Making Marseille soap

Cooking Marseille soap

It takes fourteen days to produce real Marseille soap, at Marius Fabre soap factory.

 The Marseille process or “full fire” heating : A vat contains 30 tons of soap

Stage 1 • Saponification or paste producing
The vegetable oils and soda wash are mixed together in a large vat which can contain 20 tons of raw materials. Under the action of soda and heat, the oils gradually become soap paste. This chemical reaction is the saponification or paste production.

Stage 2 • Rinsing or cleansing
The soap paste is rinsed several times with salt water to remove the remaining soda.

Stage 3 • Heating process
The paste is heated at 100 °C for ten days. Heating starts up every morning and is turned off every night.

Stage 4 • Liquifying
The paste is then rinsed several times with fresh water, to remove all impurities, thus earning the name “extra pure”. Being more liquid, the paste is then allowed to settle during 2 days.

Knowledge of the ingredients and different stages is not enough; only the secret know-how passed down four generations can guarantee successful soap making.

Despite specific production methods, Marseille soap has not been granted an “Appellation Contrôlée” label, thus permitting misuse of the term.

Pouring the soap paste

Stage 5 • Pouring off the hot soap paste
While still hot (between 50 and 70 °C), the soap paste is poured into the huge cooling tanks, by means of an articulated wooden feed pipe, called “goulotte”.

Drying Marseille soap

Stage 6 • Drying out
The soap is left to dry for 48 hours in a room. When the Mistral wind blows, the windows facing North are opened and the wind shortens the drying-out process.

Stage 7 • Cutting up
Once dry, the soap is cut, in the moulds, into 35 kilo blocks by a wheel-operated blade.  These blocks are then cut up in a machine producing 2.5 kilos, I kilo, 600g, 500g and 400g blocks.

Moulding Marseille soap

Etape 8 : Le moulage

There are two ways of stamping : hand-stamping on bars or in a machine mould for cubes. Cubes are stamped on all six sides, the traditional sign of “Marseille soap”.