Real life soapstone test - water, lemon, ketchup

laxsupermomJune 10, 2009

So there's been a lot of discussion recently regarding soapstone and durability and ease of maintenance. I've stated before that soapstone is super easy in my experience and have stressed the need to test specific slabs under consideration. I know words only mean so much, so here's my real world test.

I hadn't oiled my soapstone counters since just before Easter. Here's my peninsula pre-test.

I placed my test subjects on last night. I used a glass full of ice water for plenty of condensation, a half-cut lemon, and a big glob of ketchup.

I waited a full day later. The ice has fully melted and left a big puddle of condensate. The lemon is less yummy looking. The ketchup blob is a bit solid on top.

Test subjects removed and moisture removed with a microfiber cloth.

I figured I might as well oil the counter and take a pic of it freshly oiled.

I am the only one in my family who would consider babying any surface in this whole darn house. As a matter of fact, when I pulled out the camera this evening to take the post-test pic my DH asked what I was doing. I explained about my test and he said, "Oh, I was wondering about that - I thought DS1 made that mess." Really? And you just left it there?!

Varieties of soapstone vary widely in hardness, etc. Mine is Black Venata from M. Texeira, but even varieties labeled the same might behave differently like nomorebluekitchen's Minas vs. pluckymama's Minas.

Hope this experiment helped anyone looking into it. I hope others join in - including those who do get waterspots.

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Thanks so much for posting this.

Love that DH just left the mess there.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 9:11PM
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Why does water make a ring on some soapstones? Is it the mineral content of the water? I have medium minus from Dorado in Shrewsbury that I got a couple of months ago. I've only had some light rings which come right out when I put a little mineral oil on them or even scrub a bit with the abrasive side of my sponge. Priscilla

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 9:38PM
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rubyfig, I know, right? It'd be one thing if he didn't see the mess or saw it, but thought it was a purposeful mess - but to think it was a random mess and just leave it? Arrgh! Of course at the same time, he's super supportive of me being a SAHM even in this cr@ppy economy because he fully acknowledges that he'd be living in frat-boy heck if I didn't take care of things.

prill, I don't have any idea why some get rings and others don't. Our water is probably a medium hardness. If I don't condition my hair for a week, it will get a bit strawlike. But it's soft enough that I drink the tap water.

I forgot to note a couple things earlier.

The rubber feet on my crockpot will take the oil off and leave a spot. They oil away easily. For some reason it's just the feet on my crockpot - no other small appliances. I use a mineral oil/beeswax combo. I don't know if it's akin to the new "drywax" that Dorado has, but it's what I use. I keep a rag right in the oil/wax tub to use when oiling. For quick touchups of crockpot spots I use a mineral oiled rag that I keep in a ziplok baggie.

The mineral oil/beeswax is used on my butcherblock at least every other week. I'm actually thinking about going ahead and waterloxing it. If my soapstone took that kind of maintenance, I might not be so happy with it.

As impervious to spills, etc. as my soapstone is, it is a softer variety. It will scratch. I would never just toss my keys on the counter and might look askance at anyone who did. Scratches oil away very easily, but it's important to note that my variety (Black Venata) is certainly not a magical bulletproof material.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 6:36AM
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I have Santa Rita Venata from M. Tex. I have had it almost a year now - Here are my experiences:
1. Water rings - the first few months I had them often, but could be scrubbed and re oiled with a good result. Now it never happens. I was told the soapstone needs time to oxidize. I oiled weekly then monthly now hardly ever and my stone stays black. I think the water ring issue has to do with time and oxidation. Be patient - time is the key.

2. Hardness - My variety is a softer stone. It scratches easily, but it can be oiled out or hidden with a Sharpie marker. We use place mats and I am careful putting down Heavy hard or sharp things. This is sort of a pain in the neck, but necessary. I also have marble in my pantry and find the hardness to be similar.

3. Dings - I have had a few dings and just sanded them down an re oiled with no problems. They are unnoticeable and even hard for me to find.

4. Soapstone is really impervious to stains - We spill everything on it and it NEVER is a problem.

Over all I love it! Knowing all this - the good and the bad, my sister just got it. Under my advisement she selected Minas which is harder. I would also get it again, but would look for a harder variety. However, I love the veining and the look of my slabs, so I perhaps would make the same choice again, because over all it has been very easy to live with. Here is a link to my kitchen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soapstone kitchen

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 7:37AM
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So glad to know that my spouse isn't the only one who'd have left that mess there while wondering what it was. Hahahahaha! Thanks for posting your experiment results, Superlaxmom.

And thank you Willow Decor for sharing your experience with water rings. I had the feeling they would become less of a problem as the stone was oiled more and aged. My soapstone is a rather hard variety but still heavily veined. I think Black Venata is the prettiest and feels the nicest but I felt I couldn't handle how soft it is. I, too, don't like to baby anything in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 7:50AM
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laxsupermom - where do you get the oil/wax mixture? Wonder if it's better than the dry wax. The dry wax is very expensive. Priscilla

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 8:16AM
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laxsupermom, I laughed so hard at your DH remarks, sounds like my house!! Great test and great pics. Since resanding to a lower grit and using the new Dry Wax from Dorado Soapstone, I am finally conquering my watermarks, etc.. I have been so grateful for all I have learned on GW.

prill, Isn't Dave at Dorado in Shrewsbury great? Such a genuinely nice guy and really cares about his customers! His son Ben is great too. It's interesting what you wrote about your minas not getting those rings and the water mineral content. We have well water and a Kinetico water softener and I wonder if it is the salt content that leaves all of those white rings? Great point and one I'm going to check out. All though with the Dorado Dry Wax I am not having that problem like I used to.

willow, so glad to hear as time goes on soapstone just gets better. I love your kitchen and regularly read your wonderful blog!

cheri127, your soapstone is beautiful and I know you will figure out what works for yours just as I am figuring out mine.

rubyfig, you are learning the pros and the cons before you purchase your countertop which is wonderful. Like laxsupermom's tests show you can't stain or etch soapstone. You might have to deal with watermarks, although we are finding solutions together here on GW, and depending on which stone you get, you will be able to ding it if you drop a can, even from a few inches away. Scratching with a fingernail is possible on some, but not all soapstones, but you can oil scratches away. And as I have learned, one can always resand to a brand new surface! (Not something you want to have to do). I know that Dorado has a hard Minas, called duraminas and beleza is known to be very hard which makes it less likely to scratch or chip. I know that M. Tex's Julia is also very hard. Good luck on your decision.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 8:25AM
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willowdecor, I'm so glad you weighed in with your results. Yours is one of my favorite kitchens and I of course read your blog all the time. I've shown your pantry pics to my DH a number of times and he says I can have it if I steal space from our front hall closet(it's a ridiculous 4'x8'space,) but then where would I put my shoes? Priorities, I know. It'll have to be the next house.

cheril, with all of us soapstone owners helping out I'm sure we'll beat your watermark problem.

prill, you can buy the mineral oil/beeswax mixture commercially, but I just make mine. It's 2 parts oil to 1 part beeswax melted down, mixed, poured into a container & cooled. You can buy the mineral oil in the pharmacy. It's used as a mild laxative and is super cheap for a large bottle. I buy the unscented, natural beeswax from a craft store like Michael's or A.C. Moore. It comes in a great big block over in the candle & soap making area. I never buy anything at the craft store without using the 40% coupon that comes in the newspaper every week.

pluckymama, I'm so glad the drywax is working for you. I was so upset when I heard about your watermarks problem after you had gone through so much just to get the counters in your house.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 8:42AM
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laxsupermom - interesting about mixing it yourself. I heard that was hard to do - probably hard to get it to mix? Maybe not!

pluckymama - are you the person in NH who had all the really bad water marks and Dave came up to sand your island for you? Yes, he was so nice. I believe I recounted your story to him (which of course he had not read) and he was so please to have great reviews. And unsolicited praise. The story from someone here who had all the pictures with the terrible water marks (I can't remember their name) was posted the day before my ss was to be installed. That really threw me - I e-mailed Darryl at Dorado and I think he said it had something to do with minerals in the water. Believe me, I almost changed my mind after that. But I'm glad I didn't. I think I'll try the wax or the oil/wax combo. Mostly I don't oil mine and it looks great. Now if I could just decide on a backsplash!! Priscilla

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 10:20AM
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prill, the mixing wasn't difficult at all. Use a heavy bottomed good sized saucepan or stock pot so that you can mix without splashing. Place the block in the saucepan. You can break it up into chunks or not. Turn on the flame. I let the wax start to melt a bit before adding the oil. I don't know if that's the "correct" way, but it's how I did it. Stir occasionally until it's all one liquidy consistency. Turn off the burner. Let it sit for just a few minutes so you don't burn yourself. Stir one last time. Pour into a container. Mine is an enameled mixing bowl with a lid. It will cool and become an opaque paste wax. Wash your saucepan thoroughly.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 10:45AM
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Thanks - then do you apply like you're waxing a car - rub on and buff? I'll give it a try. Priscilla

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 11:07AM
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Once more with Growlery's Waxing School.

To get a good wax surface (this is real wax, not a wipe-on, wipe-off cream wax, which is mostly oil and solvents) what you are essentially doing is creating enough friction with rubbing to quickly melt the wax, then letting it cool to a nice hard, protective surface. This is called burnishing. And it takes a little muscle.

I think it makes things more impervious to water, but I have no scientific proof.

The oil in the beeswax mixture just gives you a head start (if you start with the straight beeswax, you can see how much elbow speed you'd need to turn THAT into a liquid!).

So, what I do with butcher's wax on furniture, or the beesoil on the counter, is to rub a small piece of soft rag, like an old tee shirt, into the can, at room temp, and rub it smoothly onto the counter to distribute generally. (You can reuse this rag, keep it in the can, unless it's too gritty at the end.) You could warm it a little, but I wouldn't make a liquid of it. It will just solidify on the cool counter anyway.

Then get a larger piece of clean rag that you can really work with and BRISKLY rub the wax onto the counter in sections in one direction until the counter feels smooth when you run your hand over it. It removes the excess wax, greats friction (heat) and thins and distributes the wax over a greater area.

I'd advise doing it in small sections. And starting on a small counter first, if you can.

(This takes some practice, and when you start out, seems like an impossible task. But it works, and it's not too bad. We Irish polish whole houses and churches with our bare hands. If you wax furniture, do it only once a year.)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 11:43AM
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prill, yes that's me! I don't know where you live in MA, but if you want I can drive down and let you try the dry wax before you decide if you want to purchase it, as it is so expensive. I'm stuck on the backsplash decision as well! I have so many sample tiles I'd be happy to bring those as well and you can see if any of them work for you, before I return them. They are white/off-white subway style in crackle and plain. I did try this mineral oil/beeswax mixture that was recommended on GW from ebay, but it did not work near as well as the dry wax does. The dry wax becomes matte very quickly and does not have any greasy feel to it. Also, a little goes a long way.

Here is a link that might be useful: beeswax/mineraloil

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 11:44AM
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growlery, you've always been such a support for me with my soapstone and now reading Growlery's Waxing School, it makes sense to me why the dry wax is working so much better than anything I've tried. Because the dry wax is not as soft or oily, I have to work it in small sections just like you describe and the finish looks really nice and offers a layer of protection that lasts longer.

Thanks, growlery :)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 11:50AM
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Pluckymama - I live in Amherst. I can't believe you would offer to drive down here - that is over and above. Where in NH are you? I'm sure it would be quite a drive. I'm just about to post some of my backsplash selections for some opinions. These are the ones I keep coming back to.. or as you say subway. I sent for some of the Cape Cod series subways/crackle but haven't gotten them yet. They are by Emser Tile.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 12:21PM
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Wait a minute, plucky, I thought it was you who was supportive of me?

Anyhow ...

I'm glad it makes sense. Waxing may become a lost art if it's not passed on. And it DOES make a difference if you do it right -- a few coats of wax give you a nice, durable finish that's renewable and feels and looks SO good. There's nothing as lustrous as a real wax finish.

I wish I knew more about chemistry and physics. I'm sure I could have a better explanation about how the molecules are excited from the energy introduced into the lipid and make a conformational change and line up differently ... but I took Italian instead! Ha! And now I can just order nicer things in restaurants.

I admire laxsupermom's scientific approach. (But a wooden spoon to the head to her husband for not asking if he could clean it up. Sorry. Even my dad would.)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 1:41PM
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prill, it would be fun! I already have to drive to Fitchburg to return some tiles I borrowed, so that's 1 hour and then to you would be another hour. I could show you the tiles (might even help me decide!) and then drive to Fitchburg to return some and then home. Also, I have two I ordered from Emser, the Cape Cod crackle in cream and the Classica in cream.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 3:34PM
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Thanks to all for your kind comments about my blog-

Now on to sopastone - I was inspired by you all to re oil today. But, I am intrigued with the "dry wax" is this the beeswax/oil mixture or just wax?

I just got a new (old) Belgian table that was raw stripped antique pine. I have been using clear bri wax on it - The finish is coming out beautiful! But my arms are killing me. So far I hae done four thin coats- Is this the same pricincipal for the soapstone counters? Is there a hardness benefit?

Btw- my sister used Dorado in Shrewsbury and was very happpy with them.

PluckyMama- I used Horus Art Crackle subway tiles and they look great - Happy to send you a sample or have you stop by on your cross state trek! Email me - its on the blog under profile.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 4:32PM
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The Dorado Dry Wax is just wax. It is not hard, but firmer than the beeswax/mineral oil combo I was using. It looks shiny when you first apply but after you buff it, it looks matte.
The application lasts longer than it did for me with the oil or beeswax combo. I'll email you regarding tiles.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 5:00PM
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Pluckymama - e-mail me from my profile page and let me know what you're thinking for your trek.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 5:57PM
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Pluckymama - e-mail me from my profile page and let me know what you're thinking for your trek.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 6:19PM
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Out of curiousity, has anyone tried Carnuba wax on Soapstone?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 2:22PM
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