meaning of "wash its face"

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FrankFry | 09:05 Sat 23rd Feb 2008 | Phrases & Sayings
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what does the say "wash its face" mean in relation to the performance of companies etc


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I believe the expression "not fit to wash its face" originates in Scotland or the North of England and may be applied as a description of a failing business.

Thus for a business to be able to "wash its face" it must not be in a position of failure but the term is meant to convey that it is close to the limit i.e. it makes just enough money to cover its expenses, or what may otherwise be described as "breaking even".
I had never heard this expression until I found it being used by the presenter of BBC 1 prog. Bargain Hunt. When an item in the auction goes for the price the contestants paid for it he says "it has washed its face."
I don't see the connection. 'Broken even' seems better to me.
Other forms I have heard are "wash its own face", meaning to take care of itself, to make something self sustaining. I first heard this while watching "Antiques to the Rescue" and was used in the context of the owners of the house trying to raise money to keep the house going so they wanted to open a visitors centre to support the upkeep of the family home.

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