Description:Natural soapstone is a rock that forms through a natural process. Here is some information regarding natural soapstone.
Formation Process: Natural soapstone is a metamorphic rock that is created through directed pressure and heat that changes existing rock into soapstone.
Appearance: Soapstone is generally a chalky looking light gray color. Although, it is sometimes darker shades of gray. Like other natural stone, soapstone's color can vary slightly from one stone to the next.
Composition: Natural soapstone is made up of a variety of minerals. It is mostly made of talc and/or mica. However, it can contain other minerals as well.
Composition of Natural Soapstone
Soapstone is a natural stone that is composed mainly of talc-schist. It contains varying amounts of other substances such as tremolite and chlorite as well but it is made up of mostly talc and mica. Here are some of the components than can be in soapstone:
- SiO2 (Silica)
- MgO (Magnesia)
- Al2O3 (Alumina)
- CaO (Lime)
- (Zn,Fe2+,Al,Mg)6(Al,Si)4O10(O,OH)8 (Baileychlore)
- LiAl4(Si3B)O10(OH)8 (Borocookeite)
- FeMg5Al(Si3Al)O10(OH)8 (Chamosite)
- (Mg,Fe2+)5Al(Si3Al)O10(OH)8 (Clinochlore)
- LiAl4(Si3Al)O10(OH)8 (Cookeite)
- Al2[Al2.33][Si3AlO10](OH)8 (Donbassite)
- (Mn,Mg)5(Fe3+)2Si3O10(OH)8 (Gonyerite)
- (Ni,Mg,Al)6(Si,Al)4O10(OH)8 (Nimite)
- (Mn5Al)(Si3Al)O10(OH)8 (Pennantite)
- (Mg,Fe,Al)6(Al,Si)4O10(OH)8 (Ripidolite)
- Mg2(Al,Fe)3Si3AlO10(OH)8 (Sudoite)
- Ca2(Mg5.0-4.5Fe2+0.0-0.5)Si8O22(OH)2 (Tremolite)
- ☐Mg2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2 (☐ is for a vacancy, a point defect in the crystal structure) (Anthophylite)
- (Mg,Fe2+)2(Mg,Fe2+)5Si8O22(OH)2 (Cummingtonite)
Natural Soapstone Characteristics
Depending on the amount of and type of minerals in a given piece of soapstone, it can be a variety of colors and often times variegated. Some of the typical colors of soapstone are:
- Bluish Gray
- Greenish Gray
- Brownish Gray
- Charcoal Gray
Additionally, soapstone normally has a hardness of 2.5 to 3.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness; which means it is very soft. In fact, the name suggests one of its characteristics; it feels like soap to the touch.
Applications and Uses
Soapstone is used for many applications and for a variety of purposes. For example, soapstone is a material that is used for:
- Wall Tiles
- Bed Warmer
- Cold Stones
- Floor Tiles
- Fireplace Liners
- Electrical Panels
- Fireplace Hearths
- Metal Casting Molds
Advantages of Natural Soapstone
One advantage to soapstone is that it has a unique look and adds character to a structure in which it is used. It is a non-porous stone. This is something that is not common among natural stone surfaces. The material is also unaffected by acids and alkalis. That means that if it is in a kitchen, it is not stained or altered by common household liquids such as:
- Grape Juice
It is also heat resistant and does not burn. That is why it is listed above in many high heat applications like fireplace liners and woodstoves. This means that it resists heat tremendously well when used as a countertop.
There are some drawbacks with soapstone though. Natural soapstone is a very soft material and is easily scratched. It also does not withstand shock very well. This is something to keep in mind if it is chosen as a countertop material. Yet, when it does get mildly scratched restoring it is fairly easy with a light sanding and some mineral oil to refresh the color. You will however, want to avoid cutting directly on the countertop when preparing food.
Since it is a natural material, soapstone is compatible with a number of other materials. The colors of soapstone also make it complimentary to a variety of other elements used in very unique designs. Soapstones are available in various shades of gray.
Natural soapstone is a heavy material and even the tiles are extremely heavy. If it is used in upstairs rooms or as a roofing material it is important that the structure is able to support the weight of the stone.
Additionally, when fabricating soapstone it is necessary to use a diamond blade that is made for cutting soft stone materials. Hence, finding tooling designed for effectively cutting very soft natural materials is a key to successfully working with soapstone in fabrication. Using the wrong blade to cut it can cause the blade to get 'clogged' with the material that gets cut away from the stone.
Soapstone Care and Maintenance
Caring for natural soapstone is simple. And in this case simple and easy are synonymous. You can clean soapstone very easily with mild soap and a dish rag. It is also a sanitary material as far as countertops go.
The primary care that is required for a soapstone is oiling it regularly to help it look its best. Oiling also produces a natural patina over time. However, the oil is not necessary for the surface to perform well. It's just that keeping the surface oiled keeps it looking in tip top shape.
stone cleaner is suitable for use on your soapstone surfaces. Even though soapsotne does not require a pH neutral cleaner, there is nothing wrong with using it to clean soapstone.
In conclusion, soapstone is a natural stone that can be used for a number of applications; including applications where heat exposure can occur. It offers advantages over other materials but like everything else, it is not the perfect material for every situation or application. The beauty, heat resistance, and easy cleaning of soapstone though, may make it a good choice for a number of projects. And in certain styles like country designs it really shines.