Soapstone: Throwback to 1987 chemistry class? You may remember soapstone tabletops from your high school chemistry class. Because they can hold up to high heat and are impervious to stains and bacteria, soapstone was the top choice for tabletops in science rooms across the country. If your kitchen gets A LOT of use, soapstone may be the right choice for your kitchen or bathroom countertops.
The basics: Soapstone is a natural stone composed largely of mineral talc, which lends the material the smooth feel of soap. Slab colors are typically medium gray and can have a greenish cast. Over time, the soapstone will darken to a deep charcoal. Slabs may contain pronounced veining, which is produced by quartz in the stone.
The Pros: Durability is soapstone’s top bragging right. It’s not unusual in the northeast parts of the U.S. to find soapstone sinks and wood-burning stoves from the 1800s that are still functioning today, so consider this countertop a lifetime investment. Soapstone is a terrific material for the kitchen, as it’s unaffected by heat. Being chemically neutral means that acids like tomatoes and lemon juice won’t damage it. Its density makes it impenetrable by everything, including bacteria and would-be stains.
The Cons: The talc content makes soapstone softer than some other stone counters, leading to edges and corners being eased over time. Nicks and scratches may accumulate too, which can be sanded out or considered part of its living patina. When selecting your slab, it’s good to know that the greener the slab, the softer it is. Seek out slabs with less of a green cast if you want a harder slab.
Maintenance: Mild soap and water will take care of routine cleanup. Regular application of food-grade mineral oil is typically recommended, as it darkens the stone and makes the appearance more consistent. Applying the oil is solely for aesthetics.
Pairing: Soapstone has been used in kitchens since the 1800. It is well-suited to historic renovations, holding true to the farmhouse, Craftsman and Prairie homes. It can also work well in modern and contemporary spaces when paired with a backsplash that has cleaner, straight lines. Here’s some of our ideas for pairing your soapstone to the appropriate backsplash.
Style=Countertop + Backsplash
Farmhouse cottage= Soapstone + Beadboard: This classic detail is popular in traditional and eclectic homes, especially if you’re going for a farmhouse or cottage look. In this kitchen, the corbels under the cabinets add to the farmhouse look and feel.
Craftsman = Soapstone + Soapstone The craftsman style is identified by the symmetrical pattern, and clean lines in the cabinetry, Soapstone’s beautiful vein patterns look artful when extended up a wall, as seen over this cooktop. The simple, stripped-down craftsman look is a classic.
Rustic = Soapstone + Reclaimed Wood The rustic look of reclaimed wood in its rough-aged appearance pairs well with the texture of soapstone. Cabinets should be kept simple to allow the texture of the wood and soapstone to get all the attention they deserve.
The Classic = Soapstone + Subway Tiles Subway tiles may be one of the most diverse backsplash materials you can use. Classic kitchens are timeless and flexible. The use of subway tiles gives lots of space for other kitchen details like decorative lights and cabinetry to further define your style.
Vintage = Soapstone + Paneling Whether inspired by a 1940s diner or an old-world scullery, vintage kitchens offer charm and contemporary convenience. The paneling appears throughout this small kitchen for a vintage look that reminds us of making cookies with Grandmother over the holidays.
Traditional = Soapstone + Tile Soapstone countertops paired with a gray tile backsplash compliment the architectural details, glazed cabinets and mixed finishes that define the Traditional style.
Sustainability: Soapstone gets green kudos for being a material that will last for generations.
Note: When matching tile color to your countertop, keep in mind that soapstone tends to darken over time. If you’re seeking a perfect match, you may be disappointed down the road. Tile with some variety in color and reflection is more versatile.
Whatever your style preference, soapstone offers a sustainable option for your countertops that withstands the test of time.