Although it does feel “soapy” to the touch, soapstone is not made of soap. Rather, it’s a metamorphic rock— meaning it was once an igneous or sedimentary rock that was changed over time by heat and tons of pressure, into what it is today. It’s made mostly of the mineral talc, which is the softest mineral there is. So, as you might guess, soapstone is a very soft material.
While it is a soft stone, it’s also very resilient. It’s resistant to stains and the elements. If you took chemistry in high school or college, chances are the lab table you used was made of soapstone . It’s impervious to chemicals and most liquids, so it makes a great countertop material.
Soapstone is virtually heat proof, which makes it a great material for fireplace surrounds, cladding on metal and woodstoves, and wood burning masonry heaters. It also 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.
Since it is softer than granite or marble, it will scratch easier than these materials. However, most light scratches can be easily disguised with a mineral oil application. Deeper scratches can be removed with light sanding along with mineral oil. In fact, the only maintenance required for soapstone countertops is the occasional application of mineral oil to enhance the natural darkening process. Once the mineral oil is applied, the stone takes on a darker charcoal gray hue…sometimes even black. While common household cleaners won’t harm the stone, they will remove the mineral oil coating. So we recommend cleaning soapstone with simply soap and water.
Visit the Marble and Granite, Inc. website or stop by one of our two Boston area showrooms to see the soapstone we offer. If you’re looking for a material that becomes more distinctive and beautiful over time for your next project, check out our stock, which ranges from ash gray and smoky blue/gray to a rich charcoal black.