16 December 2012

Savon de Marseille

Marseille soap (Savon de Marseille) is a traditional soap made from vegetable oils that has been made around Marseille, France, for about 600 years, the first documented soap maker in the area being recorded in about 1370. By 1688, Louis XIV introduced regulations limiting the use of the name savon de Marseille to soaps made in and around the Marseille area, and only from olive oil. Today this law still applies, although the regulations now allow other vegetable oils to be used.

Traditionally, the soap is made by mixing sea water from the Mediterranean, olive oil, and the alkaline chemicals soda ash (sodium carbonate) and lye (sodium hydroxide) together in a large cauldron. This mixture is then heated for several days, stirred constantly. The mixture is then allowed to sit and, once ready, it is poured into the mold, and allowed to set slightly. Whilst still soft, it is cut into bars and stamped, and left to completely harden. The whole process can take up to a month from start to finish.

Makes a super Christmas pressie!


Le savon de Marseille est un savon traditionnel fait à base d'huiles végétales, fabriqué dans la région de Marseille depuis environ 600 ans, le  premier artisan savonnier étant enregistré vers 1370. En 1688, Louis XIV adopta des règlements limitant l'utilisation du nom "Savon de Marseille" pour les savons faits à l'intérieur et autour  de Marseille, et seulement à base d'huile d'olive. Aujourd'hui,  cette loi s'applique toujours, bien que les règlements permettent désormais l'utilisation d'autres huiles végétales.

Traditionnellement, le savon se compose d'un mélange d'eau de la mer Méditerranée, d'huile d'olive, de cendres de soude chimiques alcalines (carbonate de sodium) et de  lessive (hydroxyde de sodium), réunies  dans un grand chaudron. Ce mélange est ensuite chauffé pendant plusieurs jours, brassé en permanence. On le laisse ensuite au repos et une fois prêt, il est versé dans  des moules pour prendre forme lentement. Alors qu'il est encore mou, il est découpé en morceaux, estampé, et suspendu pour durcir complètement. L'ensemble du processus peut prendre jusqu'à un mois du début à la fin.

Cela fait un superbe cadeau de Noël!


  1. Especially for someone like me who loves handmade soap! Too bad I don't know anyone going to Marseille anytime soon.

  2. So interesting. A whole month, wow. Makes pretty pictures too.
    In Hebrew soap is sabon.

  3. Hilda, i'd have thought there is an export market for this soap but obviously you've not seen it. I could send you one!

    And Dina, it surprises me how often I hear a word in Hebrew that is similar to other languages. Perhaps no surprise when one considers what an ancient language it is.

  4. fascinating! I learned how to make homemade washing "powder" (from PBS P.Allen Smith using any soap He used Dove, which was a bad choice; I was thinking that savon de Marseille would be perfect).

  5. We find savon de Marseille very easily in the US. They even have it at Trader Joe's.

  6. I love natural soaps!!! I gave up the store bought stuff a few years ago...but haven't had the opportunity to try this lovely old tradition!!!

  7. I love them too.
    We can get French soaps here.
    It is luxury for me.

    Anyway, I said "Hello" to the couple from Stavanger, who you know, and are having a holiday home near you.

    Sometimes the world is so little:)

  8. I can practically smell its gentle aroma from here! I have a friend who makes soap, and I use nothing else. But if I can get this at Trader Joe's (thanks, Nadege!) I think I'll give it a try.


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