The Two Sides of Soapstone

The Two Sides of Soapstone

February 13, 2015

To oil, or not to oil…that is the question.

Soapstone is a gorgeous natural surface left as-is. Au natural, it’s a light gray slate-like shade. Adding mineral oil to soapstone is an alternative that enhances the natural aging process. It also helps the surface darken evenly. The result is a shiny onyx-hued black with a bit more richness.

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Soapstone in an oiled finish (left) and natural talc finish (right)

If left alone, soapstone will naturally darken over time. But it will be uneven. Some appreciate the natural patina that eventually develops. After all, it’s completely unique. No two slabs of soapstone will darken and wear the same way. In fact, many actually prefer this rather rustic look.

The beautiful thing about soapstone is that it’s okay either way. The oil is not a protectant. And that’s okay too because soapstone doesn’t require protection. Soapstone is a metamorphic rock— meaning it was once an igneous or sedimentary rock that was changed over time by heat and immense pressure, into what it is today. It’s made mostly of the mineral talc (the softest mineral there is). So, as you might guess, soapstone is a very soft material.

Though it feels very soft to the touch, soapstone is highly resilient. It’s resistant to stains and the elements. In fact, you’ve probably experienced the durability of soapstone in your high school chemistry class. (It’s the material used mostly for laboratory tables.) It’s impervious to chemicals and most liquids, so it makes a great countertop material.

Soapstone is virtually heat proof, making it perfect for fireplace surrounds, cladding on metal and woodstoves, and wood burning masonry heaters. Plus, it makes a good pizza stone or cooking pot. Speaking of pots, you can take one right out of the oven and place it on a soapstone countertop without damage.

When soapstone is left unoiled in a countertop application, the sink and countertop areas (the areas used most frequently) will often darken faster than the rest. If you’re not wild about the uneven patina, you can always apply oil at a later time to even out the surface.

At Marble and Granite, Inc., we carry soapstone in shades that range from ash gray and smoky blue/gray to a rich charcoal black. Come into either one of our two showrooms and see which soapstone finish you prefer.


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