Meaning of “Clean” by Taylor Swift

Big Machine Records released “Clean” on 27 October 2014 as the final track on the standard playlist of Taylor Swift’s album “1989”. As of this writing, the “Taylor’s Version” of 1989 is slated to come out in a couple of months. This means that soon, Swifties will also be treated to a “Taylor Version”, i.e. re-recording and re-release, of “Clean”. But in the meantime we are focusing on the original. Swift produced the original version alongside Imogen Heap, a musician from the UK. And it is also the two of them who wrote this song.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Taylor Swift's Clean at

Facts about “Clean”

“Clean” was not released as a single, but it still managed to be certified silver in the United Kingdom.

Coming in at approx. 4 minutes and 30 seconds in length, “Clean” is the longest track on “1989”.

According to Swift she conceptualized “Clean” while in London at the same time as one of her exes. This has caused many to conclude that it was inspired by her relationship with (or more specifically breakup from) fellow musical A-lister Harry Styles.

Another famous singer, Kelly Clarkson, covered “Clean” on her own program, The Kelly Clarkson Show. The performance took place on 12 April 2023.

Swift has noted that this song was one of “the last two things” that was written for “1989”.


The Lyrics of “Clean”

Taylor Swift has offered a pretty elaborate explanation of this song, in the process ruminating on the psychological effects of breaking up and things of the such. But she also provided a simpler description, stating that “Clean” is “about comparing getting over a relationship to sobriety”. 

So in the process, the lyrics sport “a lot of different references between addiction and moving on from a relationship”. But that is not the only motif upon which they are based. This song also features the liberal use of terminology related to water, even more so than that related to addiction.

In fact the only part of the song that really makes use of the sobriety theme is the bridge. Therein, the vocalist states that she is “10 months sober”. In context, that phrase would allude to the notion of it having been some time since she and the addressee have parted ways. 

But the singer also chimes that “just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it”. So what it appears that Taylor is saying is that yes, she has by and large gotten over her ex, but yet and still, she does miss him. Therefore Swift ultimately concludes the matter by asserting that “now that she’s clean, she’s never gonna risk it’.

Never again

What’s being implied here is that prior to the “10 months sober”, it took the vocalist some time and considerable energy to get over her ex. This was a struggle that was, once again, akin to overcoming a drug addiction. And now that Swift has bested those feelings, she does not intend going back. Put simply, she doesn’t want to put herself in a position where those feelings may re-emerge. Owing to this, she’d rather not re-engage with him. 

So it can be further postulated that, at least from her perspective, their breakup wasn’t a pleasant one, and/or she does not trust him along the lines of being a committed lover.

And that is what the other parts of the song, i.e. those based on the water motif, go on to illustrate. The first verse insinuates that the waning days of their romance were indeed tumultuous, yet, as also verified in the bridge, feelings linger on the part of the vocalist. 

“Rain came pouring down
When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe
And by morning
Gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean
(Oh, oh, oh, oh)”

The chorus goes on to indicate that even though her relationship with the addressee turned toxic, Taylor lacked the wherewithal to walk away from it. So it was him rather who bounced, totally and completely. And upon doing so, Swift began her healing process. And what that entailed, as put forth in the second verse, is the vocalist letting out her frustration and basically getting rid of anything that reminded her of her ex.

Concerning the notion of the vocalist letting out this frustration, Taylor has revealed that one of the philosophies which inspired this track was her observation that “if you really allow yourself to feel pain… maybe it’s easier to get past it”. 

So the narrator at hand obviously isn’t the type to suppress her feelings, as unpleasant as they may be. But that said, now that she has for the most part gotten over her ex, Swift has no desire to once again make herself vulnerable to seemingly having her heart broken by him.

Was “Clean” released as a single from “1989”?

The answer is no. “1989” birthed only the following singles:

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