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DWYER MARBLE & STONE  •  DESIGN NEWSLETTER  •  Vol. 3, Issue 5  •  Back Issues click to call: 248.476.4944

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Article: Soapstone & Alternatives
Project Spotlight: Grand Rapids Residence

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Soapstone & Alternatives – A Closer Look

by Karin Kirk

Soapstone & Its Alternatives


As many in the industry will attest, every stone has its own unique benefits and characteristics ... and soapstone is no exception.

Soapstone's softness might be a dealbreaker for some — it comes down to knowing yourself and recognizing if a scratch in the stone is going to ruin your day. The good thing is that you can fix it yourself.

A fresh coat of mineral oil will render small scratches invisible. Larger marks can be removed with sandpaper. 120-220 grit is recommended for most scratches; if you prefer a shinier finish, you can follow up with 400-500 grit. Then re-oil the surface to restore the luster, and you're all set.

Of course, there are alternatives that deliver the 'look' of soapstone with much greater hardness. These include Marine Black Phyllite (metamorphic slate) and Silver Grey Honed-Brushed Granite, which delivers the soapstone aesthetic with all the hardness and durability of a true granite. Something for everyone!

The Superpowers of Soapstone & Co.

Marine Black Phyllite

Once you've come to terms with soapstone's softness, you can revel in its strengths. By and large, the stone is remarkably resistant to staining or damage from acids. The density of the stone makes it practically impervious. That smoldering casserole you left in the oven while binge-watching Better Call Saul? Put that right there on the stone, thank you very much.

These superpowers were not bestowed on soapstone by any magical process. It comes down to the properties of the minerals in soapstone. Soapstone's primary ingredient, talc, is chemically inert, which is why soapstone is generally unaffected by acids and alkalines. Talc is also hydrophobic, meaning it quite literally repels water.

These same traits make soapstone an enviable material in the kitchen, where it's commonly used for countertops, islands, or sinks. As noted above, several alternatives like Marine Black Phyllite and Silver-Grey Honed-Brushed Granite combine many of these same benefits with increased hardness, too — a win-win for designers and homeowners.

The Versatility of 'Soapstone Looks'

Silver Grey Honed-Brushed Granite

Soapstone can have two distinct looks, depending on the finish. It can be left untreated and will attain a soft grey color and a matte finish. Or, the surface can be oiled or waxed, which will darken the color and impart a satiny luster.

To oil, or not to oil: that is a frequent dilemma among soapstone owners. Light oil like mineral oil is easy to wipe on but will fade fairly quickly. Wax can also be used as a surface treatment. It requires more effort to apply, but it lasts longer. An oil/wax blend strikes a happy medium between the two.

One needn't agonize over this decision, because it's always reversible. Thanks to soapstone's density, the oil simply sits on the surface. It doesn't penetrate the stone. If you change your mind and decide you don't like the oiled look of your soapstone, you can scrub most of it off right away, or simply wait for it to disappear on its own.

Geologically, soapstone and its alternatives represent a broad array of stones rather than one specific thing. There's broad variation in the types of minerals present and their proportions. This is all the more reason to work with reputable dealers and fabricators, who can guide you to the best 'soapstone look' for your project.

© UseNaturalStone.com

Project Spotlight:
Grand Rapids Residence
Material Supplied By:  Dwyer Marble & Stone
Material Shown: Statuario Roma Quartz
Fabricator:  Lakeside Surfaces