Soapstone is the common name for the naturally occurring stone known as steatite, a magnesium-rich metamorphic rock containing a high percentage of talcum or talc—the same substance that's pulverized to make baby powder.
Softer varieties of soapstone, often called artistic soapstone, actually have a silky, soapy feel to them, and may contain as much as 80 percent talc. Because soapstone is used for carving, many people wrongly imagine that the stone is far too soft for a countertop.
The type of soapstone used in fireplaces and countertops is architectural soapstone. Since this architectural or construction-grade soapstone is closer to only 50 percent talc, it is quite hard and perfectly suitable for being cut into slabs.
Soapstone can be a great choice for homeowners who like the classic charm of a countertop that develops an antique patina over time.
Aside from its warm, soft appearance and touch, soapstone has a number of virtues when used as a countertop material. Some of the limitations of soapstone are real, including the dent able, scratchable surface. But using cutting boards and other protective coverings can help preserve the life of soapstone.
While it works anywhere, soapstone is ideal for classic kitchen styles. For the right owner, these countertops will be easier to care for and with a more unique air than most other natural stone, synthetic, or engineered stone countertops.
Soapstone, like any other surface needs to have regular cleaning and maintenance. Check out our free careguide for expert maintenance and care tips.