it doesn’t suck (anymore).

Great Hive Mind, I need your help.

Here at Castle Frostbite, the lord of the manor is constantly fighting entropy, a phenomenon that’s accelerated by the presence of two small children and four dachshunds.  I try to keep the place presentable, I swear, but the Forces of Mischief are too strong sometimes, and I find myself sweeping and mopping the floors in the mornings only to turn my back and once again have it look like a country barn and a toy store collided at high speed in our sitting room.

The other day, our vacuum refused to do the job for which it was designed, and no amount of cleaning, coaxing, threats of violence, or percussive maintenance could convince the recalcitrant device to suck up the dirt instead of blowing it out like some bizarre hovercraft propelling itself on a cushion of filth.

That makes four vacuums in five years now.  It seems we’re in the market for yet another one, but I want to stop the cycle of spending $100 every year and a half, and get a device that will let me Make Dirt My Bitch in a reliable way for years to come.

Anyone have any glowing recommendations on a vacuum cleaner that fits the definition of “industrial strength”?  Something that will suck up dirt, hair, small animals, and laminate floorboards if needed?  We were thinking about one of those Dyson thingies they display at Best Buy in the “Stop Fucking Around With That Cheap Shit” aisle, but I want to gather a few real-world opinions from honest-to-goodness parents and pet owners before we drop close to half a grand on a vacuum cleaner.


64 thoughts on “it doesn’t suck (anymore).

  1. Brass says:

    I’ve got one of the low end Dysons and boy does it suck. In a good way. I live in a fairly small condo in the mountains of Colorado and during the summer the windows are always open (all the air in Colorado is conditioned) so I get a lot of dirt and dust. The Dyson picks it all up (including broken glass, tile in the kitchen dontcha’ know) and has been going strong coming on five years now.

  2. Brian says:

    Go to Sears. Find the vacuum cleaners and tell the salesguy that you’d like a Dyson, but you don’t want to pay that much. For ~50% less we purchased a Kenmore bagless 3 or 4 years ago to replace a junky Hoover and it has performed flawlessly on hardwood, ceramic tile rugs and carpet. It feasts on the piles of dog hair that accumulate so quickly on the hardwoods. Sears is struggling like everywhere else and might even have a sale or a coupon – unlike Best Buy who will gladly give you 8% off of a discontinued floor model or return.

  3. Greg in Manchester says:

    Kenmore Progressive 36932 . I own one and it easily handles cat hair from my 2 long hair cats. Consumer Reports rates it a best buy. It is bagless and has some serious suck.

  4. JD says:

    Dyson kick ass. . . . We have cats, a dog, and three kids and that thing takes it all. We only have a few rugs but it works on everything and just keeps sucking. . . . If you loose any suction, you just empty it out and you are good to go. . . .

    Ya, I was a bit put off by the cost when the wife wanted one but they work. Granted we got a good deal at the old Linens and Things that cut the cost but it was worth it. We have the canister model.

  5. David says:

    Yeah, I don’t like messing around with toy vacuums either. I use a shop-vac. Cheap, light, goes anywhere, simple to clean, comes with a crapload of attachments for every task, and if you point it into your backyard through a window, you might be able to suck a squirrel into it from about 20 feet away. For under $100 you can have something that’ll last years and will suck in anything from a full box of cat litter to a gallon of spilled milk with no problem.

  6. Colin says:

    Assuming you are not planning on moving: central vac.

  7. Eric Hammer says:

    I second the shop vac solution. Ever since I got one to clean up during bathroom renovation I have wondered why one would bother with a normal vacuum that would struggle with a mere 2 penny nail.

    No rug attachment with rotating brush things.
    Will pick up garments, paperwork or medium sized objects lost behind things. (OMG! My scarf!)
    No HEPA filter (on the cheap model we have. Others might.)

    50$ with “My wife is a freakin’ discount ninja” coupon at Lowes.
    Knows no fear of pine needles, cat hair, cats in general, dust bunnies, errant shoe laces or hair.
    Cleans up cat puke when the wife is not around to do so.

  8. Avenger29 says:

    I second the shop vac.

    Not as convenient as an upright, but it will actually work after a while. and it’s cheap. You need one anyway even if you get the dyson later…

  9. The Armsman says:

    I have been using a Rainbow for about 27 years. Will pick up everything a shopvac does, including water. Only thing I have replaced are the brushes in the motor.

    And no filter to clean off or out. Just dump the water. Can also be used as an air freshener. Put a couple drops of essential oil in the water before you use it.

  10. crankylitprof says:

    Dyson, Dyson, Dyson. My previous vacuum was an Oreck, and it was good….but the Dyson is phenomenal. I have one of the Purple Animal ones ((DC-25) and it’s wonderful.

    Three kids, three cats, an German Shepherd and a bunny, and all animal and child detritus is cleaned up.

  11. Yeah, and she had a fourth kid and another bunny…

    …until they got too close to the Dyson.

  12. Louise Townsend says:

    I find that all the plastic vacs don’t last no matter how much they suck in the beginning.
    Check out Electrolux, not the cheap immitation but the real deal.

  13. Jay G. says:

    Can’t help you there, Marko – we’ve got central vac.

    There’s something inherently cool about plugging a hose into the freakin’ wall and making all of your dirt and crud disappear.

    Although if you vacuum up your daughter’s favorite princess figurine (that you told her to get off the floor 15 times), you *will* spend half-an-hour routing through dirt and lint…

  14. Wild Deuce says:

    We have Orecks and a Shop-Vac at the firehouse. The combination has worked so well that it’s the same thing I have had at my house now for the last five years. No problems … yet.

    We’ve only replaced the Oreck at work once in the last ten years (it does an entire firehouse seven days a week). We go through Shop-Vacs a little more frequently.

  15. NASCAR Wife says:

    Had a rainbow for about 10 years. These really suck in a good way. They keep going no matter how much crap you vacuum up
    Pros: Really sucks no matter what is in the water. No Bag. Don’t have to dump the canister after every room. Lots of really useful attachments. The carpet tool gets under everything; I think the profile on it is only 2 inches.
    Cons: Got to have a drain (usually the toilet) that can handle flushing an entire cat. No drain that large or a septic system, you will need to have a place in the yard, out of sight and mind, where you can dump the waste (it is pretty gross). The carpet tool needs to be overhauled every year and keep lots of belts for it on hand. Lugging the base unit around on carpet is like trying to drag around a dead body. Tipping can be a disaster.

    I now have a Dyson and it really sucks as well.
    Pros: Easier than the Rainbow to move around. Don’t have to dump the canister after every use. Canister can be empitied into a trash bag.
    Cons: Can’t get under anything. (The clearance needed to get under furniture must be about 10 inches) The attachments aren’t as useful as the Rainbow’s.

    Have used a Shop Vac for cleaning the house.
    Pros: Will suck up the carpet if you are not careful.
    Cons: No carpet attachment. Its huge. It blows a fine mist of dust back out if you do not hae a filter.

  16. first and foremost, *everybody* needs a good shop vac…as others have said, they’re cheap and they pick up everything…but maybe not the most convenient thing in the world.

    and while you’ve got the shop vac for the interim, take a look at some good pawn shops; if it’s at all like it is in fla, those rainbow and electrolux things -for which that half-grand is just a downpayment when bought new- are pawned for 50-100 bucks and most pawnshops don’t know them from a hoover, often letting them go for what the pawn fee would be…be sure to check it out and get all the attachments, and you might pick up one of those things for ten percent of new.


  17. Shane says:

    Ditto the shop vac, even a small one. Thirty bucks on sale. We’re on our second one — the cannister still works but we needed new tubes and hoses. A Dyson would probably be better with rugs or carpets, but we have wood floors, so we’re good. We have holly leaves and the sharp points on the leaves stick inside the 1.25″ tubes on the small vacs. A vac with 2″ hoses and more power would help, but the small ones do a pretty good job. You can also get extra tubes, parts and filters at hardware stores.

  18. Caleb says:

    I actually own one of those damned Kirby vacuums, due to my wife’s impressive skill at coercion. Despite it’s damn near 4 figure price tag, the fucking thing really is a phenomenal vacuum, and also does other fun stuff like shampoo carpets, and all sorts of madness.

  19. blocksworld says:

    We have three shop-vacs….

    Shop*Vac brand made a small portable one. We have two of those plus a medium-sized model for the actual shop. The downside is that they’re messy to empty and could sometimes use an exhaust filter…. especially when you get aggressive around the woodstove.

    There are HEPA filter sleeves for various brands/configurations of shop vacs.

  20. Gerry N. says:

    Find a used Kirby. They are the Abrams of home vacs. Never buy one new. Pawn, and thrift shops will have ’em for cheap. Vacuum repair shops will have rebuilts for cheap too. Ours is 30 years old and it shows no signs of quitting any time soon. Single complaint is they are HEAVY. Forget the useless attachments.

    Gerry N.

  21. WilliamtheCoroner says:

    I also use a shop-vac. Got one from Sears. Works like a charm. Three cats and more litter than you can shake a stick at.

  22. Chang says:


    Your Teutonic cellular structure will vibrate with glee about the sheer efficiency and deisng of it. And it works, too. After years of $100 jobbies, the wife finally went and bought a Dyson and we fell in love all over again.

  23. Scott says:

    Dyson will set you back a little. My wife demanded one. I didn’t want it. Too much plastic.

    BUT, she demanded. What could I do?

    As in most things, she was right. We have had the Dyson for 4 years now with no failures and it works as well now as it ever did with little maintenance.

    Buy it, you will save money in the long run.

  24. Stingray says:

    We’ve got a dyson here at the Nerd Ranch too. It deals with the fur from multi-akita coat-blow with aplomb, handles chunks and detritus from the fireplace right up to “No, that’s larger around than the hose” without complaint, and as for the suction… well, lemme put it this way: if the fireplace tongs didn’t work to get that mouse from a few days ago, the dyson was plan B. The only downside I have encountered with it is the carpet brushes are a little *too* good and occasionally gum up with old fibers from our less-than-wonderful carpet, and it takes a good ten minutes snipping and slicing to get the brushes untangled.

  25. Todd says:

    This is it. 3 kids, 6 dogs me and the wife create a lot of dust, dirt and hair.

  26. Lissa says:

    Beware the Central Vac + Small Children situation. We had a gorgeous central vac in Maryland and it lasted us about five years. That’s how long it took for LilBro 1 to figure out that his Batman figurines would go SHOOTING down the holes in the wall. Even the best central vac can’t eat more than, oh, fifteen of those without going kaput.

  27. Eric says:

    Dyson! I can get you our exact model later, but we bought the one that at the time was exclusive to Sears. Dyson also makes a handheld that uses the same technology as its larger brethren and it rocks!

  28. Chip says:

    Sears Progressive canister. Have 2 dogs who main purpose in life is to grow an entire new coat every day. Picks hair great and has a small hand held powered brush that is gret for getting hair off fabric covered furniture.

  29. David Avera says:

    Kirby, used if you can find one. We bought one a new G5 12 years ago and suffered buyer’s remorse at “we can’t believe we paid that much for a freakin’ vacuum cleaner”
    12 years later and dozens upon dozens of bags filled with every kind of dirt and hair found in a house with two kids, two dogs and a cat … the thing still does what it does. Like an earlier poster said … the Abrams of vacuum cleaners.

  30. Kristopher says:

    We just picked up a 40 year old small hoover upright at a yard sale.

    Once every few years, I have to replace the rubber belt.

  31. Mulligan says:

    big fuzzy dog + little fuzzy dog – 3(vacuum) – carpet + tile = swiffer

  32. Jason says:

    Dyson. I’ve owned mine for 4 years now. I can’t speak highly enough of it. If I had 2 houses, I’d have 2 dysons. DC-14.

  33. jimbob86 says:

    When I was a kid, we had a Kirby…… Abrams of vacs ’bout sums it up: 4 kids 3 dogs and as many cats as my sister could sneak into that 80 year old farmhouse……. and that Kirby went through all that with the alacrity the aforementioned MBT went through the world’s 4th largest conscript collection with……

    I have hardwood floors (apart from SAHD, I’m also a Wood Flooring Contractor) now, so I don’t need anything more than a good pushbroom and a bathtowel……….

  34. Eric says:

    Our Dyson is the DC14 Complete. My wife said to tell you it’s so powerful, it can suck up a cotton sock! She caught too close to the pile of laundry and in it went!!

  35. Cat says:

    I have an Electrolux Harmony that my in-laws gave me for Christmas about three years ago. I know nothing else about the brand, but if all their vacuums are like this one, you should consider it. It picks up cat hair a treat, and I use it in preference to the vacuum at my car wash because it picks up larger chunks of dirt and gravel. I don’t have dogs, but we are a farming family that sometimes forgets to take their boots off, so we have dirt, and it has not failed me yet. My husband also has waist length hair, which generally burns out vacuums in ~6 months (you should see what it did to the poor Roomba my in-laws got me for a wedding present) but there have been no problems so far. Its crevice tool also takes out spiderwebs a treat. The only con is that it does take a bag, so you have to change it every few months.

  36. Allan says:


    Take a day trip up to St. Johnsbury and visit North Country Vac ‘n Sew. It’s a little Ma & Pa shop where Pa makes seriously good canister vacuum cleaners of his own design. Inexpensive, solid, fair-priced. He calls it the Defender.

    Ours has been going for a while now and it’s so simple you can fix it yourself if the store ever goes south. It uses common bags and filters and all standard attachments.

    Be sure to take in the Fairbanks Museum at the same time… talk about a trip back in time!

    Store phone # is 802-748-9190

    No commercial relationship here at all (other than the guy took my money).


  37. Allan says:

    BTW, we heat only with wood, have a brace of shedding dogs, and live on a dirt road that is 10 feet out the front window. That vac from the NEK eats it all with glee.

  38. jimbob86 says:

    Marko, if you want to put in hardwood, ask me how……. it’s not that complicated. Even a redneck can do it………

  39. Toni says:

    Another vote for the purple Dyson, here. We’ve had ours through 4 dogs and 2 kids, and it’s still working well. We switched from an Oreck about 5 years ago, and we’ve saved enough on buying filter bags to make up for the high price.

  40. Sendarius says:

    Kirby, Kirby, Kirby.

    We bought two for less than half the original asking price for one – my wife is a MEAN negotiator.

    One was faulty from the get-go. Kirby replaced it instantly, and ‘forgot’ to collect the faulty one. I replaced the dodgy micro-switch myself, and all three have performed perfectly for 15 years.
    Noisy and heavy, but power-assistance helps, and they could suck the chrome off a tow-ball.

  41. Mithras61 says:

    We have a Simplicity 7500 (, and I can heartily recommend them. I thought it was pricey at first, but we’ve had it for years now (even traded a functioning one in for a newer model – got a $350 discount on the new one).

    It cleans everything we drop on the floor from 6mm Air Soft BBs to pet hair to that sticky crap my 8-yo daughter and her friends manage to drop everywhere in her room (and no, I really DON’T want to know what it is/was, sweetie… thanks anyway). It cleans tile/hardwood as well as carpet. It has seven-stage replaceable filters that leave the air clean (my allergies are terrible, but this even gets the pollen out of the carpet) and uses bags (top filling, even), so you don’t get the dust & dirt back in the air when you empty it.

    It also has handy built-in attachments for hose, crevices, upholstery and more, and came with a more extensive set in a handy-dandy carrying case that covers us for stuff we didn’t even know we needed (it doesn’t do wet, though – for that we got a carpet cleaner). IIRC it was originally about $750, but it’s survived dealing with a boy for most of the last 15 years and a girl for the last 8 with wear to parts like drive belts that are supposed to wear, and maintenance has always been covered by warranty or very reasonably priced.

    It was recommended to me by the guy who runs the vacuum cleaner shop here, over a Kirby (on which he would have made more commission, but he values his repeat customers, and he said it was better than the Kirby – FWIW, I like it better than my Mom’s Kirby).

    Sorry to sound like an advertisement for Simplicity, but I am very happy with ours.

  42. princewally says:

    We’ve got the purple Dyson “animal hair” model. We’ve also got 4 cats, 1 dog and 3 kids. We vacuum every day, and it’s been going strong for a couple of years, now.

  43. Bob says:

    Pro’s: We have the purple upright, a DC14 animal. It’ll suck the grain off a wood floor, small cat toys are no match for it (we have 2 cats, 1’s a longhair). It empties into the trash can, so I never run out of bags.
    Cons: To me it seems heavy for an upright, which detracts from its usability from my standpoint (I’m the vacuman of the house). Maneuverability is limited, because of the height and the wheels, unless you use the hose attachments then its just as sweet.
    If I were in the market again I’d probably go for the Dyson ball upright (DC 25 animal) or the canister vac ( DC 21 stowaway).
    Dyson’s online store also sells refurbished models (07’s) at around 60% msrp under the special offerings section.

  44. Tam says:

    Hardwood floors and a broom.

    Problem solved.

  45. We’ve got a Rainbow and I love it. We’ve had it about 9 years. We live in the country, with dirt roads and lots of muds (the drought of the last two years has left the yard fairly bare). We also have an indoor/outdoor dog who is part golden retriever and part lab. It does a wonderful job getting up the dirt. It will suck up pennies and marbles and barbie shoes. I’ve replaced the belt on the power head twice. It needs another now. Which reminds me, I need to go order one. I love the water part. I put in essential oils to help freshen the house. I don’t use the chemicals they give you.

  46. I’m with the shop vac contingent. We have 3–one for the basement, one for the living areas and one for the RV.

    They just don’t do carpets all that well, but you can use it for the preliminary cleaning, then use a cheap upright, which since you’ve gotten up all the nasty crap, will now last forever.

    And a steam mop (get a Bissel, not one of the infomercial ones) for all the vinyl, laminates and sealed hardwood.

  47. drstrangegun says:

    If you look hard enough, you can find brush agitator attachment for shop vacs that are driven by a little turbine in the airstream.

    I’ve got one on the shop vac that I use around the house. It’s not as powerful a beater as a regular vac, but the airflow is MUCH stronger. I find it works just as well, and sounds like the air start stage of a little GE helicopter turbine.

  48. paulcr39 says:

    Got the Dyson Animal because of our late beagle. Don’t believe anyone that says short haired dogs don’t shed. We filled the canister every few days, enough to make a new dog if needed. Would recommend it 100 times out of 100. Tried shop vac, Hoover, Kenmore, etc. none approached the Dyson. BTW, I had $erious reservation$ on dropping that kind of loot too, but I’ve recommended it to everyone I know.

  49. bob r says:

    We have been using the purple Dyson about 4 years now; 2 dogs, 2 cats, no problems. Best vacuum I’ve ever used — for floors (carpet or bare); not so convenient if you need to use the hose. I thought Patty was nuts to spend so much on it but it turns out to be worth it.

    Big con on the shop vac: If you don’t have a HEPA filter on it you will be putting very fine dust into the air — the very worst stuff to be breathing.

  50. The Dyson Ball really sucks well and is highly maneuverable, but do not get the lightweight one (DC-24). The cord is very short, maybe 12′ or so, and you’ll be constantly having to unplug and replug it in, to the point you’ll be cursing out the designers for the next ten generations of their families.

  51. VooDooZoo says:

    The Dysons are intriguing, but I haven’t fooled with one yet. Classically, Electrolux is the best cannister, Kirby the best upright, and Rainbow the best all-round … but a *major* PITA to actually use! (They take about 30 minutes to setup before use and another 30 minutes to clean after you finish. They work great – water filtration is not a ‘quick’ clean.)

    Pricewise, a used Kirby is hard to beat. My parents bought a used 1930’s refurbished Kirby off a retired Kirby factory worker in their bowling league. I was so impressed I went out and dropped over a grand on a new Kirby with all of the attachments. I’ve had mine about 25 years now … over the long haul it beats the cheapola suckers that break every 12 months or so and are frustrating to use when they aren’t broken.

    +1! … Step up to a quality vacuum. They _are_ worth the money.

  52. dang, mw: now you know if you want to run up the comment count, just tell someone their gun sucks or their vac don’t.


  53. Marko says:

    No kidding.

    Hmm, what should I blog about next to see if I can break the 100-comment mark?

  54. Matt in Portland says:

    Whatever you do don’t invite a Kirby salesman into your home. You will regret it. However, I was thoroughly impressed with the machine, but my wife hated how big, heavy and ugly the thing was. Not to mention the $1500 lowest offer. Just flip over the average vacuum and look at how small the suction hole is, that’s what you are really getting.

    My Eureka works well enough during the last four years.

    I’ll second the hardwood floors and a swiffer. I like carpet, but it is such a filth magnet. Good luck, I too am in a constant state of entrophy fighting myself.

  55. “Hmm, what should I blog about next to see if I can break the 100-comment mark?”

    laser-eye death stares? oh, wait, that’s been done.


  56. The other day, our vacuum refused to do the job for which it was designed, and no amount of cleaning, coaxing, threats of violence, or percussive maintenance could convince the recalcitrant device to suck up the dirt instead of blowing it out like some bizarre hovercraft propelling itself on a cushion of filth. = best sentence ever typed. GOD that’s funny!

    I’ve got one of the pet-owner versions of the Dyson. That thing is awesome. Had mine for about three years, and runs like I just opened the box.


  57. Strings says:

    Marko: if you want, I have a friend that runs a vaccuum shop. I can take your requirements in, and get his suggestions. Just drop me an email…

  58. Chuck says:

    Marko, I am a retired Navy snipe and I’ve dealt with my share of suck over the years. The Rainbow, is an excellent machine but the drawback of setup/takedown time and the mess of a tipover is not worth dealing with. The Kirby is a good machine but the 4 figure price tag is not worth it and the weight of the thing will do your back in. The Oreck is much lighter but it’s a little chintzy in my book. A shop vac is a great piece of equipment and for the cost is great but if you don’t have a HEPA filter for it you’re gonna be sucking dust and you have to worry about the young’ins health.
    If you can afford it, get the Dyson. Here is where the Navy experience comes in; I’ve looked at the Dyson and for all the hoopla the designer talks about how he experimented and came up with the perfect solution to suck; what he really did was use a technology that the Navy used for years before he was even born. That is the peri-jet eductor. These little beasts are used for dewatering sinking ships and I have personally seen the ones we use suck up a matress from a crew berth and spit it out the other side. Any thing that uses that kind of tech or lack there- of since it’s a simple design with no moving parts, has got to be great and with all the glowing reviews of Dyson I don’t believe that you can go wrong by choosing one.

  59. dpatten says:

    I would have to recommend a USED Kirby. UNder no circumstances should you let a Kirby salesman into your house.

    You can pick up a used Kirby for just a song at lots of pawn shops. Further, you can get HEPA rated bags for them. They’ll work very well for decades.

    If you DO get a Kirby, make sure it is on of the later “G” series machines with power assist, My 20 year old model doesn’t have it and can induce feelings of Popeye-arm on thick carpeting.

    My parents had a Rainbow when I was a kid. I honestly can’t recommend it. (vacuuming was one of my chores and I ALWAYS had to empty the nasty water container as my mom wouldn’t touch it)

    It was constantly having issues with hair clogging the intake portion above the water and the acorn nut rusting into place. With a Rainbow you have to field strip it every time you use it to keep it from jamming up.

  60. coffeegopher says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that you got so many comments on this post because everyone knows that vacuums are the devil.

    We just replaced ours because it was a hunk a junk. Now, I love my vacuum. Its a Eureka Capture Bagless with Spinduster. That’s right. I said SPINDUSTER. Amazing.

  61. I had to snicker at the remarks about the Kirby and Rainbow salesmen. They’re kind of like lice – you have to really work to get rid of ’em.

    We have three dogs – two Dachshunds and a Border Collie. The Doxies don’t shed badly, but the Border Collie sheds enough hair in a day to make another dog. If only there were a market for Collie hair.

    We bought a Dyson designed for pet hair about two years ago and we’ve been very pleased. It has worked as advertised and is very easy to empty. Pricey? Yes, but I’ve noticed the prices come down over the past months. It’s the best vacuum we’ve owned in 25+ years of marriage.

  62. BlueNight says:

    I’ve worked for Cutco and I’ve worked for Kirby. They are both superior products, but the marketing of Kirby is like door-to-door new car sales. They will NEVER tell you they could sell them for $300 and still make a profit.

    I am not kidding you. I am also not kidding you when I tell you point blank it is indeed worth $2000. Thank Adam Smith you can find them used at pawn shops, and certain authorized repair shops which had a franchise long before the current crap crop of sales managers came in.

    I have been a custodian at a gym, and I’ve used industrial vacuum cleaners. The Kirby is an industrial vacuum cleaner for home use, and the latest model uses true HEPA filter bags about fifteen times cheaper than the “blastic brick” HEPA filters.

  63. farmist says:

    Wife and I bought a Rainbow in 1981 because a high-school friend of mine was selling them. Have no idea where Bob went, but still have the Rainbow and it still works great. Yes, you do have to “field-strip” it after use, but it does work well.

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