Soapstone is a new stone product that is fast becoming a contender for countertops. Although it is an up and coming trend for homeowners, soapstone has been used around the world since the Stone Age. It was quite popular in Scandinavia for spearheads and knife blades. Native Americans also discovered its many uses in the Late Archaic Period after they made sustainable cooking bowls, cooking slabs, and pipes out of it. As time went on, other countries found new and similar uses for soapstone. For instance, Europe is peppered with churches adorned with soapstone icons and crosses. The Indus Valley in Africa produces an abundance of soapstone artifacts like amulets, scarabs, small statues, utensils, bowls, and other objects. And across Asia, vividly colored pieces of artwork have been found that were crafted solely out of soapstone.
What exactly is Soapstone?
Soapstone is the melding together of convergent plates of the Earth’s crust that are subjected to immense heat and pressure. Therefore, it is a metamorphic rock that is mostly made up of talc, chlorite, and other minerals. It can be found in a variety of colors with the same “soapy” texture hence its name.
Soapstone or Steatite?
Do not be confused…many geologists, distributors, and other stone experts may use the term steatite instead of soapstone.
Why is soapstone so versatile?
The physical properties of soapstone make it multipurpose and user friendly. Because soapstone is made mostly of talc, it is able to be molded, easy to carve, and long lasting.
Here is a list of some of the advantages to using soapstone over other materials:
- It is very soft and easy to form
- It is nonporous and nonabsorbent
- It is extremely heat resistance, making it a top choice for cooking surfaces and bowls
- It is resistant to breaking down when exposed to acids and alkaline
Keep in mind that although soapstone is a rock and completely formed in nature, because of heat and merging of plates at the Earth’s surface, the composition can vary from quarry to quarry due to varying metamorphic conditions. The differences change the grain size of the soapstone, altering its final configuration.
How is Soapstone Used?
Some of the ancient uses for soapstone have been mentioned, but there are a multitude of modern day uses as well.
Here are some examples:
- Countertops of all types
- Sinks, basins, and tubs
- Cooking utensils and bowls
- Mausoleums and headstones
- Fireplaces and mantels
Soapstone in the Home
So as a homeowner, designer, builder, or contractor, you will most likely be considering soapstone for countertops. Most of the myths that surround soapstone are because people are unfamiliar with it. Soapstone is just as unique and beautiful as granite or marble. It has all the durable qualities as these other stone choices. There is only one downfall to soapstone. Even though it is stone, soapstone is soft and therefore does scratch and dent easily. Often these can be buffed and sanded out, but it is possible to damage a soapstone countertop permanently.