Soapstone is a natural product quarried from the ground in blocks – similar to marble or granite.
However, unlike these natural stones, soapstone is non-porous, making it completely stain resistant and anti-absorbent. It’s also an inert material, impervious to chemicals, acids and heat. It’s also durable like granite but more forgiving under stress – with a tendency to dent rather than chip or scratch.
Caring for soapstone is relatively easy, with minimal maintenance required.
Soapstone fresh from the quarry is light gray in color. The rich black-charcoal color occurs when the stone is exposed to water, grease and oils, which cause the stone to oxidize. This darkens the stone’s natural color and brings out its natural beauty. If you wish to speed up the oxidation process, simply treat your soapstone with mineral oil from time to time. This treatment will also keep oxidation – and color – uniform throughout the entire surface.
The Oiling Process
Prepping for First Oiling
Caring for soapstone begins with prepping it for oiling roughly 24 hours after it is installed – or until the glues used in installation have properly set. Newly installed stone will inherently have some dust residue, which you can easily wipe away with a sponge and clean water. When the dust has been removed, your stone is ready for its first coat of mineral oil.
Don’t be discouraged – the first oiling will take a bit more elbow grease than the follow up ones. Have a few clean, dry rags on hand and simply pour the mineral directly from the bottle onto the surface of the soapstone, rubbing it into the entire surface with one of the rags as you go. You may also want to use a small paintbrush from the corners as well.
When the entire surface has been covered, let it sit for approximately a half hour. Then just wipe the excess oil with another clean and dry rag and you’re ready to go! Keep in mind that mineral oil is a thin moisture layer used to speed up the oxidation process of the stone. Over time, the oil will evaporate (as it can’t be absorbed by the stone) and you will need to do follow up oilings to further bring out the darker color.
Follow up Oilings
The frequency of oilings completely depends on the individual homeowner. Some find that an average of once per month for a year is sufficient. Others complete the entire treatment within a few months, while some homeowners opt for a few years. The general rule to oilings is that when water is leaving a noticeable dark spot, it’s time for an oiling.
Oiling Soapstone Sinks
Should you oil your soapstone sink? While a freshly oiled sink looks great, the detergent will remove the freshly applied layer after just a few times washing dishes. Plus, since this area is exposed to frequent water, it will darken with age and use. So should you oil your sink? Completely up to you.
Once you’ve applied a mineral oil treatment to your soapstone, any household cleaner can be used to clean the surface. Usually, wiping with soap and water works well for caring for soapstone - whether it's a counter, sink, or something else. If you have a soapstone sink, normal cleaners won’t damage it and you can easily keep the corners clean with a small brush when needed.
Soapstone Dry Wax
Soapstone dry wax is a mixture comprised of beeswax, walnut oil and carnauba wax. You can achieve the same patina that would natural develop overtime with just two or three dry wax applications – as opposed to several mineral oil ones. For enhanced soapstone darkening use a combination of mineral oil first and then soapstone dry wax.
Use Your Soapstone
Without a doubt, soapstone loves to be used. We’ve found that the more it’s used, the less often you need to do follow-up oiling. If you do see scratches early on, they are usually just a displacement of mineral oil. Gently rubbing the area with your thumb, or just reapplying a small amount of oil, will eliminate the mark