In France, savon de Marseille has been used for generations to clean everything from fine linen to the softest baby’s skin. The soap got its name because the city of Marseille, on the southern coast of France, was one of the most important soap-making centers of the Mediterranean. Authentic savon de Marseille is 72 percent olive oil plus coconut and palm oils. It is long lasting, completely biodegradable, and has never been tested on animals. A 600-gram bar of savon de Marseille can last up to six months when used as a bath soap. The process of making this soap traditionally takes days from cooking the fats and oils, adding the clay, pouring the soap into massive troughs to dry and cure and finally being cut into blocks and stamped.
I have purchased large bricks of this soap to keep in my kitchen and in the bath but it is really fun and easy to make your own version of this traditional soap for yourself or like me, to make as gifts for family and friends. Traditionally, savon de Marseille is unscented, but I enjoy adding essential oils as well as powdered herbs to add to the experience and the healing properties of the soap. In this recipe I have added powdered French Lavender and Rosemary (if you grow and dry your herb trimmings and gleanings, you can use what would otherwise be waste in something amazing).
The addition of French green clay — a natural clay hidden deep beneath the earth’s surface — helps absorb the oils from the skin and gives the soap a slick, soft feel. The clay will also create the sage color found on a lot of the traditional savons de Marseille. The clay also has medicinal properties; it’s said to have the ability to draw toxins from the skin while the body absorbs the minerals it needs to aid healing and restore vitality, which is why it is one of the most popular bases for facial masks.
This year I am making extra large blocks of soap which my friends and family can use whole or cut into four blocks and spread around their homes.
Tools and Materials
- Double boiler – I am using an old canning pot I no longer use as well as a dedicated inner melt pot used only for soap making (these are fairly inexpensive and last for years…get two and dedicate your other to making candles and other wax based products!)
- Olive oil-based soap or Goats Milk Soap
- Essential oils of rosemary and lavender
- Powdered herbs (rosemary and lavender)
- French green clay
- Milk carton or mold (this is a great way to recycle those pint or even half gallon containers)
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup warm water
1. In a double boiler, completely melt a block of olive oil-based or goat’s milk based soap, but don’t let it boil. Meanwhile, add about a teaspoon of each French green clay and herb powder blend per pound of soap.
2. Once the soap is melted, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon essential oil per pound of soap base.
3. Pour the melted soap mixture into a mold, filling it to about 1 1/2 inches from the top. Allow the soap to sit until it is cool and hard, at least 2 days.
4. Once it’s hard, unmold the soap and use a knife to slice the soap into desired amounts.
5. 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.
The essential oils I used are from Aura Cacia. I couldn’t find a local source for the French green clay so I purchased it and my soap base from Majestic Mountain Sage. I have used them for years and their products are terrific and they provide fantastic customer service!
Use your garden herbs and other ingredients to make wonderful caring gifts for yourself and those you love!