Soapstone: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About This Amazing Stone

 

Soapstone is not a choose-a-good-color countertops material; it’s a fall-in-love countertop material. Once you’re hooked, there’s no going back. The soft, warm feel combined with a subdued, minimal look means this natural stone fits as well in a traditional farmhouse kitchen as it does in the sleek, contemporary design aesthetic of an modern urban space.

 

Geology: Soapstone is a natural rock found in several places around the world. It was formed from igneous rock in ancient ocean rift zones when those areas experienced significant heat and pressure from mountain formation and tectonic movement. The talc mineral in soapstone gives it that soft, smooth feel. The finished surface of soapstone feels like a dry bar of soap (and that’s where it gets its name!).

 

 

Artistic Grade Versus Architectural Grade: Soapstone is quarried in two basic types: high talc (artistic) and low talc (architectural). If you’ve heard that soapstone is too soft for countertops, that myth comes from not distinguishing between the two types. Artistic grade is better for carving and sculptures, but high quality architectural is what you want in your home. (Make sure to ask your fabricator about the grade of the soapstone you are purchasing.) In fact, soapstone is not only naturally antibacterial, but it is also naturally burn and stain resistant and requires very little maintenance. Most experts recommend that you do not seal soapstone, since it is not as porous as granite.

 

 

Colors: Soapstone has a limited palette of colors. It comes in grey, blue-ish gray, green, and black, depending on the mineral content of that particular deposit. Some are darker or lighter with more or less veining, as you might expect in a natural stone. Unlike granite, the colors in soapstone will darken or change appearance over a long period of time as the stone is exposed to oxygen. Soapstone can be oiled to produce a darker, richer look. This is different than mineral oil treatments and must be done during fabrication and prior to installation.

 

Soapstone

 

Cons: Because soapstone is a little softer than granite, barely perceptible nicks and scratches may appear when used as a countertop, but they can either be sanded out or left for a weathered, rustic look. Most homeowners who choose soapstone say the beauty of the stone it’s completely worth any marginal risk of nicks or scratches.

 

 

Maintenance: Many homeowners choose to treat their soapstone regularly with mineral oil or special soapstone wax. This is a purely aesthetic treatment that  keeps the stone more consistent in color. It can also help to blend any scratches that may occur over time. Left untreated, the soapstone will darken around the surface areas most frequently used, particularly in a kitchen or food service environment. Leaving the soapstone untreated will develop a patina of age that is actually considered attractive and desirable to many homeowners. If you change your mind, you can go back to oiling the stone. Experts recommend that you clean your soapstone with a mild soap and water. Less is more with this stone, so stay away from harsh chemicals and expensive granite cleaners.Click HERE for a full article on caring for and repairing soapstone countertops.

 

 

History: In the 18th and 19th centuries the durability and heat resistance of soapstone made it a popular choice for sinks, stoves, and exterior trim. In the 19th century was particularly popular for fireplaces and wood stoves because it holds heat and radiates it long after the fire is out. Many of these soapstone creations are still being used in historic homes today, a testament to the longevity of this architectural gem. Soapstone fell out of favor in the 20th century, but in the last decade kitchen lovers have been rediscovering its natural beauty, durability,and energy efficient heat retention.

 

Soapstone-Smoke-412-GRM

 

 

Sources: Soapstone deposits are found in several places in New England (particularly Vermont). A large amount of architectural grade soapstone also comes from Brazil. It is also found in Finland, but most of their exported soapstone goes to Europe, not the Americas.

 

 

Granite Grannies is your expert source for all things soapstone. If you have any questions about using soapstone (wherever you are in the country), please do not hesitate to call or email.

 

 

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27 responses to “Soapstone: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About This Amazing Stone

  1. Our stone guy picked out our stone for us and we suspect it might not be the right grade . He is new to soapstone. You can actually scratch it with your fingernail, is this normal?

    1. Hi Peggy,

      Thanks for messaging us. Because soapstone is a little softer than granite, nicks and scratches may appear, but they can either be sanded out or left for a weathered, rustic look. Most homeowners who choose soapstone say the beauty of the stone it’s completely worth any marginal risk of nicks or scratches. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

      Thank you!

      1. I have a small rectangular piece of green soapstone that I have recently purchased. I have noticed that it “weeps” in several places. At first I thought it was splashed by something in my kitchen, as I keep it on my counter. So I wash it off, and in a day or so……the wet dots are back. I tried putting it the oven at 350 degrees, but they are back again!!! Why is this happening?

    2. Hi Peggy,

      Thanks for the question! Soapstone is a very soft stone, however, the good thing about it is that the scratches can easily be repaired. All you need to do is buff it out with some sandpaper. Some of our clients actually prefer to keep the scratches as it makes it into a more historic looking stone over time. The softness depends on the amount of Talc in the stone. The more talc, the softer the stone. I hope this info helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  2. I wonder if you supply the softer, high talc component soapstone that can be carved, as well as the architectural variety? I need a couple of slabs of this that are about 20″ square by 1-1.5″ in thickness. If not can you tell me where to go for this? Color not so important . . .

    Thanks.

  3. I had a soapstone counter top installed in my home in CA only it behaves like no other soapstone I have ever seen or worked on. It is incredibly hard. I can slice bread with a serrated knife on the counter and it will not even nick the stone. The other odd thing is that it stains very, very easily. Any drop of water leaves a mark (no we don’t have high mineral count water). I am unable to oil the stone because the oil just sits on top of the stone and highly shows smear marks. Even without oiling, the counters are really difficult to keep clean. Have you ever encountered such a soapstone. The installer told me it was a new stone that he had gotten out of India.

    1. Hi Camille,
      That is indeed an odd situation. Are you sure it’s not just a granite with a leather finish? I personally don’t know the answer, but give the shop a call (301-218-7666) during work hours and talk to Lori, the owner. Tell her Hannah said to ask her your question. She will either know the answer or know where to get it!
      -Hannah

  4. Can you tell me there are any difference between green soapstone and black soapstone that I should be aware of. Is one softer than the other?
    Thanks,
    Sherry

    1. Hi Sherry,
      Soapstone isn’t naturally black. It’s only green, blue-gray, or gray. You can make it look almost black by applying various oils or darkening agents. This process is perfectly safe and wont’ change the hardness of the stone. However, it usually needs to be reapplied regularly (easy to do) so you may want to talk to your fabricator about what that entails.

  5. My stone guy just showed me a new slab he just got in. He called it white soapstone. I can’t get any info on it on the internet. He said it’s the first one he’s seen in his 30 years. I find it hard to believe that no one else is talking about it.

  6. We love our soapstone countertops in the kitchen. Is there anything that can repel greasy splatters from pans on the gas range? I like the patina that develops around the sink from use, but I’m not a fan of the cooking splatters next to the cooktop. I don’t want to seal the stone with mineral oil or a dry wax, because we like the medium grey color of the soapstone. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Gwendolyn,
      Unfortunately I don’t know of any solution to this problem besides mineral oil. We’ve tried other things for this problem, but since soapstone is so dense, you can’t really seal it like you do with granite. There’s nothing I know of that will stop those splatters without making the stone darker. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!
      -Hannah

  7. Hello,
    My husband Chris and I are trying to buy soapstone for our kitchen, but here’s my fear.
    The warehouse we chose from, they mentioned the last shipment was so soft, it fell apart. But not this shipment she says!
    How do I know if I have a hard soapstone or not? Are all soapstones hard? I asked how much talc was in it, and she had no idea. It is from Brazil.

    1. That would be very soft indeed. If she was honest about the previous, then I can’t see why she would lie about the next lot. These things definitely change over time. No, the supplier would likely not know how hard the stone was. How about your fabricator? Have they been involved. They will be able to look at it and see its quality. But if you supplier says it’s fine, then they are probably right. Good luck!

  8. I just put beUtiful soapstone in our kitchen. I have a 60 inch long peninsula with 12 inch overhang. I told my contractor i wanted support under overhang. He purchased and installed 3 corbels. I thought all was good but then i look closely and see the corbels are either not touching the stone at all or else ever so slightly. Its obvious they are providing no support at all. I am so tired of fighting with our kitchen contractor after 5 months of this reno that im praying you can tell me that a 12 inch overhang of soapstone is ok without support. Can you tell me if i need support or not? Will soapstone bend or break in this situation? Thank you!

    1. Hi,

      No, you don’t need support on overhang under 12″. If you are really worried about it, just reinstall the corbels tighter to the stone. They are usually installed after the stone anyway. But your stone will be fne.

  9. I am reading about substances being marketed as soapstone that are not really soapstone. A fabricator we were considering sent an article trying to convince me against soapstone; one of that person’s complaints was that grape juice stained it. Well, I know true soapstone is not porous. But how can I tell that the slab is true soapstone? Are there some simple tests I can perform? For example, I read serpentine is being falsely marketed as soapstone. I saw one test–to put a hot needle into it to test for resin (although I think that would be visually identifiable). Any pointers? Should I make sure it is from Vermont or Brazil? ???

  10. We are looking at using soapstone for a shower floor. With a drain at one end of a 60″ run. I’m getting conflicting information about how to work the slope. 4 pie shaped pieces, one gentle slope in only direction…. any suggestions? And then one supplier is proposing a soapstone that is 50-55% talc. Is that too soft for this application? Thanks!

  11. I loved my soapstone counters. I chose my soapstone from a supplier in Vermont. Well we sold our house and moved to the Netherlands. None of the kitchen stores I have gone to here have ever heard of soapstone. I know there is soapstone in Finland. Do you know of a link for soapstone in Europe? I really want soapstone counters again! Thanks so much.

  12. I am renovating a home built in 1907 and moved to a new foundation in 1928.In the document I found a large double farmhouse sink I think might be soapstone. It has a trademark stamp I can’t find on google. It reads ‘Wesely (spelled correctly) trade mark since 1882 guaranteed’ Can you help me find its true origin and value?

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