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The Art Of Marseille Soap, An Ancestral Industry

Real Marseille soaps 72% Rampal Latour drying on canisses

Soap makers, the Rampal Latour soap factory is part of the heritage of French craftsmanship by making authentic soaps of inimitable quality since 1828 in Provence.

Among them, sits royally a flagship soap,the iconic “Marseille Soap”. While it was the essential ally of all families, its use has declined sharply since the 1950s with the advent of detergents derived from petrochemicals (washing powders, chemical stain removers, etc.) Today we use it rediscovers because it combines efficiency, naturalness and respect for the environment.

The history of Marseille soap: a prosperous industry

Discover the history of Marseille soap through its key dates and its manufacturing process that our craftsmen perpetuate in our factory in Salon de Provence.

1150-1700 – Promising beginnings

  • 1150: Soap making starts in Marseilles thanks to manufacturing secrets brought back from the Crusades.
  • 1500: Marseille manufacturing methods are perfected.
  • In 1650, the quality of Marseille productions was recognized. The clientele is growing and becoming more loyal.
  • Colbert decided in 1688 to set the rules for soap making by an Edict which would be the charter for soap factories until 1789.

1700-1830 – Revolutionary discoveries

  • In 1700, Marseille had a virtual monopoly of manufacturing in France.
  • 1791: N. Leblanc discovers a process for extracting soda from sea salt.
  • 1808: Artificial soda factories open in Marseille.
  • 1800-1820: This is the great era of olive oil soap.
  • 1823: Mr. Chevreul invents the method for separating glycerine and fatty acids.

1830-1914 – Factories improve

  • 1830: Great shortage of olive oil. We have to find new raw materials.
  • 1850-1860: Imports of peanut oil, rapeseed, palm, copra...
  • 1861: E. Solvay discovers a cheaper and easier soda extraction process.
  • Factories are being perfected, production is increasing.
  • 1900: Development of notions of hygiene. Soap becomes the essential product. This is the great era of advertisements.

1914-1955 – Fierce competition

  • 1914-1918: You have to sell despite the crisis: slogans become patriotic.
  • 1936: Foreign competition moves to Marseille. Henkel & Lever operates the Persil brand.
  • 1939-1945: New crisis for Marseille soap. Brands appear: Dop, Palmolive, Cadum… Washing powders dethrone Marseille soap.
  • 1947: The use of washing machines increases.

1955-2008 – The return to nature

  • 1955: Consumers adopt convenient detergents.
  • 1960-1970: Competition invades the market.
  • 1970: Ecologists denounce the effects of chemical-based detergents that pollute and can attack sensitive skin.
  • We then rediscover Marseille soap, ecological, very effective, natural, and now recognized by dermatologists for its dermatological properties.

The process of making real Marseille soap

It is an Edict of Colbert of 1688 which fixes for the first time the rules and the method of manufacture of the Savon de Marseille. A Marseille soap is said to be genuine if it is cooked in a cauldron, made in the Marseilles region, that the oils that compose it are 100% vegetable, and that it contains at least 72% oils. Extra-pure, it must be made from oils, water, salt and soda only. It contains no coloring, no preservatives and no perfume. Its manufacturing process lasts several days during which the soap paste is made in a cauldron according to 5 stages: pasting, salting out, cooking, washing, liquidation.

The soaps are then dried, cut and then stamped on their 6 sides.