Soapstone is a beautiful unique material with
incredible heat properties.
Soapstone (also known as steatite or soaprock by geologists) is a very dense and magnesium rich variation of talc. These minerals in combination with several environmental factors during the metamorphic process create the stone’s characteristic soapy texture. Soapstone typically manifests in a grey or greyish-green color with varying degrees of white veins of pure talc. The surface of soapstone is most commonly sold with a smooth, honed finish which is similar to a polish. However, it differs in the fact that it is non-reflective. Other finishes (such as leathered) are also available.
Ancient civilizations found various uses for soapstone. The high talc content provided softer and more managable carving products. Soapstone was first discovered in America by Native Americans. Domestic soapstone derives geologically from a line of talc and accompanying mineral deposits that run along the Appalachian Mountains from New England to Georgia.
Early colonial settlers found it an ideal stone for many applications and it can still be found in historic residences throughout the original 13 colonies. While easy to fabricate it also provided these early users with superior thermal properties and natural acid resistance. Many colonial fireplaces were lined with soapstone and settlers would often fashion farmhouse box sinks from the resistant materials.
Today, we enjoy many of these same great properties and soapstone has resurfaced as an increasingly popular material of choice in American homes. Due to soapstone’s remarkable acid resistant properties it has become incredibly useful in countertops and bar tops where products like vinegar, wine or lemons are stored. Furthermore, the way soapstone naturally absorbs and evenly distributes heat lends itself perfectly for use in fireplace surrounds, wood burning stoves and even cookware!
The large blocks needed to produce full sized slabs are rare in the Northern Hemisphere. This is due to the destructive impact of ice age glaciers and our frequent freeze/thaw cycles which naturally break up stone formations. After centuries of consumption large blocks of soapstone are almost non-existent in US quarries. To obtain large slabs Genoa Soapstone imports all its slabs from Brazil (a country which was spared the effects of glacial ice and seasonal freezing). Genoa Soapstone is prized for its structural quality and beauty. It is available in a number of colors reflecting the slightly different background tones and the variation of its veining.
All the soapstone slabs imported by Genoa Soapstone are extracted from legally registered quarries which meet all governmental requirements with respect to legal staffing and environmental standards. Workers are paid according to industry standards and employed in safe work environments.
Our soapstone requires very little maintenance due to the fact that it will not absorb liquids and does not need any special handling around heat or acids. In the beginning, we recommend the application of mineral oil to assist in the oxidation process and to develop a homogenous color. Over time, this color will ‘set’ and oiling will no longer be necessary.
In some circumstances new scratches in soapstone will appear as thin white lines. This is simply residual talc dust and further application of mineral oil will remove this dust and restore its lustrous dark color. Deeper scratches can be first removed by hand using a #150 or higher sandpaper. Gently rub over the scratch then follow up by reapplying a touch of mineral oil. As for cleaning on a daily basis, any household cleaner will do fine with the soapstone. Usually, soap and water are sufficient.