Summing Up Soapstone

marcia59May 27, 2013

OK, I've read approximately one bazillion threads on soapstone and I think I've got a grip on the material. Please correct anything I've got wrong.

Soapstone is not at all porous. This means it doesn't need to be sealed and, in fact, shouldn't be. Sealing can cause problems. It will not stain or etch.

Soapstone is a relatively soft stone, but the various types available to be used for counters can vary in hardness. The softer it is, the more likely it is to scratch or chip.

If you like the variable grey patina, you don't have to treat it at all.

If, like me, you prefer the even very dark grey or black look, it will need to be oiled or waxed. Oil is cheaper, but wax lasts longer.

When people say that soapstone is high maintenance, they're talking about the frequency with which it needs to be waxed or oiled if you want the dark and even look. It will need to be waxed or oiled pretty frequently at the beginning (maybe a couple of times a week for the oil when it's very new), but as it ages, the need for oiling or waxing to preserve the color diminishes substantially in frequency.

People love soapstone for the look and feel. There are granites that will give you a similar look when they're honed, but nothing looks and feels exactly like soapstone.

For no reason I particularly understand, the fingerprint problem that you get with honed black granites, particularly something like Absolute Black, doesn't happen with soapstone.

Different soapstone will be slightly different colors (black, varying shades of grey, sometimes some green) and will vary significantly in the amount of veining.

I assume that the closer you get to solid black, the more every bit of dust and crumb will show, as with any other solid black surface.

I'd add something about price compared to granite or quartz, but it seems to vary significantly with the particular material selected and regional differences. None of these are cheap.

Did I get anything wrong? Did I miss anything crucial?

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Soapstone will show marks from water, oil, food, etc. I think these marks qualify as a "stain", but the stain is usually not permanent.

If you use soapstone without oiling or waxing it, it will show all sorts of wear. Soapstone fans like the look, but if water rings on your counter top drive you crazy, opt for something else.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 3:18PM
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My soapstone has not shown wear even when unoiled. It does look brighter and has greater contrast when oiled. I have no issues at all.... ever with water rings. Alot depends on the skill level of your fabricator and how they finish your stone.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 3:36PM
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We have never oiled our soapstone and have never gotten water rings or marks from food etc. Oil marks will show up, but I either let them fade away naturally, or if they bug me for some reason I can clean them off just using Dawn detergent

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:35PM
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My understanding is that remodelfla is correct regarding the fabricator. It must be finished to a certain grit, and water rings won't be a problem. It's what I plan for my kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:43PM
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What grit is necessary to avoid water rings?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:47PM
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What is your plan for your kitchen? Do you want some rustic look? Or is everything going to be precision? Soapstone isn't precision in my book.

The first time I saw soapstone was at a restaurant in Ames, Iowa in 2001. They have had it in since that time. The counter that serves coffee has soapstone, the bar has soapstone as does the bartender's area. The restrooms have a nice large vanity with soapstone and a soapstone sink. It gets full oil treatment I believe. It isn't the soft variety because I can't scratch it with my fingernail, but it's not the very hard variety either. It doesn't have any veining. It is velvety to the touch and not like a glassy granite. I love this velvety feel. I used this as inspiration for my kitchen. I did my counters out of a rather soft variety so that I could cut and shape them myself.

I have since made a soapstone sink out of remnants of a softer soapstone, and have it sanded to a 120 grit at the finest. I am not anal about any of it. My sink is beautiful and I am going to do another sink in a more modern bathroom remodel. This variety will be harder, as I can't scratch it with my finger nail.

In my kitchen, I take meat out of the freezer and put it on the counter and it sucks the cold out and defrost packages pretty fast. I have put hot pans out of the oven on it without worry. I have scratches galore. I don't think too much about it. But I think if I oiled it, they would be camouflaged. if I was concerned about having guest over this is what I would do. I only use olive oil if I need to oil, for this as that is what is on hand :) Never a problem.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 9:53PM
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Swoon... Some day... Some day soon I hope! I've waited a long time for my soapstone and marble. DH is now retired and the kitchen remodel is top of the list! DH will do most of the work. :-)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 10:21PM
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I love soapstone but the fabricator and my chem major daughter were both very anti-. The fabricator showed me river-washed and leathered granite, which I liked a lot -- kind of a soapstone look; granite without the Vegas factor! The most expensive was about the same price as soapstone. Just an alternative idea.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 8:50AM
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We have only oiled once in two years (after install) and prefer our countertops bare. The gray/black color is what we prefer. We have no issues with showing wear or water rings, or any other issues. No dings or chips at all, even around the sink. Some minor scratches that disappear with a quick wipe of oil, which is then faded away. Messes get wiped up with Lysol antibacterial kitchen cleaner...which returns the stone back to original form.

The main consideration is the softness of the stone. We have Belevedere which is EXTREMELY hard...the softer the stone, the more patina you will have.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 8:53AM
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I love soapstone but the fabricator and my chem major daughter were both very anti-. The fabricator showed me river-washed and leathered granite, which I liked a lot -- kind of a soapstone look; granite without the Vegas factor! The most expensive was about the same price as soapstone. Just an alternative idea.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 1:06PM
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I had picked the hardest variety I could find locally. I couldn't scratch it w/my fingernail, however after a couple weeks of deliberating I went searching for another batch. The original one, while harder, didn't have the dramatic veins that I love about soapstone and looked almost like concrete with smears on it. The second ones I found was what I was looking for though I could scratch it w/my fingernail. That's what I ended up with, it's relatively soft and has many scratches and marks on it after a few months of use. It also has a lot of spots from fingers, oil spatters, water marks etc. I can remove all of that with some soap and water. If I were to oil/wax it it would be much more uniform in color however I've not done that and I don't think I will. I also have marble in the kitchen, it's has no scratches or 'stains' on it (it's dark green). I wouldn't change anything. Soapstone is a very unique countertop surface, it's warm and soft, has wide spider veins all over it (which help to hide scratches) and looks like nothing else. I'm pretty sure 90% of the people here wouldn't appreciate it but believe for MY kitchen it's the perfect surface. My DW says "I don't worry about the soapstone 'cause I know it's going to get scratched but I try and be careful w/the marble". I don't try to be careful w/any of it though don't cut on it or slam things down on it. I do use a coaster on the marble simply because it's so hard, seems like it would be easy to break something on it. I wipe the soapstone down every night to remove the water spots and some of the oil stains (little ones finger prints) but that's about it. I'm going to let it patina naturally over time w/out oiling, it's slowly getting darker around the BS range or where work gets done (w/dough) and I like the contrast. Everyone who looks at it loves it as it's a pretty dynamic slab, I have it in the utility/laundry room also which is rarely seen. Most people I know aren't familiar with it as a counter top surface but can't help commenting on it's 'feel', nothing else feels like soapstone.
I'm so very glad I gave up my quest for the ultimate hardness in soapstone and rather went with one that had the 'look' I was after. If I get tired of all the scratches some day I can have the whole top refinished and start over. It's definitely not for everyone or every family. I have hardwood throughout the house and cork in the kitchen it all changes over time, to me that's the beauty of having a home.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 4:41PM
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OP, soapstone does not need to be sealed but it can be, it does not harm the stone. I chose to seal mine with color enhancing sealant so that it stays dark without any oil or wax. No problems at all with the stone and sealant and my slabs have been in for 4 years.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 5:08PM
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Mistman, you very eloquently described our experience with the soapstone in our kitchen. Thank you - sometimes it's hard to get across how we treat it and how we really feel about it.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 5:59PM
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We have had our new kitchen for just over a year and I love my soapstone counters and sink more than I could have ever imagined (and I imagined I'd love it a lot!).

Ours is Anastacia - and it's not the hardest out there but certainly not soft. After 1 year we might have a few small nicks in the corner of the sink and maybe some small scratch somewhere but I'd be hard pressed to go looking for it. We do nothing more special than use a cutting board (which we always did even pre-soapstone) and try not to drop a heavy casserole on it (which we were always careful of pre-soapstone too!). We rarely get any water rings but if I do get one near the sink usually where we keep the soap dispenser - I grab the oil rag and give it a wipe . . . all gone!

At first we oiled it once a week for a few weeks - then once a month - and then whenever I really felt the urge. That urge hasn't come upon me for about 5 months so the attached picture is what ours looks like now. Every day I touch it and feel the coolness and the softness I'm in love. When I wipe it up after cooking with a sponge, I find another vein or color to fall in love with. Every time the sun hits it in a special way or the light from the overhead pendant shines, I realize it's still my favorite thing in the kitchen.

I like a kitchen that feels like a kitchen - not a magazine cover. So I knew I'd be ok with having a substance that wasn't "perfect" after a while. The thing I'm discovering is that it is easy, real, and perfect - at least for us.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 6:31PM
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I've had my soapstone for only about four months now, and all I can say is I wish I had known about it 27 years ago when I re-did the kitchen the last time! Mistman hit the nail on the head, it's not for everyone. I relate it more to a butcher block countertop that takes on character as it ages. Mine is called Mariana, which is medium-soft, some big wild veining, chalk board grey when dry, and almost jet black when oiled, which I've done about once a month.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 8:53PM
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Sure hope we like it. We just ordered enough for the kitchen counters and island, about 85 Sq ft I think. Cinza Verde is the stone we went with. Good post! Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 9:21PM
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