If you’ve never heard of it, Aleppo Soap is a type of soap made in Aleppo, Syria. The recipe is THOUSANDS of years old, and there are references to this type of soap being made in early Antiquity. It is also made of ingredients that are difficult to get hold of outside of the Middle East, but now, thanks to the interwebs, we can buy them online!
There are two main ingredients to Aleppo Soap: Olive Oil, and Laurel Berry Oil. Laurel Berry Oil (Lauris Nobilis) is a dark green oil with an odd, piney scent, but it’s been scientifically proven as a natural antifungal and antimicrobial agent. Not like, someone wrote an article about it on a blog, but peer-reviewed journals have published scientific research on it. It’s awesome. It’s also hard to find.
If you’re looking for it, do NOT buy Laurel Berry Essential Oil (very different stuff), or Laurel Leaf Oil. But you can buy the right stuff online, just keep in mind it’s from a rarer plant, so it will be more expensive than other soap oils.
As for the olive oil, you can use any kind of oil, but a great idea for soap making is Pomace Oil, which is the kind of oil made from the olive skins. It’s a lower grade oil than what you’d cook with, and therefore much cheaper, and saponifies much better than an Extra Virgin Oilve Oil, so is ideal for soap.
The recipe you make will depend somewhat on the amount of Laurel Oil you have, and what percentage you want to use. 10% would likely be the minimum, but you can go as high as 30%. To figure out exact quantities, you can use this fabulous Soap Lye Calculator, which will calculate how much of each oil, water, and lye you will need once you type in the amount of soap you want, and the percentages you want of each oil.
If you haven’t already read my soap tutorial with safety stuff and disclaimers, read it here.
Step 1: Mix Water and Lye
As mentioned before, this causes a huge exothermic reaction, so make sure you use cold water, and don’t inhale the fumes. The water will get very hot, and the mixture releases caustic fumes. Don’t get it on you, and don’t breathe it in. Stir it gently until it cools.
Step 2: Mix Oils, and Heat
Step 3: Mix
Pour the Lye into the Oils, and stir, watching the awesomeness that is saponification! Continue stirring the mixture until it cools to the point of “trace”. That is, when you can drip some of the mixture on top, and it sits on the surface, rather than just mixing right back in.
Step 4: Pour into Molds
With a recipe this big, you either need a very large mold, or lots and lots of little ones. For this one I’m using a large pan so I can cut it into bars. Let it sit for at least 24 hours, then unmold and cut to size.
Step 5: Cure
The soap is still somewhat alkaline and will need to cure for at least a month. However, because of the high Olive Oil content, Aleppo soap cures between 4-6 months, during which time the outside turns a dark brown, while retaining a vibrant green on the inside. Very cool.