take to the cleaners

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take to the cleaners (third-person singular simple present takes to the cleaners, present participle taking to the cleaners, simple past took to the cleaners, past participle taken to the cleaners)

  1. (idiomatic) To take a significant quantity of a person's money or valuables, through overcharging, litigation, unfavorable investing, gambling, fraud, etc. (humorous way of saying older expression clean out)
    • 1934 Oct. 25, "Dizzy and Daffy Begin Careers in Vaudeville," The Washington Reporter, p. 12 (retrieved 5 August 2013):
      Dizzy refused to pose with a blonde chorine clad only in step-ins. "No sir," exploded Dizzy. ". . . [M]y wife would take me to the cleaners if she saw a picture like that."
    • 1984 Oct. 15, "Tax and Spend," Time (retrieved 5 August 2013):
      George Bush paid the IRS $198,000 in back taxes and interest, and he is planning to sue, if necessary, to get his money back. "I'm the guy that's been taken to the cleaners," Bush said last week.
    • 2007 Feb. 4, Scott Shane and Ron Nixon, "U.S. contractors becoming a virtual fourth branch of government," New York Times (retrieved 5 August 2013):
      "Billions of dollars are being squandered, and the taxpayer is being taken to the cleaners," Waxman said.