Are you designing a new kitchen or bathroom and considering soapstone countertops?
Soapstone is a beautiful, natural stone, but there are reasons why it’s not as popular as granite, marble, and quartz.
In this guide, I break down the pros and cons of soapstone countertops.
You’ll learn about its appearance, durability, required maintenance, and price, and I’ll explain how it compares to other materials.
Keep reading to learn whether or not soapstone countertops are right for your home.
Use the links below to navigate the article:
- What Is Soapstone?
- Pros of Soapstone Countertops
- Cons of Soapstone Countertops
- Bottom Line: Do the Pros of Soapstone Countertops Outweigh the Cons?
Soapstone, also known as steatite or soaprock, is a naturally occurring rock mostly made of talc (a clay mineral). It often contains bits of chlorite, micas, amphiboles, and other minerals like carbonates, magnesium, silicate, etc.
Soapstone has a smooth, soft surface that gives it a soapy feel, hence the name. It’s easy to carve and has been used for thousands of years to make cookware and sculptures.
A rock must be at least 35-75% pure talc to be classified as soapstone. The kind of soapstone used to make countertops is harder than the type used by artists. The former is called architectural soapstone and contains less talc.
Now that you know what soapstone is, let’s look at the pros of soapstone countertops and compare them to other options you might be considering.
Soapstone countertops are 100% natural, primarily made up of talc. They are cut from slabs of stone and shaped to form a smooth surface.
No other materials are added to the soapstone during processing. The result is a pure material that remains the same from the quarry to your home.
Soapstone adds a feeling of warmth to a room. Its rich, earthy tones have a lot of depth, and the stone takes on a soft, leathery texture after repeated oiling.
Since soapstone occurs naturally, each slab has unique color and veining.
The particular quarry the stone comes from can determine the overall look of a slab, but even slabs cut from the same area will vary in appearance.
Soapstone’s texture can also vary, and your soapstone countertops can have a smooth or rougher texture, depending on your preference.
Soapstone is naturally non-porous, meaning it doesn’t absorb liquids. So, unlike granite or marble, soapstone counters don’t need to be sealed.
If you spill something on soapstone, you can simply wipe the mess away. The stone will not absorb liquids from food, drinks, or cleaning sprays.
Thanks to its non-porous quality, soapstone is also naturally bacteria-resistant.
Materials like wood or granite can harbor moisture in their pores. These, in turn, become tiny breeding grounds for mold and bacteria, and once liquid seeps into the counter, it can be hard to remove.
Soapstone countertops are immune to this issue, which means less stress and lower health risks for you and your family.
Thanks to its high density, soapstone is remarkably heat-tolerant. A slab of soapstone can endure temperatures of up to 2966°F.
You can safely place a hot pot or pan on your soapstone counter without causing burn marks, cracks, or any other damage to the counter.
In contrast, quartz is prone to heat damage. Direct contact with a hot pan can permanently damage quartz.
Since soapstone is both non-porous and heat resistant, it also doesn’t stain easily. Liquids rest on the surface rather than soaking into the stone.
Also, soapstone countertops are non-reactive, meaning acidic materials such as wine or vinegar won’t damage the stone’s surface. These qualities combined make soapstone countertops durable and allow them to handle a lot of wear and tear.
Since soapstone is softer than materials like granite and marble, it’s more forgiving under stress. It’s more likely to dent than chip or crack if you accidentally hit it with a sharp, hard object.
Soapstone countertops are naturally malleable; dents or chips can be quickly sanded away. The counter will be left looking new, and the sanding process is much easier than it would be with a harder sealed material such as quartz.
If your soapstone countertop has minor scratches, you can hide them by applying a light coat of mineral oil. For more noticeable damage, follow these steps:
- First, use a piece of rough sandpaper to smooth out any scratches.
- Then follow up by applying some water and rubbing it with finer-grade sandpaper or an electric sander.
- After this, simply apply mineral oil to the area and let it dry.
Soapstone countertops have an incredibly long lifespan. A well-maintained soapstone counter can last anywhere from 20 to 100 years. Because of that, soapstone is an excellent investment and a reliable long-term option for your home.
Now that you’ve heard all about the benefits of soapstone countertops, you might be wondering, what’s the catch?
In this section, I’ll go over the cons of soapstone counters and compare them to the downsides of other materials such as marble and granite.
When your soapstone countertop is installed, it will likely be light gray. The rich, dark brown or black hue that soapstone is known for is the result of oxidation.
Oxidation occurs naturally when the stone is exposed to water, oil, or grease. Although the stone is non-porous, these liquids cause the surface to react and darken over time. So, to achieve this effect, you’ll need to oil your counters. Mineral oil is the best kind to use on soapstone.
The first time you oil the stone will be the most intensive. Pour the oil directly onto the counter and rub it in with a clean, dry cloth. Make sure the coat is even, then let it sit for approximately 30 minutes. After half an hour, wipe away the excess oil with a clean, dry rag.
From this point on, you can expect to oil your counters approximately once a month for twelve months.
Since the percentage of talc in soapstone varies by quarry and slab, some slabs will be harder than others. It’s important to be aware of this variation when choosing your stone.
In its pure form, talc is one of the softest minerals on earth. The more talc content a stone has, the softer it will be. For countertops, you’ll want to choose a slab that is hard enough to remain durable while retaining the unique visual qualities of soapstone.
To gauge the hardness of a stone, you can use the Mohs Hardness Scale. This is a measurement system used by geologists to rate a stone’s hardness on a scale of 1-10. Talc is at the lowest end of this scale and scores a 1 (it can be easily scratched with a fingernail).
When choosing a slab, test the stone with your fingernail, a penny, and a key. Note how easily the surface scratches and decide what you can and can’t tolerate before installing your countertop.
As I mentioned before, soapstone is naturally quite soft. It is prone to dents and scratches, so you should never cut anything on it or drag heavy items across it.
Unlike marble or granite, soapstone only comes in shades of gray or black, often with white marbling. Some soapstone slabs may have green or blue undertones, but the color range is limited compared to granite and quartz.
Soapstone develops a patina that darkens its color and results in a more matte appearance over time. This natural patina can form unevenly if you don’t treat the soapstone properly.
Areas that see more use — such as the space around the sink or stovetop — will darken quicker than lower traffic areas. To keep the color even, you may need to treat the countertop more in less-used areas.
Each soapstone slab will have a unique pattern of veins, making it impossible to find two perfectly matched slabs. So there will be visible seams where two slabs meet.
Due to the way soapstone is quarried, it’s difficult to find slabs longer than 7 feet. If you have particularly long counters, you’ll likely need several slabs to cover them, resulting in at least one seam.
Soapstone is more expensive than wood, concrete, quartz, and in some cases, granite and marble. The price for soapstone counters varies by location and slab, but typically they range from $20-70 per square foot for the material and another $10 to $30 per square foot for installation.
The chart below shows the average material and installation costs of soapstone versus other popular materials. The data in the chart is according to HomeAdvisor.
|Material||Material Cost (Per Square Foot)||Material and Installation Cost (Per Square Foot)|
|Soapstone||$20 – $70||$30 – $100|
|Quartz||$15 – $70||$25 – $100|
|Granite||$15 – $140||$25 – $170|
|Marble||$15 – $190||$25 – $220|
|Slate||$20 – $60||$30 – $90|
|Laminate||$8 – $27||$40 – $80|
|Wood||$18 – $38||$10 – $30|
|Concrete||$50 – $100||$10 – $30|
According to Google Search Trends, soapstone countertops have declined in popularity since 2014. In other words, fewer people are searching for “soapstone countertops” than in the past.
If you pay attention to trends and want a more fashionable countertop, this is something to keep in mind.
Bottom Line: Do the Pros of Soapstone Countertops Outweigh the Cons?
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of soapstone countertops, it’s time to decide if they’re right for your home.
First, let’s recap the pros:
- Soapstone is a naturally occurring stone with no synthetic components and doesn’t require sealing.
- Soapstone countertops have a warm, rustic look that many homeowners find appealing.
- As a naturally non-porous stone, soapstone won’t absorb liquids.
- Soapstone’s non-porous nature also means it is resistant to mold, mildew, and moisture-dependent bacteria (unlike wood or marble), making it sanitary.
- Each soapstone slab has unique veining and texture.
- Soapstone is heat tolerant, non-reactive, and stain-resistant.
- Soapstone counters are easily repaired with gentle sanding and a simple application of mineral oil and water.
- Thanks to its stain resistance and durability, soapstone counters can last anywhere from 20-100 years.
Now let’s review the cons:
- Soapstone counters require at least a year of consistent, monthly oiling before they’ll darken and achieve a rich patina.
- The hardness of any given soapstone slab can vary significantly based on its talc percentage.
- Since soapstone is naturally soft, it can dent and scratch easily.
- Color options are limited – soapstone only comes in variations of gray.
- Soapstone’s patina can form unevenly if you don’t treat it.
- Areas with more use (ex. around sinks) can show wear more quickly than other parts causing uneven tones.
- If two or more slabs are needed, the seams will be visible due to the unique veins and coloration of the stone.
- Soapstone counters are more expensive than materials like wood, concrete, and, in some cases, granite and marble.
- The popularity of soapstone counters is decreasing, while quartz and marble have become more popular.
Bottom line — soapstone counters are beautiful, durable, and easy to maintain. However, they’re expensive, prone to scratches, and require regular oiling.
Soapstone is an excellent choice if you like a rustic look and don’t mind spending extra time and money on your counters.
If you want a scratch-proof material with more color variety and don’t want to spend much money, soapstone isn’t the best option.
If you’re ready to move your project forward, fill out this quick form on HomeAdvisor to get free, no-obligation quotes from local professionals. The best way to get a great deal is to compare prices from multiple vendors, and HomeAdvisor makes it easy.
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Soapstone countertops aren't for everyone, but they can be every bit as good as other natural stone countertops without some of the cleaning hassles. Soapstone doesn't have the variety of options like other countertops but it can prove much more functional in a kitchen space.
Because it requires no sealing, soapstone is relatively low-maintenance. With minimum care, your new countertop can retain its good looks for many years. Enhance your counter's natural darkening progression by applying mineral oil to the surface every week or two and rubbing it in thoroughly.
Soapstone offers three major benefits: heat resistance/retention, acid resistance and absorption resistance/non-porosity. These properties enable soapstone to be used as sinks, countertops, floors, hearths, stoves and more.
Yes, Soapstone Will Scratch—But Maintenance Is Simple
Its nonporous nature means that caring for soapstone is simple: little more than water and a gentle cleanser is needed for regular maintenance.
If moisture gets inside natural stone, it weakens the strength properties of almost all types of stone. If a stone gets wet unevenly, it can bend. Soapstone's high density prevents moisture and chemicals from entering the stone, and it is therefore not prone to the previously-mentioned problems.
Soapstone is both chemical resistant and heat resistant, so you can set hot pots and pans directly on soapstone without risk of cracking or scorching. Soapstone is much softer and more prone to scratching than granite or quartz however, so preparing food directly on your soapstone counters could easily scratch it.
Believe it or not, bleach will not harm it either. However, Bleach is not needed, since the soapstone's natural high density will not harbor bacteria of any kind. Simple soapstone and water or vinegar and water. Will work wonderfully well and clean any surface bacteria just as well as bleach or harsh cleaners.
Limestone, soapstone, and marble countertops do not pose a radon concern, according to Kitto. If you have granite countertops and want to test them for radon, place a short-term home radon test kit near the granite and another kit in the basement or lowest usable level of the home.
When you've got a brand new soapstone countertop, it's worth rubbing it down a day after installation. Before doing so, allow your counter to settle for a day so the silicon can set and dry. After that, you should plan to oil your stone once every month or when your counters start to get too light.
Since soapstone is non-porous, it is easy to clean. However, you need to use mild soap and a soft sponge. When it comes to maintenance, soapstone countertops need regular oiling to maintain their natural look.
The Durability of Soapstone
While not as hard as granite, this material is more pliable. That means it is less brittle, so it won't crack unexpectedly from stress or weight. In addition, soapstone is very non-porous, another important strength that sets it apart from granite, sandstone and slate.
Soapstone is nearly impervious to staining. This is in sharp contrast to granite and marble, which can be stained quite easily. Scratches and dents can be sanded out of the stone, much the way Corian and other solid-surface materials can be repaired.
Soapstone costs roughly $70 to $120 per square foot installed, making it pricier than many other natural stone countertop materials. Also a high-quality natural stone, granite will not cost you as much soapstone. The material typically costs in the range of $40 to $100 per square foot installed.
Soapstone is a relatively soft material, and it will scratch. Soapstone is primarily composed of the mineral talc, the softest mineral there is. The talc content of a given slab of soapstone dictates just how easily it can be scratched during everyday use.
Quartz is harder than soapstone, making it more resistant to scratches and harder to repair with DIY methods. You can oil and sand Soapstone when it gets scratched. Both are low maintenance, but if you want your soapstone countertop to have a uniform patina, you'll need a regular oiling regimen.