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Soapstone for Kitchen Countertops

Betty from the Black Forest Subdivision in Colorado Springs asks a follow-up question:

“Thanks for your quick response to my sandstone kitchen countertop question. In your reply, you mentioned ‘soapstone’. Can you tell me a little bit about it as a prospective countertop choice?”

Sure Betty, Dudley Design’s happy to oblige! Below are some pros and cons that will give you a better understanding of what this material is as well as the relative strengths and weaknesses of soapstone countertops.

Soapstone is natural stone material that has been used for centuries in countertops; much longer than many of today’s more common natural stone choices. It’s milky appearance gives it a rustic feel when compared with the urbane and elegant look of granite or slate. Many homeowners love the natural charm of soapstone.

Soapstone is Natural Stone

Soapstone counters, like granite and marble, are made from quarried stone. The stone is a steatite stone that includes chlorite, magnesite and dolomite. Most also contains quite a bit of talc which accounts for the milky or powdery look and feel of soapstone. Slabs with lots of talc has been used by sculptors through the ages for its softness. Steatite with less talc is hard enough for use in countertops and other applications like fireplace surrounds.

The presence of talc produces a material that is softer to the touch than most traditional natural stone countertop materials. However, that does not mean it won’t stand up to the demands of the kitchen.

The Beauty of Soapstone

soapstone_countertops

If you’re looking for a natural stone with an amazing amount of warmth, this is it. That’s one of the reasons that soapstone countertops are a favorite in country and rustic kitchens, though they can be included in styles from traditional to modern to eclectic. Soapstone offers outstanding design versatility.

The colors you’ll find in soapstone range from almost pure white with slight marbling to dark charcoal gray with nearly solid color. In between, you’ll enjoy a pleasant array of whites, off-whites, pearls and grays with rich marbling.

The Durability of Soapstone

While not as hard as granite, soapstone is more pliable. That means it is less brittle, so it is much less likely to crack unexpectedly from stress or weight. In addition, soapstone is very non-porous, another important strength that sets it apart from granite, marble or sandstone. It doesn’t require the sealing that those materials do, and it is far less likely to stain from wine or oil spills.

Soapstone’s primary care requirement is a periodic oiling that keeps it looking its best and produces a natural patina as the years go by. In other words, the oiling is done for appearance rather than performance reasons.

Soapstone is Easy to Clean

Because it’s non-porous, soapstone cleans up with mild soap and a sponge or dish rag. This is a very sanitary countertop and a good choice for those who enjoy cooking with fresh fruits, vegetables and meats or poultry that are sometimes associated with e-coli or salmonella bacterias.

Avoid Scratches and Chips

Because soapstone is fairly soft, you should avoid cutting directly on it with today’s modern stainless steel and ceramic knives. If you’d like, Kitchen Concepts can design an aesthetically pleasing integrated hardwood chopping block into your new kitchen. You should also be careful to avoid dropping heavy glass objects or cast iron pans on soapstone. Its softer nature makes it nice to the touch but also represents its one main weakness.

Dudley Design’s Summary

Soapstone countertops are well worth considering if you want natural stone that is low-maintenance and quite hardy. It’s limited in color from white to charcoal … you won’t find pinks, blues or greens for example … but if that range fits your design scheme, this high-quality countertop material should give you twenty-five or more years of attractive, hardworking performance!

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