You may have first encountered a durable soapstone counter top during your high school chemistry class where soapstone is routinely used due to the high resistance to staining of this surface.
Soapstone has recently become more popular with homeowners wanting a natural stone with a different look than the more common granite and marble.
However, soapstone countertops have a limited color range and depending on where it is quarried, the colors and qualities will vary somewhat.
Typically untreated soapstone is a lighter solid or gray-green colored stone.
Other varieties, often from Brazil, display dramatic and interesting white veining like marble or faint wavy patterns with movement like granite.
The more solid-colored stones have more mineral content, are harder
and resist scratching more than the
The veined soapstones, though, are still fine for countertops and sinks, but just know they are a little less durable.
So, if dark colors fit your design theme, a soapstone counter top has some unique advantages . . .
First, a soapstone sink can be purchased or custom made to exactly match your soapstone countertops. Also...
Spill anything on soapstone countertops without worry. Since it is non-porous . . . it won't stain.
It's heat resistant and, like granite, you can set your hot pots right on the surface without damage.
But this is not recommended. Grit or hard particles trapped under the pot could scratch the surface and... once the hot pot is moved the countertop may be hot enough to burn you.
Although dense and resistant to staining, soapstone counter tops are softer than granite or marble; therefore, prone to nicks and scratches.
The good news is . . . that most scratches can be easily sanded away since soapstone is made of highly compressed talc.
As with any other countertop material, it is best to always use coasters, cutting boards and trivets.
Mineral oil is often routinely applied to a soapstone counter top to darken its color and keep it looking great . . . or you can apply a sealer that will give you that dark shine.
The mineral oil will darken the color from its original cloudy blue-gray. . . to black. The mineral oil eventually evaporates and re-application is necessary to maintain the "wet" look.
Some people don't use oil or a sealer--neither is necessary--and let the soapstone darken and age naturally over time.
If you do this, you should know that areas which receive the most hand contact (around edges, sinks, the cooktop and primary food prep area) will darken more quickly due to oils in your skin.
No matter what you do, a heavy-duty sanding will return the countertops to the original state.