How to Make ‘Savon de Marseille’ – Soap

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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.

DIY Soap making is popular at present. Home-made soaps can also have added essences which offer additional healing. Lavender and rosemary come to mind – both growing abundantly in the south of France. but also elsewhere in the world. So if you want to make your own faux-Savon de Marseille, you could add lavender fragrance to your soap.

The real 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 de marseille

Soap History

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

First up: you can not really casually make Savon de Marseille yourself at home. Savon de Marseille refers to the natural ingredients just mentioned, plus, a special soap making process with age-old techniques of soap making of the Meditterranea. It benefits from the specific warm weather circumstances that is typical for the South of France, Italy and Greece.

This sounds like an involved, semi-secret recipe, and it is. But, you could still make this soap your own craft. Here are 2 ideas how-to:
1. Buy this high quality Olive Oil-based Soap. As one of my readers pointed out: even though this is the real deal, it’s relatively inexpensive. This soap can be made into chips but won’t melt like cheaper (glysterine-based) soap blocks or soap making chips would. Then, use your best gift wrapping techniques to transform the basic bars into crafty gifts. Easiest, best solution. Or…
2. Use an organic soap base, such as this lovely goat milk’s soap, and make your own soap with them by melting it and adding Essential Oils and/or French Green Clay. Pour melted soap into soap moulds and let it set. When cooled, create a fun Provence -inspired gift wrap for them, and you got yourself some fun faux Savon de Marseille.

savon de marseille printable

Download this free Savon de Marseille printable -logo (via; it appears to be a digital graphic of an actual vintage Savon de Marseille soap packaging. But please: for personal use only… as I don’t know the copyrights exactly.)

Soap Making Supplies

  • Double boiler
  • Molds. Craft market artisans often usually use glass cake moldsas soap molds. For an original Savon-de-Marseille cubed-look, consider using recycled milk cartons.
  • Knife
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Make ‘Savon de Marseille’ – kinda soap
  1. 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!
  2. Add 1 teaspoon French Green Clay for each pound of soap.
  3. Once your soap is melted, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Essential Oils (such as this soothing Lavender oil) per pound of soap base.
  4. Pour the melted mixture in a mold. Leave an inch or so  at the top of the mold.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

How? Personally, I have been using cookie cutters in my soaps with success, as you can see in this article on how to make soap in 2 seconds article.

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.

Instant Gratification for Soap Lovers

Love the luxury of Savon de Marseille soap, but consider this project as something for ‘later’? You can buy Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap) from France here online. It’s a classic with a twist: added is shea butter and it comes in natural, lavender, fig grapefruit, white citrus tea and pavot, French for poppies.

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.

Cleaning Clothes with Savon De Marseille

Yes, it actually works in getting your clothes clean as well!

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 200g – Handcrafted Pure Olive Oil French Soap, your cloths will be clear of oil and any other stains for years to come!

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