Soapstone Natural Stone
It is a material that might have slipped through the cracks for some. Others may have learn about it in chemistry class or in a laboratory. Natural soapstone is an intriguing rock that has some very interesting properties. In this article we will peruse some of the characteristics of this fascinating material. We will also look at some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with it. Finally, we will mention some specific things to know if you are planning on working with soapstone natural stone.
What is Soapstone?
When you research natural soapstone, you will find that it is classified as a metamorphic rock that it is composed largely of talc. Soapstone has other materials in it as well, but the largest part of this unique stone is talc. Just like all natural stone, soapstone's composition contributes its characteristics.
Properties of Natural Soapstone
Soapstone is relatively soft when compared to most other natural stone materials. It varies in hardness but all soapstone lives at the low end of the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This is is due to the large amount of talc that makes up all soapstone. Talc actually is the softest material on the scale nad it registers at 1. Notice what Wikipedia.org says about talc:
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness, based on scratch hardness comparison, defines value 1 as the hardness of talc, the softest mineral. When scraped on a streak plate, talc produces a white streak; though this indicator is of little importance, because most silicate minerals produce a white streak. Talc is translucent to opaque, with colors ranging from whitish grey to green with a vitreous and pearly luster. Talc is not soluble in water, and is slightly soluble in dilute mineral acids.
So it is no surprise that soapstone lives in the low end of the Mohs scale as well.
Uniquely Colored Natural Stone
In addition to being a "soft" stone, soapstone is also marked by its notable color. All soapstone is a greenish gray color. Each stone varies in darkness, and the darker the color, the harder the stone usually is. Again, this is because of the talc content. Talc is a light colored mineral and the more of it that exists in the soapstone, the lighter it will be.
Beyond the hardness and color of the material, natural soapstone has some very unique traits that make it a very different animal. How so? Well, nearly every other natural stone is porous. Porosity allows for a stone to absorb liquids. However, soapstone is one of the few natural stones that have no pores. This makes for some interesting behavior as we will see in a bit.
Working With Soapstone
As you can imagine, fabricating a unique material brings with it some specific things of which to take note. For example, cutting soapstone may not seem like a task that would require specific tools since it is much softer than many other sotne materials. Interestingly enough though, soft materials require specific blades for achieving the best results while cutting.
Just as extremely hard materials like ceramics require diamond blades designed to cut ceramic material, very soft stone is best cut with blades that are designed to cut soft materials. Soapstone, like othe soft stone, can gum up the blade and make the cutting process less efficient if an incorrect blade is used for cutting.
Soapstone Care and Maintenance
In addition to specific techniques when working with soapstone, there are specific things to keep in mind when caring for and maintaining this unique natural stone. The following practices are by all means not the the only ones to consider, but they are good to know about.
Soapstone Resists Chemicals
Natural soapstone does not have adverse reactions to chemicals. It is a stone that can be cleaned with a number of cleaners. Even thoug it is a soft stone, it does not contain calcite and therefore is not susceptible to being etched from acidic liquids. In fact, the chemical resistance of soapstone is one of the reasons it is often used in laboratories.
natural soapstone also resists staining. The non-porosity we mentioned earlier mean that liquids do not work their way into the stone and therefore cannot stain it. This is one of the advantages to owning soapstone over other natural stone materials. The closest thing to a stone that owners of soapstone will experience is light spots or marks that are lighter than the rest of the stone. This is easily cured with an application of mineral oil. A light coat of mineral oil will restore the color and have the stone looking as good as as new.
Soapstone does not chip as easily as harder, more brittle stone does. So owners of the material won't be as likely to need chips and breaks to be repaired. Having said that, it is easily scratched becasue it is so soft. Scratches will be lighter in color as we mentioned above. However, the fix for scratches is the same as the ones we covered earlier. Simply apply some mineral oil and the scratch is nearly invisible. Additionally, a bit of light sanding will smooth out a surface and then the oil can be applied to even out the color.
There you have it. Soapstone is a truly unique natural stone. And even though it does not have a wide variety of color and is very soft compared with other stone, it does have some very desirable qualities that make it appealing for anyone seeking functionality and simple care and maintenance. It's not for everyone, but soapstone is perfect for certain people.