What You Need to Know About Soapstone Countertops

Soapstone countertops are not as popular as granite or quartz, but they've still got a special spot amongst the countertop options when it comes to your home renovation. First, don't let the name scare you. Soapstone is not, in fact, made of soap. It's called soapstone because it has a high talc content. The type of soapstone used for countertops is not the same that is used for carving sculptures -- it's much harder and more durable. Soapstone is quarried much like granite, and was very popular in early America for fireplace hearths and sinks. Because of its natural heat retention characteristics, soapstone is often still used today for masonry heater fireplaces, wood stoves, fireplace liners and pizza ovens. Let's examine it a little more closely.
Soapstone is a great material for countertops because it is not absorbent and is actually impervious to stains. If you cook lots of spaghetti sauce or drink loads of red wine then it might be your best choice! Soapstone is also a very smooth surface and can be easily buffed. Imperfections can be ground down or sanded away.
Sealing, Cleaning and Care
Soapstone countertops do not require a sealant, but experts recommended coating them with mineral oil. Apply another coat of mineral oil about once a month for the next year. It seems like a lot but after that you're done! The oil is absorbed by the countertop and helps expedite the oxidization (or patina) process. Basically, it brings out the best color of your soapstone countertop.
How Does It Measure Up?
Some granite and most marble can easily stain, so soapstone will win that battle every time. However, soapstone isn't as heat resistant as granite, so be sure to use a trivet when placing hot pots and pans on your counter. Additionally, use a cutting board or surface. Soapstone countertops may dent and scratch. Although these imperfections wear away over time, they're just not pretty to look at. Overall, soapstone requires a little more caution than other counter surfaces, but it's quite beautiful and easy to install. 
Photo Credit: Flickr/Loren Owensby

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