Create an ideabook for your next remodeling project!
Browse more than 1,000,000 photos from top designers and save your favorites
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.
Cost: $80 to $100 per square foot, installed
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 (proven by its historical use for stoves). Being chemically neutral means that acids like tomatoes and lemon juice won't damage it, and its density makes it impenetrable by everything, including bacteria and would-be stains.
Cons: Its talc content makes soapstone softer than some other stone counters, which leads 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. So seek out slabs with less of a green cast if you want a harder slab.
Special considerations: Make sure your soapstone is architectural grade, which is denser than the artistic grade often used for sculpture.
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, but know that applying the oil is solely for aesthetics.