Home | About Us | Info | Buy | Sell | To Pay | Images | Library | Advice | Search | RSS Feeds | Site Map | Contact Us  

ADVICE WANTED!   July 31, 2002
www.findstone.com   info@findstone.com

Ask any question, share your knowledge, or offer your services!

Q 2225: Hi! We recently acquired some soapstone countertops that appear to have been varnished. Any suggestions on how best to remove it? Linda, July 15

R1: Dear Linda: That's quite unusual, all right! Never heard of such a thing before! Anyway, it seems to me that you need to use a paint stripper based on Methylene Chloride. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA, Expert Panelist  

A 1420: What is recommended for protecting and possibly hardening the surface of a soapstone countertop? Please ensure us that there is an experience behind the recommendation and not just theory....Mike. Feb 8.  

R4: Dear Mike, It is highly unlikely that there is a natural process that will noticeably harden your soapstone countertop. Depending on your mineralogy (established by petrographic analysis and/or X-Ray diffraction) you might be able to have it kiln-dried. This will cause some dehydration of the hydrous magnesium silicates and probably the recrystallization of some minerals into anhydrous or lesshydrous forms. However, it might also induce some dimensional instability because that rock variety is commonly mineralogically and texturally heterogeneous. Elevated thermal conditions could push it and pull it in different ways. Having said that, your sculptor was quite right in what he said and you in fact provided the explanation by the word "exposed". It is only when the stone is opened up that it can be exposed to air and therefore the process of drying. Most stone when quarried behaves
this way and the ageing process is essentially asymptotic (i.e. the process is rapid to start with but after about 2-4 weeks there is only a gradual and minor reduction over the next 3-4 months). The sculptor must have forgotten to tell you that the soapstone only hardens from very very soft to very soft. (Dr. Hans), Australia,
Expert Panelist 

R3: Dear Mike: The only recommended treatment for soapstone is to periodically rub it with mineral oil. End of story. 
If you want to make it harder you can try with VIAGRA, but I believe that your best bet would be to dial 1 (800) HEAVEN!! 
Soapstone is too dense to take in anything (it's its most touted selling point), including, of course, a so-called stone-hardener that, in my (qualifed) opinion is a marketing hogwash anyway. Maurizio, USA,
Expert Panelist

R2: being basically magnesium silicate, soapstone is unlikely to harden to any degree like some limestones. There may be some superficial hardening of the soapstone caused by dehydration of the magnesium silicate, but this would not be great under ambient conditions. It would be interesting to see how much it hardens when it approaches 500-800C. Regards Jim, Australia,  Expert Panelist

R1: You can't harden the soapstone. All you can do is live with the scratches and what not and say it is a patina that is developing. Or use mineral oil to hide the scratches. Regards, Steven, USA, Expert Panelist

Last week, a sculptor told me that when soapstone is exposed to air, it slowly hardens. Any idea?  

Have never heard this about soapstone, and soapstone is soft enough that your fingernail will scratch it. Personally, I do not like it for sculptural purposes at all, but as a stove or fireplace liner it is great. JVC, USA, Expert Panelist 

Soapstone will harden when excavated from the quarry for a period of around six months. basically the moisture is released. The same with sandstone, granite and marble. Regards, John, U.K

I still can't find any research to back up the claim that soapstone hardens into something other than what it is. It is not aging or anything, it is still a rock! As I looked at my answer, I did neglect to say that soapstone is soft. Therefore, you can use sandpaper to remove scratches as well. Sorry for the oversight. And I am sorry for not being able to address what the sculptor told you. Regards, Steven, USA  

A 1143: We have a soapstone hearth on our fireplace. It was badly stained and rough. I have sanded it smooth. What do you recommend for a sealer and finish. I would like to have some gloss on it if possible, without changing the color to a great extent. Thanks - bob, USA, Oct 13.

R3: Two ways to go about getting the gloss. More and more sanding/polishing with finer and finer grits, or using a color enhancing sealer. Test a small area first to see how the sealer is going to take to the stone. JVC, USA 

R2: Dear bob: First off, just forget about the gloss. You can't get it out of soapstone. Forget about a sealer, too. Soapstone is too dense and won't absorb it. Just treat it with mineral spirit on a regular basis.Maurizio, USA 

R1: Hi, Forget about polishing. but you can Seal it. Pini, USA

A 1107: Hi... I'm in NJ. I appreciate any advice you can offer... We have a 120 year old Victorian home that we're rehabilitating. There's a fireplace surround/mantle that had 2-3 old coats of enamel trim paint on it. We used "Peel-Away" to get the paint off and think it might be soapstone. Now the soapstone is a flat, haze dark grey color... I started hand sanding the top of the mantle with 150 grit paper and pretty quickly went through the black to a beautiful emerald green stone, with veining, etc, We were thrilled. I'm guessing it's soapstone. Then I took an orbital sander to the front of the surround with 60 grit paper and although I created a nice layer of dust on the floor, didn't get to any green. I then went to 36 grit paper and now the finish is a chocolate brown, not black and I can see some detail and veining, it's much, much tougher going than the mantle top was. Some places are seeming to lighten a bit to green, but I've spent over 1/2 hour on about a 1 square foot section with 36 grit paper on an orbital sander. I'll be days and days at this rate, not to mention the areas that are detailed, where I'll have to hand sand. I'm wondering why the stone is so different than the mantle top? Does heat darken the finish, because the section I'm on is closer to the fireplace opening than the mantle top? Does it darken throughout? Might I be sanding for weeks and weeks only to consistently see brown? I'm wondering is there is any other way to get through to the lighter stone? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, Tom, USA, Sept 24.  
R3: Dear Tom: First off, we don't even know what the heck of a stone you have. Soapstone, you guess. I doubt highly, because, to the best of my knowledge, soapstone was not processed into slabs some 100 years ago. Not that I am crazy about soapstone, anyway! If it were up to me, they would have never started to make slabs out of it! Second, very possibly, all the different colors you're pulling out are probably the very reason that prompted the previous owners to paint over the whole ugly thing!, Maurizio, USA,

: I think that the problem is that you are going the wrong direction with your sandpaper grits. To get to the rich deep color of the stone, you need to go to finer and finer grit paper.  With soapstone, get some wet/dry paper (the gray-black stuff). If you started with 150 grit, and got results, do all of the surface with that grit, and then continue through with 220, 320, and 400. The coarse grits you have been using (ie 36) are not going to give any clue as to what the stone will look like once it is honed and polished out. Make sure that you wear a particle mask while working on this stone as the dust contains minerals that you really don't want in your lungs.  Dry sanding is ok, but if you can wet sand, the process will be simpler. And yes, the heat from the firebox can have some effect on the stone, and the jambs may not come back to the color of the mantle top. Good luck,  JVC, USA,

R1: The mantle is probably a different stone then the rest It's common. Pini, USA,

Q 954: Is there a way to restore an old soapstone sink? Laura, USA, April 23.
R1: Laura, Tell me what you see. but elbow grease and a scrub brush is probably the place to start. Good luck, Steven, USA 

Comments? Complaints? Compliments? info@findstone.com
The views expressed in this section are not of FindStone.
I've just spent about ten minutes looking at your site, but from what I did see I am very impressed. It looks very helpful and user friendly I will use your site for various things in the future, Thank you for this resource. Randy, CLEANING CO. , FL, USA.