Old-fashioned way of clearing pipes still the best

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: Thanks for all the free enlightenment. Do any of your plumber friends know of any method to dissolve soap from sink traps? Or is it still the old-fashioned way, as in stand on your head under the sink and dig it out? I’m too old to do it anymore. – No Name, No Town

ANSWER: Sun Spots spoke with Roland at Able Power Rooter (29 Union St., Lewiston, 782-4708), and he confirmed what Sun Spots found online. The best way to clear out your pipes is manually, either by taking them apart or using a snake. A lot of people use Drano or Liquid Plumber, which often work, but they are harsh chemicals, not good for the environment or some kinds of pipes. There is a home remedy that may give you some relief: Pour a half cup of baking soda into the drain, then add 1 cup of vinegar. It will fizz. Rinse with a mixture of 2 quarts of boiling water and 2 tablespoons of salt.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have questions about bottled water. I have been told that bottled water has lost some of its minerals, due to the cleaning process that companies like Poland Spring use. Is this true or false?

I have been told that Poland Spring and others add minerals to their water to make up for the ones lost. Is this true? Why aren’t minerals in the water listed on the bottle? I have been told it is impossible to clean the water without some mineral loss. True?

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How do Poland Spring and others clean their water? Do they add chemicals? Thank you. – No Name, No Town

ANSWER: Sun Spots spoke to several people at the Poland Spring consumer information center, as well as spokeswoman Jane Lazgin. She said that the filtration process they use to clean the water of all bacteria does not filter out minerals, since minerals are smaller than the 1 micron and then .2 micron filters used.

You can actually buy similar filters at camping and outdoor supply stores. When Mr. and Mrs. Sun Spots were younger and went backpacking in the wilds of Alaska, they had a similar device they used to hand-pump water out of a river or creek, through a filter and into a drinking water bottle, and they never got sick. Of course, the filters Poland Spring uses are more complicated and much larger, but the process is similar.

They do not use chemicals. Chemicals are used in tap water, which is taken from surface water sources and is therefore exposed to more contaminants. Poland Spring’s water is from springs, which are underground.

As for adding minerals, Poland Springs does not, although there are some minerals naturally occurring in its water. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations don’t require the listing of the mineral content, because minerals are usually not an ingredient with the exception of salt, which is added to many foods.

Think about the food you buy in the grocery store. The FDA requires companies to list the salt (sodium) content, as well as the calorie and fat content, but not other minerals, such as phosphorus or fluoride. Poland Spring does have a list of the mineral content on its Web site at www.polandspring.com/KnowH2O/OurSources.aspx.

If you have any other questions, you can call their consumer hotline at 1-800-477-7464. Their consumer representatives are very helpful and said they could mail out information if you lack Internet access.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: In reply to Joanne (Feb. 2) about fish chowder, I made Classic Down East Haddock Chowder from the enclosed clipping, and it was great. A few hints: I used bacon and fresh thyme. Once you’ve used fresh herbs, you’ll never go back to dried ones. — Michael Donohue, Lewiston

ANSWER: The recipe Michael refers to was published in the Portland Press Herald on Feb. 17, so Sun Spots couldn’t reprint it. If you try to get it off the Press Herald Web site, you have to pay $2, but Sun Spots found it on another link: http://blog.mainefoodandlifestyle.com/2009/06/classic-down-east-haddock-chowder.html. It does sound tasty.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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