Fantasy Soapstone from Brazil is a beautiful, soft blue-gray with dramatic quartz veining.
Do you remember your high school chemistry class? If so, you might recall the black countertops the Bunsen burners sat on. Those countertops are made of soapstone, a metamorphic rock that consists of talc, steatite, magnesite, quartz, and other magnesium rich minerals. Soapstone is the countertop material of choice for chemistry classes because its chemically inert composition and high density make it impervious to stains and bacteria. The qualities that make soapstone a good choice for chemistry classes are the same qualities that make it good choice for kitchens and bathrooms.
Physical Characteristics of Soapstone
The talc found in soapstone is soft to the touch, lending a smooth feeling of dry soap, which is how soapstone got its name. The colors of soapstone are typically medium gray and can have a greenish cast or bluish cast (the greener the slab, the softer it is, so seek out slabs with less of a green cast if you want a harder slab). Soapstone slabs can contain pronounced veining, which is produced by quartz in the stone.
Qualities of Soapstone
Durability is one of soapstone’s top features. It’s unaffected by heat (it was often used for wood-burning stoves from the 1800s that are still functioning today) so you can place your hot pans and pots directly on the surface with no risk.
Unlike granite, marble, and quartzite, soapstone is not porous. This means that you can put raw foods on the countertop without worrying about bacteria growth. It never needs sealing and cannot be stained.
The talc content is what makes soapstone softer than some other stones, which leads to edges and corners being eased over time. Nicks and scratches may accumulate, but they can be easily rubbed or sanded out or considered part of its patina.
Caring for Soapstone
Soap and water is all you need. Because of its extreme density, soapstone is naturally resistant to bacteria and germs. Use a bit of mild, pH balanced, clear dish soap when you want a heavier clean than just water. As with marble and granite, do not use any acidic or heavy duty cleaners on your soapstone.
Many homeowners like to oil or wax their soapstone once or twice a year. This keeps the color more vibrant and will bring out a charcoal to black color. This is an optional treatment. If you don’t treat your soapstone, it will develop a beautiful patina over the years.
Little white scratches on your soapstone countertops can usually just be wiped away with your hand or a bit of mineral oil. If you really cut hard with a knife, or accidentally drop something heavy onto the stone, you may get a nick or scratch that can’t be wiped away with water or oil. In that case, the scratch can be sanded out. Use three sandpaper pads (60, 100, and 220 grit), and lightly sand the spot in a circular motion with each, starting with the lowest grit. Then wipe off any dust and use mineral oil or water to restore the color. It’s that easy.
The ageless beauty of soapstone is at home in any design style and will be an asset to any project. Here’s a look at some beautiful uses of soapstone in kitchens and baths.