It’s a wash

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It’s a wash is an idiom that became popular in the twentieth century. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom it’s a wash, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

It’s a wash describes something that comes out even; no one side has an advantage over another or the positive and negative aspects of a situation seem to cancel each other out. For instance, one may go to a casino and win twenty dollars playing roulette and then lose twenty dollars playing slot machines. In this case, the gambler has neither lost nor won money in the long run; his experience may be said to have been a wash. The expression it’s a wash came into use in the early 1900s to mean something disappointing, evoking the image of something washed away. By the mid-twentieth century, the term took on its current meaning of a situation in which there is no net loss or gain. It’s a wash is an American idiom.


In theory, it’s a wash for states — accepting the premium costs them nothing, if they add it to the funds already earmarked to retire debt. (Connecticut Mirror)

If a company issues $100 million in stock options and buys back $100 million worth of shares, it’s a wash; existing shareholders have not benefited. (New Republic)

In other words, when it comes to weighing the heart-health benefits of aspirin to its gastrointestinal risks in this population, for most people, it’s a wash. (Time Magazine)