Of all the natural stone counter varieties available in the St. Louis area, soapstone is one of the most unique. This soft, monochromatic material has been used for cooking for thousands of years and has been a staple of the American home since Vermont soapstone wood-burning stoves became a fixture of many East Coast homes.
Soapstone is the common name for steatite, a metamorphic rock made up of at least 50% talc, the mineral that gives soapstone slabs their signature soft feel. That soft, dry-bar-of-soap texture is what inspired the name “soapstone.”
There are two main categories of soapstone: artistic and architectural. Artistic soapstone has over 75% talc. It is very soft, and is used primarily for carving. Architectural grade soapstone has between 60% to 70% talc. It is used for countertops and other home fixtures like sinks or fireplaces.
Soapstone almost always has a muted gray, gray-blue, or gray-green color. It often has white veins running across the stone, and sometimes has swirls of white or quartz.
Soapstone is quarried in many places around the world, and these locations each provide unique slabs. The primary sources for countertop soapstone are Brazil, America, and India. In fact, soapstone is one of the few natural stone countertops quarried in the U.S.
Types of Soapstone
Architectural soapstone comes in three main color varieties: gray, blue, and green. Because soapstone is so much more consistent in color and look than granite, it does not really have consistent names across suppliers. You will see many names floating around, but these are often given by the specific importers to distinguish between their varieties, and will not be helpful when looking for a particular type of soapstone.
The best way to find a slab you like is to ask local fabricators to show you what they have in stock. In other words, start with what’s available instead of trying to find out if something you saw online or in someone’s home is available anywhere.
That said, here are a few common names, and their colors. Just remember, the easiest way to look for soapstone is to focus on gray, green, or blue soapstone.
The super-simple Barocca Soapstone has a smooth light-gray background with the occasional thin white vein (more visible when the soapstone is oiled or waxed). It is quarried in Brazil.
Black Venata Soapstone has a dark gray background with a mix of long veins and dappled color distribution. It comes from Brazil.
Porto Allegre Soapstone is a light blue-gray Brazilian soapstone with strong veins.
Python Soapstone has a raw, gray color with extremely subtle patterning. It is quarried in India.
Belvedere Soapstone is a uniquely hard Brazilian soapstone; it has a slicker surface and a greater resistance to scratches or nicks. It falls in the category of green soapstone with a dark, subtle grayish green color.
Fantasia Soapstone is one of the most bold soapstone patterns available. It has strong, wide veins that swirl across a background of gray-green. The veins of this Brazilian soapstone can be clearly seen and appreciated even when the soapstone is left untreated.
Santa Rita Soapstone is very traditional Brazilian soapstone. It has strong veins with marble-like pattern on a blue-green background.
There are only two main places in the U.S. where soapstone is quarried. One of these is Vermont. Vermont Soapstone quarries are some of the oldest in the country, producing distinctive colors and varieties that are distributed throughout the States, including to the greater St. Louis area.
Indigo Soapstone dark green and gray color with a strong dappled surface. It is found naturally in India.
PA Soapstone is a very dark, simple type with minimal “noise.” It contrasts extremely well with white marble. It is quarried in Brazil.
Churchill Soapstone is quarried in Virginia at the Alberene quarry, which has been open since 1883. It is a classic soapstone gray with simple veins. When oiled or waxed, this variety can have a rich black color. Alberene also quarries Old Dominion Soapstone and American Original Soapstone.
White Soapstone is not actually soapstone! It is often sold as such because it resembles a inverted soapstone in color and pattern. However, the white background is a give-away; no true soapstone will be primarily white. White Soapstone is actually a marble.
Caring for Soapstone
Soapstone is a hardy stone. Not only is it heat resistant, but it’s actually a mild heat conductor, which means it holds heat from the room, making it a great choice for fireplaces. For that reason, it may also be less cool to the touch than granite.
Soapstone is not porous, so it won’t stain, even when exposed to strong chemicals. That’s why it’s often used as tables in high school science labs.
However, since soapstone is softer than granite, it will scratch and nick. Unlike marble though, these marks can be easily removed by the homeowner with a few simple household items. Some scratches can actually just be wiped away with a bit of water or a treatment like specialized soapstone oil or wax. Deeper marks can be removed with gentle application of steel wool followed by oil or wax.
Soapstone is naturally a lighter color and patinas with age. Many homeowners love the “aged” look, but if you don’t, you can treat soapstone regularly with a special mineral oil or wax to darken the counter and keep it looking like new. The frequency of these natural treatments depends on your personal aesthetic preferences, and can range from every few months to only once a year. A year is about the longest you can go before your soapstone begins to return to its original color and starts to naturally weather.
The cool thing about soapstone is that you can leave it untreated and treat it a few years down the road or vice versa, easily giving you a different look when you want to change up your kitchen a bit.
How Much Do Soapstone Counters Cost?
Soapstone is a bit more costly than lower-range granites, falling in the range of mid-to high-end granites. In greater St. Louis area, you should plan on spending $70 to $80 per sq. ft. including installation if you want quality soapstone countertops.
Soapstone slabs can be smaller than granite, so the majority of kitchen projects require more than one. Unfortunately, most kitchens don’t come in perfect slab-sized portions, so you’ll often end up needing a slab and a half or two and one quarter slabs, and so on. If your fabricator is buying each slab directly from the importer, this can unnecessarily increase the cost of your countertops.
At Arch City Marble and Granite in St. Louis, we avoid that problem by keeping a selection of premium gray and black soapstone slabs in stock. Since we keep a high number of each variety on hand, we only need to charge our clients for the soapstone they need, keeping costs down for kitchens that don’t exactly fit on one or two slabs.
We buy these in bulk from the largest natural stone importer in America, MS International. They do the work of sourcing the best soapstone colors and patterns from around the world, allowing us to offer our clients a curated selection of international and domestic soapstone at great prices.
Visit our showrooms in St. Louis or O’Fallon, Missouri to see the full slabs of Soapstone.