Buyer Beware of Fakes: What you Need to Know When Buying Real Soapstone

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Marine Black “Soapstone” is a name you should watch out for…

Soapstone is trending, and for good reason: its resilient qualities make it an excellent choice for sinks, kitchen and bathroom countertops, shower pans, tiles, and other home renovation projects. Soapstone is also widely used as firebrick material due to its thermal qualities, and is ideal for fabricating chemistry lab tops, acid room sinks, and lab shelving because it’s impervious to chemicals, acids, and heat. But, because of the material’s popularity, cheap, fake soapstone look-alikes are flooding the market.

Smart consumers often shop around for the best deal, especially when investing in a quality item like soapstone. Some companies are using false advertising to take advantage of consumers looking for discounted soapstone. This increased supply of fake soapstone includes misnamed or misrepresented varieties of stone, including slates, marbles, granites, and even quartz.

Knowing how to identify real soapstone is important when looking to update your home. As we are seeing more slates and other fakes on the market, would like to take this opportunity to educate you on the issue and help you learn how to spot fake soapstone.

Slate Versus Soapstone: What’s the Difference

Some companies have been misrepresenting abundant, inexpensive Indian slate as soapstone, Marine Black, being the current most popular “impostor”, leaving some homeowners wondering why their newly installed soapstone has stained or been damaged by high temperatures. They chose soapstone because it is impervious to acids and heat, so what happened? Unfortunately, while fakes may look like soapstone, slate does not offer the same properties as authentic soapstone and can’t withstand the same use.

Slate is prone to staining, etching, chipping, and cracking. Pressure, impact, and heat can damage slate surfaces. Soapstone, however, is heat-, impact-, and stain-resistant, it’s easy to maintain, and buffing away scratches is simple.

Does White Soapstone Exist?

Some companies have misled customers to believe that there is such a thing as white soapstone. After an Italian quarry recently marketed their white marble as soapstone, we have received many requests for the now-famed product. Unfortunately, while their stone is beautiful, it’s not real soapstone: Steatite (soapstone) is only white when composed of pure talc, which is unsuitable for architectural applications.

This is an example of marble currently being sold as a “White Soapstone.” It is not authentic soapstone.

How to Identify Authentic Soapstone

Always work with a reputable distributor or fabricator, know how to spot potential fakes, and examine soapstone before buying to find out if it’s the real thing. These qualities will help you determine if you’re looking at authentic soapstone:

  • Soapstone is soft and can be scratched with a fingernail.
  • Sopastone feels cool to the touch at room temperature.
  • Polished and unpolished soapstone both offer a waxy, soap-like feel and a pearly or silky luster.
  • Examine soapstone samples and put them to the test to ensure the stone is stainproof and acid-resistant—if the sample section stains or if undiluted white vinegar left on the surface for an hour causes etching or damage, it’s not authentic soapstone.
  • Examine the color of the stone in question to ensure it is a common soapstone color.
  • Ask the distributor or fabricator about the stone, and ensure their answers align with true soapstone.

Learn to Spot Soapstone Lookalikes

An honest and knowledgeable soapstone salesperson should be able to educate you on their product. Ask about the origin and what each material is—including the name of the stone and its properties. Be aware of the names commonly used for fake soapstone, including Marine Black Soapstone, Black Moon Soapstone, Luna Soapstone, Arabesque Soapstone, Noire Soapstone, and White Soapstone (to name a few).

If the distributor says the stone has no talc, or they don’t know the talc contents, ask for clarification. Is it slate, quartz, or marble? A schist of phyllite? Ensure the distributor or fabricator can supply the answers you need.

Should You Use Fake Soapstone?

If you choose a lookalike rather than authentic soapstone, either for the savings or because you prefer the appearance, always confirm any special considerations or maintenance required.  Faux soapstone products do not offer the same qualities or function as real natural soapstone: Other types of stone need to be specially treated and they may not work for some intended applications due to the differences in fabrication options, durability, and stain-, heat-, or acid-resistance. While other materials may be good options for your home improvement project, always consider the pros and cons installing fake soapstone countertops and decide based on your wants and needs as a homeowner. Fake soapstone may be suitable, if you know what you’re getting into ahead of time.

While you shop around and do your research, we’re happy to help you to make an educated decision. Contact us with any questions you have at any point in your soapstone journey. For more design inspiration and information on how to choose soapstone, explore our blog.

These photos are examples of some of the slates and marbles that are being sold as soapstone: