Is composed primarily of talc and shares many physical properties with that mineral. These physical properties make soapstone valuable for many different uses. These useful physical properties include:
  • Soft and very easy to carve
  • Nonporous
  • Nonabsorbent
  • Low electrical conductivity
  • Heat resistant
  • High specific heat capacity
  • Resistant to acids and alkalis
Soapstone is a rock, and its mineral composition can vary. Its composition depends upon the parent rock material and the temperature/pressure conditions of its metamorphic environment. As a result, the physical properties of the soapstone can vary from quarry to quarry and even within a single rock unit. The level of metamorphism sometimes determines its grain size. Soapstone with a fine grain size works best for highly detailed carvings. The presence of minerals other than talc and the level of metamorphism can influence its hardness. Some of the harder varieties of soapstone are preferred for countertops because they are more durable than a pure talc soapstone. How is Soapstone Used? The special properties of soapstone make it suitable, or the material of choice, for a wide variety of uses. A number of examples of soapstone use are explained below and in the photograph captions on this page.
  • Countertops in kitchens and laboratories
  • Sinks
  • Cooking pots, cooking slabs, boiling stones
  • Bowls and plates
  • Cemetery markers
  • Electrical panels
  • Ornamental carvings and sculptures
  • Fireplace liners and hearths
  • Woodstoves
  • Wall tiles and floor tiles
  • Facing stone
  • Bed warmers
  • Marking pencils
  • Molds for metal casting
  • Cold stones
Soapstone Kitchen and Laboratory Countertops

Soapstone is often used as an alternative natural stone countertop instead of granite or marble. In laboratories it is unaffected by acids and alkalis. In kitchens it is not stained or altered by tomatoes, wine, vinegar, grape juice, and other common food items. Soapstone is unaffected by heat. Hot pots can be placed directly on it without fear of melting, burning, or other damage.

Soapstone is a soft rock, and it is easily scratched in countertop use. However, a gentle sanding and treatment with mineral oil will easily remove shallow scratches. Soapstone is not suitable for use as a workbench top where it will receive rough treatment and where o sharpabrasive objects will be placed upon it.

Soapstone Tiles and Wall Panels

Soapstone tiles and panels are an excellent choice where heat and moisture are present. Soapstone is dense, without pores, it does not stain, and repels water. Those properties make soapstone tiles and wall panels a good choice for showers, tub surrounds, and backsplashes.

Soapstone is heat resistant and does not burn. That makes it an excellent wall covering behind wood-burning stoves and ovens. Fireplaces are also lined with soapstone to create a hearth that quickly absorbs heat and radiates it long after the fire is out. This property of soapstone was recognized in Europe over 1000 years ago, and many early hearths there were lined with soapstone.