The name Savon de Marseille (Marseille soap) is
historically linked to a technique for making soap created
in Marseille. This process was discovered when in 1789,
Nicolas Leblanc, a chemist from Marseille, developed a method
for producing caustic soda to replace the alkalis traditionally
used in soaps, carbonates in particular. From then on oils
were saponified and the soap cleaned to remove impurities
and concentrated with up to 63% fatty acids (68% active
matter). The process consists of combining caustic soda
and a fatty substance (saponification), then separating
the glycerin, cleaning the soap and finishing the raw soap
(concentration of the soap in the lye phase). The “Marseille”
method is that used by the Master Soapmakers.
This traditional method is different from the modern technique
developed in the second half of the 20th century. It is
much simpler and consists of combining soda with fatty acids,
which are produced from fat that has been chemically processed.
In March 2003, the DGCCRF*, France’s Competition Council,
approved regulations concerning the name Savon de Marseille,
which defined the conditions of use for the name Savon de
Marseille and ensured that only soap produced using the
“Marseille” method can be called as such.
*DGCCRF : Direction Générale
de la Concurrence , de la Consommation et de la Répression