Soapstone is a beautiful natural stone with a warm look and a cool, soft feel. Soapstone often flies under the radar. Homeowners are far more familiar with granite, marble and quartz than they are with soapstone, but once they begin looking around our showroom they often find themselves drawn to this “other” stone and ask to learn more about it.
What is Soapstone?
Soapstone, also known as steatite, is a beautiful natural stone quarried in several regions around the world. Because it contains the mineral talc, it has a soft feel and is generally about a 3 on the Mohs scale (the 10 point ranking system used to determine mineral hardness) This is a similar hardness to marble, but softer than quartz or granite. What may surprise you is that soapstone, is extremely dense – denser than granite, quartz or marble. This density means it is less porous than other surfaces. Take a look at our comparison chart of the different types of stone to learn more.
Where Does Soapstone Come From?
Soapstone is found in the Appalachian Mountain range from Maine to Georgia. Internationally, Finland and Brazil are the largest producers of soapstone.
Depending on the region where it is quarried, soapstone ranges in color from soft white and light gray to deep charcoal, with most types exhibiting gentle veining. Some also contains hints of pearl, blue or green for a beautiful look.
Finland’s long history with soapstone has deep roots in its ancient culture. Long before methods to quarry stone in large quantities were developed, soapstone was used in Finland for religious amulets and statues to the Nordic gods.
In the late 1800s, as early quarry techniques were developed, larger blocks of soapstone were able to be cut and were used for statues, as architectural features and as very practical fireplaces in Finland. Soapstone retains heat for a long time, but stays cool to the touch. The Finnish build soapstone fireplaces which require only a small amount of wood and will retain and emit heat for up to 24 hours. A very efficient solution for long Finnish winters.
In the 1980s, homeowners around the world began to discover the beauty of natural stone countertops, including soapstone. This created an increased interest in soapstone generally and an expansion of soapstone production in Finland. Finnish soapstone typically comes in grey tones from very pale to a dark one which has a distinctive bluish tint.
Is Soapstone for You?
- More beautiful with age – Similar to marble, soapstone will change over time. It develops a patina with use and darkens. Many people find this characteristic appealing and enjoy seeing the stone develop this patina and change over time.
- Easy to clean – Due to its density, soapstone doesn’t require sealing and is relatively low maintenance. It is non-porous so it is sanitary, resistant to bacterial growth and easy to clean with just mild soap and warm water.
- Durable and heat resistant – Soapstone is heat resistant. It has a soft feel and is softer on the Mohs scale so it is not advisable to cut or chop without a cutting board. It is also etch, stain and UV resistant.
As you plan your kitchen renovation, consider the beauty of soapstone for your countertop. Soapstone is also a beautiful solution for a fireplace surround or bar top. Whatever your project, we invite you to visit one of our showrooms to see it up close and decide if soapstone or one of our other stone options is right for your kitchen or other parts of your home. We look forward to seeing you