Soapstone and the Mohs Scale

What is the Mohs Scale?

At Garden State Soapstone ™, customers frequently ask about the difference between harder soapstone and softer (traditional) soapstone. To answer this question, it’s important to first talk about the Mohs scale.

The Mohs scale characterizes the range of hardness that different minerals contain. Specifically, it identifies scratch resistance of various minerals, through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. The scale ranges from 1-10, 1 being the softest, and 10 being the hardest.

To give you an idea, Diamonds are considered a 10, while Talc is considered a 1. Volcanic glass is right in the middle, with a 5.

Where Does Soapstone Fall on the Scale?

When put on the Mohs Scale, traditional soapstone is softer due to higher talc content. But even soapstone has a range. It could be a 2.5 on the Mohs scale, like Mariana and Barroca. Churchill, our most popular variety, sits at a 3. Or, it could be as high as a 5 on the scale, like Noir, Sabon, and PA.

Barroca Soapstone Slab from Garden State Soapstone ™, Treated and Untreated

The hardness of soapstone can depend on its parent material, i.e., its makeup. Soapstone is a metamorphic rock, and although talc-based, it contains other minerals like mica, chlorite, and carbonates. In short, soapstone that contains more talc is softer, and soapstone that contains less talc is harder.

Here’s where all of our current soapstone varieties fall:

Barroca- 2.5
Mariana: 2.5
Old Dominion: 2.5-3
Pacific: 3
Churchill Reserve: 3.0-3.5
Churchill: 3-3.5

Noir: 5.0
PA: 5.0
Sabon: 5.0

Soapstone Hardness vs. Softness: Why Does it Matter?

Now we get to go back to our first question: what is the difference between harder and traditional soapstone?

There are a few answers. For one, soapstone ages, darkens, and patinas at different rates. This can be dependent on hardness. Harder soapstone is naturally darker, ages/patinas quicker, and may require less frequent oiling.

Softer soapstone (traditional) is more likely to scratch, although scratches can easily be sanded out as soapstone is a consumer-friendly material. It has an uneven aging process, so dark patches may occur in some areas of the soapstone while remaining light gray in others. This uneven patina may give the stone character, which some of our clients prefer. In order to ensure even aging, however, we recommend applying soapstone wax and soapstone oil.

Some clients have asked if the upkeep required for waxing and oiling is too much work. It’s actually pretty simple. Soapstone wax or soapstone oil should be applied to the countertop with a clean, dry cloth. Immediately following its application, it should be buffed and dried with a second clean cloth. You can wax or oil as frequently, or as infrequently, as you prefer.

Mohs Scale - the Original Wax by Garden State Soapstone ™

Which is Better: Harder Soapstone or Traditional Soapstone?

We think all varieties of soapstone are great, and it’s not because we’re biased! Different varieties of soapstone utilize different veining techniques and tonal detailing, and add a unique look to each home.

For all varieties of soapstone, scratches may be repaired and sanded off without the help of a professional. Soapstone is non-porous, easy to clean, resistant to stains, and lasts forever.

New Jersey Churchill Soapstone Installation by Garden State Soapstone ™. Mohs Scale

Have a question about which soapstone might be right for you? Just ask the soapstone experts!

Garden State Soapstone ™, Slate & Wood Countertops is located in North Brunswick, NJ.
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June, 2016

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