One of our senior technical architects uses this phrase:

it will come out in the wash

We generally take that to mean "let's do the detailed/mundane stuff later — and concentrate on the key stuff now".

Is this right? What's the actual meaning and correct usage of this phrase?

  • +! This thread is my strongest revelation in my 30+ years English (or communication with mother-tonguers) Feb 12, 2011 at 4:45
  • Nope. Then, a long time ago I convinced all my colleagues to abandon the term "correct" and substitute it by "more effecient". Do you advocate stagnation? Feb 12, 2011 at 5:34
  • 4
    @vgv8: "correct" is quite different from "more efficient", arbitrarily changing the term is not making progress. Also, "mother-tonguer" is likely to be interpreted as an insult, because it sounds like mother fucker crossed with someone who french-kisses his mother.
    – Wayne
    May 24, 2011 at 18:22
  • @Wayne I liked very much your description of the term "mothertonguer":D Jun 12, 2011 at 8:27
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    It needs to be noted that the idiom is not "in the wash", but "come out in the wash". "In the wash", by itself, simply means a pile of laundry in a tub.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 19, 2016 at 19:01

4 Answers 4


It means that problems or difficulties will be resolved in due course.

AFAIK, it was first used by Cervantes in Don Quixote:

"At least," said Sancho, "your grace
was able to put your lance into its
proper perspective, aiming at my head
but landing on my shoulder, thanks to
God and my ability at leaping aside -
but never mind, it will all come out
in the wash"

[The quote varies based on the translation]


@1006a was kind enough to furnish the original Spanish in a comment:

Pero vaya, que todo saldrá en la colada
[But go on, it will all work out in the wash]

  • 1
    @I'd be curious to see the original Spanish.
    – Robusto
    Dec 7, 2010 at 11:38
  • I'm sure it would be easy enough to get the spanish text, but more difficult which bit the quote comes from! ;)
    – CJM
    Dec 7, 2010 at 17:01
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    @Robusto — A lo menos —respondió Sancho—, supo vuestra merced poner en su punto el lanzón, apuntándome a la cabeza, y dándome en las espaldas, gracias a Dios y a la diligencia que puse en ladearme. Pero vaya, que todo saldrá en la colada; que yo he oído decir: "Ése te quiere bien, que te hace llorar"; y más, que suelen los principales señores, tras una mala palabra que dicen a un criado, darle luego unas calzas; aunque no sé lo que le suelen dar tras haberle dado de palos, si ya no es que los caballeros andantes dan tras palos ínsulas o reinos en tierra firme. ...
    – 1006a
    Aug 19, 2016 at 0:49
  • 1
    ...gutenberg.org/files/2000/2000-h/2000-h.htm#1_xx (This is my best guess; the paragraph is at almost the end of the chapter.)
    – 1006a
    Aug 19, 2016 at 0:49
  • Forgive me, the Spanish "salir en la colada" can indeed be translated as "come out in the wash" but one can't take an idiom from another language and then claim it was "first said in that language" and claim a translation of the idiom is where it was first used.... "Come now, it will all come out in the wash". That's crazy.
    – Lambie
    Dec 6, 2017 at 14:25

It means that everything will come out. "Come out in the wash" refers to having a stain come out in the wash.

"Fig. to work out all right. (Alludes to a clothing stain that can be removed by washing.) Don't worry about that problem. It'll all come out in the wash. This trouble will go away. It'll come out in the wash." (the Free Dictionary)


My understanding of "it will all come out in the wash" is that the truth will always prevail. For whatever reason, in the good old days, people put coins, trinkets, and other (perhaps embarrassing) items in the pockets of their clothes prior to being washed. Upon washing the clothes (either by hand or by machine), these items usually fall out and are "exposed" for good or bad. Like Buddha once said, three things cannot be hidden——the sun, the moon and the truth.


It seems we all use the term with different intentions. Rather than the small stuff will go away, I thought it to mean the stain(problem) will be rinsed (shared or diluted) with all of the other stains and the final color (outcome) will be shared equally. "My friend leaves early on weekdays. Yes but she also comes in on Saturday. It will all come out in the wash.". Meaning don't be too detailed everyday about the work sometimes I have more stains on a given day than you and vice versa. But at the end of the week our stains mix and clear away in the wash, making us all equal the next week.

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