Soapstone: How can a stone so soft be so durable?

Soapstone: How can a stone so soft be so durable?

February 11, 2016


Soapstone countertops in a kosher kitchen design by Venegas and Company. Photo courtesy of Venegas and Company.

Q: We’re working on a kitchen remodel. We’re leaning towards painted white cabinets with a darker countertop. Our kitchen designer recommended soapstone. We love the look, but we’re a little worried. We also want a durable countertop that will last a long time. We hear soapstone is very soft. How can it make a good countertop material if it’s so soft?

A: This is actually a very common question that we hear at Marble & Granite, Inc. Soapstone offers a really unique look that’s totally on-trend with today’s kitchen designs (think black and white combinations, industrial looks, etc.). But there’s a lot more to soapstone than just a pretty face. Yes, it is a soft natural stone- as compared to marble or granite, for example- but soapstone does indeed possess attributes that make it a very desirable countertop material.

It will help for you to have a better understanding of how soapstone forms in the earth. Contrary to its unique name, soapstone isn’t made of soap- or anything close to soap. Soapstone gets its name from its soft and rather “soapy” feel.
But it is actually a metamorphic rock that is composed primarily of talc with varying amounts of other minerals (including chlorite, micas, amphiboles, carbonates and more.) Talc is very soft. However, when combined with other minerals, it’s very strong and offers some very unique properties.


At Marble & Granite, Inc., you’ll find this White Soapstone slab from Brazil, and more. 

Soapstone is very dense and non-porous. This means it won’t stain like other types of natural stone countertops might. Everyday household acids like tomatoes, wine, vinegar, grape juice and other high-acid containing substances won’t alter the look of a soapstone countertop. A soapstone surface will darken when liquid pools on the surface, but it lightens back up when the liquid evaporates or is removed. In fact, if you’ve ever taken a high school science class, odds are you’ve seen soapstone’s attributes. It stands up so well to chemicals that it’s very popular for use as science lab tops.


 Churchilll Soapstone, in a honed finish, quarried in the United States. 

Another unique attribute soapstone offers is heat resistance. Because it is so dense, soapstone is a great conductor of heat. This enables it to withstand very high heat without damage. You can put hot pots or pans right on the surface without worry.

Soapstone also makes a great choice for tile surfacing. Since it won’t stain and it repels water, it’s a great choice for backsplashes, showers, and tub surrounds—anywhere there might be moisture involved.
Soapstone comes in a variety of shades. It’s typically found with hints of gray, blue, green, or brown colors. It can be left in its natural state or soapstone can be treated with mineral oil to enhance the natural aging process. This also helps the surface darken easily, resulting in a shiny onyx-hued black with a bit more richness. If you leave it alone, soapstone will get darker over time, but perhaps unevenly. Some homeowners like the natural patina that develops over time, so it’s really a personal preference whether to oil or not to oil. The oil doesn’t offer any added protection, so it’s all about the look you’re going for.

To further address your concerns, it is important to point out that soapstone can, indeed, scratch a bit easier than natural stones like marble and granite. However, this isn’t a reason to worry. Light scratching can be easily removed with gentle sanding and a coat of mineral oil.

In fact, soapstone has been quarried for thousands of years. The Native Americans in eastern North America used it to make bowls, cooking slabs, smoking pipes, and ornaments 3- to-5,000 years ago. And soapstone helped to propel the Scandinavians from the Stone Age into the Bronze Age when it was discovered that soapstone was excellent for use as molds for casting metal objects, such as knife blades and spearheads.

We’re convinced that soapstone could also help propel your kitchen into its next phase of life. Soapstone not only looks beautiful, but it’s a great countertop for those who like to entertain—wine spills and spaghetti sauce are no problem at all in a kitchen with a soapstone countertop. Come by one of our two New England area showrooms to see (and feel) the “soapy” yet strong soapstone we have in stock. Give us a call at 877-39-STONE for more information.


Show Comments