Savon de Mersailles (homemade soap that rules.)

Happy Holidays, AKA. the time of year you panic about what to get everyone.

Besides being a kitchen ninja, I am also crazy crafty.  I consider this the handmade version of the gift certificate.  It “fits” everyone no matter what the age, religious belief or how well you know them…everyone bathes.

I have experimented with soap making for a few years now.  So, I am sharing it with you in the spirit of the holiday season. I must get the message across quickly, IT IS NOT HARD TO MAKE.


It is A. ALWAYS better to give a gift that you make,  B. It is fun to make things even if they turn out ugly (your mom will still think it’s awesome) C. Again, more points for giving gifts you made, and finally, D. This is cheaper to make than a gift certificate (unless you are really cheap and give $5.00 gift cards). I have people actually requesting that I make this again for their holiday gift. Unfortunately for me, the “gig is up” on the process. Now, I have to figure out how to do something else for gifts this year. See how much I love my readers?

The Real Deal

SOAP MAKING: Spare me. I know you made soap as a kid (probably ugly soap balls too), but this is GROWN-UP soap with fancy ingredients.

This recipe is for Savon de Marseilles (say-von-dew-mer-sigh). Marseilles is a region in France, and the soaps they produce are so lovely on the skin. It can be a bit pricy for importing the real deal, but as we are using French clay, it is technically the same thing! I just got back from visiting the south of France, and the photo is of something I picked up in a farmer’s market in Nice. They really are into making soap down there, and it is all fantastic. The percentages are usually how much of it is of oil. I would love to get my hand on the stamps they use, but short of making the reverse in clay and firing them, I don’t know how else to get the special stamps. Stick with simple stamps.

If you want to make this before (INSERT HOLIDAY YOU CELEBRATE HERE), order your French cosmetic clay right now as it will take a bit to receive (give it a week).  Besides, you will procrastinate on the making process, as that is the nature of the holiday. Once you get it all together, it is FUN and easy. I am going over everything just to be clear, but it really isn’t difficult to do.

Unless you drink a bunch of champagne and can’t read these instructions.


  • Double boiler or electric skillet with a small pot/pan inside
  • Molds
  • Designs for imprinting into the top of the soap
  • Knife
  • Pointy object such as tweezers for pulling off imprints
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Glue dots: if you want to make labels for them

Notes on Materials:

MOLDS: Quart milk cartons make excellent molds for the larger blocks. However, make sure to cut a piece of the milk carton out and put it at the bottom that is the same size as the carton itself. As the carton has a fold in the bottom which will be your soap’s top.  Also, mark the inside with a pour line so you can make sure your mold will be as square as possible. You can only use these molds once so start saving up. If you just want to invest in plastic reusable molds that make individual bars, you can go to a craft store such as Micheal’s and go to the soap making section.

DESIGNS FOR IMPRINTING: Micheal’s craft stores had some basic soap molds. However, I think a lot of them were cheesy but bought them anyway. I liked two enough, so I decided to make smaller batches and just reuse the ones I liked. I also had some interesting metal objects someone gave me. You should secure these down with glue dots as they shift when you pour unlike the rubber stamp ones. In fact, if you use anything that isn’t a soap mold, secure it with something from underneath as it can float up inside if it isn’t heavy and you’ll end up having to dig it out.

DOUBLE BROILER: The good thing about this is it is easy to clean up after this as it is already soaped. I prefer using an old electric skillet with some water in it in which I add the pan into. It is portable that way as well as easily controlled for temperature and never will burn. A double broiler will work (a big pot with some water fitted with a smaller pot inside it which prevents the heat from directly touching the pot inside the big one) just make sure to watch your heat and keep it LOW.


Olive oil-based soap from a craft store.  You can also used cucumber, Shea butter or avocado based soap if you want to have a variance of the actual colors. It doesn’t effect the smell that much. Michael’s sells it in the soap section and each package makes about 12 small bars of soap depending on how you fill your molds. As around the holiday’s it may be hard to get the supplies you want, it is okay to get a few varieties. If it is cloudy or milky in its original form, it only turns greener during the process because the clay is green.

Essential oils – You can purchase these at Whole Foods or health food stores. If you want to order them online, you can buy them from the same folks who I buy my soap from at Mountain Rose Herbs. I found grapefruit, lemon, sandalwood, teatree and rose to be good starter oils. Cinnamon and clove oils are very masculine but should be used super sparingly!
French green clay. I bought mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I only bought one pound and it has lasted me three years making aprox 15-20 regular bars of soap each year.
Himalayan Sea Salt (fine) – can be purchased at a health food store such as Whole Foods and is good to use instead of regular salt…good investment
Warm water – If you want to be really French, get a big bottle of Evian as it is from France!
Base oils – such as jojoba, almond, hazelnut and extra virgin olive oil.

Optional mix ins: Uncooked oatmeal, lemon zest, orange zest, fresh rosemary, lavender, cinnamon and dried flower petals. For each, add to your liking but most likely at least a teaspoon PER BAR you plan on making. Keep in mind, extra ingredients usually act as exfoliates.


Mold facing up towards you!

1. Prepare your molds & imprints. If you are using rubber stamps, make sure to put them so you can see them inside the mold as you want it to make the imprint goes into the soap. Sounds obvious, but we all are susceptible to forgetting. If you forget, you can always melt it back down. If you are using objects, make sure they are mostly flat on one side and do not have negative space all around…you need to be able to pick out the mold.

2. Your oil soap should break into sections. Break them up into manageable pieces that will easily fit into your pot. I would suggest doing a half package for each batch so you can vary your scents. Heat the double broiler over medium heat.

3. In your double boiler, melt a block of olive oil-based soap. Adjust the heat to make sure the soap doesn’t melt. Stir it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. Once the soap is melted, turn off the heat to prevent the scent from burning off add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon essential oil per pound of soap base.  If you want to use multiple oils, test them beforehand as it can be quite stinky if you combine the wrong ingredients.  Add a teaspoon of French green clay per pound of soap. Add a teaspoon of base oil.Add any add-ins you want. Stir with a wooden spoon.

5. Divide the melted soap mixture by pouring into your molds.  Heights may vary depending on what you are using for a mold or how much soap you have melted. Allow the soap to set until it is cool and hard, at least 20-30 minutes. You can pop out the soap onto a towel and allow for further setting.

6. Add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and 1 cup warm water and warm in a pot. Wash the soap bars in this salt-water solution, smoothing any sharp edges from your molds or imprints. Dry the soap completely, then rinse it in plain warm water.

After you are done, you can download my labels to print and cut. Secure the labels around the soap with a glue dot and you are golden! I suggest printing on nicer paper such as linen that you can purchase at an office supply store. You can write the “flavors” on the backs of the soaps with a nice pen.

Enjoy! Send me photos or post comments on your experience!


About lunargrrl

I am a chef by nature, a weight watching dieter by protest. This blog does not apply to those rules, naturally. View all posts by lunargrrl

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