What is Green Soapstone?

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  • Written By: Angela Brady
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2019
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Green soapstone is formed from large deposits of talc that occur in subduction zones, where tectonic plates rub against each other. The gradual movement of the plates causes the stone to undergo a chemical change called dynamothermal metamorphism, which re-crystallizes the chemical components of the stone, resulting in a combination of talc, chlorite, dolomite, and magnesite. The majority of soapstone used in the United States comes from Brazil, but other large deposits have been found in Finland. There are smaller, yet still commercially viable, deposits in Virginia.

Popular for centuries among sculptors, green soapstone is softer than a fingernail. Soapstone is easily cut and carved with ordinary woodworking and masonry tools, and when polished, gives off a high shine. Unfinished soapstone is a dull gray in color, and must be polished with mineral oil to bring out the green color.

Green soapstone has long been used to build fireplaces and stoves. Soapstone stoves have excellent heat retention qualities and radiate heat long after the fire is put out. Its low surface temperature makes it a safer alternative to steel, and its ability to withstand direct flame without cracking or discoloration makes it better than clay or ceramic for use in a fireplace.


Another area of use in which green soapstone has been popular for over 300 years is as a countertop surface. Early American settlers recognized the density and durability of soapstone, and incorporated it into the kitchen in many ways including countertops, sinks, and stove liners. There has been a resurgence in green soapstone countertops as an alternative to other natural stones like granite and marble. Unlike granite, soapstone will scratch if cut with a knife, but even a large scratch can be easily sanded out. Soapstone is also available in larger sheets than other stones, so larger countertops and work surfaces can be covered without unattractive seams.

Green soapstone also offers the advantage of not being slippery when wet, and is considered an ecologically safe non-slip material. Unlike other natural stones, soapstone is inert, meaning that acidic and alkaline substances will not harm it, nor will direct heat. Due to its softness, experts recommend installing supports for soapstone countertops with overhangs of more than 10 inches (25.4 cm). The only required maintenance of a soapstone countertop is periodic polishing with mineral oil. Polishing not only brings out the stone’s natural color and shine, but also conceals small scratches and evens out the wear of the countertop.


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Post 3

@hamje32 - I’ve seen the really dark green soapstone counters and they are just beautiful. I especially like the no stick quality of these counters. Water just rolls off them without so much as a stain.

I still have an old Formica counter at home and it does a terrible job of imitating wood. However the soapstone material would make me look like a million bucks.

I’ve done some price comparison between granite and soapstone and there seem to be variations in prices between the two, depending on the style you’re going for. However, I would choose the soapstone even if it cost more.

Post 2

@MrMoody - I don’t believe it’s any more dangerous to mine for soapstone than anything else. Yes, earthquakes move the plates which can produce soapstone, but unless you believe in lightning striking the same place twice I don’t think there is anything to fear.

I for one love the appearance of green soapstone. It’s rich, dark, textured lime color gives it a kind of expensive quality to it, more so than granite marble tops in my opinion.

I have a friend who went on a lot of missions trips overseas and when he returned to the States he brought back a lot of artifacts, including statues made of wood and rainforest green soapstone. They are beautiful carvings and they depict the cultural icons and influences of the regions where he lived.

Post 1

Would it be correct to assume then that green soapstone is abundant in areas that are prone to earthquakes?

I ask this because it appears that the shifts in the tectonic plates are what create the material. I think it would be difficult to set up mining quarries in those locations, because while there might be a lot of available material, you are still in a fault zone and another quake can happen quite easily.

I know that quarry mining for some precious metals and minerals has proven to be quite dangerous in the past. I am wondering how dangerous mining for soapstone would be.

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