take to the cleaners


a person who cleans, especially one whose regular occupation is cleaning offices, buildings, equipment, etc.
an apparatus or machine for cleaning, as a vacuum cleaner.
a preparation for use in cleaning, as a detergent or chemical bleach.
the owner or operator of a dry-cleaning establishment: The cleaner said he couldn't get the spot off my coat.
Usually, cleaners. a dry-cleaning establishment: My suit is at the cleaners.
take to the cleaners, Slang. to cause to lose all or a great deal of one's money or personal property, as through gambling or a bad investment: He got taken to the cleaners in the poker game last night.

1425–75; late Middle English clener. See clean, -er1

precleaner, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cleaner (ˈkliːnə)
1.  a person, device, chemical agent, etc, that removes dirt, as from clothes or carpets
2.  (usually plural) a shop, etc that provides a dry-cleaning service
3.  informal take a person to the cleaners to rob or defraud a person of all of his money

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. clæne "clean, pure," from W.Gmc. *klainoz "clear, pure," from PIE base *gel- "to gleam" (cf. Gk. glene "eyeball," O.Ir. gel "bright"). As an adj., replaced in higher senses by clear, pure, but as a verb (c.1450) it has largely usurped what once belonged to
cleanse. The adj. clean in the sense of "innocent" is from c.1300; that of "not lewd" is from 1867; that of "free of drug addiction" is 1950s. To take (someone) to the cleaners "get all of (someone's) money" is from 1932
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

take to the cleaners

  1. Take or cheat one out of all of one's money or possessions, as in Her divorce lawyer took him to the cleaners, or That broker has taken a number of clients to the cleaners. [Slang; early 1900s]

  2. Drub, beat up, as in He didn't just push youhe took you to the cleaners. [Slang; early 1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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