Soapstone? Vinegar caused pitting

crl_September 1, 2014

We had our bathroom remodeled last summer. I told our contractor I wanted a soapstone countertop. He found a remnant a couple of hours away, and I approved it via picture. I was never given a name for variety.

I cleaned it this weekend using straight household white vinegar. This caused pitting, as you can see in the picture.

I am not angry or upset. However, I was planning to use it in our kitchen but if it pits like this from plain vinegar, I'm not so sure.

Is this typical of soapstone? Perhaps I don't have true soapstone? Are some varieties susceptible to this kind of damage from vinegar while others are not?

Thank you for any insight going forward.

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Straight vinegar is pretty strong. Do you normally clean with that? Do you wipe it off with clean water after?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 8:41AM
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I have put straight vinegar on mine a ton and no pits, even made a paste and let it sit overnight to try to remove hard mineral buildup. Are you sure that you didn't just remove dust that had masked the pits before?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 8:51AM
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They wouldn't use soapstone for laboratory surfaces if vinegar damaged it. I'm skeptical that's what you have.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 9:42AM
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I'd suspect it's Pietra Cardosa, which is NOT soapstone.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 1:10PM
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Thanks all.

Yes, straight vinegar. It's what I clean a lot of things with.

I am sure I didn't just remove dust. The counter has been installed for over a year and cleaned pretty much weekly with diluted dish soap.

I'm guessing it's not soapstone too. Which is unfortunate, but means that this experience doesn't really have any bearing on choosing soapstone for my kitchen countertop, except to be sure I'm getting really truly soapstone. I'm thinking I need to go with a place that does a ton of soapstone and take samples home to abuse so I can feel confident.

In the meantime, anyone have thoughts on what I should do with the bathroom countertop? I'm not inclined to have it replaced at this point. Should I give oiling it a try to see if that disguises the pitting?

I appreciate the help!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 2:42PM
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I wouldn't oil it. I would seal it.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 3:11PM
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Why would you seal it? Will sealing it darken the pits so they don't show as much?

Nothing else has damaged the countertop in the year it's been installed in our master bathroom. So as long as I don't clean it with vinegar again, I think further damage is very unlikely. And I'm guessing that sealer isn't supposed to be cleaned with vinegar either? So it doesn't seem that sealing it has much benefit unless it will disguise the pits.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 3:21PM
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Is it possible there were tiny nicks that we're colored or filled & the vinegar cleaned them out? Permanent marker would color them.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 5:33PM
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Pietra-Cardoso is a sandstone and needs t o be sealed. See attached link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pietra-Cordoso

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 7:42PM
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The link doesn't work.

Google search produces results that suggest sealing pietra cardosa in the kitchen to prevent stains. But this isn't in the kitchen. And nothing that we use in the bathroom has stained it in the last year. So it just doesn't seem necessary to seal it. Unless sealing it would somehow "fix" the pitting.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 9:27PM
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Those look like tiny knicks from something dropping, banging, etc. I wouldn't sweat it and use a sharpie to darkent them. Vinegar won't pit soapstone and your veining looks like ss to me.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 9:43PM
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The link works if you remove the last slash. Glad I did this because the description of the rock is humorous, although not intended to be.

Pietra del Cardoso is a deep-blue dark grey sandstone.

OK, sounds good, I'm with you so far.

It is a metamorphic rock.

Uh oh. Sandstone is not a metamorphic rock. It's a sedimentary rock.

Its formation results from the fragmentation of granitic composed rocks.

OK, but that does sound like a sedimentary rock again. What they are trying to say here is that rocks with a granite-type composition eroded into fragments and then the fragments became this rock. That's how sandstone is formed.

Due to its mineral composition, the Pietra del Cardoso has a notable compactness and toughness.

"Notable compactness." Like Napoleon?
Minerals determine hardness, yes. Compactness comes from the other processes that form the rock, like what type of mineral cement is binding it together, or how much it was compressed. As for notable compactness, one can only guess.

It has great physic-mechanic resistance to attrition, electric power as well as great resistance to the damaging action of atmospheric elements.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:57AM
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karin_mt, that is funny. I would never think to test countertop materials for their resistance to electricity. I wonder if the description is a stilted translation from Italian, as Italy is the source of pietra cardosa. I found another site which descrbes it as a Calcareus Phyllite (sp?). I don't know what that is, but the post goes on to say that it is very hard, used in Italy for sidewalks, but that it can etch like marble. However, crl's counter didn't etch, it pitted. Which brings me to my question to you. If the counter, whether it is soapstone, or PC, contains inclusions of another stone, might the included stone be affected by vinegar?

Here is a link that might be useful: pietra cardosa

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 8:55AM
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Yes, no doubt that the translation is partly why that text is so funny (to me, anyway).

Phyllite is a type of metamorphic rock that starts out as a rock with a lot of clay in it (the sedimentary rock called shale), and then gets compressed and hardened into slate, and then it keeps on getting baked and compressed until it reaches the stage of phyllite, which is harder than slate and has a satiny sheen to it. Phyllite is also strongly layered, like slate.

Calcareous phyllite would mean that the original rock had calcite in it, and yes, this would make the rock etch.

As for crl's case, my total guess would be that the bits that pitted could be little grains of calcite that dissolved away. Those wouldn't be inclusions per se, just places where the mineral content varies.

Another guess is that these were voids in the rock that were filled in upon fabrication, and have since dissolved out. That seems less likely though. Epoxy wouldn't dissolve from vinegar.

One solution would be to have the surface of the rock re-epoxied and the color touched up and then don't use acids on it from here on out.

As for kitchen use, I'd say this behavior rules it out as a kitchen countertop. If it were to be considered for kitchen use, you'd have to test it like you'd do for any rock. In that case I would pay close attention to those white veins which sound like they are calcite.

I'm not sure if that helps or not but this is the best I can figure out based on the pics and limited internet info. Interesting!


    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 9:55AM
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LOL "Like Napoleon?"- hilarious.

I agree they kinda look like dings from something dropping on it - if it is soapstone you could try to sand them a bit? Then oil the whole thing (if that's what you've been doing) and hopefully that would darken them enough to where they wouldn't bother you.

Is that a mirror adjacent to the counter top?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 9:57AM
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The picture is of the countertop in front of the bathroom sink. The bottom portion of the picture shows the glass knobs sticking out from the drawers on the front of the vanity and below that the linoleum floor (I'm guessing the floor is what looks like mirror.) I chose that section for the picture because it has the biggest pit. Sorry, I know it's a little disorienting.

I am 100 percent positive the pits are not from dropping anything. I cleared the counter off, sprayed it, wiped it down and the pits appeared. There are other smaller pits in other parts of the counter top.

None of the pits appear in the veining. The biggest pit does not darken when water hits it, which makes me think oiling may not work?

The biggest pit is deep enough that i don't think I can sand it down really, if that makes sense. I tried using my fingernail a little to see if the white would scratch away and while it felt like I was scratching off a bit of stone, it remained white. So I'm not sure if sanding would help much with the appearance even if I could sand the whole top down to that level?

I have not been oiling the stone, but I do occasionally use an oily face care product and the stone has darkened where I set that bottle down. I have been kind of experimenting with the countertop to see whether I would want to oil a kitchen countertop or live with the uneven appearance of an unoiled soapstone counter.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 10:36AM
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I might add that when I wiped the counter down there seemed to be some grainy substance (like sand?) on the top that I didn't expect as the top was not all that dirty. When I saw the pitting, I assumed that I had wiped away the bits that had dissolved (?).

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 10:43AM
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First, OP, if you don't want to seal it, don't. Done.

Second, wayyyy off on tangent:

Years ago when I was the IT mgr for a Job Corps, I was upgrading RAM (memory) in some older computers. The instructions were translated Chinese.

The edge that is inserted into the motherboard has gold (colored, probably) conductors along the edge. They could probably look as the instructions described them:

... insert the golden fingers into the awaiting orifice so the orifice snugly shakes the RAM's hand..."

So ya' never know. :)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 10:48AM
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Crl from what you say it doesn't seem like you have soapstone there. I think soapstone would darken in the pitted area when you moisted it. Before I bought my soapstone counter, I put several samples through their paces. Some did scratch easily, leaving white marks, but the marks darkened when I applied oil.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 11:00AM
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My SS had areas that didn't darken with oil. I had little pit areas where keys or whatnot bumped it and the little areas stayed white. That is when I got out the sharpie to fill them in. Like I said, that little vein looks just like one I had and it was definitely SS, just had areas that were softer. Depending on the variety it will behave differently to oils.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 11:21AM
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bcafe, that's interesting. Maybe I was too soft on my samples - I didn't make pits, just scratches. Oh well, that's what Sharpies are for.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:32PM
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Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:51PM
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Just wanted to follow up that I decided to try oiling the countertop. That did improve the appearance quite a bit. This picture was taken approximately 24 hours after oiling.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 1:43PM
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I have a deep chip, clock fell off a beam, oil didn't darken it but it did darken the smaller ones. Permanent marker did the job.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 2:15PM
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