Soapstone countertops combine beauty with utility If a stone material can be called flexible, then soapstone is that material. Soapstone, actually a mineral known as steatite, is a somewhat rare stone that is made up of talc, a soft mineral, and magnesium among others. Time, heat and pressure forge the minerals together into a veined, relatively soft stone that compares favorably to marble or granite for countertops, floors and sinks. In fact, soapstone has much to recommend it for countertops. First, it is always unique. Every slab of soapstone is different. Your slab won't be like that owned by anyone else. Second, it is versatile. Unlike zinc, for example, it is heat resistant. Unlike granite, marble and limestone, it is non-porous and does not have to be sealed to prevent staining. This non-porous quality also means it doesn't harbor bacteria and is easy to clean. Acids from lemons or tomato juice won't affect it and neither will alkalin found in some householder cleaners. Third, it is easy to maintain. Owners will want to wipe a thin layer of mineral oil over the surface at regular intervals. This helps expose its deeper tones and veining, according to vermontsoapstone.com. It is a soft stone, however, and will scratch or chip over time. The good news is that it is easy to repair. Light scratches can be smoothed with simple oiling. Deeper scratches can be sanded. And a chip can be easily repaired using a two-step glue. Soapstone is affordable but not cheap. It costs between $70 to $120 per square foot, according to hunker.com. That is less than marble but comparable to high-end granite. Many other uses for soapstone reflect its ability to retain heat. Historically, it was used as a fireplace material, since once heated it slowly radiates the heat long after the fire has died. That is why it has been used as a boot dryer and bedwarmer. Vermont Soapstone still sells small slabs for use as bedwarmers. At $42 each, they make a warm gift for chilly nights.