All Martin de Candre soaps contain olive oil. In addition, other oils are used to give different qualities to soap. For example, coconut oil produces good lather, whilst palm oil makes soap hard. The oils are heated in tanks and when they reach 65º a solution of soda and water is added to produce hard, strong soap. Simple! Not really. It can be quite dangerous. As it is heated, the mixture becomes harder and thicker. If the reaction takes place too quickly, the mixture can overflow at around 95º. Room temperature and humidity play a huge part. As these vary according to the seasons and the weather, it is said that it takes ten years’ experience to become a good soap maker. The whole process takes around 45 minutes and at just the right moment, other ingredients like honey or milk, perfumes and preserving agents are added. There are no chemicals used in the process and no colouring. This explains why the rose scented soap isn’t pink and the lavender scented soap isn’t mauve. The soap is tipped into a mould and after 24 hours is cut and smoothed and then placed in wooden boxes to harden for between 3 and 8 months. Every stage is done by hand.
Having gained a better understanding of the process used to make soap, we visited the museum dedicated to publicity surrounding soap and many of us were transported back to childhood days by advertisements for Cussons, Lux and Palmolive soaps. There were even posters advertising Gibb’s solid pink toothpaste in round red, green and blue tins that many of us once knew so well. We also discovered that Palmolive soap, first produced in 1898, was made from a mixture of palm and olive oils, hence its name.