself)

I dabbed at my soaking wet body while glued to the TV.

"Dabbing" is not in itself a "sloppy" work, but as a means of drying oneself with a towel—that would likely describe an effort that is sloppy by implication.

"throwing on (the towel) like a cape"

Exiting the water and throwing on his towel like a cape, he darted inland.

This is a little farther from your idea, but it still works and is a usable example of what you can do.

Likewise, consider others: slapping, smacking, mopping, brushing, flapping, rolling, et cetera.

  • "dabbing" conjures up in my mind something that is done very carefully and deliberately. In polite company I might dab my mouth with a napkin, for example.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 10:27
  • 2
    For small jobs like the corner of your mouth, yes, not toweling off, though. It depends on context. "While glued to the TV, I dabbed my soaking wet self with a towel," does not paint a picture of someone being mindful or careful. :-)
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 10:40
  • 1
    "dab" was going to be my best attempt at a single-word verb. In the construct "I dab myself with the towel" it suggests (to me) a somewhat hasty process of little more than pressing the towel to just the wettest spots, leaving some parts of the body still damp.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 9:16
  • 1
    Thanks! It seems like "slop" and "flop" are visual verbs and have enough strength in the action to work with the anger in "storm out of the bathroom." Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 5:05

To make the sentence sound snappier, you could verb the noun "towel"

  1. I towel hastily/briskly/furiously, missing a few spots here and there, and storm out the bathroom."

towel VERB
1. Wipe or dry with a towel.
with object and complement

  • ‘she towelled her hair dry’
  • ‘The pair then jog back up to the beach, and - without even towelling themselves down - jump straight into the cabin of their vehicle.’
  • ‘I yelled as the freezing water soaked me, and I hastily scrambled out, toweling myself dry.’
  • Or even phrasal verb “towel off” In the case of the OP: I haphazardly toweled off and stormed out of the bathroom.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 7:33

Interesting question, I think the examples you provided were helpful too. They reminded me of the types of scenes in movies and tv shows where someone is late running late for work and [verb you need] gives their spouse a kiss on the cheek as they race out the door.

You could try something like distractedly - as in “I distractedly dry myself with the towel”.

Oxford Dictionaries

Distractedly (from Distracted): Unable to concentrate because one is preoccupied by something worrying or unpleasant.

I feel like you could successfully alter the focus of the sentence for far better effect, though. Something like:

“It wasn’t until I started to get dressed that I realised I was still soaking wet. In my anger-addled daze I’d either barely touched the towel or forgotten it entirely.”


The only thing I can think of is "I pat myself down with the towel, missing a few spots here and there, and storm out the bathroom."

None of the dictionary definitions I've looked at offer a meaning that means precisely what this action is (pat down or pat dry with a towel), yet I've heard the phrase frequently enough to understand it.

Merriam-Webster offers the following definition of pat that seems to be the closest:

2 : to flatten, smooth, or put into place or shape with light blows

Of course, you're not shaping or putting the towel into place, but you could be seen as lightly striking yourself with it.

It offers the following similar definition of the intransitive verb:

: to strike or beat gently

Patting yourself down with a towel will not result in as thorough a drying job as would scrubbing yourself down. Patting yourself down is less complete, so could fulfill your sense of sloppiness.

What's interesting is that pat down can also be synonymous with frisk—but it has a different meaning in this particular case.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.