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According to one Japanese guy I know:

洗浄とは、きれいにすること。
清潔とは、きれいであること。

He also says that the correct adjective in the sentence below is 清潔 and 清浄 is incorrect.

山中では空気はとても 清浄だ / 清潔だ。

However, according to the dictionary, 清浄 is correct.
http://tangorin.com/general/%E6%B8%85%E6%B5%84

Can someone explain this to me?

  • 「洗浄とは、きれいにすること」は「 浄( せんじょう)」、「山中では空気はとても清浄だ」は「 浄( せいじょう)」。 – Chocolate Oct 19 '18 at 12:11
  • 答えてくれてありがとうございます。「清浄」の代わりに「清潔」を使えるか教えてくれませんか。 – Monika Oct 19 '18 at 12:16
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    「清浄」と「清潔」の違いを問う質問ですか、それとも「洗浄」と「清潔」の違いを問う質問ですか。 – Chocolate Oct 20 '18 at 5:05
  • 「清浄」と「清潔」の違いを問う質問です。 – Monika Oct 20 '18 at 8:58
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清潔(せいけつ) basically only refers to physical cleanliness. Being 清潔 is being free from dirt, dust, blot, bacteria, etc. It's antonym is 不潔(ふけつ), which refers to something physically dirty.

清浄(せいじょう) is a relatively uncommon word. It can refer to physical cleanliness of water and air in technical contexts (e.g. 空気清浄器), but in non-technical contxts, it tends to refer to more abstract or "spiritual" cleanliness/pureness. The antonym of 清浄 in the spiritual sense is 不浄(ふじょう), which describes something morally dirty, inpure, corrupted, etc.

Therefore, if you're thinking of the tranquility, sacredness, or any other mental effect of mountain air, 清浄な山の空気 would be the natural choice. If you're only concerned about air pollution or infectious disease, 清潔な山の空気 is also fine.

洗浄(せんじょう) is a suru-verb meaning "to wash", "to clean", "to cleanse", etc. It is basically a kango version of 洗う, and mainly used in technical contexts.

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