What is Soapstone?

Soapstone countertops take the lead for low-maintenance, durability, and modern sensibilities

Ikea kitchen with wooden cabinets and slate soapstone countertops

(Above) Sweeten homeowners Janet and Jerry install a soapstone countertop and backsplash

The kitchen is uniquely a space where we’re ultra-comfortable and happily busy. There’s a lot of infrastructure in a kitchen too, between cooking and refrigeration and storage. Countertops, we’d say, are one of the most fun choices for a kitchen remodel.

If you’re looking for a unique aesthetic choice, soapstone countertops have a unique texture, color, and artisan feel. Sweeten discusses the case for soapstone. 

Arguably, the countertops—along with sink/faucet—are the most “hands on” parts of the kitchen, so it makes sense to get those dialed in to your needs. There’s just no substitute for high-quality parts when you use them dozens of times per day.

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soapstone countertop and backsplash

(Above) Soapstone countertop and backsplash in Sweeten homeowners Melissa and Russ’ kitchen. Drainage is carved directly into the surface.

First, soapstone is a real stone, and there’s no soap. It’s named for its relatively soft quality, as a major component of the stone is talc, the softest mineral. It comes out of a quarry in giant sheets, just like granite. Most soapstone in the U.S. comes from the Appalachian states, from Maine to Georgia.

This is the material often used for the benchtops in the chemistry lab in schools. That’s deliberate, and the attributes that make soapstone ideal for the lab also make it a top choice for the kitchen.

What is soapstone used for?

Soapstone is classified as either artistic stone or architectural stone. Artistic stone is used for decorative items, such as sculptures and jewelry, because it’s very soft and easy to carve by hand.

Architectural stone is harder than artistic stone and is used for countertops, sinks, tiles, even wood stoves.

Pros and cons

In a wood stove, its thermal mass radiates heat comfortably for hours after the fire has died. This quality made it a top choice back in the day before we enjoyed “instant-on” heat in our homes. For countertops, its density makes it nonporous, so it does not harbor bacteria. Overall, soapstone is a very “easy care” material. It should be obvious that a stone used in a wood stove can handle a hot pan with no worries.

The downside, in comparison to granite or quartzite, is the relative softness. It’s not as chip resistant, and you can mark it by cutting directly on it, rather than on a cutting board. Soapstone mends easy though. If you nick it with a knife, fine steel wool or sandpaper smooths it out. Re-oil the entire surface as the finishing touch. 

In addition, because it’s so dense, it’s impervious to moisture. In fact, it does not even need to be sealed. A light coat of mineral oil every few weeks works fine and gives it an attractive sheen. It’s up to you.

Compared to nearly any other material choice, soapstone offers the best stain resistance. Red wine and tomato sauce, for example, are notorious for staining just about anything. They don’t penetrate soapstone the way they can with marble and granite, which should be sealed regularly.

Black slate soapstone backsplash and countertop

(Above) Close-up of Sweeten homeowners Janet and Jerry’s counter and backsplash

What colors does soapstone come in?

Aesthetically, soapstone colors are in the gray to black range. Some sheets come with some veining, but it’s often a solid black. There is definitely not the range of color options you’ll see with granite and synthetic materials. But if you like the gray and black colorways, you’re in luck!

Another bonus is the sink: you can have that seamless, one-piece look so your countertops and sink all look to be expertly carved from one massive block of stone!

Soapstone is definitely a first-tier option for countertops and sinks, despite it being relatively under-used. If you like the color options, you cannot go wrong with soapstone.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

Soapstone is a natural stone that’s used for countertops and sinks. It is dense and durable. Soapstone tends to be shades of gray to black, sometimes with contrasting veining. Made of talc, the softest mineral, soapstone is also soft for a stone.

Cleaning soapstone countertops includes a dishrag and water; just wipe it down, and use a mild soap. Avoid harsh cleaners or chemicals. For a tough cleanup, water and a non-scratch pad will work.

No, soapstone is moderately-priced compared to other popular options. Soapstone seems more expensive because other stones have a range of price points, including super cheap. Soapstone is not as abundant, so the price comes in roughly $70 to $150 per square foot, with installation.

Yes, soapstone is very dense and doesn’t even need to be sealed. But for kitchen use, you might scratch it or nick it if you chop right on its surface. That doesn’t hurt the stone, which can simply be sanded smooth. Use steel wool or fine sandpaper and re-apply mineral oil to the entire surface.

Typically, a kitchen remodel will take anywhere from 3 weeks to 4 months to complete, depending on project complexity, kitchen size, and scope of work. Material delivery delays or change orders extend the timeline. Leaks, mold, or faulty wiring discovered during demo also cause delays.

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