Soapstone is one of the most beautiful natural stones to be found in the earth. It is available in an array of different color tones that all center around a light gray when the stone is first pulled from the earth. If you’re interested in using it as a kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity here are some additional things to consider.
The light gray color can also include bluish and green tones with random markings including veins that can be in an amber, white, beige or a green shade. When you look closely you’ll see Mother Earth at her very finest.
The natural color progression
Soapstone is buried beneath the earth in its natural state and once it is pulled up it starts to oxidize. Through this process the stone will start to darken over time. It’s a gentle and gradual darkening and for many it’s wonderful to watch a countertop age on its own following a course that nature intended.
For others, enhancing this natural progression by darkening the surface through an oiling process is much preferred. Both of these choices are valid ones and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to oiling soapstone.
The benefits of applying mineral oil
There are certain benefits that come with applying oil that you should be aware of. When the mineral oil is put on the counter, this stone will immediately turn very dark into a charcoal gray color.
If your original piece was a darker shade of light gray at the beginning, the stone may turn almost black. In some cases, the stone will retain some of its original shades of blue or green following the mineral oil process.
The benefit of choosing this darkening procedure is to make sure that this soapstone darkens evenly. You will be speeding up the natural process to make sure that all areas of the counter darken at the same rate.
What happens if you don’t apply mineral oil?
If you don’t apply the oil, your countertop will certainly darken on its own over time but the darkening won’t be even. If you ever spill some oil on your counter, it will immediately darken the spot on the stone that the oil covered. This means that the rest of your countertop will be the natural color while the oiled spot will be dark gray.
If you’re a die-hard natural soapstone lover and want to keep the original look of the stone as it ages gracefully, you can take some sandpaper and simply sand down the oiled spot. This is one of its truly amazing features - it is extremely dense so the oil will only affect the surface layer of the counter. It will only take a light sanding to remove the darker spot.
Any type of liquid, even water, can darken the counter and leave it with darker spots in some areas. Many people don’t mind this look and feel that it adds to the value of the counter. Along with the natural scratches that will occur through normal use, a natural patina forms. For country kitchens or kitchens with a more traditional or rustic decor, this type of look adds to the overall ambience of the room.
How often will I have to apply the oil to keep the color uniform?
There is no set rule when it comes to oiling. Whether you oil it too much or too little, you’ll never end up damaging the stone at all. One rule of thumb that you can use is this: apply oil every time you see the countertop starting to lighten up.
This means that in the beginning you may have to oil it once a month for a year until the stone starts to stay dark permanently. To oil the counter you simply need to pour some mineral oil onto the counter, rub it in with a rag and then call it a day.
Does the mineral oil seal the work surface?
No. It is not necessary at all to use sealers due to its naturally dense configuration. Unlike granite, which is extremely porous and requires sealing for safety and sanitary reasons, soapstone is non-porous and no sealing is needed. When you apply the oil, there is no absorption taking place. The mineral oil is only put on to help it oxidize so that you end up with a counter that is uniform in color.
You can expect a lot of variation when it comes to soapstone colors and the veining and movements in it. How your own countertop will appear all depends on where it is coming from. All of the stone pieces, however, are light gray with these slight variations.
One of the best things about choosing soapstone for your counter is you’ll be able to make a quick decision when you’ve decided to use it since you won’t be stuck looking through an extensive color palette as you would with quartz, marble or granite countertops.
I have soapstone countertops and I don’t (and never have) oiled them. If you leave a wet watermakr (ring from a glass, etc.,) to dry on it’s own then it will leave a watermark, but that wipes away very easily with a damp cloth. If you get something oily or greasy it will leave a dark spot. I simply scrub over the spot with a cloth and Dawn dish detergent, and the dark spot disappears. I’ve had no problems with my countertops marking or spotting. I prefer the look of the stone in it’s natural state, but I was aslo concerned when I read of the issues people were having after they oiled or waxed their countertops. It seems that the thin layer of oil or wax gets compromised and can leave a mark that then has to be re-treated with oil. To be honest, before mine were installed I read quite a bit about soapstone, and everything seemed to suggest leaving them natural was a bad idea. I love the way mine look, the upkeep is easy, they don’t spot or mark. Go with the look you prefer, but be aware oiling or waxing requires more upkeep and work.
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Updated: September 20, 2016