A soapstone burner is an object made from soapstone that is used to hold burning incense or heated aromatherapy oils. Soapstone, also known as steatite, is a relatively soft rock made from the mineral talc. It usually ranges from light to dark gray in color. It has been used in implements and decorative carvings for thousands of years. It has several characteristics that can make it useful as an incense burner or aromatherapy burner.
A soapstone burner usually provides even, constant heat. They have fewer hot or cold spots than other materials. Soapstone typically takes a longer time to achieve the desired temperature than burners made from other materials such as glass or metal. Once heated, however, the soapstone usually retains heat for a long time.
Soapstone can be easier to work with than harder rocks such as marble and granite. This can make it simpler to add decorative flourishes and carvings to a soapstone burner, which is commonly used in home decor. A carved soapstone burner may be cheaper than an identical marble or granite burner, because soapstone carving does not require the specialized tools needed for harder materials. Unlike some other materials, cleaning soapstone typically only requires the use of warm, soapy water.
Soapstone does not usually chemically react with many substances such as acids, which are sometimes found in essential oils or incense. These substances can have undesirable reactions with burners made from other materials. The reactions can range from stains on the burner to changes in the fragrance of the oil or incense. People who frequently use incense or aromatic oils may find these alterations in fragrance to be unacceptable. An easily stained burner will also require frequent cleaning.
A soapstone burner can also take high temperatures without cracking, but should not be subjected to sudden temperature differences. Items made of soapstone also should not be dropped on hard surfaces or struck or they can break. The softness of soapstone also makes it subject to scratching.
Soapstone can be sealed for greater attractiveness, but does not have to be. Since soapstone is nonporous, stains remain on the surface of the burner and can be scoured off. By contrast, marble and granite must be periodically sealed or risk having deep staining. Refinishing soapstone that has been broken or scratched usually involves smoothing the surface with an abrasive material such as sandpaper and then applying mineral oil.