Inspired by recent calculations by Thoraval et al. (Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 108, 2012, p.Â 264506) relating to droplet impact, this paper presents an analysis of the perturbations to the free surface caused by small surface tension and viscosity in steady Helmholtz flows. In particular, we identify the regimes in which appreciable vorticity can be shed from the boundary layer to the bulk flow. © 2014 Cambridge University Press.