Soapstone is a dense, soft stone containing the minerals talc, chlorite and magnetite. Talc gives soapstone the smooth, soapy feel that leads to its name. Since soapstone is durable, rich in colour and easily shaped, it is often used as an alternative to marble or granite in countertops.
Pro: Rich Color
Soapstone colouration varies depending on where the stone was mined. It ranges in colour from light grey to black. Sometimes soapstone has a bluish or greenish tint or coloured veining throughout. Vein colour also varies depending on what additional minerals exist in the stone's composition, according to Nuance Stoneworks.
Con: Requires Maintenance
Although soapstone requires less maintenance than marble, it does need to be oiled regularly to retain shine, explains the Get With Green website. The application of mineral oil causes soapstone to darken over time. Soapstone also scratches easily, according to Improving Your World. Scratches and chips need to be buffed out or sanded down.
Although soapstone does scratch easily, it doesn’t easily break. Soapstone is resistant to daily wear and tear, such as scrubbing up spills and chopping food. Soapstone is less porous than granite and many other countertop materials, so it does not stain as easily. It is resistant to acid and alkalis and will not burn or melt. Hot pots can be placed directly on soapstone without fear of cracking or marking the surface.
Soapstone is rarer than other stones used in countertops, according to Get With Green. Soapstone comes in small slabs and costs more per square foot than many other countertop materials.
Pro: Easily Shaped
Soapstone is easy to work with, says The Soapstone Works' website. Although soapstone is dense, it is soft and easily shaped to fit the specifics of the kitchen requiring countertops. Since soapstone slabs are smaller than granite or marble slabs, more joints are required. However, the joints are easily made invisible, as explained on the Countertops and Cabinets website.
Con: Limited Availability
Soapstone varies greatly depending on where it’s mined. It comes from small quarries from around the world. Soapstone was once mined in the northeastern United States, but those quarries are now exhausted, so most soapstone is imported. The limited supply of soapstone has lead to a variety of stones being falsely marketed as soapstone, according to Nuance Stoneworks. The website suggests that consumers use caution when purchasing soapstone countertops to ensure they are getting the product they want.