Throwing In The {Paper} Towels!

In my New Year’s Day post I hinted at “going paperless” in 2012 and said I would share more later. Ready or not…I’m ready to share. :-)

A couple of months ago I kept noticing how easy (TOO easy!) it had become in our house for us (I’ll take some blame here too!) to just grab a paper towel from the roll that sits right next to the sink whenever we washed our hands…or whenever we spilled something…just whenever. My thought process about this sort of thing usually goes something like this: “Well that’s a waste of money!!”, followed quickly by, “That is such a WASTE. Period.”

I decided to read up on “green” ideas for dealing with wasteful paper products in the home and found some interesting stuff. (FYI..none of these articles ever mentioned eliminating TOILET PAPER…or I would NOT be writing this! Some things are sacrosanct! Toilet paper is one of those things.)

Since it’s a brand new year…I figured no time like the present to give it a try! Afterall, I’m very close to paperless already. I got rid of the dryer sheets, I got rid of the Clorox cleaning wipes, I’m TRYING to use reusable grocery sacks (I’m so forgetful!). Paper towels and paper napkins were really the only things I was still using on a regular basis in the kitchen. I wasn’t quite sure how I as going to find a replacement for those…when I found an inspiring blog post here by cleanmama.blogspot.com about substituting cloth for paper.
She simply purchased cloth towels and keeps them by the sink and on the table, just like regular paper towels and napkins.

cleanmama.blogspot.com
Love For Earth

While she bought her UNpaper towels from the Etsy shop, Love For Earth for $11.75 per dozen…I couldn’t quite bring myself to pay that much. Especially because I was certain I was going to need WAY more than one dozen! So I headed to my friendly neighborhood Wally World and got (2) sets of these flour sack towels for $5.48 each. Each set had 5 towels and since these towels are HUGE (28″ x 29″)…I cut each one into fourths and ended up with 40 perfectly-sized towels for under $11.

Mainstays 5pk Flour Sack Kitchen Towel

My daughter decided to get into the act and cut and folded many of them into these cute little triangles. I also am going to leave them in this basket by the side of the sink (where the paper towel roll USED to be) to ENCOURAGE THEIR USE!  And, believe it or not, it seems to be WORKING!

As a matter of fact, I already washed and dried a 1/2 dozen of them because since I didn’t sew the edges on these…I was a little concerned they might get badly frayed.

Result: SLIGHTLY frayed but just as serviceable as before.

Just out of the dryer. Wrinkly…some fraying. I could have just folded and put back in basket, but I decided to
give a quick spritz with water and used my hands to smooth out. Then folded. Perfectly fine for me.

I personally couldn’t see finishing all those edges on a sewing machine….(40 cloths x 4 edges each=160 edges!)…for a glorified paper towel. The THREAD probably would have ended up costing more than the towels! But that’s just ME, you might LOVE to sew and could whip them out in no time. In that case, I say GO FOR IT! :-)

Cutting back on paper in a paper-FILLED world is today’s…..


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Comments

    • Joy Keegans says

      I love it! We throw away far too much, and if our President would instantly halt importing and exporting trade with China and Taiwan (and others), the cases of hoarding sickness would probably go away, and many other things would eventually get back under control. Our country needs to return to where it was some 35-40 years ago, and if that means paying more for clothing and shoes, I am willing. Who needs 20 pairs of shoes and jeans, anyway? Choices have gotten way out of hand, and the spies are making fools out of us all. We should all begin a major boycott. And, now, it is the poultry that is to be shipped to China – all beyound our control – yuck! I can promise you I won’t be eating it – write your Congressman or phone him or her and soon!!!

  1. candyn says

    I just found your blog through Pinterest and I'm so glad that I did! You share the most amazing tips. I'm so excited to try all sorts of things I've found here, starting with this one. Our paper towel use has bothered me for too long. This is a perfect solution! I love flour sack towels, just never made the mental leap to cut them down and leave them in easy to reach places. Yay!

  2. Jill Nystul says

    Andrea…I LOVE that suggestion! Such a great idea for those who aren't ready to "go all the way". lol. That's what I've done too. I keep a roll for icky emergencies under the sink. Thanks!

    Anony…pinking shears! Of course. That's what my Mom used to do. Never would have thought of it. Thank you!

    candyn…I'm so glad you found my blog too! :-) You sound like me. The paper towel thing was bugging me for a long time, but I didn't really know what else to do. Yay for Pinterest and Yay for sharing ideas! I love it!
    This may sound crazy (but that's not unusual for me) but this morning as I was folding a batch of these UNpaper towels I had washed to put back in the basket, I just had this good feeling. Instead of resenting that I was doing a "chore", I felt like I was doing a "good thing". Silly huh? ;-)
    Anyway, thanks for stopping by! I hope you keep coming back!

  3. Kelly says

    I too found your blog through Pinterest and love it! I recently decided to make my own laundry detergent, body wash, hand soap, and shaving gel. With such success, I started looking for other ways to trim/stretch my budget and make my home a litter greener at the same time. I was so excited to see this blog entry and I knew I wanted to try it right away! I used WalMart's free online ordering and in-store pick up to get the 2 packs of flour sack towels last night. I brought them home and decided to cut each sheet into 6ths, similar to the size of regular paper towels. I also did this in hopes that I could wrap them around each other and continue to use my vertical paper towel holder that is currently on the counter. It worked! I layered one upon the other, overlapping by about 3-4 inches, rolled them up and then placed another 1/6 on top of the one before. Each 'roll' will hold about 24 1/6 towels as they are not long enough to make the distance around the 'roll' as it grows larger. They really do pull out like a regular paper towel roll! I took the remainder 1/6s and rolled them up into 'rolls' and have them stored for later use too. And, now I don't have to spend the money to buy a basket or take up more counter space (I have such little to begin with!) I also used an old lingerie mesh laundry bag, attached by two removable sticky hooks, inside the cabinet below the sink to collect dirty towels to wash later. Thanks for getting me jump started!

  4. Anonymous says

    Hello all!! Just popped over from Pinterest and caught this topic. About a year ago I switched us from paper napkins to cloth ones. Some I found at a local thrift store and some I made myself. I purchased some inexpensive muslin fabric at a local fabric store. Instead of cutting and hemming it to the size that I needed, I simply took my scissors and made small cuts at the edges of the fabric to the size I wanted my napkins to be, grabbed the sides and ripped. Fabric will tear straight. I did crosswise strips, then vertical ones on the crosswise strips. I did add some embroidery, but I left the edges raw. I didn't have to worry about cutting a straight line(cause I can't). The first time that I passed my napkins out to guests was really interesting. They weren't quite sure what to do and people were saying that they were to nice to use and asking for paper ones!!! I had to convince them that it was ok to use them. Something else that we have started doing, instead of one hand towel in our guest bathroom, I took an idea from upscale hotels. On our sink sits a basket of white washcloths that have been rolled up. I think that I payed $4.00 for 12 at wally world. On the floor sits another basket for the ones that people have used to dry their hands. I think that I might have to put a sign up though explaining what they are for, because even though I "prime" the basket on the floor with a few cloths, there are usually not that many in there after a party. After the party they simply get tossed in with the next load of towels. Also just wanted to put in that I attended culinary school and the only thing that they used paper towels for was drying hands as required by health codes.

    I also started using handkerchiefs instead of tissues because of skin issues. Much nicer especially when made from t shirt material.

    I think that fabric is much nicer for towels, napkins and handkerchiefs and do a little victory dance every time I fold one and put it away.Sorry for the long post, but just wanted to share how we are transitioning into a greener home.

  5. elb says

    Going paperless is great….but the only thing I could think of was how much water/energy you are wasting by having to wash towels as frequently as you'd be throwing away paper towels. It's a tough trade off, I guess..

  6. elb says

    Going paperless is great….but the only thing I could think of was how much water/energy you are wasting by having to wash towels as frequently as you'd be throwing away paper towels. It's a tough trade off, I guess..

  7. Rob and Deanna says

    I use rags for most everything. Wondering where the lady towards the top of the comments gets dark colored flour-sack towels?! I use flour-sack towels for a LOT, but they look terrible. Can't get the stains out, even in bleach. To eliminate the fuzzies when cleaning windows, I don't put any fabric softener in with my flour-sack towels and anything, really, that I don't want to leave fuzzies behind. Flour-sack towels minus fabric softener are AWESOME for shining faucets, mirrors and windows.

  8. Anonymous says

    I use a few cheap paper napkins for a few wipe ups but all cloth otherwise.
    Best thing is having a small bottle of clorox under the sink, soak all the kitchen rags in a small bowl for a few minutes, with hot water. Dry and reuse.
    Also the Walmart washrags in bundles, I used on all my babies butts and everything else.
    Newspaper and vinegar for windows!
    Beth

  9. Anonymous says

    for the frayed edges there is some stuff (im sure walmart has it) called no fray or something like that you jus put some on the edges and it will stop it from fraying as fast im not sure how much it is though…. but a much easier alternative to sewing because like you im not big on sewing!!

    Candice,
    Fayetteville, TN

  10. Anonymous says

    @Terry…I am with you when it comes to human waste/other yucks. Hot water and bleach all the way. What I HAVE heard from friends who use cloth diapers and the like: Hanging your clothes to dry outdoors (even on not-so-sunny days)will inhibit the growth of bacteria.

  11. Anonymous says

    I LOVE your blog Jillee!! I ended up here through Pinterest–and I haven't been back to Pinterest since!! There are so many terrific ideas here, and all the comments are great, too!
    Please keep it up! I am going to try many of your ideas… as soon as I get thru all the old posts!:) I am sooo addicted to "One Good Thing"!
    Thank God, there isn't just one!! Keep 'em coming!
    Shelly

  12. Heather Rotz says

    I used to detail cars for a living and customers want streak free windows. I can assure you we never used a single paper product on those cars. The only disposable item we ever used was Q-tips in the vents. Here's the tip

    **We added rubbing alcohol to the window cleaner. About 1/4 to 1/3 of the bottle! Yes, that's a lot, but it never streaks and it cut through even the worst cigarette smoke. We used plain bath towels…yep, the linty kind. Worked like a dream every time.**
    That was years ago. Now at home, I just use straight vinegar and a microfiber cloth. No paper needed.

  13. Anonymous says

    I have just spent a LOT of time reading these comments, and now I am thinking of doing away with paper towels! My first thought about the frayed edges…use PINKING shears to cut them up! That way, they don't fray and it's kind of decorative! And I love the tea and coffee grinds for dying idea. You could make cool designs like Tye-Dye!

  14. DIYwifey says

    Love love this! I ran right out and got my flour sacks. Love the white but i realized last night after having bbq ribs and spaghetti (weird combo i know) that it wasnt working for me. I found myself wanting to lick my fingers before i used the napkin! I decided to dye them with tea. It was my first time trying this method and they are an amazing rich tan. Hope youre still loving yours!

  15. Alicia says

    My DD and her family have been paper free for awhile now. Although the thought of not using TP is at first disturbing I have to admit after visiting them that the homemade cloths feel quite nice. Couldn't bring myself to use them for solid waste but even if ladies (we are the biggest users) used the cloth for non-solid bathroom trips, it would save a huge amount of money. BTW, she has TP for visitors to use.

  16. Maureen says

    Wandered over from Pinterest(of course). Have actually been thinking about doing something like this for awhile now, but I am always left with a question. OK maybe 2 questions. First would I really be saving any money by buying these? While I have eliminated my paper towels bill, i have added to my laundry loads which requires using more water and electricity, so seems the cost just migrates. And because of the water and electricity usage, am i really eliminating any waste?

  17. Alia says

    Great post. I like the link to the comparison in the comments. Your point about sewing rags brought me back to when I was a kid and my mom owned a cleaning business. I used to “sew” rags for her, where I cut large rags down into half or quarters with pinking shears, making a stack, then ran them through the sewing machine, not hemming, just a single stitch next top the cut, one rag after another, not even cutting the thread between until I was done. I remember the longest part was the cutting, not the sewing and they definitely help up to multiple washings without much fraying. Incidently, I just used the same machine, from 20 years ago, to make the t-shirt re-usable bags. I’m excited to try it out on my shopping trip tomorrow.

  18. Vickie says

    I love this idea of using flour sack dish cloths. I found a post that told how to make paper towels that you roll around your paper towel holder. They are very time consuming to make and I still haven’t finished them. The flour sacks seem so much easier. One question though. What do you use when you need something to soak up grease when frying, like bacon, etc?
    Glad I found this post.

    • Helena Killins says

      I’ll tell ya Vickie, what I do for the fried foods is; I have some cookie cooling racks, and and line a cookie sheet w/ newspaper and place the cooling rack on top. It leaves an air space which in turn keeps the fried food from coming into direct contact w/ the paper and or paper towels that some use. By doing this you are doing 2 things, 1. Reusing newspaper, and not buying paper towels, and 2. by keeping it off the surface, it isn’t steaming the already fried food on the bottom causing it to become soggy. Hope this helps!

  19. says

    Good for you!!! We went paper-towelless almost by accident…we noticed that our baby’s terrycloth wipes were really handy around the kitchen, so we bought some cheap washcloths at IKEA. 10 for $4, if I remember correctly. We liked them so much, we went back and bought 3 more packs! Now we only use paper towels for the ickiest of messes (like squashing bugs). Everything else is cloth, and I dry them outside so there’s not as much energy wasted. Love your blog! :)

  20. says

    I agree, it’s way too easy to grab a paper towel for everything (and we’re guilty of it as well), even though we have always used white bar towels and dish cloths (easy to bleach and keep clean), and even cloth napkins. I can’t imagine using anything but cloth napkins for meals we’ve done it for so long. I even use micro fiber cloths for wiping the counter down after I’ve wiped it with a wet rag (keeps water spots at bay and does an excellent job of shining between regular maintenance).

    I like the idea of having smaller rags like this for spills and such. I can’t go completely without paper towels yet, but this idea would certainly reduce usage. :-)

    It’s about more than cost to me, it’s about waste (and environmental impact).

  21. Donna says

    I like your idea about the towels. I have a surger and would surge the edges and cut them apart at the same time. I have done this to make cleaning rags out of old bath towels. Love your ideas. Thaks.

  22. KarenDF says

    I love your blog (you are Facebook liked & Pinterest followed ;-). Love this post. I started using either bar towels or ultra-absorbent towels & fabric napkins instead of paper towels & napkins. I thought frying foods or cooking bacon would be a challenge … how e-v-e-r would I survive without paper towels to drain the grease?!!! With a cooling rack & a bar pan, that’s how! Set a cooling rack on a bar pan & let the oil drip off the food onto the pan. Then, clean the pan & cooling rack with a sprinkle of baking soda, a couple drops of dishwashing liquid & hhhhot water to cut the grease. Works like a charm … better even!

    But, why was I so surprised at how well my method worked? Restaurant cooks/chefs just let the oil drain from the wire basket when using deep fryers in restaurants (not paper towels). Funny how I was concerned about that since I hardly ever cook bacon or fry food & when I do, it’s not in a ton of oil in a deep fryer (I don’t own one). Funny how I am asking AND answering my own rhetorical questions because I need try to get some sleep! Before I turn in, I must admit that I do still keep one roll of paper towel around for those rare times when I don’t want to use a towel … like when I smashed a big bumble bee (that followed me in my house yesterday)& with my shoe so hard that it was stuck on the window. Yu-uuuck! Sweet dreams!

  23. Sherri says

    I am on my last roll of papertowels. I will keep a roll under the sink for the animal messes. I just purchased napkins from the etsy site at a reasonable price. It will be worth the savings in the end. My husband is super skeptical, but I got him to come around with the laundry detergent, cleaners, and dishwash soap, so I’m sure he’ll come around. Thank you for helping my family because harsh chemical free, saving the environment, and saving us money (so I can buy more organic food). :) I love your site and appreciate everything you have posted.

  24. Susie from the Land of Cheese says

    I have not gone 100% paper towel-less yet, but have reduced usage quite a bit. I have bought most of my super duper sized flour sack (FS) towels from Sams Club. I think they may be cheaper than Walmart…not sure. I also bought several towels from this site http://www.acshomeandwork.com/flour-sack-towels.html?gclid=CO2Us_fonLECFUS4KgodSUmtjQ. If you are patient, you can get 2nd’s. The company has wonderful customer service as well. They also sell FS napkins. The more you buy the cheaper they get. A strategy I put into place was to hang a mesh bag on back of bathroom door that is for FS towels and napkins ONLY and make sure that any used towel is not wet to avoid stinking or mold. I load the bag up and wash a full load about every 3 weeks. I do not use any fabric softeners. I use laundry detergent and a bit of bleach. I let them soak at least an hour–then I double rinse. THEN, I rewash with water only to ensure any smells are gone and dry with dryer balls. They all wash beautifully and will last a very long time. Since I rinse them so well, I can use them to dry my lettuces, draining fruits for jelly (or any other food use) and to clean glasses, mirrors and stainless items. Such a wonderful product! I just love your blog—great information at every turn.

  25. Olivia says

    I read this on you blog b4 and I am using them too.. I found the flour sacks at Meijer’s for a bout the same price.. I have used fabric napkins for quite sometime but going this extra step to save $$ Makes me happy!!
    Keep up the great blog

  26. Liz says

    Thanks so much for sharing this idea! We have been mostly paperless purely based on the fact that our paper towels and napkins are inconvenient to get to compared to our hand towels. Now that our oldest is almost 2, our hand washing has increased considerably in these past months and having several small towels instead of using several “big & bulky” hand towels a day would be wonderful!

    I pinned this idea and how to clean your bathroom like a pro! I just discovered your blog and am excited to see what other wonderful ideas I come across.

  27. Linda says

    11 years ago… after hearing “Opra” say how many trees it would save if we would even use 1 less napkin a day, I chose the el-cheapo hankies from WallyWorld. I have holiday and mixed colors that get used everyday. I have sets of colors as well as holiday sets, and they wash great! Patterns hide the stains, and save the real cloth napkins for special occasions. I am really liking your idea of no paper towels…. oh I need to do this.

  28. Lisa says

    I discovered these little jewels a few months ago while looking for some inexpensive kitchen towels. I have since gone back and purchased another pack. I love them, they are good for almost everything! I haven’t thought about cutting them – I will be cutting them in half (fourths are too small for me) later today. I love, love, love your blog! These cloths dry dishes sooooo much better than regualr kitchen towels.

  29. Lisa says

    This made me think of something else…I take all my kitchen cloths, rags, etc and put them in a walmart bag I have hanging next to the washing machine. This way I can wash all those items (which can get a little smelly) together, without transferring any of that smelliness to other washable items.

  30. says

    On the subject of paper napkins…I have used cloth napkins since my kids were little (They are now grown with kids of their own.) as I hate paper napkins. When I wash them I straighten them out and hang them up when they come out of the washer. They air dry crisp and basically unwrinkled. I have to admit that I do keep a pack of paper napkins thought for when camping or when I have grandkids visiting!

  31. Morti Mouse says

    We went paperless just over 8 months ago. We have used less than a half a roll of paper towels since. I purchased the flour sack cloths from Meijer but before I could cut them up I happened upon an estate sale where I purchased 72 cloth napkins for $12.00. May seem like a lot of $ but If you consider that I’d have spent probably close to four times that on paper towels by now…. They have been amazing! They’re thicker than the flour sack cloth, the edges are already bound (so no tangling and no sewing – bonus!), and they come in colors (chocolate brown and mauvey/tan, which match my kitchen perfectly : ) extra bonus). And an extra, extra bonus – because they’re cloth, it seems the family will use them a second, third, even fourth time, especially if they’re used just to dry hands.

    Thanks for the idea, Jillee!

    Plug – Look here for estate sales in your area – Estatesales.net

  32. Patti says

    I bought a package of microfiber cloths 4 or 5 years ago at SAMs club and fell in love with them. They are the size of a paper napkin and are surged on the edges well. I use them for everything and only clean with vinegar. I have a few that are stained and we tossed them in the garage bin to wash cars and wipe hands out there.
    My first batch was blue and since then have purchased orange ones for daycare and green ones for bathrooms. These scrub up the floors with ease and do not streak windows or mirrors. I could use a new color and use them as napkins I suppose.
    As to not contaminate other surfaces, if I don’t know what a rag wiped up, I do not reuse it. I gather all rags in a bin. At the end of the day what ever rags I have go in the load I’m washing. These don’t bleed, so no worries. Saves money on laundring a load of just rags.
    If the rags smell sour I soak them in baking soda before washing.
    My laundry soap is home made and my fabric softener is vinegar:)

  33. Jo says

    Oh my goodness, I’ve been under such conviction about this issue and you’ve given me the inspiration to change direction. Everyone’s comments are also helpful. I’ll try some different things I have here at home, and if they don’t work I’ll purchase flour sack towels. Thanks!

  34. says

    Why not just use old t-shirts? Why buy new towels to cut up? I have colours that I use for household cleaning and whites for wiping down in the kitchen. By keeping them colour coded, they don’t get mixed up. Toddler shirts cut into 2 rags – 1 in the front and 1 in the back. Kids’ t-shirts cut into 4 rags – 2 in the front and 2 in the back. Adult shirts cut into 8 – 4 in the front and 4 in the back. I’ve done this since I was a kid. Never in my life have I used paper towels.

  35. meenakshi says

    I cut/tear up old bedsheets into required squares & sew up the edges, using these as kitchen towels. Since the sheets are pure cotton, they are v. absorbent, can take any rough handling And I also get some nice colors/designs. One sheet gives me a huge stock of towels that easily lasts for the entire year. And all for “free”, since its merely recycling. Since I get quite a large number of towels from one sheet, I can use as many as I want & throw them in the laundry basket [but I always Dry them Before tossing into the basket to avoid bacteria/fungi] to be cleaned after 4-5 days; I don’t need to do the wash daily.
    I do spend a day sewing the edges (well worth it); but now I’ll try out Alia’s technique of pinking shears along with the row of stitching.
    On some of the plain towels I try out different decorative techniques – fabric paints, Crayola’s farbic markers, machine embroidered borders, etc. These help me distinguish the towels for various uses so that I don’t use them at cross-purposes.

    I’ve also started using odd bits of fabric for my nonstick cookware – to grease but mainly to clean, especially the nonstick grill pan. These little rags get into the grooves easily and are then disposed off.

    Thin muslin cloth is used for making cottage cheese at home. I machine-picot the edges so that these napkins last for ages. I specifically use plain white muslin so as not to have any dyes in contact with the hot cheese that is hung within.

    I simply tear up old T shirts to use as dusters & wipers around the house. Very absorbent & soft to handle. Great for both wet and dry cleaning/dusting. No stitching required either.

    In the heat & humidity of our tropical summer, I prefer a cloth handkerchief to paper tissues. The latter tend to “crumble” away due to all the perspiration. Hankies absorb the moisture easily & can be used for so much longer. Easier to manage too. And I love to embroider little designs in the corner – Exclusive ;-))

  36. Kay says

    It is a little off topic and I love the idea of utilizing cloth instead of paper, but going to Wal-Mart for a cheap solution seems to undo all the wonderful, eco-friendly, healthy things you are doing for your home and your world. I looked into Wal-Mart’s business practices and I would rather spend a few extra dollars instead of promoting something I do not believe in.

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  38. says

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  39. Jenny says

    We have always been parsimonious when it comes to paper towels. It’s amazing how few you really need to use.

    We have used cloth napkins for 2-4 years now. I bought them at a discount store for a good price. They were actually wash cloths packaged with kitchen towels, however they were a woven cloth and looked more like napkins to me. I use the kitchen towels to line the tortilla/bread/baked tater basket at meal time. We have napkin rings that each family member has devised/chosen for themselves. (We even have personalized napkin rings for frequent visitors.) We use the same one all week unless they get real grungy – I have 24 for our family of 6 so there is plenty to go around when needed. They really haven’t added a load of laundry as they are just added into the same load with all the kitchen towels and cloths that we use during the week.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] If there is a small spill, I use the sponge.  If I need to dry a pot or dish, I use my dish towels.  We use cloth napkins with our meals.  At this point, going paperless seems easy, right? Wrong. What would I use for draining bacon? Drying produce? Drying hands?  Sure, dish towels could be used but I feel that its more of a “towel” than a napkin. Then the cloth napkins don’t really soak up anything. My inspiration? Flour sacks. [...]

  2. [...] About 3 weeks ago I wrote about how it was one of my goals in the new year to do away with  paper towel waste in my home. Thanks to some inspiration from cleanmama.blogspot.com I decided to replace our paper towel holder (that was WAY too easy to make use of right next to the sink!) with some homemade cloths made from cut up flour sack towels. You can read the whole post HERE. [...]

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