Marseille soap or Savon de Marseille is a traditional soap made from vegetable oils that has been made around Marseille, France, for about 600 years, the first documented soapmaker in the area being recorded in about 1370. By 1688, Louis XIV introduced regulations (Edict of Colbert) limiting the use of the name savon de Marseille to soaps made in and around the Marseille area, and only from olive oil. Today this law still applies, although the regulations now allow other vegetable oils to be used.
By 1913 production had reached 180,000 tons and in 1924 there were 132 soapmaking companies in the Marseille and Salon-de-Provence areas combined, but by 2000 only 5 remained. Only a few soap factories remain in and around Marseille still producing Marseille Soap.
Traditionally, the soap is made by mixing sea water from the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil, and the alkaline chemicals soda ash (sodium carbonate) and lye (sodium hydroxide) together in a large cauldron (usually making about 8 tons). This mixture is then heated for several days, stirred constantly. The mixture is then allowed to sit and, once ready, it is poured into the mold, and allowed to set slightly. Whilst still soft, it is cut into bars and stamped, and left to completely harden. The whole process can take up to a month from the start before the soap is ready to use.
Contemporary varieties 
Today, there are two main varieties of this soap. The first is made with olive oil; the second with palm oil or a palm and copra oil mixture, but by the same process. The olive oil variety is green and the palm oil variety is white in colour. The bars usually come in sizes between 300 g and 1 kg; however, larger sizes are often available, some up to 40 kg (originally, they only came in 5 kg and 20 kg blocks).
See also 
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