Natural stones have been mined from the Earth for centuries to be used for decorative purposes. Each natural stone that is formed has unique qualities from every other. That is why you may find certain materials recommended for specific locations or uses. For example, marble is ideal for pastry-making because of the temperature the material maintains among other reasons. While the common use for Soapstone may not come to mind right away, chances are you have work on a Soapstone surface before. Think back to your Chemistry class or any lab course you may have taken…remember the lab tables?
Those dark green chalky tabletops? There is a very good chance those tops you are picturing were Soapstone! But why? Many of the same reasons why Soapstone has been used in labs for hundreds of years are why you may want to consider it for your kitchen counters.
The first reason you see listed we will touch on when we talk about care and maintenance for Soapstone. The second item listed is that Soapstone is a naturally non-porous material. Nothing will absorb into the material itself. This means it is completely stain-resistant! A fantastic quality in any kitchen countertop!
But why is Soapstone so great in a lab? Soapstone is also an inert material. This means that it is impervious to acids, heat, and chemicals. Bottom line, not a thing in your kitchen can change the makeup of this material once it is installed in your home. While Granite and Marble are extremely durable materials to install in your kitchen, you do need to be cautious of some things that can harm them. Read more about this here on our blog. Another interesting characteristic of Soapstone is that it can absorb, store, and even radiate heat. In fact it is still used as a material in some heaters. Native Americans and Vikings used soapstone and shaped it into cooking-vessels because of these characteristics.
But didn’t we mention above that Soapstone “builds character over time”? Soapstone (also known as steatite, or soaprock) is made up mainly of the mineral talc. This is what gives Soapstone the chalky and “soapy” feel and appearance. While Soapstone is inert and non-porous, it is a soft material. In a kitchen countertop application this means your Soapstone counters will develop surface scratches. These surface scratches and worn areas are what tell the story of your stone once it is in place. If this is not a look you are after, then discuss with your designer at Village Home Stores what materials can give you this same look but in a harder surface. How do you get your Soapstone to have that darker look with less talc? You oil it. Take a look at this image of an un-oiled Soapstone countertop:
See the natural patina that comes out of the stone when an oil is applied over the material? Applying mineral oil (NOTE: not mineral spirits) to Soapstone brings the natural beauty out of the material. The mineral oil will not absorb into the top it just enhances the surface of the material. Many times a coat of mineral oil can also conceal the appearance of surface scratches. If you still have surface imperfections on your Soapstone you can remove them by hand with a fine-grit sandpaper before oiling.
Keep your mineral oil and a designated cloth for oiling with your other kitchen cleaning supplies. This way you can continue to use the same cloth and not confuse it with others used for food prep. Because the oil will not absorb into the Soapstone, you may have some non-uniform oiled areas on your tops for a few days as your oiled tops “dry”. These can be wiped clean with a dry cloth. This oiling process can be done as often as you would like. Oiling your Soapstone tops is not a mandatory maintenance. It doesn’t have to be done at all, just often enough to maintain whatever patina and look you want your tops to exude. Many customers oil their tops once a month for a year and get the overall look they desire. They then may oil it once a year or never again as it builds its character.
We are so lucky to have a local source for natural stone material right here in the Quad Cities. Epic Stone LLC in Davenport, Iowa is our local source for Soapstone and other natural stone materials. Epic is the warehouse facility where the fabricators used by Village Home Stores will be picking up the material for your project. Read more about what you can expect from a visit to pic here on our blog. If Soapstone is what you have selected for your project you can pick the specific slabs of material your project will use. Your designer at Village Home Stores can help coordinate an appointment for you to visit Epic to tag your material. Are you considering Soapstone counters for your kitchen or bath project? Make an appointment today to discuss your options with a designer at Village Home Stores. Call or click here to make an appointment.