About Marseille' soap

The most prized of all soaps in the world !
Absolute bliss. Pure, moisturizing "Savon de Marseille" soaps with the regional flowers of lavender, orange, rose, verbena etc.
The quality of these soaps were immediately famous throughout Europe and in 1688 French law declared that only soaps made according to certain ancient methods could bear the important mark "Savon de Marseille".
The purest ingredients (mentioned above) are heated for ten days in antique cauldrons. Know-how passed down through the generations will reveal to the soapmaster the right moment to pour the mixture into open pits where it slowly hardens.
Savon de Marseille is recommended by dermatologists throughout the world for dry or sensitive skin, eczema and other ailments. In France it has been trusted for generations to cleanse everything from linens to little faces. Marseille Soap is totally biodegradable, requires little packaging and its manufacture is environmentally friendly. Authentic Marseille Soap is stamped with its weight in grams - allowing households to compare prices and plan their inventories. No soap is "greener."
Rich with olive and palm oils, all-natural and lightly scented, this is the original, beloved soap of France so often imitated, never equalled.

History of soap manufacturing

In the time of the Gauls, soap was already being used for washing clothes and tinting hair red. The paste was obtained by blending ashes of beech wood and goat suet. It was said to possess certain medicinal virtues.

The Marseilles soap factory set up in the 16th century just after the crusades took the activity a step beyond the handicraft level. At the beginning of the 17th century, production in the Marseille factories was barely sufficient to satisfy demand from the city and the region. The Port of Marseilles even received soap from Genoa and Alicante.

Then the war blocked supplies coming from Spain, and so soap manufacturers in Marseille had to increase their production to be able to supply the north of France and buyers from the Netherlands, Germany and England.

In 1660 there were 7 manufacturers in the city whose annual production was close to 20,000 tons. Under Colbert, the quality of soap produced in Marseille was such that "Marseilles soap" became a byword. At that time the soap was green coloured and was sold in 5 kg bars or 20 kg blocks. In 1786, 48 soap manufacturers were producing 76,000 tons in Marseille. They employed 600 workers and 1,500 convicts loaned by the prison of Arsenal des Galères.

The industry boomed up to the first world war, when shipping became difficult and the local soap manufacturing activity was severely affected. In 1913, production was 180,000 tons, falling to 52,817 tons in 1918.
After the war, soap manufacturing benefited from the progress in mechanization. The quality of the product was due to the use of traditional processes, and production grew, reaching 120,000 tons in 1938. When the second world war broke out, Marseilles was still producing half the national output but the following years were to prove disastrous.

Development of a technique

From the end of the 17th century, strict regulations concerning manufacturing enabled soap to acquire the image of a high quality product made from an oil and soda emulsion. The only oil was olive oil and the soda was obtained by burning "soda plants" (marsh samphire and saltwort). This was the first Marseilles soap.

During the 19th century, new discoveries in the field of chemistry and the use of oilseeds made it possible to develop a second Marseilles soap. Natural soda was no longer used in Marseilles, since the first soda manufacturers had introduced the "Leblanc" process at the beginning of the century, in which sea salt was combined with sulphuric acid. Then, ammonia soda produced according to the "Solvay" process was used instead of crude soda.
But the increasing use of artificial soda produced a soap that was too hard and brittle when manufactured with pure olive oil. Blending of oils became the obvious solution. In 1820, the first "grinding" tests were carried out using linseed, and then further experiments were conducted using palm oil and sesame seeds. Groundnut oil quickly became the favourite: as it was colourless it did not affect the colour of the end product, and trade with the East facilitated the supply of top quality groundnuts. The high quality level of Marseilles soap was preserved.

The development of the industry in the 19th century enabled Marseilles soap manufacturers to create highly renowned products such as sesame seed oil based "mottled soap" with a 60% fatty acid content or groundnut or palm oil based "colourless white" with a 72% fatty acid content.
The soap industry gave birth to spin-off industries that contributed to the economic development of the city. The most important one was "stéarinerie"; the manufacture of candles using recycled glycerine.


The mashing and "épinage"
We introduce at the same time the fat and soda in a bowl or in a large capacity
pot, and are mixed while heating to 120 ° C. Saponification starts. The high temperature is used to accelerate the saponification reaction. Fats and soda are not miscible. To facilitate the reaction, we place a background of soap from a previous production that serves to form an emulsion between oil and water phases. For the same reason that the mixture is stirred.
Then we drawn off the obtained Glycerin, which joined the aqueous bottom of the tank.

Soda is added for a more complete reaction of fats. If some of the fat did not react with the soda, it might become rancid and pose conservation problems. The dough is baked for several hours.

The release
The pulp is cleaned with salt water for several hours to remove the excess of sodium hydroxide. It operates with a saturated aqueous sodium chloride with 360g of NaCl per liter of water. The soap is very soluble in salt water, unlike sodium hydroxide. It forms a precipitate that is recovered by extraction.
The soap does not contain any more soda, as if washing is carefully, salt water has led to the soda, the other impurities from oil and glycerin. It is "delipidation" soap.

The liquidation
The dough is put to rest. It is washed with water.

Casting and drying
The flowing paste is poured into molds and then the wet soap is dried to harden it.

Cutting and stamping
The solidified soap is cut into cubes, then scored. Originally, the traditional soap shows 72% of olive oil. It contains the mass content of fatty acid, fatty acid from olive oil. This percentage was stamped on the soap.