Castile Soap is one of the most popular European soaps whose history closely follows the expansion of Aleppo, one of the most important soap and cleaning products ever created. After millennia of use in Syria, famous soup from the city of Aleppo went on a journey across vast distance of Silk Road, reaching Asia and Middle East and Persia where it was first noticed by Europeans. During 11th century, Crusaders encountered caravans filled with Aleppo soap and saw how it is made during their stay in Holy Lands. Upon returning home they brought with them large quantities of various products that were unavailable in Europe, and started discovering ways how to create those products (or close variations of them) using ingredients and tools they were on disposal.
After Aleppo soap came into Europe and started revolutionizing public sanitation and personal hygiene (which was a serious problem in Middle Ages, leading to the rampant spreading of various diseases). At first production of local European soap was localized to the Mediterranean area, which slowly started spreading with the arrival of Muslim soap makers to Spain and Italy during 12th century. It was with their dedication and inventions that organized European production came into full life, enabling Spanish cities of Malaga, Carthagene, Castile, Alicante and Italian cities of Savone, Genoa, Naples, Bologna and Venice to become soap export centers of entire Europe. Among all those early European-made soaps, one managed to distinguish itself by its high quality and ability to clean better than others. This was Castile soap.
Castile soap managed to establish such popularity because this Spanish city had an abundance of olive oil, crucial ingredient that was used in the production of their high quality soap. Original recipe for creation of Aleppo soap required use of laurel oil, but because this type of oil was in short supply, Castille’s easy access to olive oil that enabled creation of pure white soap that was very mild and effective. This features of Castile soap, in addition of retaining pure white composition as it aged, made it very popular initially with Spanish royalty, and later on with other royal houses of Europe. As centuries went by, Castile soap traveled over Europe, managing to enter England market during mid 1500s when it was imported in high qualities via sea.
Even now, over half millennia after it was originally created, Castile soap represents one of the best natural and bio-degradable soaps that can be manufactured by hand. It is a great soap for washing body, laundry, hair, can safely be used by children and does not loose potency with time.