Progress update on Project #HGDRemuddleRemodel today! Thankfully, all of the renovation work was done shortly after Thanksgiving, but I’ve been taking my time finishing up some of the details. What can I say? I got a little tired and then 2 weeks of the holidays hit.
Now, I’m finishing up with soft treatments and small details to get ready for final reveal pics to be taken. One of the decisions I’m struggling with is whether or not to oil the soapstone in our Butler’s Pantry/Laundry.
Here is a little sneak peek from the nearly finished space!
To remind you, here is the original inspo board. Head to the post for the nitty gritty on a major space saving tactic.
The Handsome Husband and I both LOVE the natural soapstone and its soft, slightly talc-y feel and mottled grey color. As I largely designed the Butler’s Pantry wall of this space mostly for him (Sweet man that he is, he makes my coffee at 5:30 AM and a cocktail at 5:30 PM … or whenever he gets home on Fridays!), I want it to be the way he wants it.
It’s a gem of a man who would agree to pink puppies on the walls and grass green cabinets!
Yet most kitchens with soapstone counters that you see (like 90%) have oiled stone, as in the below, glorious kitchen by Ashely Gilbreath, whom I profiled here.
The Awesomeness of Soapstone
First, for those of you who don’t know about soapstone — a quick recap of its qualities.
Soapstone is a natural quarried stone. It’s a metamorphic rock that got its name from its tactile, “soapy” feel, thanks to the presence of talc in the stone. While soapstone was historically quarried in the Appalachian Mountains, particularly in Vermont, very little is left. Most soapstone now sold in the United States is imported, largely from Brazil.
Soapstone is a fabulous counter surface (especially in kitchens) thanks to its:
- Ability to retain/withstand heat. That’s why it’s so often used for wood burning stoves, pizza ovens, and hearth surrounds. You can put a hot skillet directly on a soapstone counter.
- Imperviousness, i.e. non-porousness and therefore natural stain resistance and anti-bacterial qualities. No need for a sealer! And unlike marble, no worries about etching with acidic liquids or cleaners here.
- Durability. Soapstone can last centuries, but because it is softer stone, it has the tendency to scratch and chip more easily on the edges. You have to be ok with a little patina, but scratches can be buffed out with fine sand paper.
Joan at fortheloveofahouse has one of the best soapstone blog posts out there. Great read.
Joan’s beautiful soapstone counters (which she couldn’t imagine leaving unoiled!) in my profile of her kitchen.
Timeless Shaker Kitchen Style You Won’t Hate in 10 Years (and How to Get the Look)
So, why oil if the soapstone has no need for a sealer?
Oiled vs. Unoiled Soapstone Counters
First off, let me say that I think *both* oiled (or waxed, a less time-consuming alternative to get the darker charcoal look, though less “time-tested”) and unoiled soapstone counters looks amazing.
Soapstone comes in various shades of grey, blue grey, and green grey. In its natural state, all of those “greys” will be fairly light in color — i.e. hard to tell which way they will veer when darkened by age and oil. So, BIG TIP: when looking for a soapstone slab, run a wet cloth over it to see what it will look like when dark!
Over years, the oils in your hands and the natural oxidization process will cause soapstone to darken to that “wet” color. And it will do so unevenly, based upon wear and use. But again, that takes YEARS.
Therefore, lots of soapstone companies (including where I got mine) recommend oiling or waxing your counters in order to speed up (AND *EVEN UP*) the oxidization process, like in the below image.
However, after much digging, I did find images of kitchens with unoiled soapstone counters.
Funny how these are both yellow kitchens! See how unevenly the counters in the above kitchen have darkened?
I read in some expired IG caption that Lauren left the above counters unoiled and loved them.
Part of my wanting to do unoiled countertops is the laziness factor. In order to keep that dark charcoal hue, your basic “oiling schedule” for soapstone counters is as follows:
- Once/week for a month.
- Once/month for a year.
- Once a year.
While I’m not opposed to a little elbow grease to maintain my home’s beauty, maintaining unoiled counters is as follows:
- Wipe oil spots with Dawn and let dry.
- Let natural darkening happen.
I actually oiled a big new cherry cutting board on my soapstone counters (Stupid. I should have done it in the garage), but scrubbing with Dawn got the all the big splotches up.
This conversation on Houzz about oiled vs. unoiled soapstone is interesting.
I’d love to hear from readers — what do you think about oiled (or waxed) vs. natural? Should I bite the bullet and pull out the mineral oil or leave the counters be? Anyone with personal experience with your own counters? Why did you choose one way or the other? Please let me know in the comments!
Finally, I’ve been nominated for the 2020 Design Hounds Influencer Awards! This is a first for me. There’s no way in the world I’m winning, but I’m honored to be a part. If you like what you’ve read on Home Glow’s Saturday Blog, I would be so honored for your support. Please head to the link and search for Home Glow and vote!
You can vote every day until January 18! (Hint, hint ;))
A pin to remember me by!
Have a wonderful weekend in the snow, slush, and ice. See you next Saturday!
33 thoughts on “Help Me Decide — Should I Oil My Soapstone or Leave It Natural?”
I am on Team Wax! In two years I have probably waxed my kitchen counters about five times. And they are dark. The only time I wax them now is after I buff out the scratches (p.s. I use the abrasive side of a ScotchBrite sponge!). Special note on the wax is that it contains walnut oil…
I like patina but I also prefer for it to be *somewhat* evenly dispersed. I don’t dislike the look of unoiled soapstone but I don’t love the way it ages. And I LOVE the richness and depth of dark soapstone – it almost looks like you could bite into it! Just my own personal preference!
Good to know that the waxing requires so little upkeep. I think I’m going to take a wet towel to the whole area and do a before and after shot and put it to the HH for his final say. It makes him feel good. 🙂
I love the oiled, but I genuinely think keeping it natural and let it patina over time will add way more character! It’s looking gorgeous, Amy!
And I do like character…. Thanks, Kelly!
I loved them oiled just bc the unoiled pics give me that sort of “nails on a chalkboard” or “omg my hands need lotion RIGHT NOW” feeling 🙂 Gotcha on the schedule – kindof a pain, but I bet it’s not that bad. And i’m speaking as a mom of 4, LOL! I think I could squeeze it in. This is interesting, thank you. I’m looking forward to replacing a couple of countertops with soapstone someday when I can afford it.
Hehehe, love your *lotion* thoughts. Too funny!
Is there any difference in proforance or longevity depending on oiled or not? Otherwise it just comes down to color and texture and which you like better.
No difference in performance. Just a preference thing. But what if I like both??????
I love the oiled look and think it would be worth the time/effort!
Thank you for your thoughts!! I appreciate them.
I have had soapstone counters for about 3 years now and love them. I followed the advice of Joan (For the love of a house) and use The Real Milk Paint Co.’s Soapstone Sealer. I feel that the amount of natural markings that become visible to the eye as a result, are well worth it. It is dark, rich, and just begs to be touched.
Yes, bringing out the natural grain is a big plus of the oiled look. Thank you for your input!
If I had known about unoiled soapstone, I would have gone for it–I decided against it because all I had seen was oiled and I didn’t want dark countertops.
This is a hard choice! I love them both but since you have such an old house and a small space, I’d go with the more natural and lighter colored unoiled stone.
Good point about the small space!
I’ve never had soapstone, so my opinion is totally based on looks, not experience. I love the lighter look of the unoiled surface. What I would probably do is not oil it and see how it ages. You could always oil it later if you don’t like the way it’s changing.
And congratulations on being nominated for the Design Hounds Influencer Award! I voted for you and will continue–I just love your blog and your design aesthetic!
Thank you for your vote! You are too kind. I also love the lighter look. Gah! I think I’m heading a certain direction … with the HH’s input, of course! 😉
Love the soapstone and love it both ways. However, I think with your beautiful green cabinetry, I would prefer the darker oiled version. But either way is gorgeous! Oh, and I’ve been voting for you every day! xo ~ Laurel
You are too sweet! I know — I keep going back and forth. I love the rich look, but I also feel the unoiled is an unexpected twist. Oh, decisions!
I like the look of the un-oiled with the green. Also, in your older home it will look more authentic.
ANOTHER good point! Man, you all are so insightful.
My two cents: oil them. If it was me, I would be very excited about my gorgeous kitchen especially at the beginning and by the time I got really sick of it, I would have made it to the once a year phase. There is something so charming about the natural patina but I wouldn’t trust myself or family to wipe up big oily messes enough to prevent weird uneven patterns.
Hey Sarah! Nice to hear from you! Very good points. The blush hasn’t faded from the rose yet….
Even though I like the look of both, I would go with no oil, it’s just one more thing to maintain. And as someone else said you can always oil it later.
Very true…. It’s not like I can ask my monthly cleaners to do it for me…!
I have Vermont green soapstone in my upstairs bath. I have oiled it but never on a schedule so it is often dry and light with uneven oil impact. I prefer the darker oiled with shine. Very dramatic. Unfortunately, my focus on home maintenance takes a backseat (or even the rear bumper) to work and daily grind. I voted for you today and would love to chat about a consult before I make my next decorating faux pas. My home is close by! Have a wonderful week and thanks for your weekly inspiration and edification!
Thank you for your input, and your vote, Bethany! Drop a line or schedule an intro call directly from the website. I would love to hear from you!
I think oil/wax because the darker color will anchor the space and set off the other colors better. Right now it’s beautiful, but all the colors seem to be in the same intensity–I think the darker soapstone will help to really wake up the green and the pink, if that makes sense?
Interesting thought, thank you! Lighting is a tricky thing for pics in this room (there is no natural light at all), re: reading the intensity of colors in relation to one another.
I literally never thought about not oiling soapstone before and I am IN LOVE with the raw stone pictures you’ve put in!! I think it looks so incredibly awesome. Like I can’t even put words to how much I love that Sunset Mag picture. My only hesitation is if that more organic, raw look is a mesh with the house you have overall. Your place is a notch more formal/traditional than mine (fwiw Lauren Liess is my design crush for the last 5 years and holding).
Where are the drainage grooves?
Good catch! I decided not to do them, as the pantry/laundry really wouldn’t be much of a dish washing area very often.
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