Last summer, I bought Savon de Marseille soap on the delightful craft market in the old town of Nice, one of my favorite cities at the Cote d’Azur. It is however Marseille, another place in the French Mediterranean, that is the birth place of Savon de Marseille. It was once the leading soap producing locale in the region, but today you can find soap makers throughout the French Riviera.
Mine is a sample of the original Savon de Marseille soap recipe, which is of very high quality. It uses 72% olive oil, combined with coconut and palm oils. The soap’s key ingredient, pure olive oil, is ultra-moisturizing and makes it particularly suitable for dry, sensitive skin.
The addition of palm oil makes the soap whiter, while purer olive oil bases (with clay) are greener. French soap makers add green clay to help absorb the oils and to make the soap soft & silky. The clay works similar to clay facials: it draws toxins from the skins while providing the skin with minerals to heal and restore its vitality.
While the traditional Savon de Marseille is unscented, modern artisans sometimes include petals of Mediterranean flowers such as lavender, rose, orange and verbena. Home-made versions can also add essences which offer additional healing. Lavender, rosemary come to mind – both growing abundantly in the south of France.
Savon de Marseille is 100% biodegradable because it is purely plant-based. Furthermore, the French soap making artisans wouldn’t dream of testing the on animals.
French Wonder Soap
The French use their ‘wonder’ soap as a personal bath soap, or to wash clothing and other items. Savon de Marseille is actually also an IDEAL soap for crafters who need to wash their delicate creations upon completion. Did you know that this original Savon de Marseille can take of pencil marks, graphite smears, and other such stains?!
Besides being such good soaps, what I love about Savon de Marseille is the beautiful rustic look. The square cube shape and the texture of this soap is unique in the world. It ‘s a soulful soap somehow, and the perfect souvenir and gift, particularly when gift-wrapped in similar rustic style using craft paper, straw ties, plus a handmade tag.
Savon the Marseille has a long & interesting history:
- In the 6th century, the artisans would press the soaps into the ashes from Mediterranean plants.
- In the 13th century, the soap makers of Marseille started to produce the big rustic blocks of Savon de Marseille.
- Since 1688 French law has declared that only soaps that are produced by following certain ancient methods, and containing only the purest ingredients, shall bear the famous mark “Savon de Marseille.”
- It takes a traditional soap maker two weeks to make the delicate soap mixture of oils, alkaline ashes from sea plants and Mediterranean sea salted water and to dry it for 10 days. The soaps are stamped with ‘Savon de Marseille’ and their weight. All according to code.
- All the details in the soap-making process make this a long lasting soap: a bar of 600-gram can last you half a year as a bath soap. Now, if you allow the soap to dry and harden first, it will last even longer.
Make Your Own Savon de Marseille Soap
While this sounds like an involved process with a secret recipe, a version of this soap is actually quite easy to make at home. Here’s how:
What You Need to Make it
Soap Making Supplies
- Double boiler
- Molds. Craft market artisans often usually use glass cake baking dishesas soap molds. For an original Savon-de-Marseille cubed-look, consider using recycled milk cartons.
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup warm water
How to Make ‘Savon de Marseille’ – kinda soap
- In your double boiler, melt a block of Olive Oil-based Soap, in line with the quantity you wish to make. Avoid boiling the soap!
- Add 1 teaspoon French Green Clay for each pound of soap.
- Once your soap is melted, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Essential Oils (such as this soothing Lavender oil) per pound of soap base.
- Pour the melted mixture in a mold. Leave an inch or so at the top of the mold.
- Allow the soap to sit until it is cool and hard, at least 2 hours. When the soap has hardened, use a knife to slice the soap into 1 1/2-inch bars.
- Combine about 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and 1 cup warm water. Wash the soap bars in this salt-water solution. Let soap dry completely, then rinse it in plain warm water.
Personalize Your Soap
Soap Making Supplies and Ideas:
1. The markings on the original Savon de Marseille are stamped into the soap. It is a trademark. Perhaps you should not try to fake it. Instead, use your own creativity and your own marking to create your personalized Savon de Marseille vignette.
But also consider other type of ‘flat objects’ that you can use to create an imprint. Eg. craft foam can cut in various shapes and sizes and add to the inside of your mold. It is a temporary solution perhaps, but something fun to play with and experiment. I’d look for metal objects with relatively thin and sharp edges as I think that will work best. Experiment.
Once you get the basic process under control, I am sure that you can come up with your own flavor and style for making this wonderful soap. If you can’t come to the Cote d’Azur this year, at least try making this soap! You’ll love it.
Tip for Instant Gratification of Soap Lovers
I just discovered that you can buy the good stuff, i.e. Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap) with Pure Crushed Local Flowers from France here online. And the price is about the same as if you would have bought it at the market in Nice, France. This beautiful soap makes a great gift. As well, having a couple of these on hand is very inspirational in wanting to make your own soaps. And last but not least, I LOVE THIS SOAP. It actually works in getting stuff clean! Now, I would not use the crushed flowers variety on my white linens, but if you get the Authentic Traditional Savon De Marseille Olive Cube Stamped 600g – Handcrafted Pure Olive Oil French Soap, your cloths will be clear of oil and any other stains for years to come!
Other Soap Making Tutorials & Ideas
Fun & Fancy Guest Soap .. made in 2 seconds