With its light gray surface and subtle veins, soapstone merges old-world charm with modern beauty. Hot pans won't damage it, lemon and tomato juice won't discolor it, and it handily masks imperfections. This classic stone has been used for centuries in the building world in everything from fireplaces to sinks. Its beauty only grows over the years, as it darkens for a dramatic appearance.
What Is It? Also known as steatite or soaprock, this metamorphic rock is composed primarily of talc (hence the "soapy" feel), as well as magnesium, mica, quartz, chlorite and iron. Formed over time and under extreme pressure, the durable material is popular for building. Two types exist: Artistic soapstone is used for carving, while architectural soapstone is suitable for hardworking elements such as countertops and sinks.
Thickness and Edges. Most manufacturers recommend an inch and a quarter thick countertops. Slabs are generally 5 feet long and 30 inches wide. Seams are virtually invisible. Preferred edge options include squared, eased, beveled, bullnose, radius and double radius.
Care and Maintenance. Unlike other stones, soapstone won't absorb stains and discolorations, so it simply doesn't require sealers. Stains and blemishes are only skin deep and can be removed with gentle sanding. Applications of mineral oil will remove most scratches. Light gray soapstone darkens over time, accentuating its gray veining. Regular applications of mineral oil enhance its beauty.
Wipe the countertop with a soft cloth and warm water daily. Mild household cleansers are suitable. Soapstone benefits from regular applications of mineral oil.
The Bottom Line. An age-old option, soapstone is at home in any style, from traditional to contemporary. Soft to the touch, the surface ages gracefully and lasts for years.
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