Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

October 19th, 2011 · 57 Comments · Frugality, Green Living

Will I be called a hypocrite for teaching you how to make disposable baby wipes using bleached paper towel?

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

Last week a reader used the term because I freely admitted to using disposable diapers in the same post as I said, “It’s important to know what’s going on baby’s skin.”

The mission of Kitchen Stewardship is to help people take baby steps to stewarding their health, earth, time and money. Balancing all four is no easy task.

Neither is “doing it all.”

If anyone freely admits to being a baby step person herself, it’s me. I never want anyone to think I have it all together, because I certainly don’t. I’m still making one small change at a time.

It’s just that I’ve been at it for years now. See?

So while I may seem that I’m a poster child for real food, saving the earth, and keeping a tight budget without coupons, don’t delude yourself. I’m just an average mom, scraping by on a thread or two of sanity, doing one thing at a time and trying to make a difference for my family’s wellness.

Sometimes I make choices of balance that necessitate one of the pillars of Kitchen Stewardship to be prioritized over others.

In diapering, for example, so far I’ve prioritized finances and time over health and earth. That’s what those little icons on every Monday Mission are all about, by the way: health

I’ve been making my own wipes since partway through diapering my first, which is probably why the priorities are what they are. Back then, as a new stay-at-home mom, life was really all about two things: saving money and parenting by the book. I wanted to do everything right for that baby.

My mom, in fact, often shakes her head remembering how my husband and I tried to follow all the suggestions in all the parenting books, so much so that we forgot to just let loose and play with our son. That’s why she got his first real chuckle.

I’ve altered my method a bit over the years, deleting the toxic soaps I used to use and adding an essential oil, so now homemade baby wipes serve two purposes: frugality and health. They’re still disposable, so the ol’ Earth gets the shaft on this practice, but I’m doing what I can in my stage of life right now.

Are you ready to learn how to save over 90% on baby wipes?

 

Recipe: Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

What you’ll need:

sturdy paper towel*
very sharp knife
empty container
water
glass measuring cup
castile soap
tea tree oil (optional)
white vinegar (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Supplies Notes

Paper towel…I recommend only Viva brand. I’ve made wipes from other top brands before (Bounty), but nothing acts like a “real” wipe like the cloth-like Viva. Believe me, when you’re paying about $12-20 for the entire year’s worth of wipes, the premium price is worth it! (Here’s where you can upgrade to saving the Earth as you like: make reusable wipes using cut up receiving blanket, baby washcloths, or any kind of fabric you like. The instructions will be the same.)

Sharp knifeDo NOT use a serrated knife, no matter how tempting it seems. I didn’t bring the knife I usually use for cutting paper towel rolls to my in-laws’, and I thought I might try her serrated knife. It makes a huge mess of little paper towel nubbies and doesn’t work anyway. Take my word on it.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

Containers…I prefer to use an old wipes box, which perfectly fits 1/3 roll of paper towel. A tall Cool Whip container (ask friends or family to save one for you in case you don’t buy Cool Whip), a round plastic storage container with a lid from a dollar store, or just a gallon plastic bag are other frugal options. I collected a few extra wipes boxes through Freecycle.

Water…For now, I just use tap water, but another healthy upgrade will happen when I get a Berkey and can start with non-chlorinated water. If your city water uses chlorine and not chloramine to disinfect, you can leave a cup of water on the counter for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate if that’s important to you.

Soap…I used to make the wipes with whatever baby soap I had on hand (1 Tbs.) plus baby oil. Then I realized that mineral oil (I think that’s what baby oil was?) is not so good to leave on baby’s bottom, and I started looking into a safer soap. I’ve made nice wipes with Shaklee’s Basic H and Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, both of which are concentrated, so just a squirt will do.

I noticed that Earth Mama Angel Baby has a “how to make wipes” on their site using the Non-scents hand-to-toe wash, so I’m thinking any natural baby soap you’ve got could just be repurposed in your wipes; no need to buy anything new.

Tea Tree oil…Sometimes homemade baby wipes can get moldy, so I’ve tried a few things to combat that. Adding a drop or two of tea tree oil, which has antibacterial properties and smells great, works for me.

White vinegar…a splash of vinegar serves the same purpose as the tea tree oil and I’ve read it can fight yeast infections for baby, too.

Olive oil…I cut the oil in my wipes and just skip it, but you could use 1/2-1 Tbs. EVOO for a little more glide if you like.

Method:

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

1. Cut a roll of paper towels into thirds (some do half, but I’ve found 1/3 is big enough and fits well in the wipes box). I score it first (above) to help me hit the mark. Use a very sharp knife, and sharpen the knife before and after.

Time saver: I usually cut 2-3 rolls up at once and store the thirds in a plastic bag in my laundry room. Only once has a guest accidentally used them as toilet paper…  Winking smile

2. Boil 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water. You’ll figure out as you go how wet you like the wipes. I used to use 1 1/2 cups, but now I hit more around 1 1/4. You can boil in a teapot on the stove, or if you use the microwave, nuke in a glass measuring cup for 4 minutes. This simply ensures you’re starting with sterilized water.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

3. Add a small squirt of concentrated natural soap or 1 Tbs. of regular baby soap to the measuring cup.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

If you’re using castile soap, the mixture will be cloudy. That’s normal.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

4. Add a drop or two of tea tree oil and a splash of white vinegar at this time, if using. (If you put the vinegar and castile soap together before the water, weird things happen.) Your kitchen will smell heavenly and clean from the tea tree oil in the hot water.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

5. Wiggle the cardboard roll out from the center of one of the thirds of paper towel. I usually remove the outer layer of paper towel, too, just because they’ve been banging around in a bag in my laundry room, and I want baby’s stuff to be all clean. Use that paper towel for a quick wipe up at your next mess.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

6. Place the roll hole-side-up in your container of choice. Pour the solution over the center and around the top of the roll. Some instructions will tell you to flip the roll over after 10 minutes, but I’ve found that if you just close the lid and forget about it, everything seems to get evenly wet.

How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

7. Once everything is cooled down, you can pull individual wipes out from the center of the roll. To fill a travel box of wipes, just tear them off individually and fold in half.

Keep in mind that these wipes won’t last forever, as they tend to mold/mildew after a few weeks, so you can’t really make them up in advance. I try to wipe down and air out the inside of my wipes box before each new batch. Last time I used the tea tree oil and water from the next batch before I added the soap – brilliant!

Other Uses

Yes, these wipes are strong enough for wiping hands while on the go, especially if you like having an alternative to hand sanitizers (I’ll be talking about those next week, by the way). You could also use them for quick wipe-ups, washing desks at school, or cleaning small spills off the floor.

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Or Just Save 50%…

If you’re just not ready for one. more. thing. I have a suggestion for those of you using store wipes: Cut the whole stack in half.

For most changes, you’ll only need half, and you can always use 2 or 3 when you need it. Think of it as a 50% off sale that takes about 1 minute with good kitchen scissors.

“Natural” Wipes

If you are buying at the store, don’t let your wallet get fooled by greenwashing. “Natural” wipes are often anything but:

Huggies “natural” baby wipes not only include parabens, but another toxic chemical, methylisothiazolinone, that is on Health Canada’s toxic watch list. You can watch this show on “lousy labels” for info on Seventh Generation’s diapers and Huggies “natural” wipes. (start 16 minutes in for just those two)

Here is Huggies response, which doesn’t help. I wouldn’t bother buying them.

Other Natural Baby Options

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Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of EMAB, and LPC Survival is a sponsor. See my full disclosure statement here.

I’m pleased to link into Simple Lives Thursday and Frugal Friday.

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57 Comments so far ↓

  • Lenetta

    I put extra boxes of wipes in the fridge to prevent mold. Just as long as i pulled them out and let them warm before i needed them, it worked great! :) my post on making wipes is under my name if anyone is interested.

  • Amy

    Great tutorial. These are very similar to the wipes that I make- http://taylorseast.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/homemade-wipes/

  • KESW

    Just a couple comments –

    – White vinegar may irritate an already rashy baby. We used it for a bit and it made my daughter cry and gasp in pain every time.

    – Be *very* careful heating water longer than 2 minutes in the microwave, because it’s possible to super-heat it. It will look like it’s fine, but as soon as the water is disturbed (you pick it up, you put in a utensil) the water can begin to boil instantly and may scald you.

    Other than that, looks a lot like the wipes that I do, only I use cloth. Other things I’ve done is part aloe vera juice (found in the laxative section at Wal-Mart) and Vitamin E oil, which I think I read once acts as a preservative. YMMV.

    I may start using this method since I’m not quite ready to give up disposable wipes for blowouts or when we’re using disposable diapers.

  • Beth @ Turn 2 the Simple

    I’ll have to try this! I cloth diaper (when we’re at home) but have yet to switch to cloth wipes — I love this natural recipe!

  • suzy

    Another great post and very timely for me. Thanks so much. And I think you are doing a great job in terms of trying to be “greener” We cannot do it all, or all at once, but every little bit helps.

  • Lisa P.

    You have to do what works for you and this is already way better than store bought wipes. But you mentioned time being a factor and your description seems like it would take so much time! Cutting rolls of paper towel? Boiling water? Whenever you get around to using cloth dipes, I’d really encourage you to try cloth wipes. No cutting, you don’t even have to fold them. You can use the same formula as your current solution. Have you tried not boiling the water? My wipe solution is similar but I don’t boil and I add a couple splashes of witch hazel which supposedly helps keep the yuckies away. I haven’t heard anything bad about witch hazel…yet. ;)

    Bridget Reply:

    What do you use for cloth? I’ve cut up some receiving blankets, but they seem to fray at the edges whether cut with pinking shears or scissors. We honestly don’t use wipes a lot, just rinse the bottom in the sink or throw the toddler in the tub for a real mess, I have made this sort of wipe solution in the past, but have found that just carrying cloths & wetting them before use (yep, just water), works pretty well & you don’t get the rot/mold problem.

    cory Reply:

    Anything woven will fray. If you want something that doesn’t, you’ll have to use a knit. Or, if you have even the most basic sewing skills, zig-zag around the edge. Not like wipes have to look nice.

    I also use just water – a bathroom big enough for a changing table is a mother’s dream!

    Brittany Reply:

    You could also pick up a couple of baby washcloth packages at the Dollar Store. They’re not quite as heavy-duty as cloth wipes you would purchase, but they still do the job. In my opinion, they work better than scraps of flannel (without the fraying).

    Lisa P. Reply:

    I use purchased flannel wipes that are serged so no fraying. But any of these suggestions work well, too!

    Plain water works great. I just happen to like pre-wetting and good-smelling things. ;-)

  • Becky @ Our Peaceful Home

    My problem has always been that I can’t get my knife sharp enough to cut the roll in half.

    Katie Reply:

    Becky,
    Do sharpen it right before…I use the knife meant for cutting a roast; it’s a beast! :) katie

  • Amy W

    Okay, this just rocks! I had no idea one could make their own wipes. I learned something new today :-).

  • Amanda

    I love it!

    We’ve taken it a step farther and cut up old receiving blankets that were lying around the house. I just throw ‘em in the wash with the cloth diapers. My only regret is that I thought of this whole cloth thing on our 4th kid and not our first! Oh, the money we’ve thrown away.

    I just found your site the other day and I am loving it! …made quite a few of your recipes already! yum… thank you!!

    Katie Reply:

    Amanda,
    Welcome aboard! :) Katie

  • Jenny

    I made wipes very similar to this when mine were babies but it never occurred to me to use them as hand wipes. Duh! Thanks for the reminder. These would be great to take on a camping or long car trip.

    Katie Reply:

    Jenny,
    Oh, yes, we always take a box or two camping!
    :) Katie

  • Stefanie

    This is similar to what I did pre-cloth diapering. Every now and then I would put witch hazel in like Lisa P. I also did like Bridget, where I just wet them as we needed one.

  • Brittany

    Great post! I’ll definitely whip up some of these for our next vacation. (We usually use cloth, but I’ve allowed myself to do disposables on vacation, so I don’t have quite as much laundry when we get home.)

    I had to laugh at ” scraping by on a thread or two of sanity” because it’s such a perfect description! :)

  • Sarah

    Well thank you! This is just a perfect post for me. I don’t know how much it will save me money though as I use sooo many wipes to clean a dirty bottom my husband is fed up with me!!

    Katie Reply:

    Sarah,
    The trick is to use the diaper to wipe much of the solids away before grabbing a wipe, at least in my book. Good luck! :) katie

  • Lenetta via Facebook

    Heh, I actually commented on this post and I think it got sent to spam. Does that mean I need to comment more often so WP remembers me? :>)

  • via Facebook

    What? I will check. Thank God for spam filters, but I don’t have time to look thru all the crazy amts of spam to find real ones that sneak through. Shoot.

  • Lenetta via Facebook

    Nah, don’t bother. It was this morning, and I’m guessing it’ll take forever to find!

  • Lucy

    Wow, that’s a lot of work! We use cloth diapers and cloth wipes. I keep a spray bottle of water with a few drops of tea tree oil in it on the changing table and just spray the wipes as I need them. Using cloth wipes would be so much easier than cutting up the paper towels, etc. and it’s more earth friendly! You can buy cloth wipes from any retailer that sells cloth diapers or make your own – you can use baby wash cloths, or even cut up old cotton or flannel shirts!

    Katie Reply:

    Lucy,
    You know, it’s really one of the easier things I do. I will switch to cloth wipes when I do cloth diapers, but for now, cloth would mean figuring out where to put them after a change, laundering, and returning them – I’d say about the same amt of work as this process. Not trying to pick on you, but I do want people who aren’t ready for cloth wipes to know that this is really, really simple! :) Katie

    Lucy Reply:

    I understand. Making your own wipes is definitely better than using commercial wipes probably both cost-wise and health-wise. Once you switch to cloth diapers and wipes, it’ll be a cinch though since you just wash everything together and you’re good to go.

  • Melissa @ Dyno-mom

    You know, while it is a big step to go to cloth diapers it really isn’t hard. Believe me, I have ten kids and I wouldn’t do it if it would break my spirit. I use zippered bags in each bathroom (Bummis brand) and three times a week turn the bag out in to the washer and wash the bag, too. When we clean, we throw the dirty rags into the diaper bag, too.

    But I also wanted to mention that your readers should be careful which variety of castille soap they use. I use diluted Dr Bronner’s in a foaming pump as a shower body wash and in a spray bottle for the cloth wipes. When hubby used peppermint to refill the shower wash, it was a very unpleasant and tingly experience. Now I make sure that I use lavender or another version for the diaper spray and body wash. Just FYI.

    Sarah Reply:

    You would not believe how many times I have read the same story regarding Dr. Bronner’s peppermint variety! (On the other hand, one commenter found it to be a refreshing experience!)

  • Sarah

    I just made a batch, and I agree with Katie. It’s very easy and fast – if you trim a couple rolls of paper towels at a time, you won’t have to do more than boil water and mix in soap for quite a while. I mixed a batch up while dinner was warming on the stove.

    Even though I have cloth diapered three kids, I never cared for cloth wipes. We didn’t wash diapers every day, and I hated having poopy wipes hanging out in the diaper pail. I think it’s great to have alternative options. Everyone is in a different place in their lives and their preferences.

    Our last baby potty trained a couple months ago, but we keep wipes in the bathroom for the whole family to use. I’ve been trying different “natural” brands for a while now, but they are SO expensive, and none of the brands I’ve tried have worked for us. I can’t believe I never thought to make my own!

    I love this idea, because it’s so versatile. You can adjust what you add to the water, or add nothing at all, depending on your preferences. You could also cut your 1/3 roll in half before adding water, and you have a set that’s ready for the wipes box!

    Sarah Reply:

    Okay, don’t do that last thing – precutting for the wipes box. It worked great for the outer half of the roll, but the circumference of the circle gets smaller and smaller the closer you get to the cardboard tube, so we wound up with some REALLY small wipes in the middle of our stack!

    We’ve been using our wipes for the past couple days, and they are great! The kids like them much better than the store-bought ones, and the toddler’s bottom rash is starting to clear up. I think she was allergic to something in the “green” wipes we were using before. :(

  • Angela

    I LOVE your website, can I just say! As a busy mama myself I don’t have too much time to keep up with blogs but I always make time for yours :)

    Great post, love the idea of homemade wipes, so cost effective! We have used cloth wipes (from those tiny baby washcloths, nothing fancy) in the past by folding them in a stack, put them in an old wipe container and pouring water over them. Worked really well, and I think the addition of tea tree oil would be a great one. So, these wipes you make are only disposable through the garbage can, right? Not flushable as they are paper towels? I would love to make our own flushable wipes….we are officially out of diapers here (Alleluia!!! well…until December when #4 arrives – HA! :) ) but we still use those *expensive* flushable wipes on our 2yr old twins and the 4yr old uses them too. Any ideas for making flushable wipes???

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Angela,
    Now that’s a great question! I wonder what determines whether something can be “flushable”? Maybe just labeling…

    Obviously you couldn’t use TP – total mush. There has to be some way to do it, though – maybe just slightly less heavy paper towel than Viva. Bounty still holds together, and if they were small enough, I would think they would not clog the toilet. But I’m no plumber! Let me know if you try it – Katie

  • Robin via Facebook

    Even easier is using a couple of baby washcloths, on rotation. I never had to remember to buy or make a new batch…just pull one out of the laundry.

  • Rebekah from Simply Rebekah

    It is great to see a green blogger admit to using disposable diapers! I’m very sad for you that a reader left you that comment.

    There is so much of this “You’re not green ENOUGH” attitude that goes around online (and in real life!). It is sad. I’m a firm believer in taking green baby steps and try to keep that “not green enough” feeling off my own blog.

    Sorry that happened, Katie.

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Aw, thanks, Rebecca. It’s what anyone gets when they put themselves in the public eye, no big deal. And I’m on my way there…eventually! Thanks for the camaraderie; it does mean a lot. :) Katie

    Sarah H Reply:

    I call the you’re not green enough attitude being “crunchier-than-thou.”

    Katie, one of my favorite things about you is your baby-steps attitude, as I constantly fight the urge to change everything all at once and then give up in utter exhaustion about 3 days later. A little bit (or sometime little tiny bit) at a time is the way to go.

  • Christine

    Any reason not to use Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Soap? I was worried about it not being mild enough for the little guy’s bottom, but could I use it instead of adding tea tree oil separately?

    Katie Reply:

    That’s totally what I use already!

  • Anny

    Katie,
    I’m so thankful I found your website. I just recently become aware of all the dangerous stuffs around us (At first I thought only food that contains dangerous stuffs and all other non-food items are safe). Anyway, I will totally give this homemade wipe a try. By the way, I’ll be buying Burt’s Bees for my baby wash. Do you think i can use that instead of the castille soap? and where can i find tree tea oil?
    Thank you

  • Anny

    O..i forgot one thing. Dr. Bronner’s castile soap containes “Tocopherol” which is rated “2 (low risk)” for cancer caused ingredients…(see http://www.ewg.org – a database for safe / not safe cosmetic ingredients)

    What is your opinion on it? Should we start moving away from Dr. Bronner’s too?

    That’s why I’m leaning toward Burt’s Bees (the fragance free version though) because it doesn’t have carcinogens…only risk for allergy…but i guess we can’t really have be all the way “Green” without breaking our budget. sighh…

    Katie Reply:

    Anny,
    Any baby wash will do great, so Burt’s Bees is a lovely option.

    I’m bummed to hear Dr. Bronner’s has tocopherol, but a no. 2 is really nothing to worry about in my opinion. 2 is super low as EWG goes; I feel like they’re pretty conservative. Maybe variety is what matters – don’t use castille soap for everything.

    Tea tree oil can be found at health food stores, some pharmacies, and online at Mountain Rose Herbs (http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/index.php?AID=123146&BID=10697) and even Amazon.

    Good luck! :) Katie

    Jen Reply:

    Tocopherol is Vitamin E. I don’t see how it would be dangerous in a baby wipe.

  • malissa

    You can also make this mixture and place it in a spray bottle, hanging it on the changing table. when cleaning baby, use TP to get the worst off, spray the bottom, and wipe with TP. I make this for my daughter and she keeps what she is not using in her fridge. Dr. Bronner’s lavendar makes it delicious! You can also use cloth to wipe and just throw the cloth in the diaper pail with the cloth diaper!

  • Liz H

    We compost paper towels at our house. I’d say if they are not full of poop you could throw them in the compost pile and that would make them “greener!” There are even compostable diapers so I don’t think this idea is too far off. I flush the poop from disposables whenever possible just like I used to do with our cloth diapers.
    I also do as Malissa recommends and use a spray bottle to clean baby and the towels or TP to wipe them off. TP can just be flushed. I also sometimes use cloth wipes to clean off the residue from baby wipes, especially if they have a rash.

  • Laura

    I made my first batch of these last week and I LOVE them! We no longer have babies in our house, but I was still wishing we had wipes; sticky fingers, messes on the floor, bathroom door knobs, my face, you name it. I love the way these feel, and without that sticky residue that typical wipes leave. Thank you so much!
    (I am going to put half my roll in the freezer to keep since there’s no way we’ll use them all before they mold. Also plan on putting them in the compost bin since there’s nothing creepy in there.)
    You are fabulous, thank you for sharing!

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  • Elissa

    I’ve been making homemade wipes according to your recipe and have really enjoyed them. However, this morning I came across a link through Pinterest that says that you shouldn’t mix castile soap and vinegar because it “unsaponifies” the soap, even if you mix the vinegar in after mixing water and soap. Here’s the link: http://lisa.drbronner.com/?p=292
    I will probably skip the vinegar or invest in some tea tree oil, like you mention, for now till I can research it a bit more. Just one more piece of information for consideration. :)

  • Adrienne

    Just wanted you to know this is amazing! I cloth diaper during weekdays, and use disposables in the evenings/overnight/part of the weekend(dh isn’t on board yet), and have been trying to find a wipes recipe that doesn’t involve baby oil so I can use it for both disposable and cloth wipes. Hope you don’t mind that I pinned!

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  • ashley

    Thank you for posting this information. I have a question about the essential oils. I have come across some information on tea oil and lavender oil; a controversial debate about whether or not it can have effects on young children causing symptoms of puberty. I am aware that it has not been confirmed,however, I would rather be cautious and use some other EOs. Do you have any suggestions on any EOs with antifungal properties just like tea tree oil which I could use safely on my baby wipes? Once again for this information.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Ashley,
    There are quite a few, although I’d do a quick search to confirm this: clove, cinnamon, rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon (maybe)…the only problem is that some of those are “hot” oils and might burn open sores… Good luck! :) Katie

  • ashley

    Thank you for the info:) When I did some research I did come across cinnaomon, rosemary and lemon (which is also used for treatment of boils and sores) EOs. I want to add though that I came across this article about certain EOs and which ones not recommended for use for children under 2 and one of those were eucalyptus. I shall read up on the ‘hot’ oils. Thank you again for your quick reply, it really helped me.

    ashley Reply:

    I apologize I mean cuts not sores :)

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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