Soap Making

What is a Marseille Soap?

What is a Marseille Soap

What is a Marseille Soap?

Since as early as the ninth century, master soap makers in Marseille have created exquisite, gentle soaps using native olive oils and the alkaline ash from marine plants of the Mediterranean.

A Marseille soap or Savon de Marseille is a traditional hard soap bar that originated in Marseille, France, using only olive oil and hot processing (the cauldron).

Inspired by Savon d’Alep (the Aleppo soap) the authentic Savon de Marseille is manufactured according to a very precise technique and dosage.

Marseille Soap Manufacturing

Inspired by the Aleppo soap, a traditional Marseille soap originated from Marseille, an olive oil-producing region. It is originally made using only olive oil (like a castile soap) and using hot processing method (the cauldron).

In 1688, thru the Edict of Colbert under Louis XIV, a Savon de Marseille was regulated as soap with no artificial additives, no colorants, no perfumes or fragrances, no animal fats, and must contain at least 72% olive oil. The law has since been amended to allow other vegetable oils to be used i.e. at least 72% vegetable oil.

Traditionally crafted using ‘The Marseille Process‘ (a hot process method) using at least 72% olive oil, soda ash, and a mixture of seawater. This emulsion is heated for several days while being stirred continuously.

Once ready, the mixture is then poured into a mold and allowed to set slightly.

While still soft it is cut into bars, stamped, and left to completely harden. The whole process can take up to a month.

Manufacture of Marseille Soap

Dispute on Definition of Marseille Soap

Marseille soap was originally made with seawater, olive oil, and soda ash, but for decades olive oil has given way to palm and coconut oil. Even the traditionalists now use some palm or coconut oil in their olive soaps.

Today, there are two main types of Marseille soap, a greenish-hued variety made with added color and a white one made of olive oil, or a palm and coconut oil mixture and the ‘official recipe’ for a Marseille soap is in dispute, even within French soapmakers.

With cheap Chinese and Turkish soaps flooding the French market, manufacturers want Marseille soap to be granted a “geographical indication” (GI) so consumers can tell the difference between the real thing and cheap imports.

But a dispute over how “true Marseille soap” should be made has the producers themselves at each other’s throats.

The Association of Makers of Savon de Marseille, which has asked the French government to establish a “geographical indication” for the soap to distinguish it from cheaper versions made in China and Turkey, is making the case that additives such as palm oil or copra oil should be acceptable additions to the traditional recipe. But AFSM, which represents large companies, including the cosmetics retailer L’Occitane, has run into resistance from a group of master soap makers who want to preserve product purity.

Their view is supported by the Union des Professionnels du Savon de Marseille, which has established its own set of criteria for verifying the integrity of the soap, including a requirement that it be produced by soap makers in the city of Marseille—while ASFM currently represents makers in a larger region.

The purist approach appears to have won the public’s favor: A petition seeking a narrow definition of Savon de Marseille has received nearly 125,000 signatures.

While we can only wait for the dust to settle before a verdict is made on the dispute, Marseille soaps are highly recommended by dermatologists for sensitive skin and are iconic in France as household staples for generations.

In France, it has been trusted for generations to cleanse everything from linens to little faces. A Savon de Marseille is said to be totally biodegradable, requires little packaging and manufacturing is environmentally friendly.

Want to learn cold process soap making?

Learn how to make your own soap with our soap making classes in Singapore!

Singapore Soap conducts soap making workshops for people who are interested to become soap makers. Join our natural handmade cold process soap-making classes today and learn to make your very own cold process soap.

Register for our basic or advanced cold process soap making classes today and give your family a boost of health with your very own handcrafted, chemical free, wholly natural handcrafted soap.

Image credit:

By Simon A. Eugster – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Ratings 5/5 - (11 votes)

About Singapore Soap

Singapore Soap is a wholesale supplier for soap making supplies, candle making supplies and manufacturer of natural castile soap, melt and pour soap bases, liquid soap bases and hand sanitizer in Singapore. We carefully source and select quality and cost effective ingredients to ensure our customers receives only the best quality products at the most economical wholesale price. You can also learn to make your own DIY soap with our soap making lessons in Singapore. We conduct soap making classes for soap makers to learn how to make soap. Join our easy-to-learn classes and learn the benefits of why handmade soap are better and healthier for you.

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