Soapstone Countertops, Sinks and Backsplashes

Soapstone is back in vogue and designers have started using this dark gray stone in kitchens again.

You can use soapstone either to give the kitchen a look that is unique from the same old granite and marble countertops so many kitchen have or mixing it with other materials in a kitchen design.

A custom soapstone sink is truly a work of art and a throwback to earlier times that is quite unique compared to the stainless sinks we see in so many kitchens today.

Designers are increasingly using soapstone sinks to give a unique throwback look to kitchens again these days.Origins of Soapstone

Quarried like granite or marble, soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed of 40-50% talc and 40-50% magnetite. The surface is smooth and feels like hard soap, which is where it gets its name.

Stain resistant and reasonably hard, although easier to cut and shape, soapstone can be used in your kitchen for countertops, sinks and backsplashes.

The highest quality soapstone is generally quarried in Brazil, although it may also come from Finland or India. Since it is inert, acids and alkali do not etch soapstone, unlike many other types of stone.

It is also dense and non-porous, which made it historically popular for use with woodstoves since it withstands heat and thermal shock quite well.

Soapstone Characteristics

There are two common varieties of soapstone; artistic soapstone, which is too soft for most construction-related uses and tends to be used more in sculpture and architectural grade, which is the type used for many construction projects. In fact, the ancient statues of sphinx found in Egypt are made of soapstone and have withstood the elements for thousands of years.

Other benefits owing to the inert nature of soapstone include resistance to stains, water and the fact that it does not absorb chemicals or germs, offering good kitchen hygiene.

Downsides to soapstone include the need for regular maintenance by applying mineral oil and a tendency for the surfaces to darken and in some cases crack with time and use; it is definitely a softer stone than granite or marble, so you may not want to use it in areas prone to heavy abuse.

Common Uses of Soapstone in the Home

Mix and match soapstone countertops with other materials like this white apron sink to add contrast and interest to your kitchen design.

  • Countertops
  • Kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Bath tubs and showers
  • Kitchen islands and backsplashes
  • Fireplaces and pizza ovens

Soapstone Kitchen Design Ideas

For a traditional and classic look in your kitchen, a custom soapstone sink and matching countertops will look fabulous and people are sure to comment on the unique look of the sink.

For modern convenience, you could also use an undercounted sink in stainless steel or an enamel finish to provide contrast and variation between your soapstone countertop and the sink.

If your kitchen floor plan includes two sinks, you could also use a custom soapstone sink for the main one and stainless steel for the smaller vegetable cleaning or kitchen island sink.

For a unique decorative kitchen backsplash, try using a field of soapstone with contrasting ceramic, granite or marble inlay tiles for a decorative design.

Soapstone Countertop and Sink Maintenance Tips

Caring for and maintaining soapstone is quite simple since virtually nothing penetrates the surface. You have several maintenance options, depending on preference:

  • Let the natural patina of your soapstone mature over time, doing nothing more than keep the surface clean
  • Apply mineral oil periodically, approximately ever four to six weeks, wiping off the excess after application. This will keep finish of your soapstone countertops lustrous and the color will not change as dramatically with time.
  • Apply a stone sealer to your soapstone. Since the stone is inert, nothing will penetrate the surface anyway, so sealers have less effect than with marble and granite, which sealers are designed to penetrate. However, depending on the sealer, it can be used to alter the color of your soapstone and will keep it looking dark and lustrous for several years without the need to apply mineral oil. Other sealers will leave the natural color but still provide the benefit of not needing mineral oil.
  • If your soapstone is scratched, you can use sandpaper to repair it; for deep scratches start with rough sandpaper like 80 grit and work your way up to 220 and finally to 300 to 400 grit until the surface matches your original soapstone finish. For less severe scratches you can typically just use the smoother 300 or 400 grit sandpaper to polish the surface and remove the scratch.

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