Video of making Aleppo Soap

Aleppo soap is made by the “hot process”. First, the olive oil is brought into a large, in-ground vat along with water and lye. Underneath the vat, there is an underground fire which heats the contents to a boil. Boiling lasts three days while the oil reacts with the lye and water to become a thick liquid soap. The laurel oil is added at the end of the process, and after it is mixed in, the whole concoction is taken from the vat and poured over a large sheet of waxed paper on the floor of the factory. At this point the soap is a large, green, flat mass, and it is allowed to cool down and harden for about a day. While the soap is cooling, workers with planks of wood strapped to their feet walk over the soap to try to smooth out the batch and make it an even thickness. Then the soap is cut. Three workers drag a rudimentary, rake-like cutting device through the soap to cut it one way, then again the other way until the whole mass is cut into individual cubes. Each cube is stamped with the family name. The cubes of soap are then stacked in staggered cylinders to allow maximum air exposure. Once they have dried sufficiently, they are put into a special subterranean chamber to be aged for one year. While it is aging, the soap goes through several chemical changes. First, and most importantly, the free alkaline content of the soap (the alkaline which did not react with the oil during saponification) breaks down upon slow reaction with air. The moisture content of the soap is also reduced, making the soap hard and long lasting. And lastly, the color of the outside of the soap turns a pale gold, while the inside remains green