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Remodeling 101: A Low-Maintenance Guide to Maintaining Soapstone Countertops

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Remodeling 101: A Low-Maintenance Guide to Maintaining Soapstone Countertops

November 30, 2017

The more you learn about soapstone countertops, the more you’ll wonder why you don’t have them yourself. In fact, why doesn’t everyone have a soapstone countertop? That’s how beautiful and low-maintenance they are.

To get some tips about caring for a soapstone countertop, we asked Vermont Soapstone, a company in Perkinsville, Vermont, that launched in 1856—which makes it the country’s oldest supplier of soapstone. Back then they made rustic items such as soapstone bed warmers and wood stoves; while they still make bed warmers, today they mostly specialize in flooring, sinks, and countertops. We spoke with installation manager Madisyn Watson, who advises customers how to care for their new soapstone products. It was a short conversation because, as we said, it’s low-maintenance!

black painted cabinetry blends seamlessly with alberene soapstone, sourced 12
Above: Black-painted cabinetry blends seamlessly with Alberene soapstone, sourced from a quarry in Alberene, Virginia, in Kitchen of the Week: A Hamptons Kitchen with a Custom Island Sourced on Etsy. “I love the waxy, warm feel of the stone, and this particular soapstone has a slight veining that adds depth and character without becoming too much of a pattern,” says homeowner and designer Lisa Goode.

How do you treat a new soapstone countertop?

There are a few steps to take after your new countertop is installed, says Madisyn. “I tell customers to wait about 24 hours to let any dust residue settle. Then you brush off the surface and wipe on a good coat of mineral oil using a clean rag. There’s no need to let it sit—soapstone is nonporous, so the oil won’t sink in.” Once your countertop is evenly coated—that is, the same dark charcoal color all over—you can wipe away any excess oil with a clean rag or paper towel.

Do I need a certain type of mineral oil?

“No, there’s no special type to look for,” says Madisyn. You’ll find mineral oil in any hardware store or pharmacy; it’s nontoxic, and not harmful if ingested. You can pick up a 12-ounce bottle for $9.99 at Amazon.

a detail of the soapstone counters in kitchen of the week: a hudson valley 13
Above: A detail of the soapstone counters in Kitchen of the Week: A Hudson Valley Farmhouse Kitchen Reborn.

How often do I reapply the oil?

For the first few months, your new countertop should be oiled about once a week. After that, it’ll depend on much you use the kitchen and how often you clean the countertop (which removes the oil). “You’ll find your own pattern,” says Madisyn. “The mineral oil will come off faster for people who cook every day, compared to someone who eats out regularly.” Madisyn says that the average homeowner adds oil about once a month or every two to three months. “Mostly, it depends on how dark you want the stone to be. Un-oiled soapstone is a light gray, while oil brings out a rich black shade. What’s your preference?”

Her other piece of advice: If you notice that water isn’t beading on the surface, it’s probably time to reapply oil.

soapstone counters in a cottage reborn in coastal maine. 14
Above: Soapstone counters in A Cottage Reborn in Coastal Maine.

What do I use for daily cleaning?

Since soapstone is nonporous, it resists bacteria and doesn’t stain. It’s chemically neutral, which means that acidic foods like lemon juice won’t cause blemishes or the etching you get with marble. And it’s heat-resistant, so no scorch marks. Usually, all you need to clean it is a sponge dipped in soapy water. To attack food residue, feel free to use an abrasive cleanser such as Ajax or whatever else you have around. “Nothing’s going to hurt the stone,” assures Madisyn. And if you see any blemishes, you can just remove them with a coat of oil.

Uh-oh, there’s a scratch on my countertop. Can I get rid of it?

Because soapstone is softer than, say, granite, it is possible to scratch the surface or nick an edge. But that’s easily remedied. “I suggest keeping a worn piece of sandpaper under the sink,” Madisyn says. “If you see a small scratch, just rub the sandpaper over the area to even it out.” She recommends a fairly coarse 60- or 80-grit sandpaper, but points out that a worn piece will be more gentle than a new one. (And going forward, be sure to protect your countertop by always using a cutting board.)

 heavily veined soapstone in philadelphia story: two creatives tackle thei 15
Above: Heavily-veined soapstone in Philadelphia Story: Two Creatives Tackle Their Own Kitchen.“When we rub the counters with mineral oil, the peach and mint color in the stone really shines through,” says homeowner Ada. “And we like that each piece has its own character.”

Really, that’s all I need to know?

That’s it! Durable and forgiving, your soapstone countertop will just keep improving with age (and will probably outlive you). You won’t regret investing in a natural stone with timeless good looks.

For more on the care and keeping of soapstone, see Vermont Soapstone’s handy guide.

Read more on soapstone here:

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen countertop in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Countertops.

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Frequently asked questions

What is soapstone?

Soapstone is a natural stone that is primarily composed of mineral talc. It is known for its smooth texture, unique veining patterns, and natural color variations. Soapstone is commonly used for countertops, sinks, and other architectural applications.

Why choose soapstone for countertops?

Soapstone countertops offer several advantages:
Durability: Soapstone is a dense and durable stone that can withstand heavy use and is resistant to stains and heat.
Unique appearance: Soapstone's natural veining and color variations give it a distinctive and timeless aesthetic that adds character to any space.
Low maintenance: Soapstone is relatively low maintenance and does not require regular sealing or special cleaners.
Heat resistance: Soapstone is highly heat resistant, making it ideal for placing hot pots and pans directly on the surface.

How do I clean soapstone countertops?

Cleaning soapstone countertops is simple:
Use a mild dish soap or a pH-neutral cleaner mixed with water.
Apply the solution to the countertop using a soft cloth or sponge.
Gently scrub the surface to remove any stains or dirt.
Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.

Do soapstone countertops stain easily?

Soapstone is less prone to staining compared to other natural stone countertops. However, it can still develop patina over time, which includes changes in color and subtle markings. Any stains that do occur can often be easily removed with a mild cleaning solution and gentle scrubbing.

Do I need to seal soapstone countertops?

Soapstone is naturally dense and non-porous, so it does not require sealing like other natural stones such as granite or marble. However, applying mineral oil periodically can enhance the natural darkening process and maintain the appearance of soapstone.

Can I cut directly on soapstone countertops?

Soapstone is softer than other countertop materials like granite or quartz, which means it can be more prone to scratches. While soapstone is less likely to be damaged by cutting directly on its surface, using a cutting board is still recommended to protect both the countertop and your knives.

How do I remove scratches from soapstone countertops?

Minor scratches can often be buffed out with fine-grit sandpaper or with a Scotch-Brite pad. Gently rub the scratched area in a circular motion until the scratch is no longer visible. For deeper scratches or more extensive damage, it's advisable to consult a professional stone fabricator or installer.

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