By Darren Thorson
Soapstone is soft and warm to the touch. I's smooth, slippery, and silky. It is a traditional and old fashioned natural stone. The look is warm and inviting. Charming, rustic, and rich looking yet versatile enough to fit comfortably within the modern home. Soapstone has been used for centuries in our homes. It's also the countertop of choice in our science labs. This is a simple and subtle stone which conveys grounding and harmony. It truly emits old world charm.
Soapstone is a siliceous natural stone which consists mainly of talc and chlorite. There are actually two types of soapstone. The artistic soapstone which is used for carvings and sculptures contains a higher talc content. The other type of soapstone, also known as steatite, is used for architectural purposes. Soapstone is used for countertops, sinks, and vanities. Architectural soapstone contains a lesser amount of talc. The more talc the stone contains, the softer the stone.
Since it is a siliceous stone, it is unaffected by acids such as wine, lemons, and vinegar. Special cleaners aren't required either. Any household cleaner will do. This is a very dense stone. Soapstone weighs an average of 20 lbs. per square foot! It is a non-porous stone and will not absorb liquids and stains like other natural stones will.
It is also heat resistant. Setting a hot pot of noodles on your soapstone countertop won't scorch or burn it. In fact, some cookware is made of soapstone.
If you should put in a soapstone counter top, you wouldn't want to cut on it. Soapstone is very soft. It's so soft it can be almost be scratched with a fingernail. Over time, the edges will soften and you'll start to see small nicks, scratches, and indentations. If you like the aged antique look, the patina of this natural stone might be perfect for you. It will age gradually and gracefully. If you don't care for all the small nicks and scratches, a little mineral oil or a light sanding will smooth out the stone.
So, what is soapstone used for? It has a variety of uses. It's best known for it's heat retention. Soapstone is used extensively for fireplace hearths, wood stoves, masonry fireplaces, fireplace liners, and pizza ovens. It's also used for sinks, countertops, island tops, sills, flooring, and shower stalls. It's used for mixing bowls, carvings, sculptures, benches, and planters. It comes in slabs (large pieces/blocks of stone) or tiles. This is a soft stone which is very easy to carve and work with. Let your imagination flow.....
The colors of soapstone are rich and beautiful. They convey calmness. From ash gray to smoky blue-grays to a rich charcoal black. Some stones have flecks of green and blue and contrasting veins twisting throughout the stone. Mineral oil is used to enhance and deepen the color. The stone color becomes more dramatic. Mineral oil also helps to darken the stone evenly and bring out the natural beauty of the stone. The use of mineral oil isn't mandatory. Soapstone will eventually take on its own patina with time and use. It will darken with age. Usually it takes about a year to realize the full depth of color of your soapstone.
It is available in a honed or matte finish. Since it is a soft stone, a polished or shiny finish is unavailable.
Soapstone will last many lifetimes if treated with care. It will develop it's own unique patina based on you and your lifestyle. It is a soft stone, softer than other natural stones. But, it doesn't burn, it isn't porous, it won't stain, and acids won't etch it. Soapstone care is also minimal. If you want to achieve a traditional rustic look, soapstone may be your answer.
About the Author:
Darren fabricates and installs natural stone. He is also co-author of
http://www.natural-stone-interiors.com, a site dedicated to helping homeowners choose natural stone. For tips, hints, and ideas every month, go to