As far as natural stones for countertop materials go, soapstone is one of the most underappreciated. Not nearly as popular as granite, soapstone countertops are still some of the most resistant and unique countertops available. What is soapstone really? What are the pros and cons of this natural stone option, and how can you tell if this is the countertop choice for you? Let’s take a look at soapstone countertops and the special addition it can make to any kitchen or bath project.
What is Soapstone?
Soapstone, or steatite, is a metamorphic rock. It’s composed mostly of talc and other minerals, depending on where it is found. The presence of talc makes soapstone a soft yet dense rock and gives it a powdery, soapy feel which is what earned it the name “soapstone”.
Soapstone’s softness is what made it a popular material, as it’s ideal for a number of artistic and practical purposes. It served important roles for early Scandinavians and Indigenous Americans who found it easy to carve into bowls, blades, and spearheads. Plus, it’s ability to absorb heat without cracking made it ideal for crafting molds to cast metal tools.
The high specific heat resistance compared to other natural stone types, combined with the other unique properties of this material make it a great choice for creating beautiful and functional soapstone countertops.
Properties of Soapstone Countertops
Just like other types of natural stone, every slab will be unique, with slightly different colors and properties. The variations depend on the other minerals present and the temperature and specific amounts of pressure applied to the soapstone during its formation.
One example of this is the grain size. Differences in the metamorphic process can develop soapstone with larger or smaller grains. A smaller grain size indicates the stone is softer, which means it’s usually ideal for carving, while a larger grain size is harder, and often chosen to use for soapstone countertops.
Although soapstone is a softer stone, it is incredibly dense, which gives it a nearly impenetrable surface for liquids and stains. This quality makes soapstone countertops very popular because they’re virtually stain-proof and naturally antibacterial.
Pros and Cons of Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone has many useful applications as surfaces and sinks, cooking pots, slabs, bowls and plates, fireplace liners and hearths, tiles, and more — but is particularly beautiful as soapstone countertops. If you’re interested in soapstone countertops for your home, here are some pros and cons to consider:
Pros of Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone countertops have a very high specific heat resistance. Compared to other stone types like granite, marble, and quartz, which could crack if exposed to extreme heat, soapstone is prized for its ability to absorb heat and radiate it slowly.
Soapstone countertops are also non porous and extremely stain resistant. They repel water and are not affected by acids or alkalis in food items including tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, vinegar, etc. In kitchens and bathrooms where heat and moisture are both present, soapstone countertops are an ideal choice because they’re easy to keep clean and can stand up to day-to-day use.
Cons of Soapstone Countertops
The one major con of soapstone countertops is that they are prone to scratching from knives or chipping if a heavy object is dropped on them. While some view minor scratches as a sign of the stone’s character, others are turned off by the idea of a worn-looking surface.
The good news is shallow scratches can be removed with fine sandpaper and mineral oil, and deep scratches can be treated via resurfacing by a professional to look brand new again. Still, homeowners with soapstone countertops should take care not to abuse the countertop or expose it to heavy, blunt-edged, or abrasive objects.
How to Maintain Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone countertops are beautiful and resilient, but require a bit of care to help them age gracefully. Because soapstone’s natural density is an effective barrier against stains and bacteria, no sealant is required as with other natural stone countertops. Still, homeowners should clean up spills promptly — particularly oil or grease which could cause discoloration of the stone.
Another thing homeowners should expect is their soapstone to gradually darken over time and develop a unique patina. To help the patina appear more uniform, homeowners should apply a coat of mineral oil every few weeks to even out the patina until it sets in (about 7 or 8 months, after which oil need only be applied once or twice per year). With a little care, your soapstone countertops will retain their luster and shine for a long time.
If you’re looking for soapstone countertops, Kowalski Granite & Quartz can help. We offer a great selection of countertop materials, and we’d love to help you find the perfect option for your upcoming project. Give us a call for more information or stop into our showroom today.
Kowalski Granite & Quartz
17169 Hayes Street
Grand Haven, MI 49417
P (616) 842-1951
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