Soapstone with either mineral oil or wax applied to surface.
(photo credit: houzz.com)
Soapstone with natural finish.
(photo credit: www.soapstones.com)
Soapstone is a natural material, a metamorphic rock that is composed primarily of talc with varying amounts of chlorite, micas, amphiboles, carbonates and other minerals.
Soapstone was formed millions of years ago under intense heat and pressure.
Other natural stones, such as granite and marble also hold and radiate heat, but only soapstone has the added benefit of being able to withstand direct flames indefinitely.
Since soapstone is composed primarily of talc, it is a soft stone It is also
nonporous, nonabsorbent, has low electrical conductivity, heat resistant, has high specific heat capacity, and is resistant to acids and alkalis.
Since it is nonporous it is naturally antibacterial and stain resistant. It is an inert material that is impervious to chemicals, acids, and heat. You can place cookware from the stove top, or oven, directly on soapstone without damage. Soapstone is natural stone that does not need a chemical sealer, meaning it is unaffected and unharmed by acids in things like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, etc. It does not “etch” like marble. It is easy to clean, needing no special cleaning products.
That said, since soapstone is a rock, its mineral composition can vary depending upon the parent rock and the conditions of the metamorphic environment. That means that soapstone can vary from quarry to quarry, and even within a single rock.
Soapstone is buried beneath the earth in its natural state and once it is pulled up it starts to oxidize. Through this process the stone will start to darken over time. It’s a gentle and gradual darkening and for many it’s wonderful to watch a countertop age on its own following a course that nature intended. Soapstone once cut into slabs will naturally oxidize from a light blue-grey to a dark grey charcoal, but that could take years, so many people choose to accelerate that oxidation process and enhance the soapstone with either oil or wax to produce a dark countertop. This will darken the stone, giving it a deep, rich sheen and brings out any natural veining.
# 1 Natural – Do Nothing
If you don’t apply oil or wax, your countertop will darken on its own over time but the darkening won’t be even. When you use your countertops and oil spills or splatters on it, it will immediately darken the spot on the stone that the oil covered. This means that the rest of your countertop will be the natural color while the oiled spot will be dark gray.
If you want to keep the original look of the stone as it ages gracefully, you can take some sandpaper and simply sand down the oiled spot as well as any surface scratches. Use fine grit sandpaper 200 – 400 grit. This is one of its truly amazing features – it is extremely dense so the oil will only affect the surface layer of the counter. It will only take a light sanding to remove the darker spot.
Any type of liquid, even water, can darken the counter and leave it with darker spots in some areas.
#2 Mineral Oil:
How often will I have to apply the oil to keep the color uniform?
There is no set rule when it comes to oiling. Whether you oil it too much or too little, you’ll never end up damaging the stone at all. One rule of thumb that you can use is this: apply oil every time you see the countertop starting to lighten up.
This means that in the beginning you may have to oil it once a month for a year until the stone starts to stay dark for longer periods.
No sealing is needed. When you apply the oil, no absorption is taking place. The mineral oil is only put on to help it oxidize so that you end up with a counter that is uniform in color.
Soapstone is “nonporous” which means that nothing will penetrate the material, but…you can, and will, get surface discolorations from water ,various oils and products that come in contact with the stone if it is not treated with either mineral oil or soapstone wax.
#3 Soapstone Wax
The newest way to achieve the deep charcoal finish to soapstone is to apply a wax made specifically for the stone. You can apply the wax to newly installed soapstone and wax it only three times (once a week for three weeks, then after that once a year) to achieve the same dark look of a year’s worth of oiling.
Real Milk Paint Co.’s Soapstone Sealer and Wood Wax is an all natural and earth friendly, made with walnut oil and Carnauba wax flakes. There are no solvents in it so is has no VOCs. Since it contains walnut oil some people with nut allergies may have a reaction; however, walnut oil is a “drying oil” which means that it will polymerize and cure in 15 to 30 days, as opposed to other nut oils, such as peanut, cashew, etc.
Also, Dorado Soapstone Dry Wax is a 100% natural combination of walnut oil, beeswax, and canuaba oil. Dorado Dry Wax is used to ensure uniformity of the patina as it develops on the stone. Dorado Soapstone Dry Wax brings out the deep beauty of your Soapstone while eliminating the need for frequent oiling.
Soapstone is a beautiful countertop option that for some is perfect and others not. Hopefully this helps shed some light on what soapstone is and living with it as countertop material. Please come by the showroom if you have any questions, we are always happy to show you around and assist in any way!