2015 May 08
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Leonoor Verplanken
WORDS BY Simply SLow
Since 1497, soap is manufactured in Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s newest soap factory 'De Amsterdamsche Zeepfabriek' revives this tradition. They seethe soap as it was usual in those days. Made of natural fats and ingredients, without any synthetics involved.

Making natural soap is like baking your favourite cake – the art of finding the right balance and blend between all of the ingredients. On this Sunday afternoon in May we gathered at Spaces Vijzelstraat for our dive into the fascinating world of making natural soap.

The ladies from ‘De Amsterdamsche Zeepfabriek’ see the soap the way our ancestors did – without any synthetic ingredients or preservatives. The oath ‘eedt voor de ZEEP-SIEDERS’ in the book by Jan Wiltingh dating 1655 found in the Amsterdam archive, teaches us that it is forbidden to cheat while seething soap. Only the best fats and nutritious olive oils may be used. We looked at the oath with a smile, but it is worth remembering that these values have been lost somewhere in the past one hundred years…

Soap is nothing more than the saponification of fat with lye. It is through the maker, the tradition and the recipe holder in which quantities of natural fats and ingredients are added to produce beautiful natural soaps. Renske Gras and Toetsie Zwitserlood seethe soap the way our Amsterdam based ancestors did, making soap by hand and using hemp seed oil.

In addition different organic skin conditioning oils are added and used for smoothing and foaming, like cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil and or shea butter. Essential oils provide a subtle scent, herbs and natural colorants can be added. The Amsterdamsche Zeepfabriek also experiments with local beer from ‘Brouwerij De Prael’ and coffee additives, as long as each ingredient adds beneficially to the character of the soap.

At this get together we created our own soap completely from scratch.  The process of soap making using this method neatly mixes science with cooking and art. With our thermometer in hand, we were allowed to experiment with scents. Stirring through the mixture in our steelpan, we learned about ‘trace’ and pH-balance. Soap making is a very slow process, but we enjoyed every minute of our afternoon.

We were amazed with it all, the subtle natural colours, the delicious scents and the beauty of the craft of soap making. Thank you Toetsie and Renske for showing us your craft.




“Making natural soap is like baking your favourite cake – the art of finding the right balance and blend between all of the ingredients”






With love

De Amsterdamsche Zeepfabriek
Renske Gras & Toetsie Zwitserlood

Leonoor Verplanken, ONE DAY PHOTOGRAPHY

Spaces Vijzelstraat, Amsterdam

The copyrights of the images are with Leonoor Verplanken.
The images have been photographed with care for SIMPLY SLOW.
Please keep this in mind and treat them the same, thank you.