©Photo Dominique Lafond

Savon de Marseille

An emblem of Marseille and Provence, reputed far and wide, the savon de Marseille is the fruit of a very precise manufacturing process. Discover it by visiting a local soap factory – you can even make your own soap to take home!

Savon de Marseille: a world-famed soap

Often imitated, but never equalled! This cream and olive soap has brought Marseille‘s name to fame throughout the globe. First popularized by the Crusades, it was shipped across the trading routes from the 17th century onwards. The first law relating to its manufacture was passed under the reign of Louis XIV, in 1688. Soap makers began to bathe the whole of Western Europe in the scents of the Provence and the savon de Marseille became rooted in people’s minds forever. Delve into the history of this symbol of Provencal culture and put yourself in the shoes of a soap maker at MuSaMa, the Musée du Savon de Marseille museum, located in the city centre.

How to choose your soap?

That is the burning question on the lips of every visitor to Provence. Inspired by savon d’Alep (Aleppo soap) the genuine savon de Marseille is manufactured according to a very precise technique and dosage: it is made by saponification in a cauldron and its ingredients include 72% vegetable oils. Purists will tell you that it only comes in two colours – green, made with olive oil and essentially used for personal hygiene, and white, made with coconut oil and used for laundry. But you’ll find a whole array of cubes redolent with the sweet scents of the south, including lavender, rosemary and orange blossom.

Made in Provence

Where to buy and how to visit a manufacturer

Make the most of your stay to discover the region’s soap factories. In Salon-de-Provence, you’ll learn everything there is to know about saponification in a cauldron after a stop-off at the Rampal-Latour and Marius Fabre soap makers. In Marseille, Savonnerie du Sérail, Savonnerie du Fer à Cheval and Savonnerie de la Licorne open their doors to welcome visitors. And just a stone’s throw from Marseille’s Old Port (Vieux-Port), the Grande Savonnerie de Marseille also sells traditionally-made soaps. There’s something for everyone! Whether you opt for a cube or liquid version, you’ll be taking a little piece of Provence home with you, topped with the promise of a fragrant home.

Make your own laundry detergent

You can’t beat a bit of DIY! Try your hand at making your own savon de Marseille laundry soap. For 3 litres of washing liquid you’ll need:

  • 100 g of « Savon de Marseille 72% » (in flakes or suitable for grating)
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar (optional)
  • 20 drops of essential oil (lavender for example – optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 2 litres hot water
  • 1 empty washing liquid bottle (recycled)

Manufacturing steps

Heat the 2 litres of water in a 5-litre pot.

Pour in the 100g of soap and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Mix in the baking soda. Leave to rest for a night so that the mixture becomes compact.

Next, add the litre of cold water and white vinegar. Mix again.

Add 20 drops of essential oil to perfume your washing liquid. And that’s it!

Using a funnel, pour the mixture into the bottle and you’re ready for your first batch of laundry using home-made laundry detergent.

Use the standard dose: one capful is enough. It’s best to shake the bottle before each use.

To soften your laundry, pour a capful of white vinegar into the softener dispenser of your machine.