The total impulse imparted to a target by an impinging blast wave is a key loading parameter for the design of blast-resistant structures and façades. Simple, semi-empirical approaches for the prediction of blast impulse on a structure are well established and are accurate in cases where the lateral dimensions of the structure are sufficiently large. However, if the lateral dimensions of the target are relatively small in comparison to the length of the incoming blast wave, air flow around the edges of the structure will lead to the propagation of rarefaction or clearing waves across the face of the target, resulting in a premature reduction of load and hence, a reduction in the total impulse imparted to the structure. This effect is well-known; semi-empirical models for the prediction of clearing exist, but several recent numerical and experimental studies have cast doubt on their accuracy and physical basis. In fact, this issue was addressed over half a century ago in a little known technical report at the Sandia Laboratory, USA. This paper presents the basis of this overlooked method along with predictions of the clearing effect. These predictions, which are very simple to incorporate in predictions of blast loading, have been carefully validated by the current authors, by experimental testing and numerical modelling. The paper presents a discussion of the limits of the method, concluding that it is accurate for relatively long stand-off blast loading events, and giving some indication of improvements that are necessary if the method is to be applicable to shorter stand-off cases.