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Marseille soap


Marseille and its soap, more than 800 years of history

Marseille soap: white, cream or green ?

The making of authentic Marseille soap

How to recognize real Marseille soap ?

The benefits of Marseille soap for the home

The benefits of Marseille soap for the body, face and hair

Our Marseille soaps at Penn'Ty Bio

Marseille and its soap, more than 800 years of history

For more than 800 years, the city of Marseille has been the cradle of the production of natural soap based on olive oil. In the 12th century, the town already had several soap factories, produced from oil extracted from olives harvested in Provence and natural soda from plants in the saline environments of the Camargue. Its specific climate is also conducive to drying soaps, with its heat and its wind, the famous Mistral. Marseille soap then enjoyed a strong reputation, which has still not disappeared to this day.

Historical engraving of a soap factory in Marseille

In 1373

In 1371, Crescas Davin was the city's first official soap maker. The first industrial factories appeared in the 15th century and quickly exported to Europe and the Mediterranean basin, benefiting from the geographical openness of the city and its historic port activity. Marseille soap is then marketed in the form of green bars of 5 kg or more. Marseille soap gained its reputation from the 16th century.

In 1688

The city of Marseille had 7 soap factories in 1660. To support the development of this industry, Louis XIV decided, by an edict from his minister Colbert in 1688, to regulate the manufacture of soap and its constituents. "We will not be able to use the soap factory, with the barrel, soda or ashes, of any fat, butter or other materials; but only pure olive oils, and without mixture of fat, under penalty of confiscation of the goods." And to guarantee an optimal level of quality, production will have to be interrupted during the 3 summer months, due to the extreme heat. At the beginning of the 17th century, production could barely satisfy the demand of the city and its surroundings. Under Colbert, the quality of Marseille production was such that Marseille soap became a common name. In 1789, Nicolas Leblanc developed a process to produce superior quality soda.

The regulation of Marseille soap in the 19th century

In 1812

The number of Marseille soap factories amounts to 62. Napoleon, sensitive to the benefits of traditional Marseille soap, adopted a decree on December 22, 1812 defining a particular brand for soap bricks, "with a pentagon in the middle of which will be inscribed these words: olive oil, and subsequently the name of the manufacturer and that of the city of Marseille". The text ended with a warning: "Any individual established in a city other than that of Marseille, who sells soaps bearing the granted mark, will be punished with a fine, the soaps will also be confiscated."

In 1927

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Marseille soap industry, now numbering 90 soap factories, experienced dazzling prosperity, before suffering an initial slowdown during the First World War. The decisions of the Aix en Provence Court of Appeal in 1927 and the Court of Cassation in 1928 redefine Marseille soap as a product made exclusively from vegetable oil, in a proportion of at least 72%. Production recovered in the post-war period, reaching 120,000 tonnes in 1938, thanks in particular to programs linked to mechanization. After a further decline in activity during the Second World War, the Marseille soap industry suffered a sharp decline, hit hard by competition from synthetic detergents.

Marseille soap with vegetable oil


Since the 1980s, Marseille soap has experienced a real revival, in response to the needs for naturalness and authenticity of an ever-increasing number of consumers. And even if today there are only 4 soap factories still in operation in Marseille, demand remains strong. Consumers are rediscovering the virtues of this natural and biodegradable product, an alternative to products derived from the chemical and petroleum industries.

The first Marseille soap was made from an emulsion of oil and soda obtained by the incineration of soda plants (salicornium and kali). With the evolution of industrial chemistry, soda was subsequently obtained by attacking sea salt with sulfuric acid (Leblanc process), and finally by the manufacture of soda with ammonia (Solvay process). .

For technical reasons, olive oil has been replaced mainly by peanut oil.

Marseille soap: white, cream or green ?

The different colors of Marseille soap

(Real) Marseille soap contains no coloring, no additives, no perfume and no preservatives. If you see anything other than vegetable oils on the label, avoid the product! Real Marseille bread is colored naturally with the vegetable oil it contains.


White Marseille soap is made from palm and copra oil (extracted from coconuts). Copra oil is used to provide better foaming power to Marseille soap without adding a chemical foaming agent. White Marseille soap is most often used for laundry. Its neutral color makes it easy to use when removing stains from laundry. You can also choose it to make “homemade” laundry detergent.


Green Marseille soap owes its color to its high concentration of olive oil. More precisely, it is olive pomace oil, that is to say the residue (the pulp and the stones) of the first cold pressing of the olives. The first pressure gives the oil used in cooking, the second, the darker olive pomace oil. Green Marseille soap is traditionally used for hygiene, beauty, linen and home care. You can also make your own dishwashing liquid with green Marseille soap (unlike white soap made from palm oil which risks freezing the dishwashing liquid).

The cream

Cream-colored Marseille soap is also used with olive oil, but it may be less concentrated or cut with peanut oil.

The making of authentic Marseille soap

The making of authentic Marseille soap

Cooking soap

Fourteen days are needed to make real Marseille soap. The “Marseille process”, or so-called “high heat” cooking:

Step 1 : saponification or “pasting”
It is the transformation of vegetable oils into soap, under the action of soda and heat, in a large cauldron. In a cauldron, the oils or fatty acids are successively loaded under moderate heating and the lye; everything is brought to the boil and the mass transforms into an emulsion.

Step 2 : Release
As soap is insoluble in salt water, this operation consists of adding sea salt in order to draw the excess lye to the bottom of the cauldron. The soap will thus separate from part of the water it contains. The soap paste is washed several times with salt water to remove the remaining soda.

Step 3 : Cooking
The soap cooks for 10 days at a temperature of 120°C, under the supervision of the master soap maker. This operation characterizes saponification and allows the complete transformation of vegetable oils into soap.

Step 4 : Liquidation
This operation ensures the transition from the crystalline structure of the soap to its smooth phase by adding water. Several washes with pure water allow you to obtain an “extra pure” soap, free of all impurities. All of these stages are called “cooking”. A decisive and delicate phase, it requires the full attention of the master soap maker.

The pouring of the soap

This is step 5, called “The pouring of the cooked”

The soap paste is then poured, while still hot (between 50 and 70°C), into the “mises”, gigantic molds, using an articulated wooden channel called a “chute”.

Knowing the ingredients and steps is not enough; only the secret of know-how, passed down from generation to generation, can guarantee the success of the soap.

Despite a specific manufacturing process, Marseille soap does not benefit from a controlled designation, thus allowing numerous deviations.

Drying the soap

Step 6 : drying : The soap dries for forty-eight hours in the open air. On a mistral day, the north-facing windows are open, thus reducing drying time.

Step 7 : Once dry, the soap is cut into 35 kg bars, using a knife pulled by a winch. The loaves are in turn cut in a machine to make blocks of different sizes.

Soap molding

Step 8 : molding: There are two types of marking: hand struck for the bars, or machine molded for the cube. The latter is stamped on all six sides, a sign of recognition of the traditional “Marseille soap”.

How to recognize real Marseille soap ?

Logo of Authentic Marseille Soap

Internationally renowned, the La Corvette Marseille soap that we sell at Penn'Ty Bio is an authentic soap made with respect for tradition. Produced in an artisanal manner, each soap is made from a fatty substance and olive oil. Based on ingredients of natural origin, it contains no colorants, perfumes, preservatives or synthetic adjuvants. It has been made since 1894 at the Savonnerie du Midi, in Marseille, using the traditional manufacturing process of cooking in cauldrons, in order to perpetuate authentic and artisanal know-how.

But currently unprotected, the name “Marseille soap” can be applied to any type of soap, regardless of its geographical origin, method of manufacture and composition. Concerned about protecting traditional Marseille soap, four historic soap factories in Bouches-du-Rhône, including Savonnerie du Midi, decided to join forces in 2011 by creating the Union of Marseille Soap Professionals (UPSM). Its purpose is to promote and defend traditional Marseille soap. To this end, this private association has registered a collective brand which guarantees constant quality, respecting precise specifications :

- Its geographical origin : it must be made in Marseille or in its region, the historic area for manufacturing Marseille soap.

- Its manufacturing process : it must be cooked in a cauldron for approximately 7 to 10 days, according to the five stages of traditional saponification called the "Marseillais process" and scrupulously followed by the Master Soapmaker.

- Its composition : Marseille soap must be composed of vegetable oils exclusively (no animal fat like "sodium tallowate" for example which is beef fat). It is fragrance-free, coloring-free, preservative-free, additive-free. It therefore only includes 4 to 5 ingredients maximum: Sodium Olivate (saponified olive oil), Sodium Cocoate (coconut oil), sodium palmate (palm oil), aqua (water), Sodium Chloride (salt), Sodium Hydroxide (welded).

In 2016, the UPSM decided to present a file to the INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property), so that Marseille soap is recognized by an IGPIA (Geographic Indication for Industrial and Artisanal Products), and that It thus appears in the list of manufactured products soon to be labeled by public authorities. Marseille soap was the first industrial and artisanal specialty to seek this recognition because the law is recent and its last implementing decree was officially published on March 10, 2016. Alongside the UPSM, Savonnerie du Midi is therefore very involved in defending the heritage values of Marseille soap and guarantees these customers compliance with the UPSM charter.

Marseille soap 72% olive oil

Why do we list 72% oil ?

In 1906, the chemist François Merklen who owned a soap factory in the region set the percentage of vegetable oil in Marseille soaps at 72%, supplemented by soda and water.

He is participating in a bill on the Repression of Fraud in the Soap Trade. In 1928, the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal confirmed this composition of Savon de Marseille to defend the reputation of Savon de Marseille and fight against counterfeiting.

In short : this is the guarantee of a minimum vegetable fat content of 72% in the total composition of the soap.

The benefits of Marseille soap for the home

Marseille soap olive oil

This legendary soap with multiple virtues is fully in line with new consumer trends with its values of naturalness and authenticity. It is the most ecological and healthy alternative to industrial chemicals. Multi-purpose, Marseille soap is perfectly suited to laundry and home care. It is perfect for sanitizing all surfaces in the house. Overview of tips and tricks using Marseille soap.


Dishes : Marseille soap is very practical for washing dishes. Rub your sponge on the Marseille soap then polish the dishes. Otherwise, make your own dishwashing liquid: Boil 80 cl of water with 50 grams of Marseille soap shavings while mixing. Turn off the heat as soon as the water comes to a boil. Continue mixing until the soap is completely dissolved. Then remove from the heat and, while mixing, add 1 tablespoon of black soap, 2 tablespoons of white alcohol vinegar, 1 tablespoon of baking soda and finally 1 tablespoon of soda crystals. Let cool and then pour into a container. Tip: if the water in your town is very hard, you can add a little more white vinegar. This dishwashing liquid recipe is used like a commercial dishwashing detergent. Use real Marseille soap 72% vegetable oil, coloring-free, fragrance-free, glycerin-free, olive-based. White, made from palm oil, risks congealing the dishwashing liquid.

Maintain your home with Marseille soap

Walls, ceilings : Nothing like Marseille soap to wash and degrease walls and ceilings. Dilute a handful of soap shavings in a bucket of hot water. Wash using a sponge mop and rinse with clean water.

Iron : Regularly clean the iron soleplate that has become dirty or yellow by rubbing a piece of dry soap when the soleplate is slightly warm. Wipe with a soft dry cloth or a ball of newspaper to shine the surface.

Mattress : To keep a mattress fresh and clean, simply pass a washcloth moistened with Marseille soap over the surfaces to be cleaned. Then iron a glove soaked in clean water to rinse and leave to dry all day.

Strollers, childcare equipment : Hypoallergenic, Marseille soap is ideal for maintaining childcare equipment such as strollers. Wash the removable covers in the machine with a detergent made from Marseille soap shavings. For non-removable covers, wash with a sponge dampened with soap. For odorous and stubborn stains, rub with soap and a little baking soda, leave for a few hours to remove the dirt then rinse. Allow to air dry thoroughly.

Shoes : Scrub your shoes using a soft brush (an old toothbrush or a small brush) soaked in cold water and Marseille soap, and let it dry in the open air without rinsing (applying crumpled paper in the sneakers). Cleaning with Marseille soap is preferable for leather shoes or sneakers.

Brushes, makeup sponges : Regular washing will help rid them of dust and makeup residue that has accumulated over time. Gently soap the brushes without crushing them too much so as not to break the bristles (the ideal is to move the brushes back and forth on the cube of Marseille soap). Repeat washing until the water is clear. Dry them with a dry cloth, then turn them upside down so that the brushes return to their original shape.


Marseille soap shavings for laundry care

Traditional recipe : Dilute a handful or 20g of shavings in 1L of hot water and stir until a gel is obtained, the detergent is ready for use. Store in a suitable bottle, and shake well before each use.

Stain remover for baby's laundry : By removing stains before washing or in laundry for your little one, Marseille soap shavings are perfect for your baby's skin. Thanks to their hypoallergenic and stain-removing formulation, they are particularly recommended for cleaning baby laundry and delicate laundry. By dissolving the shavings in very hot water, this product is used to make your own laundry. It is a natural and effective alternative to all synthetic detergents. The stain remover tip before washing : I take a few shavings of Marseille soap that I rub on my baby's stained bodysuits, pants and t-shirts.

To remove halos : To erase traces of halos on your clothes, nothing could be simpler. Moisten the garment then rub your cube on the halo. Leave the garment to soak for 20 minutes in very cold water.

Against butter or grease stains : Apply extra pure Marseille soap shavings to your stain. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes (a few hours if the stain is old) so that the soap can absorb the grease. Then scrub the stain and rinse with cold water. Then put your garment in the machine on your normal cycle. Our little advice : do not use hot water which will fix the stain in the heart of the fibers of your clothes!

Recipe for stubborn stains : Dilute 100g of shavings in 2L of hot water, add 1 cup of baking soda and ½ cup of white vinegar. Allow to cool and shake well before use.

Stubborn stains : In general, rub dry stains, shirt collars and cuffs with damp soap before washing in the machine or by hand. For tougher stains, proceed in the same way but leave to act for a few hours before washing.


Use Marseille soap daily

Leather sofa : Coat a washcloth or cloth moistened and well wrung out with Marseille soap then lightly massage the leather using circular movements. Dry with a clean cloth. This cleaning will bring flexibility and longevity to the leather.

Wooden terrace : Regularly rid the terrace of mold, impurities and pollution accumulated over months by washing it with a broom, a basin of hot water and a handful of diluted soap shavings. This simple and effective cleaning will better maintain your terrace over time.

Multi-purpose spray : Grate your olive Marseille soap. In a salad bowl, add 2 tablespoons of Marseille soap, 100 ml of boiling water, 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Mix until the soap is dissolved then leave to cool. Then pour it into a spray bottle.

Home or garden tools : Broom, brush, mower, rake, dibbler, etc. Plastic, metal and wooden tools love Marseille soap.

For the maintenance of plastics : Wet a sponge or microfiber cloth. Place Marseille soap on top. Wash the plastic parts of tools or accessories (lawn mower, trash can, etc.). Rinse and dry with a dry cloth.

For metal maintenance : Wet a sponge or brush. Place Marseille soap on top. Wash the metal parts of the tools. Rinse and wipe the metal with a dry cloth.

For wood maintenance : Wet a sponge or brush. Place Marseille soap on top. Wash the wooden handles of the tools. Rinse and dry the wood with a dry cloth. Marseille soap helps soften the rough appearance of the wood.


Marseille soap against clothes moths

Against aphids : Rather than using pesticides to get rid of aphids in your garden, Marseille soap represents an interesting ecological alternative. Dilute 2 tablespoons of finely grated Marseille soap shavings in a spray bottle and mix. Spray your natural aphid repellent directly on your plants, preferably at the beginning or end of the day. With this insecticide your plants and the environment will thank you! Repeat if necessary, but in general, 2 to 3 treatments will be sufficient. A safe, ecological, economical and fast solution that really works.

To keep moths away from clothes : Inside and outside the wardrobe or your cupboards or drawers, Marseille soap can help protect and keep moths away from your clothes. To do this, slip the Marseille soap into the drawers or into your clothing pockets, into your laundry piles, between the sheets...: the natural and very particular smell of Marseille soap helps to repellently ward off clothing moths.

Remove fogging : To combat fogging of your mirrors, glasses...simply pass a small piece of Marseille soap on the surfaces and wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat this tip every month.

Erase the mark of a hem : To remove the mark of a hem, rub Marseille soap on the surface, place a piece of tissue paper and iron with a hot iron.

Unblocking a zipper : To unblock your zipper, use a piece of Marseille soap and rub the notches of the zipper.

The benefits of Marseille soap for the body, face and hair

Unlike conventional shower and bath products, Marseille soap is made entirely from natural products. It is a product obtained from the transformation, under the effect of heat, of a mixture of vegetable oils with caustic soda. It contains no preservatives, no colorings, no animal fats, nor any petrochemical product, but only vegetable oils. A hypoallergenic formula based on exclusively vegetable oils recommended to limit the risk of allergies and therefore often praised by health professionals. Through a dual cleansing and purifying action, Marseille soap helps to partially eliminate any pathogenic flora while protecting and softening the skin.

Wash your hands with Marseille soap

Daily cleansing : Marseille soap is vegetable and does not attack sensitive skin. You can use it regularly then rinse with clean water. It is a natural, gentle and hypoallergenic product. Marseille soap is highly recommended for oily and acne-prone skin. It can be used to deeply cleanse the skin and regulate sebum. In addition, it is possible to wash the entire body with Marseille soap. People with sensitive skin can also use it for daily cleansing.

For shaving : The traditional manufacturing technique preserves the moisturizing glycerin which is generated during saponification (cooking in a cauldron). Marseille soap does not dry out the skin, making it essential in the bathroom, used by women to remove hair and by men to shave.

For men : Wet skin with clear, lukewarm water. Wet your shaving brush and rub it on the cube of green Marseille soap with olive oil to obtain a creamy foam. Apply the creamy foam to the skin by gently passing your shaving brush over your beard. Then proceed to the manual shaving stage according to your habit. Eliminate the foam by rinsing with clean, cool water. Rinse immediately to prevent the skin from drying out. Dry your face with a clean towel, choosing a soft cotton or terry cloth material. The skin is healthy and naturally clean. The skin is clear.

For women : Wet skin with clear, lukewarm water. Wet your green Marseille soap and rub it directly on the part of the body to be removed until you obtain a creamy foam. Then proceed to the manual shaving stage according to your habit. Eliminate the foam by rinsing immediately with clean, cool water to prevent the skin from drying out. Dry your skin with a clean towel, choosing a soft cotton or terry cloth material. The skin is healthy and naturally clean. The skin is clear.

To wash superficial wounds : Green Marseille soap with olive oil allows you to gently clean small external wounds. Until the second half of the 20th century, surgeons used Marseille soap to wash and purify their hands before operating.

To soothe insect bites : Marseille soap will help soothe the skin after an insect or spider bite. At the first sensation of a bite, wet the green Marseille soap and rub it directly on the mosquito or insect bite. Massage until the pain disappears. Let the soap dry on the skin. Then you can rinse the skin.

Hair protection : Green Marseille soap can also be used on the hair to replace shampoo. If you have oily hair or are prone to seborrheic dermatitis, Marseille soap can be very effective. It will add shine to dull hair and help the most tired to regain vigor.

Brush your teeth with Marseille soap

Hair care mask : For shiny and silky hair, nothing better than a natural mask with Marseille soap. I melt the equivalent of 2 tablespoons of Marseille soap. In the microwave or in a bain-marie. I book. I add the same amount of sweet almond, olive and wheat germ oil (2 tablespoons). I then add an egg yolk and mix vigorously (ideally with a whisk). Once your shampoo is rinsed, dry your hair well. Apply your preparation to the lengths of your hair (avoiding the roots). Leave on for 30 minutes then rinse.

Teeth care : Some people brush their teeth with Marseille soap. Being antiseptic and healing, it purifies the mouth, prevents the formation of cavities and tartar, while stimulating the gums. However, be careful not to swallow it! Wet your toothbrush and rub very lightly on the green Marseille soap as if you were putting toothpaste on the brush (it is better to add a little if it does not lather enough on the teeth). Brush your teeth then rinse them with clean, cold water. After each wash, we advise you to clean the toothbrush thoroughly with green Marseille soap before drying your toothbrush in the open air. The same goes for cleaning your dental appliance, by brushing it carefully with Marseille soap.

Our Marseille soaps at Penn'Ty Bio

Presented in liquid or solid form, Marseille soap will find its place throughout your home: bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, toilet, etc. In liquid form, the pump bottles allow you to precisely dose the soap, without waste, without getting dirty and without it slipping through your hands! Composed of coconut oil, palm oil and scented with essential oils, this soap is labeled Nature et Progrès.

For the maintenance of all your surfaces, Lerutan Marseille liquid soap products are the universal multi-purpose cleaner for washing linen, floors, work surfaces, etc.

In solid form, presented in cubes, genuine Marseille Authentique la Corvette soaps are made in Marseille using the traditional cauldron cooking manufacturing process. A true guarantee of quality for this soap that has been copied many times, but never equalled. Can be used for personal hygiene or as a cleaning product, for laundry or the home. You will also find it in the form of shavings. Incorporated into your homemade cleaning products, they are perfect for gently washing your laundry or for cleaning all your surfaces, your floors, your dishes, etc. These real Marseille soaps are palm oil-free, dye-free, perfume or preservative.

Access detailed information sheets for our Marseille soaps.

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