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Soapstone vs Slate

Periodically we compare materials that are use for kitchen countertops and other surfaces. Comparing materials is on way of looking at the similarities. It also allows for the consideration of differences. Knowing the pros and cons of a given material is helpful. Being able to choose a countertop surface based on knowledge is practical. In this article we will look at soapstone vs slate. As we do, we will consider how they are similar and in what ways they are different.

Stone of a Different Color

Soapstone is a material that is a gray colored stone with a green hue. It is true that soapstone forms in other colors. Yet, the majority of soapstone is some shade of grayish-green or greenish-gray. So if you opt to go for a soapstone countertop, make sure your design fits with grayish-green. Similarly, slate is often times a greenish-gray color. Although slate comes in a slightly wider range of colors than soapstone does. Nonetheless, many times slate surfaces and soapstone surfaces will be gray with a green hue.

What is Soapstone

For a detailed look at soapstone as far as composition and general information, see the article: Natural Soapstone Surfaces. The brief version is that soapstone is a very soft metamorphic rock made up largely of talc. Additionally, as we have already mentioned, it is a greenish-gray color.

What is Slate

The brief description of slate is as follows. Slate is a hard rock that is made up mostly of the mineral quartz. For more information about slate, you can read About Natural Slate.

Comparing Soapstone and Slate

Looking at soapstone vs slate produces some interesting observations. As we have already noted, these natural stone materials are generally the same color. However, that does not mean they are anything alike. Soapstone is soft and easy to shape whereas slate is hard and some people even say brittle. So what are the differences and similarities beyond color and hardness? Well, we will look at a couple of specific aspects of these materials. They are, durability and care& maintenance.


Durability is important to consider because it plays a role in the decision that consumers make when selecting a countertop. After all, a durable countertop lasts a long time and is directly related to value. So let's look at the durability of soapstone and that of slate.

Are Soapstone Counters Durable?

The subject of durability can be define in a number of ways. One facet of durability is the material's ability to be subjected to chemicals and or other substances. Soapstone is chemically inert. That means it does not react with other substances. In this sense, it is very durable. Some natural stone is highly reactive to substances. But soapstone is not. In fact, this is one reason laboratories use this natural material as worktops.

Are Slate Countertops Durable?

Another way that durability can be described is in the way of scratch resistance. Soapstone is soft. However, slate is substantially harder. It is more resistance to scratching than soapstone. So in that sense, slate is durable. In other words, slate resists scratching. It can be scratched, but it is more difficult to scratch than soapstone is. The characteristics we have mentioned thus far, carry us into our next subtopic, caring for soapstone and slate. Let's take a look at this now.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for and maintaining a stone countertop means performing actions regularly. It means treating the material in specific ways. Each material requires treatment designed specifically for that material. Let's look at some practices that go into treating the two materials we are currently comparing.

Soapstone Countertop Care

We have already established that soapstone is made up largely of talc and is chemically inert. Soapstone is also relatively unique in that it is non-porous. Soapstone does not absorb liquids. Nearly every other natural stone is porous to a certain degree. So, caring for soapstone countertops involves basically, cleaning and treating the surface. We will look at the specifics of each in a bit.

Caring For Slate Countertops

Like every other material, slate must be cared for in a specific manner. Just as soapstone benefits from the dual action of cleaning and surface treatments, so does slate. However, there are slight differences in what those tasks are.

Cleaning Soapstone Surfaces

Cleaning soapstone is relatively easy since it is non-porous. Regularly cleaning the surface with soap and water usually works just fine. However, if needed you can use mild cleansers on the surface. Avoid using abrasives on soapstone countertops since it is such a soft stone.

Slate Surface Cleaning

Slate countertops are also relatively easy to clean. Using a cleaner made for natural stone is most beneficial. Cleaners that are pH neutral are the best for natural stone since they won't react with the minerals in the stone. Therefore, cleaning natural slate countertops with natural stone cleaner will ensure that your surface is easiest to maintain.

Surface Treatment for Soapstone Countertops

Like the regular cleaning, applying a surface treatment to soapstone surfaces is an important part of keeping them looking their best. But what surface treatment is needed for soapstone? Applying a regular, thin layer of mineral oil to a soapstone surface keeps it looking its best. The mineral oil forms a very thin moisture barrier on the surface and speeds up the oxidation of the stone. Periodically treating the surface maintains the deep, rich luster for which soapstone is known.

Sealing Slate Counters

Slate countertops require something that isn't generally needed by a soapstone surface. Periodically sealing natural slate countertops bolsters the stone's ability to resist absorbing liquids that could stain the surface. Using a sealer designed for natural stone is an effective way to maintain natural slate. The sealer forms a barrier the keeps water-based and oil-based liquids on the surface of the stone.

Though both soapstone and slate are natural stone materials, each has distinct characteristics that translate into points of comparison and ultimately performance measures.

Whether you are dealing with natural slate countertops or the soapstone variety, each material brings some strong points to the table. Knowing the strengths and potential weaknesses of each material proves beneficial in working on or owning a given surface.

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