When it comes to countertops, soapstone is one of the lesser-discussed options. Many homeowners know much about marble, granite, and quartz but haven’t heard much about soapstone, keeping this attractive stone out of many homes.
Currently, soapstone is one of many beautiful stone countertop options for homeowners. Let’s find out why you should consider soapstone in your home.
What Is Soapstone?
Soapstone, or steatite, is a naturally quarried metamorphic stone comprised primarily of at least 50 percent of the mineral talc. The name soapstone comes from the soapy feeling that talc gives the stone.
Sculptors have prized soapstone for centuries due to its density and relative softness, which makes it easy to carve. In the U.S., soapstone comes primarily from the Appalachian mountains, along with some imports from Brazil and Finland.
Soapstone is usually made into seven-foot slabs, smaller than marble or granite, so several pieces will likely be needed for a countertop, and the seams will be visible.
What Are the Pros of Soapstone Countertops?
Soapstone has become a popular countertop choice for homeowners because it offers several benefits that other selections may not provide. A few soapstone countertop benefits include:
- Low Risk of Bacterial Growth: Soapstone is an incredibly dense material. Its impenetrable surface significantly reduces the risk of bacterial growth because the bacteria have no place to settle into and hide.
- Easy Maintenance: A stone that is as dense as soapstone does not need to be sealed like granite does.
- Stain Resistance: Soapstone is chemically neutral and resists acidic stains from foods like lemon or orange juice. It won’t etch or get blemishes like marble does.
- Heat Resistance: The density of soapstone also makes it very heat resistant, and it doesn’t get scorch marks. Unlike other countertops, soapstone can handle a hot pan without cracking. In fact, it is sometimes used in fireplace construction.
- Low Environmental Impact: Because soapstone requires no synthetic chemicals to manufacture, it is one of the more environmentally friendly countertop options on the market. Additionally, extracting steatite from the ground doesn’t damage the earth, and the material can be recycled.
- Affordability: Soapstone is easier to work with than quartz or marble and is more affordable than those other options while still offering many benefits.
- Appearance: Many homeowners choose soapstone solely because they find it beautiful.
While there are many reasons you may want to consider soapstone for your countertops, it is also important to understand the potential downsides.
What Are the Cons of Soapstone Countertops?
While soapstone countertops offer several benefits, there are a few things that some homeowners may not love about having them installed in their kitchens, including:
- Shows Age: While most other countertop options will look the same in 10 years if they are well-maintained, over time, soapstone will darken via a natural process akin to oxidation. This wear causes soapstone to form a patina. The process can also occur unevenly, leaving homeowners frustrated with the appearance of their countertops. This can be countered by purposely encouraging a more even patina by wiping it down with mineral oil.
- Limited Color Options: Some natural stone countertops come in a variety of color options, but soapstone is limited. You can typically find soapstone in shades of gray, black, and blue. Finding large quantities of soapstone in perfectly matching shades can also be difficult.
- Soapstone Durability: Even though soapstone is dense, it isn’t the most durable option for countertops because it is relatively soft compared to other stones. The soapstone used to create countertops on the Mohs scale falls between 2.5 and 3.5. For a little perspective, quartz has a Moh value of 7. This softness level is like that of marble, meaning soapstone is prone to damage from knives and other hard objects in the form of scratching and chipping.
- Features an Odd Texture: The texture of soapstone can be offputting for some. Unfortunately, you can’t change the surface of soapstone, so if you don’t like the soapy, non-slick feel, soapstone may not be for you.
- Not Oil-Friendly: Soapstone may be non-porous but oily substances may cause the stone to darken in color over time. To prevent random dark patches from occurring, we advise you to spread food-grade mineral oil over the entire surface of your countertop once or twice a week to keep the patina a little more even.
- Shows Visible Seams: Large countertop slabs are generally available with marble or granite, meaning there won’t be seams. Soapstone tends to be removed from the ground in smaller, seven-foot chunks, meaning that you will likely have seams in your countertop.
If none of these are deal-breakers, then consider installing soapstone countertops in your kitchen.
What Do Soapstone Countertops Cost?
The exact cost per square foot of soapstone can vary quite a bit. However, you can generally get soapstone countertops installed for between $70 and $140 per square foot. Soapstone falls in the middle of the average cost for natural stone countertops, as granite is generally cheaper than soapstone, while marble is more expensive.
Tips for Choosing Soapstone Countertops
Finding the perfect soapstone countertop looks different for each homeowner. Let’s start with some of the basics.
You first need to search for architectural grade soapstone, which has less talc in its makeup and is a bit stronger than the alternative artistic grade soapstone.
After factoring in the hardness of the stone, it comes down to two things: price and appearance.
If you are on a tight budget, soapstone can still be a good option, but you will want to shop for slabs on a lower price scale. Otherwise, you should focus on the colors and patterns available in the sizes you need.
Soapstone can have dramatically different veining and flecking variations, and the stone comes in various colors, from grays to blues to black. All of these combinations could yield other price points, so it is important to be mindful of price while browsing.
How Do I Care for Soapstone Countertops?
When caring for soapstone countertops, there is a lot to consider. While frequent cleaning is where you will spend the bulk of your time, there are other maintenance items to be aware of.
Cleaning Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone’s dense, non-porous nature means cleaning up bacteria on its surface is as easy as a quick wipe down. Use Rock Doctor’s Granite & Quartz Cleaner–it’s non-acidic, non-abrasive, and perfectly safe to use on all stone countertops.
Plus, the formula is easy to use. You can have clean countertops in just a few minutes a day. All you do is spray the cleaner onto the surface of your countertops and wipe it off with a clean, soft cloth or paper towel.
Soapstone Countertop Maintenance
Maintenance for soapstone countertops is pretty simple as they require very little maintenance. However, one thing to be conscious of is the naturally occurring patina that sets in after a few months. Because of this, it is best to wipe them down with mineral oil once or twice a week for the first few months.
After a few months of wiping down your soapstone with mineral oil, a naturally occurring patina sets in. Any standard food-grade mineral oil will work. To get this patina, wipe the mineral oil over the countertop, then remove the excess. Because soapstone is non-porous, there’s no need to let the oil sit and sink in.
Grease or oil spills on the counter can create spots before the patina is set, so it is crucial to wipe those up quickly and clean them with acetone (nail polish remover). If you are unsatisfied with the patina your countertop develops, you can sand the entire surface with a grime-grit sandpaper and start over again.
After the patina is set, it will only need oiling once or twice a year to bring back its shine, and the coloring won’t be affected by oil or grease spills.
What to Avoid Doing with Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone’s naturally dense nature makes it immune to most problems associated with other stone countertops. However, you should avoid a few things to keep your countertop in good condition. One thing that remains true from our 7 Ways You Are Ruining Your Countertops is you should avoid adding too much weight. Your cabinets are already supporting a very heavy soapstone countertop. If more is added to that weight, one of the support cabinet pieces may give way, and you may break or crack your soapstone.
Wiping up grease or oil spills before your soapstones’ patina has set in will keep it from being blotchy. Otherwise, you’ll have an uneven pattern in your countertop patina.
Finally, you should avoid sliding rough surfaces across the stone because it is on the softer side of stones. Use a cutting board for knives, and don’t slide cast iron pans across the countertop’s surface.
Determining the perfect countertop for your home is never easy, but trust Rock Doctor’s full line of natural stone cleaning products to keep your countertops looking their very best.