Soapstone has been used as a countertop material for as long as kitchen cabinets have been made. You may have even come into contact with it without knowing – soapstone’s chemically inert composition has made it the countertop material of choice in high school chemistry labs.
This popular countertop material is a naturally occurring stone made mostly of mineral talc. Its composition is what gives it the smooth feel of soap. Some soapstone slabs may also contain quartz, which can be made evident by pronounced veining.
Soapstone comes in varying degrees of hardness. The hard, architectural grade ones, obviously, are the types used as table and countertop material. The softer, artistic grade soapstone types are used mostly for sculpting.
One way to determine soapstone slab’s hardness is by color. Slab colors are typically medium gray and can have a greenish cast – the greener the cast, the softer the slab usually is. With time, the soapstone will grow darker into a deep charcoal color.
PROS OF USING SOAPSTONE COUNTERTOPS
Highly durable – Although soft to the touch, architectural grade soapstone can last for decades and even centuries; some soapstone sinks and stoves from the 1800s still exist and function even today. The fact that centuries-old soapstone stoves still exist is testament to the material being impervious to heat. Soapstone’s neutral chemical composition also makes it impervious to the damage typically associated with acids from food like tomatoes and lemons.
Impervious to stains – Soapstone’s non-porous properties means it will never absorb liquids. It is also extremely dense, making it impenetrable by stains and bacteria without requiring the use of any kind of sealant.
All-natural – Soapstone is all-natural and contains no sealers or toxic chemicals of any kind. Once mined, it is simply cleaned up and trimmed to make it ready for use. It is strong, durable, and can be recycled completely, giving it a few extra brownie points for being a long-lasting “green” material.
Comes in different textures – Soapstone isn’t limited to the highly-polished finish typically seen in other stone countertop materials. Whether you want it to be slightly rough or silky smooth, the material can be refinished according to your specific preferences.
Easy to install – While soapstone slabs can be comparable in price to other natural stone countertop materials, the relative ease with which you can install it allows for more cost-effective installation options. You can even take it on as a DIY project and do the job yourself without needing specialized equipment.
Easy to clean – All you need to routinely clean your soapstone countertop are mild soap and water. Scratches, dents and other imperfections in other natural stone countertop materials can’t be easily worked out. With soapstone, you don’t have to learn to just live with them at all. Any scratches can either be left as part of the countertop’s natural patina or sanded out. Now that’s something you can’t do with a granite countertop!
CONS OF USING SOAPSTONE COUNTERTOPS
Soft – Soapstone’s natural softness can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Its talc content, which makes it soft, means that edges and corners can be eased over time. It can also be nicked and scratched relatively easier, although as stated before you can just sand those out. You should also avoid dropping heavy objects on it.
Texture – Again, here’s another double-edged sword. While its varying textures can be a boon for those who have very specific designs and looks in mind, they may also scuff China and glassware.
Needs regular maintenance – If you want your soapstone countertop to have a darker patina, you’ll need to regularly apply food-grade mineral oil to darken the stone and make its appearance more consistent. If aesthetics aren’t that important to you, a quartz or stainless steel countertop may be a more viable option.
Limited color palette – Soapstone doesn’t come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Cost – As mentioned earlier, you can cut down on installation costs by installing your soapstone countertop yourself. Hiring an experienced professional is usually more preferable, however, and that can end up costing more than the installation of other natural stone counters.
Hopefully this post has armed you with the knowledge you need to decide whether or not soapstone is the best countertop material for you. Our final recommendation is to find someone who has had a soapstone countertop for years and check it out for yourself!