The Manufacturing of Aleppo Soap
Handcrafted production, resulting from a centuries-old tradition …
Aleppo Soap Makers of still use the hot process as the traditional method of making soap. This process has been historically used since the creation of the first hard soap.
Aleppo Soap is a mixture of salts of fatty acids which are derived from oils (Olive Oil) reacting them with an alkali (sodium hydroxide) at 80°-100°C in a process known as saponification. The fats are hydrolyzed by the base, yielding soap and glycerol.
Oil + Alkali → Soap + Glycerol
Depending on the alkali’s type used, the given soap is said “soft” (if added by potassium) or “hard” (if it is sodium). Aleppo Soap is the first hard soap in the world.
The Saponification in Cauldrons is in the old way. Hot process – the traditional method of making natural soap – is still used in Aleppo. The procedure lasts for more than a week and includes four successive stages (the pasting, the draining, the boiling and the washings).
The manufacture of Aleppo Soap is composed of three stages: the preparation of raw materials first, the saponification (making soap) next and the finishing at last.
1° The Preparation of raw materials:
Olive Oil and Sweet Bay Oil are severely selected. Soda must be treated.
Natural soda is not directly used because of it is weak reaction with grease materials. It must be white-washed to obtain caustic Soda.
° The Saponification in Cauldrons (in the old way):
During mashing, a soap worker stirs the mixture in the tub.
Hot process – the traditional method of making natural soap – is still used in Aleppo. The procedure lasts for more than a week and includes four successive stages: the pasting, the draining, the boiling and the washings.
2.1. Pasting: It is the beginning of the hot process of saponification. Olive Oil is boiled with soda, and the two ingredients are blended in the cauldron. It is a very delicate operation that requires all the Master Soap Maker’s knowledge and skills.
2.2. Release: The saponification reaction produces soap and glycerin, excess of which will interfere with the drying of the soap.
The two products are therefore separated by adding salt water. The whole is divided into two layers. The lower part, mixed with water, is removed from the bottom through a tubing after six hours of rest. However, some of the water is kept in the tank to promote subsequent boiling.
2.3. Cooking: The soap paste, obtained after release and remaining in the tank, is heated to boiling for many hours with an excess of caustic soda in order to guarantee the complete transformation of the fat into soap. Leave to stand for twelve hours, then draw off – through the tubing – the water (which constitutes the lower part).
2.4. Washings: They remove excess soda remaining in the soap. The soap paste is boiled with salted water in two or three successive washes, until it reaches a point of equilibrium such that the soap contains only a given proportion of soda. These successive washes last four hours. After standing for twelve hours, the water that has separated from the soap paste – and which forms the underlying lye – is drawn off.
3 ° The finishing:
The phases of Aleppo Soap finishing are cutting, solidifying and, where applicable, molding and packaging. These different phases are all entirely handcraft.
3.1. Cutting: After a day of rest, the hot soap paste has turned from a liquid state to a more solid state. In the Aleppo soap factories, after tracing longitudinal and transverse lines on the solidified surface of the soap, cutting is done with a rake with multiple knives fixed on a handle and held by a soap worker wearing a kind of snowshoes (so as not to mark the soap by crushing).
At the end of this cutout, the soaps are individually hand-marked with the Master Soap maker’s mark (stamping).
3.2. Solidification: Aleppo soaps, now cut into cubes, are stacked in staggered rows and placed on pallets before being transferred, to dry naturally in the air, in the most aerated soap factory. They cool slowly, lose some of their water and gradually solidify.
Aleppo soaps will remain in this airy room for seven months, after which they will have dried perfectly, hardened and their color will have gradually changed from green to brown.
To these constitutive stages of the ancestral manufacture of Aleppo Soap, there are three additional ones, specific to Savon d’Alep Sarl.
3.3. Molding: The Traditional Aleppo soaps thus obtained are reduced in successive stages until they obtain fine flakes. It is from these glitter that molded soaps are handcrafted – and piece by piece -.
The operation is very long, because each part is scrupulously inspected and its surface checked. Indeed, manual manufacturing induces a disparity between the parts, which is corrected by inspection.
3.4. Packaging: Each Aleppo Soap in the range is individually packaged in a cardboard box. The wrapping and packaging is carried out by our qualified employees, in our own workshops in Aleppo.
3.5. Packaging and Storage:Savon d´Alep Sarl products are finally packaged on pallets, then stored in our warehouses.