Vinolia Soap Re-Creation (The Soap on the RMS Titanic)

It was only a matter of time before my love of Titanic merged with my new soaping hobby. The first class soap on the RMS Titanic was called Vinolia—Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap. The “otto” being for the type of rose, I presume, as the soap is said to have smelled of lemon and rose.

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The ads say the soap “is perfect for sensitive skins and delicate complexions. Its rich, cleansing lather soothes and softens, and for regular Toiler use there is no soap more delightful.” It retailed for 35¢ a bar in 1912. You can still buy it today, but the formula has changed.

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The term “toilet” soap referred to the fact that the soap was gentle enough for use on the face. Not in the oils used, but in the amount of lye being appropriate for the amount of oils so there was no leftover lye leftover in the soap to singe an unsuspecting user! In the days before digital scales and Soap Calculators, it was a lot easier to end up with a soap that would burn more than bubble.

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Vinolia is now made with coconut oil and cheap petroleum based oils. Though petroleum jelly did exist back in 1912, I have a hard time believing it would have been used in fancy, expensive soap for the first class passengers on the nicest ship in the world.

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Tallow and lard would have been common ingredients for soap, though, being readily available and very traditional. This PDF of Antique Soap Recipes mentions “cocoanut oil”, and though I’m not 100% certain, I’m going to assume they’re talking about coconut, not cocoa nut, as coconut oil is very useful in soap making. There’s also mention of castor oil, olive oil, palm oil, linseed (flax) oil, and a wide variety of essential oils. The only mentions of petroleum are reserved for things like dog soap and machine soap—the finer “toilet” soaps are all plant based.

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So, I based my recipe on the description of the soap in the ads, my knowledge of what oils were in use at the time, and my moderate soaping experience. I settled on a recipe of olive oil, coconut oil, lard (I’m out of tallow), castor oil, and shea butter. I have no evidence of shea butter being in use for soap or other body products at the time, but it makes a lovely bar of soap, and I feel like using it is in keeping with the spirit of a beautiful bar of soap. If you want to be extra authentic, replace it with more olive oil.

I added some kaolin clay and titanium dioxide to make the bar white (or whiter than it would have been), as it is in the illustrations. I used lemon essential oil, but I will confess I did use frangrance oil for the rose—15mL of Rose Otto essential oil is $272.40, and I would have needed around 25mL for this batch of soap (I made a 700g batch). Ouch!

Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap

40% olive oil
25% coconut oil
20% lard
10% shea butter
5% castor oil

1 tbsp kaolin clay per 500g oils
1 tbsp titanium dioxide (water soluble) per 500g oils

15g essential oil of lemon per 500g oils
15g fragrance oil of rose per 500g oils

Calculate to a 5% superfat (or lye discount)

Follow standard soap making procedures, adding the clay and titanium dioxide at trace. Be sure to blitz the clay and titanium dioxide together in a coffee grinder before adding for easier, smoother integration.

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Wondering where I get my ingredients? I get almost everything from New Directions Aromatics (Canada, USA, Aus, & UK) and Saffire Blue!

56 Responses to Vinolia Soap Re-Creation (The Soap on the RMS Titanic)

  1. Ruth says:

    I’m finally getting my hands on some lye! I ordered it from Creations from Eden, which is in Edmonton. Hopefullly picking it up tomorrow. Ordered a soap thermometer from Voyager Soap and Candle in Vancouver. I really like that place. Reasonable prices and a good selection. I will probably go ahead and just use a candy thermometer in the mean time, well you never know, I’m getting it from Voyager via Canada Expedited Post. When I read your about me description you sound like me. Can’t pick a hobby. I sell bath and body on Etsy and recently started selling miniatures on Etsy (I can’t remember if I told you that!) I frequently go to the local art store to buy supplies for mini making and want to take and art class, recently I went to Beadworks to buy beads for mini making and that store was filled with so many pretty things I couldn’t resist asking the clerk if they gave classes! As if I have the time and the money for another hobby! And I love to travel. Have you heard of the Creative Every Day Challenge? I posted about it on my miniatures blog. I’ll leave that url under “website”
    Cute soap idea! I think I’ll pin it!
    Cheers,
    Ruth

    • Marie says:

      Yay! Finally! Though I wouldn’t recommend using your candy thermometer… in my experience they usually start too high for soap making and you don’t want to cross-contaminate lye with things you want to eat.

      I’ve never tried the Creative Every Day Challenge, but I think I’ve heard of it before… maybe. I could be imagining that. Anyhow, it sounds like a great idea! This blog is sort of my own personal Creative-At-Least-4-Times-A-Week challenge, haha! Keeps me doing the things I love so I remember to schedule them in around work, family, and social commitments.

      I’ve stopped going to Michaels (so expensive! And I usually come home with a new project… oops. That’s also why I’m not allowed to go to Fabricland anymore lol. Unless it’s for notions. Those are ok, right?), but now the internet is just as bad! Pinterest is probably the worst for giving me new ideas for hobbies (and spending money lol).

  2. Anna says:

    Hi Marie,
    What an interesting blog post! What a great idea you had to research the soap of the time of the Titanic’s venture and pass on that bit of history. Love it, thanks, and the soap recipe will be lovely to try. How fun.
    Anna

    • Marie says:

      I’ve been planning this project for close to a year, I’m really glad I finally got around to trying it! I can’t wait to try the soap out, I just want to let it age for a few more weeks so I can get lots of use out of each bar :) I think I might pull out the first bar for Titanic week!

  3. Deborah Jennings says:

    I love to make my own homemade lye soap. And I love the looks of this soap. I don’t think I’ve seen any whiter soap. It looks beautiful. I don’t have any rose EO, but I do have some Lemon Verbena. But I think I’d like to use some Vanilla Cream FO in it. Or maybe some Cucumber Melon FO. Those are my favorites. And I like the Sandelwood-Vanilla, too.

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am going to try it. I just bought some Coconut oil.

    • Marie says:

      Great to have fellow soaper stop by, Deborah! I’m loving the classic, clean look of white soaps these days—it’s all in the water soluble titanium dioxide. I once tried to make a white bar by using lots of white/clear oils, but all that tallow/ cocoa butter/coconut oil gave me a rock hard bar! Much better to make a nicer bar with a bit of titanium dioxide, I’ve found ;) And I highly recommend the rose/lemon combo! I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I absolutely love it now, it’s so soft and classic! Lemon and vanilla would also be really nice :)

      • Deborah Jennings says:

        I love making soap. It is creative. I usually use Vanilla Cream FO for the one I use. Lavender for my dear MIL (It is so relaxing). And I make a whipped body butter in the same scents. I try to keep quite a few different EOs and FOs on hand. I made my husband’s nephew some body butter for his hands. He is an RN and washes his hands all the time. Do you use a lot of tallow or lard in your soaps? It makes the best kind to me. I also run my soap recipe through one of the online soap calculators. I am trying to get away from all the petroleum products that are in commercial products.

        • Marie says:

          I tend to use about 15–20% lard or tallow in my soaps. I find it’s the best for making the bar nice and hard (without resorting to icky palm oil!). I’m definitely with you on avoiding petroleum products, that’s a huge part of what got me into making all my own soaps and lotions in the first place.

          • Deborah Jennings says:

            That is why I am learning, too. We try to have a garden every year or two, and I can as much as possible. No preservatives in home canned foods either. The only thing you use is the food item, water or broth, and a little canning salt, and the salt is optional. I have learned to can meats, too. We know what we put on and in our garden and don’t have to worry about pesticides and such.

            I bought a 50 lb box of tallow from my area soap supplier and still have quite a bit left. I just bought 3 containers of Coconut oil from the grocery store, too. They only had the 3 left. I like the coconut oil! For soap making and for cooking with. It is also good in some lotions, or you can use it as is.

            Take care. I will be gone next week for about 2 weeks so I will see you then.

          • Marie says:

            Wow! I’d love to have a garden one day. Up in Alberta we have a very short growing season, so it seems like by the time I remember I want a garden each year, the season has passed! Having a big, hairy dog that likes to dig holes through to Asia doesn’t help, either ;) Someday!

            50lb! Wow! Who is this supplier? I’d love to get my hands on that much tallow (or maybe half as much.. 50lb is A LOT!). I buy two different types of coconut oil—RBD for soap making (mucho cheap, smells like nothing—$23/5L) and Organic Virgin for all my lotions, bars, and body butters (more expensive but smells incredible—$17/L).

            Enjoy your vacation & chat soon!

  4. Deborah Jennings says:

    I use TylerStarville.com to get the tallow. I can’t remember how much I gave for it. TylerStarville is a local shop.

    Did you know that you can do a container garden? Amazon has a book on it. But my SIL and her husband did one one year and they got a lot. Enough to eat all summer and to store some, too.

    I have also dehydrated some vegetables, too. The key to that is to blanch them for 5 minutes before dehydrating. You can find directions on all of this on the internet. I love doing these things. To store dehydrated items, they need to be vacuum packed. And stored in a cool dry place.

    • Marie says:

      Hmm, I don’t think I’ll be ordering 50lbs of tallow from Texas—the shipping and duty would make it very expensive (if it could even get over the border)! Yipes.

      I’m thinking about doing a wall/window garden as Calgary is very sunny—even when it’s -40°, we’re still getting lots of sun! I think it would turn out really well. I’d load it up with herbs and micro greens. Yum!

      I should really get a food dehydrator. I’ve made my own sundried tomatoes using a cracked 200°F oven before and they are wonderful! I store the bulk of them in the freezer, and then move a few of them to a jar with garlic and olive oil when I’m ready to eat them. Yum!

      • Deborah Jennings says:

        You won’t regret getting a dehydrator. Just keep an eye out for one, they are put on sale at times. I don’t know how I made it without mine. =) I made a bunch of jerky around Christmas, and still have some hidden. (That is the only way I can keep any in the house.) I also dehydrated some orange slices and some apple slices. I have them stored in an air tight container.

        • Marie says:

          Mmm, I’m just loving the sound of some homemade dried fruit! And kale chips! A friend made me some in her dehydrator once, and they were incredible. Probably one of the most delicious ways to get your greens in. Omnomnom.

          • Deborah Jennings says:

            Zucchini chips are out of this world, too. And you can season them however you like. I made some last year, and they were gone quite soon. I lightly salted mine. You can also make potato chips from mashed potatoes, and of course regular ones, too. Also seasoned as you like. I am getting excited about gardening time.

  5. Marie, this is an awesome post. I love how you brought the period history into your recipe. I’m sharing it on my FB page.

    Did you know you can get “rose” scent naturally without the expense by using rose geranium e.o. It is a fantastic eo for skin, too, and also a useful healer and bug repellent. For more authentic rose, I make a tea with rose hips and use that for dissolving the lye instead of water. It does colour the soap, slightly. Then add the rose geranium oil and about 1/4 cup of rose petal infused olive oil.

    There’s a post on my blog of how to render your own tallow for real authenticity. I’d recommend waiting though, till you are raising your own animals. Lard is a fine substitute — though softer than tallow.
    Chris

    • Marie says:

      Chris—Thanks for the tip about Rose Geranium EO! I just looked into it, and at $21/15mL I don’t see myself using it for soap anytime soon (maybe if I win the lotto, haha), but it looks like a great ingredient for lotions and body oils. I’ll add some to my ever-growing shopping cart right now… I have a problem, lol.

      I’ve also got an entry on rendering tallow for soap making. I’ve got a friend who works as a butcher, and he keeps me supplied in what they usually throw out, so it’s free! Yay!

  6. Susan says:

    Great soap recipes, maybe I’ll give them a try. Only ever worked with glycerin based ones.

    FYI- Titanic II maiden voyage in 2016. Are you going?

    • Marie says:

      You definitely should! Once you start making your own soap from scratch you’ll have a lot of fun playing with different oils and butters.

      I’ve already started up a savings account for the Titanic II, though I have my doubts that any “normal” people will actually be able to afford it—I’ve heard people are offering to pay a million dollars to be on the maiden voyage! Sadly, that definitely rules me out :(

  7. Deborah Jennings says:

    It took me years to get up the courage to even attempt to make soap with Lye. Now looking back, I wonder why I was so scared to try it. You just need to be cautious, and alert. I love it. I also love using it. I make my own bath products. I can’t go back to the store bought junk. It dries out my skin bad. I love the way my homemade bath products make my skin feel.

    • Marie says:

      It’s funny how scary lye is before you use it, eh? I remember being absolutely paranoid with my first batch of soap, terrified that I’d spilled some lye somewhere and was going to get a terrible chemical burn or poison myself. Now that I’m over that I’m far more relaxed about it, and I would definitely never go back to store bought! I also laugh when I go to local shops & see homemade soap selling for $8 a bar.

      • Deborah Jennings says:

        Oh yes! I haven’t seen it that high, yet, but $4 – $6 is what I have seen it for around here. If I use rendered fat, it is so much less expensive, but I haven’t done that yet. I am lucky in that there is a Soap and Candle Supply store close to where I live. In fact we go right by it every time we to to Tyler, TX. That is where our doctor is and where we go to buy all kinds of things that our small town doesn’t carry.

        • Marie says:

          I’ve never really seen $8 outside of tourist towns like Fernie, or craft markets, but I did see some $6 bars in a health food store in Canmore a few weeks ago. It wasn’t even that great of a bar, from what I could tell! It’s not like it was loaded up with expensive oils or essential oils, though.

          I need to call up my butcher and get myself another load of scraps for rendering! Thanks for reminding me ;)

          • Deborah Jennings says:

            I think I just may have to do that at the market at our grocery store. If not there there is a Meat Packing shop in the next town. I would love to find out now to render my own fat to make soap.

            The $6 bars of homemade soap were not even scented. Just homemade soap. I like to sent mine. After a while if they aren’t scented, some of mine turn rancid. Yuck!

            Oh, and Marie, have you tried to use the soap on a rag to clean up oil or grease? It is awesome!

          • Marie says:

            Rendering your own tallow is super easy—I even wrote a blog entry on it! It’s even easier if it’s fairly chilly where you live so you can just chill it out on your porch :P

            I’ve never had any soap go rancid on me—I’ve got bars that are over 18 months that old that are nothing more than really, really hard. What superfat percentage do you usually use?

            Is “soap on a rag” some sort of special thing, or just putting soap on a rag? I’ve definitely used soap and rags to clean before, but now I’m curious as to if there’s a better/easier way to do it :P

            How was your trip?

          • Debbie says:

            I just use the soap on a rag like I was going to bathe with it for cleaning. I never super fat over 5%. I’m not sure why this soap smells “off”‘ but it does. It is about 3 years old though.

            I’m going to check out how to render fat. I think I may have a how to in one of my soap books.

          • Marie says:

            Hmm, how odd—I also use a 5% superfat. Perhaps it’s your warmer climate? My soap-storing room usually hovers around 12–15°C, which is pretty chilly.

          • Deborah Jennings says:

            That must be it. It is rater warm here in Texas

          • Marie says:

            I’m jealous! We had a pretty nice spring day here… it was -1°C. Woo!

          • Deborah Jennings says:

            Don’t be jealous. It will get warm where you are, eventually. =) We did get snow on Christmas day. But our snow never lasts long and we don’t get it every year.

  8. Jan says:

    I am a master and old time soap maker and love re creating old fashioned soaps.

    My home made “Vinolia” soap consisted of my own specialized recipe that was passed down to me from my Great, Great Grandmother for olive oil castile.

    I added extra T Dioxide and a double ( secret mix ) of white kosher kaolin clay along with another whitening agent. I had a boutique last year and still have back orders for my “Titanic” soap in which I might add, that I made my own labels for that picture Jack and Rose on the Titanic in the “flying”scene along with old fashioned brown paper wrapping, with picture of the Titanic and first class state rooms on the narrower sides of my packaging.

    Wish you had some way for me to upload the pics of my boutique and soap. It was a hit my town will not forget for years to come.

    • Marie says:

      I’m so thrilled to hear I’m not the only one blending my love of soap and the Titanic :) Yours sounds just wonderful! Did you use real rose essential oil for yours? I’d love to see the photos—you can feel free to e-mail them to me, my address is on the Contact Me page!

  9. pamela says:

    I can’t wait to give this recipe a try (as soon as I get the ingredients). I love the Titanic and love that you did this.

    • Marie says:

      Thanks! I’ve been wanting to make this soap for at least a year, but I just had to get to the point where I knew enough about soap that I could re-create it faithfully(ish).

  10. Ashley says:

    Hi! You mentioned that you used a fragrance oil in this recipe. I’m new to this stuff so I was wondering if the fragrance oil is the stuff that you use in scented oil burners and is found in stores with the incense or is it something else?

    • Marie says:

      Hi Ashley! So, with soaps, we tend to scent them with either essential oils (which are natural scents derived from botanical things like flowers, spices, and plant bits) or fragrance oils (artificial scents made from chemicals). Essential oils are more expensive and don’t last as long, but are all natural and are better for those who are sensitive to scents. Fragrance oils are very inexpensive and the scent lasts for ages, making them a good choice for things that don’t make essential oils (berries, watermelons, “love”, etc.) or for essential oils that are crazy expensive (rose, in this case). These oils aren’t really oils in the sense of something like olive or coconut oil in that they don’t contain lipids, but they are oil soluble.

      So, with that as a preface… I assume the oils you are mentioning likely contain fragrance oils of some kind or another, but it is unlikely that they are 100% fragrance oil. If they’re for burning, there is probably some mineral oil or something else in there for fuel in addition to the scent. Also, since fragrance oils are so strong in the scent department, they would be very overpowering if burnt in their pure form (in my experience at least—I once washed a container that contained fragrance oil in my dishwasher and all my dishes tasted like that fragrance oil for weeks). This is hypothesis, though—I don’t use these products, and since they aren’t body products they aren’t required to list ingredients, so I can’t be sure.

      It is also worth noting that not all fragrance oils are suitable for cold process soap making as they can cause a batch to seize. So, when you’re buying fragrance oils for the purpose of making soap, always read the description and reviews and take note of anybody mentioning seized batches of soap.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to ask away if you have any other questions :)

      • Ashley says:

        Thanks! From your description it sounds like the oils used in the warmers are different than fragrance oils. That helps me out a lot. :) I have another question, totally unrelated to fragrance though. In keeping with the mindset of staying away from harsh commercial stuff & making my own products from natural stuff, my question is this; Would your recipes work just as well with homemade lye as the store bought lye?

        • Marie says:

          No worries :) As for your lye question… well, yes, it should work exactly the same, assuming you manage to get your homemade lye to be exactly the same as the 100% pure stuff you buy from the store. Which leads me to wonder why you want to make it yourself—you said you want to stay away from harsh chemicals and make your products from natural stuff. Homemade lye needs to be exactly as harsh as storebought stuff, or it won’t work. And lye is inorganic, derived from ashes, and it doesn’t really get more (or less) natural than that. It’s like salt, basically. If you just want to do it for the sake of doing it yourself I totally get it, lol, but I would recommend starting with storebought stuff so you know how it should work first. That way you can also compare the pH’s of a homemade vs. storebought solution and confirm your homemade stuff is chemically identical :)

          • Ashley says:

            Thanks! I’ve never used store bought lye for anything but figured it probably had other lab created stuff that I can’t even pronounce, much less know what it’s for, in it like pretty much everything else I you can buy. lol. If it’s the same pretty much though as what you’d make at home I’ll probably just buy it then.

          • Marie says:

            No worries :) The nice thing about lye is that if they say it’s pure lye/sodium hydroxide, the only thing it can be is NaOH, just like salt can only be NaCL. At least we can count on a few things :P

  11. pam says:

    I am a first time soap er and just get a book of recipes for now. You do not say how much lye to put in,if I use the lye calculator it ask for the ponds of the finished soap.
    Please help. I love this ideal as I as love the Titanic.
    Thank you.

    • Marie says:

      Hi Pam—It sounds like you’re super close! You just need to decide how much soap you want to make, and put that number into the soap calculator, and you’re set. That is all up to you. I don’t really recommend doing batches less than 1lb/500g :) Have fun!

  12. Katie says:

    This is the most awesome soap post I’ve come across! I’ve always been a huge Titanic buff, and with my new soap making hobby coming to fruition, I am really fascinated by your research! May have to try some of this for myself!

  13. maria says:

    I noticed you didnt use lye in this recipe

  14. Anna says:

    Dear Marie,
    I´m a soaper from Germany and when I red this recipe I immediately started to Soap your Titanic Soap – this was on Sunday – since then I am desperately searching for an adress to order one bar of this vinolia-soap without paying 50 $ for the shipment but there´s no way :( I would like to read the ingridients to see which oils they are using now, I now it is not the same as it was… so do you have an idea of a shop in the UK which is selling this Soap to Germany? I´m sorry for my bad English.
    I like your blog very much and your diversity motivates me so much! thank you for that and kind regards from Germany xxx

    • Marie says:

      Hi Anna! I’m not entirely certain what you’re asking :( I don’t sell anything I make, and I’ve never tried to buy a bar of what is currently called “Vinolia” soap, though I have seen it online (usually on eBay, shipping out of the UK). Here’s one. You should try to make your own, though, it’s fun and mucho cheaper! Better ingredients, too :)

  15. Leslie says:

    Hi Marie!
    You are one of my best resources to feed this crazy addiction of “soap making”! I tried accessing the pdf but is not working. Could you tell us if this available somewhere else?

    I can’t wait to make this soap! Thank you for your SUPER GENEROUS spirit!!

    • Marie says:

      Thanks for the heads up on that broken link, Leslie—I managed to track down an old copy and upload it here so the link won’t break again :)

      Thanks so much for reading!

  16. Ann Rein says:

    Just a thought, while we know petroleum products are awful now, they were ‘state of the art’ back in 1912. They probably considered them high quality ingredients!

  17. Mary says:

    Hi Marie,

    Thank you for the PDF! Sounds silly but I like to print stuff like that out and add it to my soap book – 3 ring binder actually. Makes it even more fun to read.

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