Cleanup and Clean Up

Commonly Confused Words

cleanup and clean up
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The words cleanup and clean up are clearly related, but one is a noun and the other is a phrasal verb.


The noun cleanup (one word) refers to the act of cleaning, eliminating crime, or making a profit.

The verb phrase clean up (two words) means to make clean and neat, to finish, or to turn a sizable profit.


  • Hundreds of firefighters were involved in the post-Katrina cleanup of New Orleans.
  • "Bech usually needed a full cleanup, not with just a washrag but with paper towels dabbed in vodka, before he dared confront the elevator, the doorman, the avenue."
    (John Updike, "His Oeuvre." Licks of Love, Knopf, 2000)
  • Beware of free software programs that promise to clean up your hard drive.
  • "School gardens supplement the local produce and students learn to grow, harvest, and prepare their own food. They also help serve and clean up in the cafeteria."
    (Amy Kalafa, Lunch Wars. Penguin, 2011)

Idiom Alerts

  • The expression clean up your act means to follow certain standards of behavior or improve the way you behave.
    "Mr. Yeltsin was stung by criticism of his drinking and tried to clean up his act for a while. He put in long work days and managed to make his voice boom when he delivered speeches."
    (Marilyn Berger, "Boris Yeltsin, Russia's First Post-Soviet Leader, Is Dead." The New York Times, April 23, 2007)
  • The expression clean up after (someone) means to remove a mess or fix problems made by somebody else.
    "Whether it's Generation X, Generation Y or today's Generation Zero (the young folk who live their lives online and spurn material possessions), the question is whether they will be left to clean up after their parents' decades-long party."
    (John Elkington, "Will Generation Zero Clean Up the Baby Boomers' Environmental Mess?" The Guardian [UK], July 27, 2011)


(a) The Department of Defense was responsible for the _____ of environmental waste on the base.

(b) If you really want to _____ your garage, rent a dumpster.

Scroll down for answers below:

Answers to Practice Exercises: Cleanup and Clean Up

(a) The Department of Defense was responsible for the cleanup of environmental waste on the base.

(b) If you really want to clean up your garage, rent a dumpster