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Aleppo Soap Story

Ibrahim Alalou


My homemade Aleppo soap

Aleppo soap is world famous. We Syrians take pride in it. Some historians date it back to 2000 years. It was the only soap we use until recently for hair, body and washing clothes. The scent of it is so overwhelming when you walk across the old market in Aleppo and people will put it as a first priority when they visit the ancient city to buy their yearlong supply. They put it in hemp sacks in well ventilated areas of their lovely Arabic houses. As it dries the laurel scent so refreshing and seducing that is synonymous with pure cleanliness and vivid, bright skin that is full with life and joy.

Times changed and as in other parts of the world inflation hit hard on peoples earning and frugal living was many times a necessity rather than a new fad.

I was yearling for a good quality soap that we were used to but could not find my obscure choice so I decided to make on my own.

Traditionally Aleppo soap was made in specialized vats and cooked over few days then poured on flat floors to dry and cut accordingly with a stamp for each family factory that was mainly many generations old tradition. Finally it would be stacked to dry for a period between 6 months to a year before selling. The longer the better and calmer with more lather and softness.

So what is Aleppo soap to start with?

It the simplest and most natural soap you can find anywhere.

With only 3 ingredients: Water, lye, and oil.

You can make either way via the cold process and the hot process method.

For homeowners I tried the cold process method which I think easier and simple: you add the lye to the water and when it cools down to 40 degrees Celsius you add it the oil which should have a similar temperature. Of course if you want to make it at home get the quantities from the soap calculator site after taking the utmost care with dealing with lye. Then mixing until you get a trace you pour it in molds. Second day you take it out and let it dry. The saponification process is over in 4 weeks after which it is safe to use. But as I said earlier the dryer the better. If you are not so anxious to use it like me give it an extra month.

So what is the secret of Aleppo soap?

It is all in the oil. Just to clarify one thing: Aleppo soap is different from Castile soap in the oils they use. In Castile soap the only oil is olive oil but in Aleppo soap we use 2 oils: Olive oil and laurel oil and that is the secret to it. A good Aleppo soap will have 20 to 25 percent laurel oil and 75 to 80 percent olive oil.

I made it at home and here is a picture of it. I will talk about it more in another post.


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