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Why Buy Savon de Marseille? It’s Eco-Friendly and Artisanal

Remember Provence is an online boutique specializing in high-quality products made in Provence. Marie-Hélène and her husband work with artisanal companies in Provence dedicated to continuing traditional industries for a unique collection of housewares, linens, earthenware, pottery, culinary ingredients, and body and bath products. Remember, Provence ships to customers worldwide. Below is an excerpt from an article that Marie-Hélène wrote on the traditional Marseille Soap. Discover why you should buy real Savon de Marseille.

Soap from Marseille

Savon de Marseille has a long history going back several centuries. The know-how came from the 12th century from Aleppo in Syria soap, which, thanks to the Crusades, travelled through the regions around the Mediterranean, passing through merchant ports. Since antiquity, soaps have been made using vegetable oils. Still, it was in Marseille, which was already an important trading port, that soap production on a large scale began during the 14th century.

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Naples had a soap makers’ guild by the 6th century, and by the 8th century, organized soap production was in place in Italy and Spain. The French followed suit in the 9th century, but it took until 1370 for the first commercial soap maker to establish operations in Marseille.

By the middle of the 15th century, French soap manufacturing was primarily in the Provencal towns of Marseille, Toulon and Hyères. All three centres benefited from easy access to the raw materials from the Camargue, olive oil, saltwater, and salicorne ash.

Marseille out-produced the other centres by 1525. However, the edict of Minister Colbert, in 1688, under King Louis XIV, restricted the use of the name Savon de Marseille to the immediate geographic area surrounding Marseille. The Royal decree also dictated using only olive oil over animal fats. Napoléon I further protected the industry, which flourished well into the 20th century. The city of Marseille thus became an important production center for soap, whose reputation spread throughout France.

Savon de Marseille Soap Marseille

Then the traditional Savon de Marseille became very popular throughout Europe and beyond, thanks to its quality and purity. For centuries, the soap factories of Marseille continue using the same artisanal production method, with natural and simple ingredients, such as oil from Provençal olive trees and soda.

At the beginning of the 19th century, soap production began to be modernized with new vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil or peanut oil from Africa and the Middle East. As a result, the soap industry flourished and produced more than 150,000 tons until the Second World War.

A Few Authentic Producers

In 1924, 132 soap manufacturers existed in Marseille, Toulon and Salon-de-Provence. After WWII, most of the original Savon de Marseille producers disappeared. However, a handful of companies continue making this Provencal soap according to traditional artisanal methods with a master soap maker. These companies are recognized as « Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant » (Living Heritage Companie), a label of excellence that identifies ancestral know-how. Here is the complete list:

Savonnerie Le Serail: Founded in 1949 in Marseille, this soap factory perpetuates the tradition of Marseille soap by using natural ingredients and an artisanal manufacturing method. The Savonnerie Le Serail is one of the last Marseille soap manufacturers to use copper cauldrons for saponification.

Savonnerie Marius Fabre: Founded in 1900 in Salon-de-Provence, this soap factory is famous for its olive oil Marseille soap, made from the traditional recipe passed down from generation to generation. The founder’s descendants continue the company’s legacy.

Rampal Latour soap factory, also located in Salon-de-Provence, is older making soap since 1828, i.e. five generations. It tends to restrict water use for more ecological production and promotes responsible innovation.

Savonnerie Fer à Cheval: Founded in 1856 in Marseille, this soap factory is one of the oldest in the region. It produces Marseille soap with olive and palm oil and other natural care products for the body and the home.

Savonnerie du Midi: Founded in 1894 in Marseille, this soap factory produces traditional Marseille soap and other body and home care products. It is one of the largest producers of Marseille soap in France.

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Savon de Marseille

Savon Ingredients

Talk about a recipe that has stood the test of time!

  • 72% vegetable oil
  • 28% moisture content
  • Small amounts of salt and soda ash
  • A cauldron with the perfect amount of heat
  • Large moulds for the appropriate cure time
  • A Mistral wind can always help the drying time
  • From start to finish, the time required is approximately 30-days

Savon de Marseille

Soap Making Process

Traditional soap making requires patience and time:

  • Cooking: In large cauldrons, a mixture of olive oil, the alkaline chemical (soda ash), and water is heated. The combination of ingredients triggers a chemical process called saponification. During the cooking, the particles separate to form two products; the salt of a fatty acid (a semi-solid paste) and glycerin.
  • Washing: The paste is boiled at 100 °C and washed with salt water, flushing impurities and any remaining alkaline chemicals. After three to four days, the soap maker verifies that the soap is residue-free.
  • Resting: The heat for the cauldron is turned off. The mixture stands for three (3) days.
  • Moulding: During the resting phase, the frames are prepared a final filter takes place as the mixture flows from the cauldron. The thick liquid is then levelled and dried, left to harden for two (2) days.
  • Cutting: The initial cut is into large blocks weighing nearly 40 kilograms. The smaller blocks are often produced mechanically with a cutting machine. Then the cubes move to racks for up to two weeks of drying.
  • Stamping: Stamping the soap blocks on all six (6) sides is the final step. The tampon (stamp) includes the company’s logo and details.

The result is Savon de Marseille pure, natural, biodegradable soap.

Why Buy Savon de Marseille

Buy Savon de Marseille

Authentic Marseille soaps are handcrafted, respecting the ancient saponification processes: they are composed of 100% vegetable and natural ingredients and contain 72% oil, as the traditional recipe requires. In addition, these include organic olive oil from Provence, which is rare even among the master soap makers!

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