Soapstone countertops are ideal for homeowners who want a traditional look in their kitchen, with a dark, rich stone surface. The texture of soapstone also makes it special: silky smooth and very different from the glassy, brittle feel of polished granite or marble.
All of the pictured countertops were cut and installed by our friends at Vermont Soapstone™. To get a quote for your countertop project, whether you are in the northeast or nationwide, please contact:
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Frequently Asked Questions about Soapstone Countertops
Yes, soapstone scratches easily. Some varieties scratch more easily than others, but all soapstone will scratch with a piece of metal or glass. The softness of soapstone makes it easy to work and also gives it the silky texture thats its main selling point. Its easier on glassware, and its a nice surface to work with. Soapstone is a great choice for working kitchens, where it will get regular use i.e. Martha Stewart. It’s not the best choice for a show kitchen because it’s not intended to look perfect all the time.
Yes and no. We usually remove the honed finish on soapstone counters after installation by sanding them off with an orbital sander and medium grit paper. This hides any small scratches from everyday use and brings up the silky feel of the stone. It also helps hide seams. But small scratches and dings are common with soapstone counters, and if you dont want them, you should consider another countertop material, maybe honed black granite. So Soapstone is like hardwood – part of the appeal is that it wears gently, and it has a warmer look and feel then polished granite. However, if you scratch the counter badly, you can always sand the scratch away with a piece of sandpaper. That’s in contrast to slate, where any scratches are permanent. Also, the process of oiling (see Question 4) hides most small scratches. If you spill paint on it, you can sand the whole thing off and start again. Soapstone is very forgiving surface for your kitchen.
You don’t. Soapstone is extremely non-porous, and unlike limestone or marble, it’s non-reactive chemically. That’s why Soapstone has traditionally been used for laboratory work-tops. So using a stone sealer is a waste of time and money. It’s very hard to stain soapstone. You can leave the stone naturally light gray, but when skin or food oil touches soapstone, it makes the stone go dark. This dries out and the light color returns over time, but it can make the countertop blotchy looking where people touch it frequently or in food prep areas.
You should oil Soapstone using clear Mineral Oil. Mineral Oil is sold in most drugstores ($3.00/bottle) as a laxative, so it’s completely safe for humans. The oil is NOT sealing the stone, it just makes the whole countertop uniformly dark. You need to oil the countertop only to keep it looking the color you like – if you want it uniformly black, oil it frequently, maybe once a week. If you like it a little lighter in color, and don’t care if its darker here or there, then you could oil it once a month. After about 12 oilings, the counter will stay dark pretty much permanently. Be sure to mop up excess oil after its applied and the surface won’t be sticky when it dries in an hour or so. NEVER use Linseed oil (it dries to a nasty sticky varnish) or Vegetable Oil (it decays).
Absolutely, soapstone is actually used to build fireplaces and wood-stoves because it can handle very high temperatures without cracking, and it stores heat and radiates it over time. It’s a GREAT material for fireplaces, with technical advantages over other stone.
Not really an option, because after its oiled, all varieties of soapstone are dark-gray/black. There are some varieties which are more greenish than others, but it’s not a big difference. When you first oil soapstone, it looks very green, but that color goes away as the oil dries. So if you really want green color, you should consider green marble (serpentine) or green granite. Where soapstones really differ is in the amount of veining and spots. Veining is a matter of personal taste. Some varieties of soapstone also can have big, unattractive spots, like its been in a rain-shower. These do not go away when it is oiled. It’s important to know what variety of soapstone you are getting, because just like marble or granite, there are good and bad types.
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock, primarily made of the mineral talc. It is not anything like limestone, marble, granite, slate or sandstone, it’s a totally different animal. It’s also not the rock “Talc” which is soft, translucent and used primarily for carving. Real Soapstone is technically called “Steatite”, and is related to serpentine (green marble). Soapstone is much less porous then granite, and it’s chemically inert, unlike marble or limestone. So it won’t be affected by acids and alkalis.
In 19th century New England, before the domestic sources were exhausted, Soapstone was used for sinks, hearths and decor pieces. But today, most Mariana Soapstone™ is used for kitchen countertops, or floor tile. Soapstone is also particularly well-suited for fireplaces and wood-stoves. It is very dense, and takes in heat from burning wood quickly, slowly radiating for hours. It can handle extremes of temperature that would crack most stones.
If you’ve seen any Soapstone in magazines or on TV, it’s very likely that you have seen Mariana Soapstone™, fabricated and installed by one of our customers. Mariana Soapstone™ is naturally a quiet gray color, with darker spots and patterning, and some light and dark veins. It turns dark gray or black when oiled. We started importing Mariana Soapstone™ back in 1987, and for many years it was the only type of soapstone readily available in slabs for kitchen counters. Mariana became established as the benchmark type of soapstone. Since the late 90’s, other soapstone types have been imported, often very different in appearance from Mariana. Also, some companies are also selling materials that they call Soapstone, but which in fact are totally different types of stone, like slates, arenites, or serpentines. These stones have very different properties and characteristics from soapstone. For instance, if you are offered “hard soapstone,” it’s probably not soapstone at all. If you are being offered Soapstone and you don’t know what type it is, and would like to know if it’s suitable for your job, please ask us.