The rock steatite (also called soapstone) is the material that is used for countertops, sinks, masonry heaters, flooring, and many other architectural applications. Steatite is composed of several minerals, but the most abundant is talc. Steatite, because of its additives, is harder than talc, and hence suitable for the applications cited above. Soapstone (steatite) in its initial state only comes in shades of gray, unlike talc, which is available in a variety of colors.
This naturally quarried stone is softer than most other naturally occuring minerals. Although soft, soapstone is a very dense (non-porous) stone; more so than marble, slate, limestone and even granite. Since soapstone is impenetrable, it will not stain, no liquid will permeate its surface. Other stones, including granite, have a propensity to soil; this is why soapstone (steatite) is widely used in chemistry lab countertops and acid rooms.
- The only maintenance required for soapstone (steatite) is the application of mineral oil to enhance the natural darkening process the stone goes through. Once mineral oil is applied, the stone will turn into a very dark charcoal gray, sometimes black. Often times, varieties of soapstone will keep a hint of green. Steatite (soapstone or soaprock) is virtually heat proof and used in the construction of masonry heaters because of its excellent thermal qualities.