Is it time to pick a countertop material, but you can’t decide between soapstone and marble?
Soapstone offers a rustic look, while marble is timeless and elegant — but there’s much more to know before choosing.
In this comparison of soapstone vs. marble countertops, you’ll learn the 11 major differences between these natural stone options. I explain how they stack up in terms of durability, maintenance, colors, price, and more.
I also share what kitchen design and countertop experts say about both options.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Soapstone vs. Marble Countertops: Comparison Chart
- Differences Between Soapstone and Marble Countertops
- What Experts Say About Soapstone and Marble Countertops
- Bottom Line: Should You Choose Soapstone or Marble Countertops?
Soapstone vs. Marble Countertops: Comparison Chart
If you’re in a rush, here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of soapstone vs. marble countertops.
|Color Range||Gray||White, gray, black, pink, red, green, blue|
|Hardness||1- 4 on Mohs Scale||3- 5 on Mohs Scale|
|Most Common Finish||Smooth and leathery||Smooth and polished|
|Durability||Easy to scratch||Hard to scratch|
|Patina||Faster patina||Slower patina|
|Porous vs. Non-Porous||Non-Porous||Porous|
|Stain Resistance||Hard to stain||Easy to stain|
|Installation||No special tools||Specialty blades needed|
|Maintenance||Regular oiling||Regular sealant|
|Repairs||Sand and oil to remove||Epoxy and seal to patch|
|Lifespan||10-100 years||10-100 years|
|Popularity||Less popular||More popular|
|Cost||$55-$120 per square foot||$40-$100 per square foot|
Differences Between Soapstone and Marble Countertops
Soapstone and marble are both high-end and attractive countertop materials, but they have several differences you need to consider.
Let’s look at the key factors that set them apart, from color options to price.
Difference 1: Color Range
Marble offers a vast range of color options. It’s sourced from all over the world, and each region produces distinct patterns, veining, and colors.
For example, there is a type of white marble from Italy known as Bianco Carrara. It features a subtle vein pattern.
Blanco Macael, sourced in Spain, is nearly all white with minimal veining.
Marble you can also get marble in brighter colors, like this orange slab:
Or this slab with green undertones:
Soapstone is limited to a few shades of gray, although some slabs feature blue or green undertones. In general, it’s much darker than most marble. Some pieces have extensive, prominent vein patterns.
Soapstone is ideal if you prefer dark/gray tones. However, if you want a choice of colors — white, black, blue, green, red, and others — marble has more options.
Difference 2: Finishes
Even though marble offers multiple finishes, a honed finish is the best option because it doesn’t detract from the stone’s delicate veining. However, you can choose from honed, polished, sand-blasted, and leathered finishes.
Each finish provides a different look and feel. Polished offers a high-gloss shine, while honed showcases a matte look that is smooth to the touch. If you prefer a rougher texture, sand-blasting is an option.
And a leathered finish, recommended for dark marble, is a relatively new option. It offers a lightly textured aesthetic, much like soapstone.
Soapstone typically has a soft, smooth, leathery texture that you can maintain with regular maintenance and oiling.
Difference 3: Durability
Marble and soapstone are metamorphic rocks, which means they’re formed when rocks are exposed to a combination of high heat, high pressure, and hot mineral-rich fluids.
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Marble is made up mostly of calcite but can contain other minerals, like clay, micas, quartz, pyrite, iron oxides, and graphite.
Soapstone is made up mostly of talc. However, it can contain chlorite, micas, amphiboles, carbonates, and other minerals.
The point is that the exact makeup of each stone is unique. Therefore, the hardness and durability vary slab-to-slab.
The Mohs Scale measures mineral hardness and ranges from 1 to 9. The higher the number, the harder the mineral.
Depending on the talc content, soapstone ranges from 1-4 on the Mohs Scale. Marble scores between 3 and 5.
Since soapstone is softer than marble, it’s more forgiving under stress. It’s more likely to dent than chip or crack if you accidentally hit it with a sharp, hard object. However, its softness means it’s more prone to scratches than marble.
If marble cracks, you’ll need a special repair kit to fill the chip and a tint to match. If there is significant damage, you’ll need to call a professional.
Soapstone is easier to repair. You can buff out imperfections with sandpaper and finish by rubbing on oil to make it look new. You can fix minor scratches and dents just by rubbing them with oil.
Difference 4: Patina
Patina is a thin dark layer that forms on the stone’s surface over time. It’s a result of oxidation. When stone is exposed to water, oil, or grease, it naturally oxidizes.
While soapstone and marble will both develop a patina, soapstone with a lower talc content will change color more quickly than marble.
Darkening will happen more quickly around high-traffic areas where moisture lingers, like the bathroom, kitchen sink, and bar area where people eat. Regularly oiling the soapstone will help to develop a uniform patina.
When marble patinas, the surface develops a softer, broken-in look. While some people think the patina adds to the charm of the marble, others might not like the change in appearance.
Difference 5: Maintenance
If you want a low-maintenance material, soapstone is a good choice. It’s a non-porous material that naturally protects itself against stains and bacteria. Therefore, very little maintenance is necessary.
However, as I mentioned, soapstone will develop a patina and darken over time. If you want to enhance the color change for a more even look, use mineral oil. Just make sure your countertop is clean and dry before oil application.
Apply oil to a dry cloth and wipe the soapstone in a circular motion. Take another dry cloth and wipe off any excess oil. Repeat the process a few times with a new soapstone countertop within the first few months.
Marble is completely different. It needs regular sealing to protect and maintain its appearance.
Roughly every six months (or sooner with heavy use), you’ll need to clean and dry your countertop, apply a sealant, allow it to dry, and then wait 24 hours for it to cure.
Or, you can have a professional seal your marble countertops if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.
Difference 6: Porous vs. Non-Porous
Soapstone is non-porous, meaning it repels liquids. Marble is porous and absorbs liquids rapidly. It’s also prone to harboring bacteria.
With marble counters, you need to be careful with colorful and acidic foods like beets, mustard, red wine, juices, concord grapes, tomatoes, lemons, and food coloring or dyes. If you spill these on marble, wipe the counter right away.
Otherwise, the stains can absorb deep into the stone and be difficult or impossible to remove.
Even oil and water can cause stains. A sweating water bottle or dripping colander of freshly washed food is enough moisture to stain the marble.
Besides cleaning up spills immediately, a great way to prevent staining is to keep the marble sealed and re-seal it often.
Here is a simple test to determine whether your marble needs stealing. Pour a small amount of water on the countertop. If it’s quickly absorbed or darkens in that area, it’s time to seal the marble. If it sits on top of the counter for several minutes, that means the marble is well sealed.
Difference 7: Heat Tolerance
Do you plan to rest hot pots and pans on your counters? Soapstone can handle the heat. It melts at 2966°F. Therefore, you can safely place a pan straight from your stove or oven on it without worrying about burn marks.
Marble has good heat tolerance, but not as much as soapstone. And depending on the type of marble (color and source), that heat tolerance varies. To play it safe and avoid discoloration from burns, use a trivet — especially if your marble is white or light gray.
Difference 8: Repairs
Soapstone is easy to repair. You can buff out scratches and minor dents with mineral oil or sandpaper. It also resists stains.
Marble is much more challenging to repair. If you scratch, gouge, crack, or stain your marble countertops, restoring them to their original state is not easy. Although you can use DIY epoxy kits, the repaired spots are usually noticeable. In most cases, you’ll need to hire a professional.
Difference 9: Availability
Both types of stone are readily available, but marble is easier to find if you want a single slab for a very long countertop.
Quarried soapstone slabs run about 7 feet long. It is rare to find longer slabs. If you want a long counter or vanity, you’ll need more than one slab, forcing you to have a connecting seam.
And while long marble slabs are more common, they are also more expensive. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth spending more or living with a seam on your countertop.
Difference 10: Popularity
Which material is more popular? According to Google Trends, marble countertops have steadily gained popularity over the past two decades.
The popularity of soapstone countertops peaked in 2014 and has slowly declined since.
Difference 11: Cost
At $180 per square foot, high-end marble, like Calacatta, is much more expensive than soapstone. However, most marble countertops are comparably priced or cheaper than soapstone.
According to HomeAdvisor, soapstone slabs currently range between $55-$120 per square foot, with an average cost of $65 per square foot.
Marble slabs can cost between $40-$100 per square foot but are around $60 per square foot on average.
What Experts Say About Soapstone and Marble Countertops
I contacted several design companies and marble and soapstone retailers to get their expert opinion on this topic.
I asked each expert the same questions:
- What are the main differences between quartz and soapstone counters?
- Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why?
United Granite, a countertop retailer based in Durham, North Carolina, said, “Marble and soapstone are both natural stones, meaning you’ll have a bit of mother nature in your kitchen. Both are heat resistant and very unique.”
He warned me by saying, “Marble is a very delicate stone and requires some maintenance. It can scratch and stain easily. However, sealing helps prevent the marble from absorbing water and minimizes the risk of staining. Soapstone is a hard material but can still stain and get water spots.”
When I asked which material he prefers, he said, “I would never use marble in my kitchen. It’s pretty, but it’s high maintenance. Soapstone requires less maintenance, but you’re limited in colors. If you are looking for something heat-resistant and unique, I recommend granite. But the right choice depends on your color preference, budget, and maintenance.”
Coastal Countertops, a family-owned business specializing in the production of commercial and residential countertops, said, “Marble is a soft material and is susceptible to scratching. Soapstone tends to show marks and needs to be continually oiled.”
The expert at Mega Stone, a stone installation and fabrication company servicing New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, said, “If you like natural stone and want to put hot pans directly on your counters, go with soapstone. The downside of soapstone is it requires sealing. Marble looks great but is prone to stains and water spots and dulls over time. Every material has pros and cons, so it’s all a matter of determining your priorities. So think about which qualities you would value most in a countertop and which qualities would annoy you. There is no objective, universal “RIGHT” choice, only a right choice for you.”
Kitchen & Countertop Center of New England told me, “Soapstone is a natural stone that is very dense (they can actually make sinks out of Soapstone). It doesn’t require sealing and is antibacterial as it isn’t porous like marble. It also has a flat/matte feel, which is great for baking/rolling dough. However, you can add a seal to it or add a protect and seal finish (this will darken the stone and bring out undertone colors in some cases, such as green). Soapstone also has high heat resistance; you can put hot pans directly on the stone without any issue. It has a higher talc content, so it is prone to surface scratching, which gives it a rustic look.”
Kitchen Countertops & Cabinets, a custom kitchen remodeling company based in Natick, Massachusetts, said, “Soapstone is a natural stone. It’s softer than marble, really easy to scratch, and you’ll always have to keep sealing. Marble is harder and more scratch-resistant, but it’s porous, meaning water and juice can seep in and cause permanent damage if you don’t wipe up spills immediately. You have to keep it well sealed to prevent stains.”
Bottom Line: Should You Choose Soapstone or Marble Countertops?
Now you know the key differences between soapstone and marble countertops. So now it’s time to decide which material best fits your lifestyle, budget, and preferences.
Let’s recap the main differences:
- Marble has more finishes and color choices than soapstone — white, red, blue, cream, and more. Plus, it features unique veining on each slab. With soapstone, you’ll have a choice of various shades of gray, sometimes with green or blue undertones and minimal veining.
- Soapstone is more durable than marble. You can quickly repair scratches and nicks with mineral oil and sandpaper. Marble requires complex repairs, using epoxy to fill gaps.
- Soapstone darkens over time. You can use mineral oil to ensure it darkens evenly. While marble also develops a patina, it requires more work to keep it looking good, including repeated sealing.
- Soapstone naturally repels stains because it is non-porous. Marble is porous and stains easily if left unsealed.
- Both can tolerate heat, but placing a piping hot pan on a marble countertop can leave a burn mark. Soapstone can handle the heat without risking damage.
- Marble countertops are more popular than soapstone, according to Google Trends.
- It’s easier to find large marble slabs (longer than 7 feet) than soapstone. You’ll often need at least two soapstone slabs for a long countertop.
- Pricing is comparable for marble and soapstone, but some high-end marble variations are more expensive.
Bottom Line — the best countertop material depends on your design needs, budget, and how much maintenance you’re willing to do.
Soapstone features a rustic feel with fewer color options, but it’s also non-porous, low-maintenance, and easier to repair.
Marble is the more popular choice, offering a high-end look and multiple color options. Yet, it’s more prone to stains, can be difficult to repair, and high-end marble is significantly more expensive.
If you’re ready to move your project forward or want to talk to a local expert to learn more, fill out this quick form on HomeAdvisor. You’ll get free, no-obligation quotes (and expert advice) from contractors in your area.
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