The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 17, 2012

Great Big Plastic-Free, Non-Toxic Deodorant Review

What’s with all these “natural” deodorants in plastic packaging?

Four years ago, I found the perfect plastic-free deodorant solution for me.  But after discussing the issue with others, I came to realize that deodorants are not one-size (or smell) fits all.  We each have different body chemistries and what works great for me might leave you stinking like a cat litter box and feeling like you’ve been rubbing your pits with poison ivy.  Or barbed wire.  So, after discovering that my own personal plastic-free deodorant solution doesn’t work for everyone, I set out to find some other options.  I wrote about several of them in my book, and since then, have discovered a few more.  So, here is a whopping big list of plastic-free, all-natural deodorant solutions.  Maybe one could work for you.  Or maybe your favorite is not on the list.  Please leave a comment below!

Plain baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with a few drops of tea tree oil

This is my choice.  It works better for me than any other store-bought deodorant I have ever tried.  I keep it in a metal tea tin in my underwear drawer and apply to dry underarms with a powder puff or reusable cotton round.  It works so well, I would use it even if I weren’t trying to avoid plastic.  And it’s cheap, cheap, cheap.  Note:  I have tried the plain baking soda without the tea tree oil, and it doesn’t seem to work quite as well.

The trouble is that plain baking soda doesn’t work for everyone.  I have heard reports of red rashes, burning itchy pits, and even pits turning brown.  Some people cut the baking soda with cornstarch or arrowroot powder and find that it helps.  Some people can’t even tolerate those alternatives.  If dry deodorant powder doesn’t work for you, here are some other options:

Natural Deodorant Creams in Glass or Metal Containers

I’ve discovered several small, ethical companies offering deodorant creams that are not packaged in plastic.  I’ve tried three different brands.  They all smell great, and all include coconut oil, some amount of baking soda, various essential oils, and other ingredients.  All of them worked for me, but none were as effective at keeping armpit smell at bay for as long as plain baking soda does for me.

BALM! Baby PITS from THinc (Taylor House Inc) comes in a glass jar with a metal lid.  It smells great and feels good going on.  The ingredients are: shea butter, olive oil infused with calendula & chamomile, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, baking soda, arrow root, essential oil blend of tea tree, lavender, orange.  “THE” products are made in Hawaii, and most of the ingredients come from a local, organic farm.  I actually met the owners of THinc when they came to visit the SF Bay Area a few weeks ago, and I’ll be excited to write more about the company in a future post.  They have a lot of great ideas about reducing waste.

Aquarian Bath Unisex Natural Deodorant Balm comes in a metal container with a metal lid.  It has a more solid texture than the others because it contains Candelilla Wax.  If your house is cold, rubbing the balm with your fingers will soften it up.  The scent is primarily a refreshing lemongrass.  The ingredients are: Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Organic Cocoa Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Arrow Root Powder, Candelilla Wax, Vitamin E, and a blend of essential oils, including Ravensara (AKA clove nutmeg with action similar to Tea Tree), May Chang (lemony), Lavender, Spearmint, Lemon, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, and Lemongrass.

Chagrin Valley Coconut Silk Deodorant also comes in a metal tin with a metal lid.  The company makes several different scents to choose from:  Natural, Mist, Citrus Blossom, Woodland Breeze, and Summer Rain.  I chose to test the one called Mist because the combination of essential oils appealed the most to me.  Ingredients in Mist deodorant:  Organic Virgin Coconut Oil; Organic Jojoba Oil; Organic Cornstarch; Baking Soda; Organic Beeswax. Organic essential oils: Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Spearmint, Lime and Tea Tree.

As I mentioned, I enjoyed the scents of all three brands, and they did work for me… just not for as long as plain baking soda.

Homemade Deodorant Recipes

If you don’t want to spend money on someone else’s concoction, try making your own natural deodorant.   Recipes abound across the Internet.  Google is your friend.  Most include combinations of coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, and essential oils.  Here are a few from bloggers I trust:

Crunchy Betty is chock full of natural DIY cosmetic recipes, and Leslie, the author of the site, is fastidious in making sure the ingredients she recommends come from reliable sources and are not toxic or environmentally harmful in any way.  The girl knows how to research.  Here are a few of her posts on making your own deodorant:

Leslie said that she recommends Tropical Traditions coconut oil, which is available in a glass jar.  Other brands of coconut oil I have found in glass are Dr. Bronner’s, and Artisana, and Spectrum Organic, although it has a plastic lid.  What brand of coconut oil have you found packaged in glass instead of plastic?

The Clean Bin Project is the blog of a Canadian couple who attempted to rid their lives of waste.  There’s also a fun documentary about them.  Jen has tried both powdered and solid forms of homemade deodorant.  Here are her posts:

Mommy Footprint is the site of blogger Suzanne who is passionate about getting toxic chemicals and plastics out of her home.  Here is her homemade deodorant experiment, along with information about why conventional deodorants are so bad for us.

My Healthy Green Family is another blog committed to finding ways to reduce toxic chemicals.  This recipe also includes cocoa butter and beeswax.  I have found beeswax in bulk bins at Whole Foods.  However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen cocoa butter in glass.  Have you?  If you know of a source, please leave a comment!

Other Options

Vinegar: Some people swear by plain vinegar sprayed or dabbed under the armpits or vinegar mixed with essential oils.  I tried it.  First, I smelled like a salad, and within an hour, I had bad B.O. again.  Your mileage may vary.

Vodka or Grain Alcohol:  Same as vinegar only stronger.  But didn’t work for me.  B.O. came back in a few hours.

Lavendar Essential Oil:  Some people swear by it alone or diluted.  Didn’t work for me.  Might for you.

Deodorant Bars:  LUSH Cosmetics makes naked deodorant bars (Aromaco and T’eo) with no packaging.  I have recommended them in the past; however, LUSH seems to be adding more and more toxic baddies to their products, so I can’t endorse them with as much enthusiasm as I once did.

The Crystal: Crystal deodorant stones are made from potassium or ammonium alum mineral salts.  Many people love them.  However, most of the ones I’ve found come packaged in plastic.  How environmentally-friendly is this?

I have found one crystal stone deodorant that appears to come without plastic from The Natural Bath Company.  I haven’t tried it because I tried crystal deodorants years ago and they didn’t work for me.  But if they work for you, maybe check out the version from The Natural Bath Company and let us know about the packaging status.  Email the company first and make sure they don’t include any plastic in the shipping box.  But also, be aware that crystal deodorants do contain a form of aluminum.  Read The Smart Mama’s post about them to learn more.

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71 Comments on "Great Big Plastic-Free, Non-Toxic Deodorant Review"

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PlasticNausea
2 months 26 days ago
Thank you for all of this information! I am trying to go plastic free…finally! It is a daunting endeavor. I have a whole new outlook on trips to the store. Starting small with a specific need to find a deodorant antiperspirant that will work like the aluminum options, that isn’t housed in plastic. I did find a Mitchum spray but it had a plastic lid…how dumb…and the scent was so strong i was sneezing! Will try baking soda but have my doubts and can’t have residue on clothing….but will try. Please keep the suggestions coming!!!!!!
Is there a deodorant with minimal packaging waste? | CL-UAT
1 year 6 months ago

[…] boyfriend swears by using baking soda mixed with cornstarch (and I can vouch that it really works). This great article on My Plastic-Free Life looks at a bunch of home made deodorants. The alternatives boil down […]

DeCrafts
2 years 4 months ago
Thank you so so much for this!  I have struggled with all but one of the natural deodorants in either they don’t work, or 99% of the time they make my pits break into an angry rash.   The only one that’s worked for me is a tiny roll-on encased in the thickest and worst plastic, and I’ve been trying to compile a list of alternatives to try out to break myself off of it.  I am so glad that you put these out there.  Friends of mine swear by the crystal, and I learned recently that the reason why… Read more »
Kayla
2 years 9 months ago

Lavilin
would be a great addition to this list!
They
just got a fantastic review here:
http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/any-of-these-hippie-deodorants-work.html
I
think Lavilin is the best in the biz for natural deodorants. I’ve been a loyal customer for over 15
years and I have never once been disappointed!

2 years 9 months ago

I’m so amazed in the Homemade Deodorant Recipes..But did you know that coconut oil has a lot of other benefits? Visit the site that I found 

Genevieve Abedon
2 years 10 months ago

Fat and the Moon makes an amazing natural deodorant that actually works! And comes in a glass container with metal lid

3 years 6 months ago

Hello! What do you out the baking soda mix in when you travel? I put some in an old badger balm container, but it has made it hard to open. I’m trying to find something small and lightweight (so maybe not glass).

3 years 9 months ago

Thank you so much for your fantastic, inspiring blog and lifestyle!! I just wanted to make sure you have heard that tea tree oil has been found to have estrogen in it and can increase the risk of breast cancer
http://www.livestrong.com/article/113251-estrogenic-effects-tea-tree-oil/

Lori S
3 years 9 months ago
I started using just baking soda (just pat it on with a dry washcloth) a week ago.  I figured it was worth experimenting with while I have a stick of my usual Toms of Maine deodorant on hand as a backup.  I am amazed!  This works SO MUCH BETTER than any of the ‘natural’ deodorants I have tried.  I apply once in the morning and don’t stink at all during the day!  I was worried that the baking soda would leave white marks on my clothes but it hasn’t.  If I spill some on my clothes when applying, I just… Read more »
Daniel
3 years 10 months ago

Well, you know Tom’s of Maine, since 2006, has been a division of multinational conglomerate Colgate-Palmolive. Hence, the plastic packaging.

Daniel
3 years 10 months ago

Notice they switched from aluminum tubing to plastic a few years ago?

Daniel
3 years 10 months ago

Sorry. was referring to their toothpaste tubes in that last comment.

Brigid
3 years 10 months ago

Careful with the crystal deodorants–alum = aluminum, and recent research confirms how bad that is.I’m a fan of Herbalix deodorants. Their standard sizes come in Plastipure non-estrogenic plastic, but if you contact them they have glass bottles for their larger sizes of moisturizer, detox creams, etc.

Lisa Watson
3 years 10 months ago

I have the Chagrin Valley Deo in Mint Mist and LOVELOVELOVE it!!!

3 years 10 months ago

[…] New ideas in fighting BO the natural way right here.  Thanks for FiveSeed for sharing this!  I  am contemplating the ones in the metal tins as I […]

My Plastic-free Life
3 years 10 months ago

Melissa, just a few drops shaken into the baking soda container. Put on the lid and shake it up. The oil doesn’t make the baking soda clump. You really only use just a few drops.

rockyplayful
3 years 10 months ago

A question for those of you who suggested witch hazel:  Where do you get it without plastic packaging?  Every place I’ve checked so far only has it in plastic bottles.  Thanks! 
Judy
 

VivienneDownes
3 years 10 months ago

 @rockyplayful I live in the UK & buy Witch Hazel in a glass bottle (but with a plastic top) from my local supermarket ASDA which is something to do with Walmart. The bottle brand label is “Care + ” manufactured by Thornton & Ross Ltd., Huddersfield, HD7 5QH, UK i don’t know if this will be any help ? But witch hazel works for me too !

JudyTobar
3 years 10 months ago

 @VivienneDownes  @rockyplayful Thanks!  I’ll have to see if we have that kind here in the US.

LornaS
3 years 10 months ago
For the last couple of weeks I have been using coconut oil only for deoderant. Even I can’t believe is works, but it does. It is supposedly anti-bacterial.   The first few days it worked ok , but after that it was great. Maybe it needed a few days to detox or something like that. All I did when the smellies struck at midday was smear a little more coconut oil under my pits and the smell went. Now it lasts all day.   And into the bargin, I use it for brushing teeth, and has a mild sun protection… Read more »
retrohousewife5
3 years 10 months ago

I use baking soda with a little corn starch and several drops of tea tree oil. Works well!

Jenn Satter
3 years 10 months ago

@retrohousewife5

Do you mix everything in a jar? Does the tea tree oil dry or form a paste?

retrohousewife5
3 years 10 months ago

 @Jenn Satter  Like Beth says above, just a few drops and shake and it won’t be a clump. I keep mine in a little spice jar. 

Cee
3 years 10 months ago
First, Thank you for all of this – your commitment, your communication, your research and all your experimentation. For years I’ve been talking to my own family and friends about the fact that plastic is an addiction foisted on us by the oil companies. I remember being in India in the late ’70s and being horrified to see street vendors whose stalls were chock full to the gills with nothing but brightly colored plastic *everything*. My illusions about a nation living close to the land and nature were shattered. I’ll leave the political/corporate/social discussion aside. As for deodorant, here’s a… Read more »
3 years 10 months ago

Great write up!  Thank you for doing this!  We started making PITS (from our “THE” BALM line) b/c not only were all the deodorants in plastic, but they just plain didn’t work.  Even the crystal.  I’ll bet a powder like Beth uses would be nice (:

K
3 years 9 months ago

I bought the Pits balm based on this review- love it for the feel, and smell and it seems to be equally effective as regular deodorant. Only two complaints- 1) They came delivered in a bubble mailer (non recyclable) and 2) I bought two jars and each was only about half full :(

(that's) "THE" BALM!
3 years 10 months ago

Nice! (:::

JessicaVanMeter
3 years 10 months ago
Being a dancer by trade and living in Texas has made finding an effective and reliable natural deodorant very challenging for me. Here’s the best combination (yes, I’m a sweaty girl so I need more than one thing to not be stinky) that I have come up with. Upon exiting the shower with clean, shaved pits I : 1. Spray pits with lavender witch hazel to combat razor burn 2. rub vigorously with crystal deodorant (got mine in a little velvet bag -no plastic) 3. spray pits lightly with a blend of 20 drops tea tree oil, 20 drops lavender… Read more »
Eve Stavros
3 years 10 months ago

I was lucky enough to find a crystal totally unpackaged at a small natural foods store when I visited a friend in Madrid two years ago.  Not the usual souvenir to bring home, but I like poking around in local groceries, natural shops, etc.  especially in Europe, where it seems easier to find healthier, more enviro friendly choices.  The rock hardly looks worn – should last for years!  I plan to look for more alternative goodies when I visit a friend in Italy later this year. AND find a plastic-free pasta maker!

MotherLodeBeth
3 years 10 months ago

 @Eve Stavros  I have found that the natural food stores in the more ‘green’ areas and near universities here in the states tend to be the most package free minded.  Its where we got our deodorant stone years ago.   So you are spot on per Europe and how many areas are far ahead of us here in the states.

3 years 10 months ago
I’m actually in the, probably minority, camp that doesn’t really get why most people feel that they need to use deodorants at all.   Some people, I’m sure, feel a particular need for it as they have the misfortune of sweating more than most and need to always stay within a socially acceptable body odour range. But I doubt most of us really need it. Want it is another matter (I’m all for having a bit of fun with something you like), I’m merely talking about feeling like it’s a must.   I stopped using deodorants years ago and I… Read more »
VivienneDownes
3 years 10 months ago

Having only just got started on living “Plastic Free” I’d love to try the baking soda/ essential oils approach to deodorant but how does it affect your clothes ? I work with the public & often take my jacket off so I’m concerned about stains.
 

Mary Katherine
3 years 10 months ago

Great post! Thanks for all the suggestions. Baking soda works really well for me too but it makes my razor burn worse. I’ve found that witch hazel is a really good option for me because it controls odor and helps soothe razor burn at the same time. It comes in a plastic bottle, but you can make it yourself apparently. Here some instructions I found if anyone is interested in trying it: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art48232.asp

AngryButterfly
3 years 10 months ago

I’ve been using the same crystal for so long that I’ve never had to buy another one. Years and years, I’ve had it three I think…
 

Ada Mangoes
3 years 10 months ago
I’ve tried pretty much every DIY option on your list and none have really worked for me. I initially LOVED the bicarb/coconut oil/arrow root starch/EO recipe, but then I got a HORRIBLE red rash that made my underarm skin thicken and slough off in a day or two, leaving me with super tender and sensitive underarms for almost an entire week. I don’t usually shave my armpits but maybe once a month, if that, so it wasn’t shaving irritation of any kind. I wanted it to work for me so much, for so many reasons, that I made mini batches… Read more »
Melissa Brown
3 years 10 months ago

How do you add the essential oil to the baking soda powder?
I’ve been using the rock followed by a baking soda dusting with a powder brush. Where do you get the powder puff?

AdaMangoes
3 years 10 months ago
You can usually get alum for super cheap at Vietnamese and similar markets. It is used to prevent oxidation of cut fruits and vegetables. Some people use it as a form of deodorant the same way as the Crystal brand you mentioned only purchasing it from the Vietnamese market is a fraction of the price. You’d have to mix up a concentrated solution of your own to use it in liquid form as it usually comes in crystallized rocks varying in size from small pearl tapioca to US 50 cent piece. I also use it as a mordant for naturally… Read more »
Jeanne Bruner
3 years 10 months ago

Ever Clear or vodka..ole time perfume sprayer.. :)

Jessy Mills
3 years 10 months ago

making my own is 100% satisfying, eco friendly, cheap, EASY and smells/works great. it’s 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup corn starch, 2 tablespoons coconut oil and 20 (ish) drops of whatever essential oil you prefer, my favorite is red mandarin! I keep it in glass baby food jars :P ENJOY!

Cross My Heart Fitness
3 years 10 months ago

Thanks for the great info. I have been using the LUSH but good to know I can make my own. thanks;)

RC
3 years 10 months ago

I know it has a plastic top, but Dr Hauschka Deodorant (glass bottle) is hands down the best product I’ve ever tried. 100% effective, no side effects. Everybody I know who has tried it likes it. A little pricey but I find  the bottle lasts a long time. Also, I agree with the posters who say that using pit products less often really does cut down on the body’s “need” for them.
 
Nobody has mentioned witch hazel applied with a cotton pad – it works for days when I don’t expect to get very sweaty. 

agnus2
3 years 10 months ago

Yardley Lavender body powder for me, metal can.

Jessie
3 years 10 months ago
I sweat a lot, and used to use the clinical strength anti-perspirant. After trial-and-error, I discovered a combination approach that worked for me. It doesn’t keep me from sweating, but I RARELY smell.   I rub coconut oil under my arms, then apply the 50/50 combo of baking soda & corn starch (plus sometimes a little tea tree oil). I’ve tried the coconut oil alone, and I’ve tried the baking soda by itself too, but neither one worked solo for me. I also mix water with a bit of baking soda in a spray bottle, and spritz the liquid into… Read more »
Kathryn Grace
3 years 10 months ago

Thanks Beth! I finally found a homemade deodorant recipe I like, but it’s a lotta work!

Mary Jane Pace Owen
3 years 10 months ago

Plain baking soda works great for me. But recently mixed up a deodorant recipe from Crunchy Betty with coconut oil, baking powder, and cornstarch. That works great too. I really love the low cost! It really works! And NO PLASTIC! Woohoo!

Jenn Satter
3 years 10 months ago

How do you add the tea tree oil to the dry baking soda?  Do you apply the tea tree oil after apply the baking soda?

Beth DeRoos
3 years 10 months ago

We use a Thai deodorant stone and have for a good dozen years. No packaging. And if you eat whole healthy foods, drink plenty of water and get good exercise and then take a shower you shouldn’t smell.

MotherLodeBeth
3 years 10 months ago

We use a Thai deodorant stone and have for a good dozen years. No packaging.  And if you eat whole healthy foods, drink plenty of water and get good exercise and then take a shower you shouldn’t smell.

MotherLodeBeth
3 years 10 months ago

Also wanted to note the type of laundry soap you use can also affect sweating issues.  If you add one cup of plain vinegar to the rinse water cycle you will remove all soap/detergent residue and this helps a lot, because soaps have salts in them and if they stay in the fabric, next to the skin they can become like a wick and draw moisture out of the body and thus you find you have moisture under the arms, around the waist, in the crease areas of the legs etc. 

My Plastic-free Life
3 years 10 months ago

Awesome, Laura Kathleen Quinn Bouma. Will you please also leave this comment on the actual post so others will see it? That way it will be archived for when people read the post in the future.

Karla Gormley
3 years 10 months ago

I’ve recently tried my pinesap salve as deodorant (olive oil, beez wax, pine sap) seems to be working better on these extra ‘special’ hot days when my coconut oil and lavendar don’t seem to be holding up.

dana bagshaw
3 years 10 months ago
I would challenge the assumption that we even need deordorants!  My husband from England convinced me 20 years ago that we don’t even need them.  That when we do, because are bodies naturally want to prespire a rebound action occurs.   B.O. is a term that was invented by LifeBoy soap about 100 years ago.  When I stopped using deordorants my body came to a natural balance, and I stopped unwanted “extra” underarm prespiration.  I still bathe nearly everyday (which probably isn’t necessary either) but I don’t need deodarants.  Try it for at least a month or so . .… Read more »
3 years 10 months ago

Fantastic roundup! Since, I’ll be honest, my first priority is avoiding toxins (avoiding plastic comes a little lower down the list), I’ve tried many natural deodorants packaged in plastic. Here is what we have liked and not liked: http://www.eco-novice.com/2012/03/natural-deodorant-that-works-for-my.html
 
I will be sure to kick it up a notch by trying a plastic-free deodorant when I’m ready to experiment again. My husband and I both had luck with variants on the rock, so that looks like a good option. I’ve noticed you aren’t posting super often, but, man, when you write a post, you REALLY write a post. Thanks, Beth!

3 years 10 months ago
I read in an article about less bathing that rubbing a lemon wedge over your underarms works. I tried it, and it actually is very effective. However, the lemon pulp gets everywhere, so fresh squeezed lemon juice rolled on is a better option. The only reason I don’t stand behind the idea 100% is because, to me, it seems wasteful to use a lemon as deodorant when it could be eaten, and the lemon usually starts to mold over before I’m done slowly using it up; totally wasteful. I guess if I could grow really teeny lemons it could work.… Read more »
Jane
3 years 10 months ago
I have found lemon juice to be the most effective deodorant for me.  I carry a cut lemon half into the bathroom with me in a little bowl.  After I shower and dry off, I squeeze a little bit of lemon juice into my palm and rub under my arm.  If there’s any juice left after a minute of air drying, I just pat it dry with a towel.  I use lemons in cooking a lot so I tend to have them around, but I have at times bought a larger amount of lemons in season, juiced them, and froze… Read more »
AdaMangoes
3 years 10 months ago

I am interested in knowing about possible stains from the coconut oil and how much of the EO’s are added as well since I have tried all of the other DIY options mentioned thus far by anyone have not worked for me, but this is the first time I’ve heard of using the coconut oil solo with EO’s.

AdaMangoes
3 years 10 months ago

anyone have not = none have. Sheesh, definitely time for bed after that!

RC
3 years 10 months ago
Erika, a couple of tips on keeping and using lemons. 1) if you keep your (uncut) lemons in the fridge in a glass jar they will keep a looong time without molding (I know you were talking about cut lemons but stay with me here) and 2) you can cut and juice an entire lemon all at once and freeze the juice to use as needed. I freeze mine in 1 tablespoon amounts (stainless steel ice cube tray) so I can easily access what I need when a recipe calls for fresh lemon juice. You could do the same for… Read more »
Laura Kathleen Quinn Bouma
3 years 10 months ago

I *love* the deodorant in a tin made by Schmidt’s in Portland. I’ve only tried the unscented (she makes cedarwood scented too) – it works really really well! Ingredients: shea butter, baking soda, cocoa butter, arrowroot, hops extract, vitamin E.

Sara Sunshine
3 years 10 months ago

I love Chagrin Valley’s products!

Bett
3 years 10 months ago

Great article! But you fail to mention the best of all, Weleda. It’s alcohol with essential oils. Comes in a glass bottle, lasts about 2 months! Cheaper at iHerb.com (as are many but not all things.) There is a coupon for $5.00 off on your first order from them. The code is BET844

Stephanie Stoltenburg
3 years 10 months ago

I make my own with coconut oil (yes it comes in a glass jar), baking soda & cornstarch or arrow root. I just keep it in a 1/2 pint mason jar.

Ro Kumar
3 years 10 months ago

Thank you this extremely useful post Beth!!!

Ro Kumar
3 years 10 months ago

Thank you! this is one of the products I’m most confused about

Ro Kumar
3 years 10 months ago

Thank you! this is one of the products I’m most confused about

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