How To Make Soap: Step-By-Step Guide on Making and Selling Soap (2024)

four bars of soap representing how to make soap

While the concept of soap making may not initially seem like a lucrative endeavor, it presents a unique opportunity to blend creativity with practicality.

Plus, you can produce a product that’s always in demand. Whether you’re looking to satisfy your creativity or keen on tapping into a thriving market, soap making is an excellent choice.

Sold on the idea? Here, we’ll cover everything from the basics of crafting your first bar to strategies for transforming your newfound skill into a profitable home business

Understanding the basics of soap making

Before diving into the creative world of soap making, it’s crucial to get the fundamentals. Ahead, discover what soap making involves and why it makes an ideal at-home business choice. 

What is soap making? 

Soap making combines natural oils or fats with an alkali, typically lye, in a process called saponification. This reaction forms soap, which you can then customize with additives like fragrances and colors.

Key soap making steps include:

  1. Mixing: Oils are mixed with a lye solution, starting the saponification process.
  2. Molding: Pour the mixture into molds and leave it to set.
  3. Curing: The soap cures for several weeks to harden and complete the chemical process.

Why consider soap making as a business?

A soap business combines art, science, and your personal flair, making it a fulfilling and potentially profitable business venture. Plus, it’s a business that can grow and evolve with your passion and creativity. 

Thinking about diving into the soap-making business? Here’s why it’s a smart move:

  • High demand: Soap is a daily necessity for everyone, ensuring a steady market demand. Plus, the growing interest in artisanal, handcrafted products makes it a timely choice.
  • Creativity and branding: Soap making allows for creativity––from scents and colors to shapes and packaging. You can create a unique brand identity that stands out in the market.
  • Eco-friendly and health conscious: More consumers are looking for natural, eco-friendly products. Handmade soaps with natural ingredients cater to this need, appealing to conscious customers.
  • Profitability: The cost of materials is relatively low compared to the premium price consumers are willing to pay for handcrafted soaps. With the ability to start small and scale up, soap making can be profitable.
  • Flexibility: This business can start as a home-based operation, allowing for a flexible schedule and lower overhead costs. It’s perfect for entrepreneurs who want to balance work and personal life.
  • Educational opportunities: As a soap maker, you can offer workshops and DIY kits, adding an educational aspect to your business that engages customers.
  • Community connection: Handmade soaps can be a hit at local markets and events, helping you build a strong community presence and brand loyalty.
  • Online sales potential: Soap is easy to package and ship, making it an excellent product for online sales, expanding your reach beyond local customers.

Essential supplies and ingredients for soap making

The right tools and ingredients are key to creating quality soap products. Here, discover the essential supplies and ingredients you need to begin crafting unique soaps that captivate your customers.

Tools you’ll need to start making soap 

Having the right tools makes the process smoother and ensures safety and quality in your soap products.

  • Safety gear: Always wear gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes from lye.
  • Digital scale: Precision is key in soap making. A digital scale ensures accurate measurements of ingredients.
  • Stainless steel pot: For melting your oils and mixing them with lye. Avoid aluminum, as it reacts with lye.
  • Thermometer: Temperature control is crucial. A thermometer helps you check the temperature of your lye and oils.
  • Immersion blender: This speeds up the saponification process and helps achieve “trace” faster.
  • Silicone spatulas: Great for stirring and scraping out every bit of soap mixture.
  • Soap molds: These come in various shapes and sizes. Silicone molds are popular for easy removal of the soap.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: For measuring smaller amounts of additives like fragrances or colors.
  • pH test strips: To check the pH level of your soap to ensure it’s skin-friendly.
  • Cooling rack: For air circulation around your soap as it cures.

Investing in these tools is the first step toward crafting unique, high-quality soaps that can set your store apart. The quality of your tools can directly affect the quality of your soaps, so choose wisely!

Key ingredients for high-quality soap

Whether you’re aiming to create a luxurious product or something simple and natural, these key ingredients are essential for crafting high-quality soap:

  • Fats and oils: The base of every soap. Common choices include coconut oil for lather, olive oil for smoothness, and palm oil for hardness. Each oil brings something special to the table, so mix and match to suit your brand.
  • Lye (sodium hydroxide): The essential ingredient that turns oils into soap. Safety is crucial when handling lye, so always follow proper guidelines.
  • Water: It’s mixed with lye to create the saponification process. Distilled water is best for preventing impurities.
  • Glycerin base: Grab a bulk amount from a marketplace like Bulk Apothecary or Etsy.
  • Stir sticks: You can acquire these from almost any grocery store or your local craft store.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Any pharmacy, dollar store, or bulk retailer will have bottles of this readily available.
  • Microwave-safe containers: Any kitchen supplier or craft store will carry these.
  • Fragrances and essential oils: These give your soap its signature scent. From calming lavender to refreshing citrus, pick fragrances that align with your brand’s image.
  • Colorants: Whether natural or synthetic, colorants add visual appeal to your soap. Natural options include clays and plant extracts.
  • Additives: Ingredients like aloe vera, oatmeal, or honey can add special properties, like moisturizing or exfoliating.
  • Preservatives: If you’re adding ingredients like milk or fruit purees, you might need a preservative to extend the shelf life of your soap.

Choosing the right ingredients defines the quality of your soap and your brand. Think about what each ingredient means for your customers and how they align with your store’s values, like sustainability, luxury, or health consciousness. 

White round bar of soap with yellow speckles
Ready-made soap is one of the simpler soap-making methods. Crafters purchase already-made bases, melt them down, add colors and scents, and pour the mixture into their preferred molds. Source: Bulk Apothecary

Step-by-step guide on how to make soap at home

  1. Gather your ingredients 
  2. Prepare your workspace
  3. Get your soap base ready 
  4. Stir and combine
  5. Pour your soap and let it set 
  6. Cure the soap
  7. Unmold and cut
  8. Package and label the soap
  9. Choosing different scents

1. Gather your ingredients 

Begin by assembling all your ingredients and tools. This includes your fats or oils, lye, water, fragrances, colorants, and any additional additives you plan to use.

Combining different oils will lend your final product different characteristics. Some oils will help make your bars harder or will provide a better lather. On the other hand, oils like olive and coconut will create the chemical reaction that actually turns all these liquids into soap. Other materials like shea butter will offer moisturizing qualities.

How to make soap graphic with ingredients and tools

2. Prepare your workspace

Ensure your workspace is clean, organized, and well ventilated. Lay out all your tools and ingredients for easy access. Safety is paramount, so put on your gloves and goggles.

3. Get your soap base ready

If you’re using a melt-and-pour base, simply melt it in a microwave-safe container or use a double boiler. 

If you’re using a glycerin base, cut small chunks of glycerin, place them in your microwave-safe container, and microwave for 30 seconds.

For cold-process soap making, you’ll need to carefully mix your lye with water and then combine it with your oils.

Graphic showing how to cut soap base into chunks and heat them

4. Stir and combine

Once your base is ready, it’s time to add in your fragrances, colorants, and any other additives. Stir the mixture thoroughly to ensure an even distribution of all ingredients.

While those ingredients are combining, use a spray bottle to spritz rubbing alcohol on your molds to prevent any bubbles from forming in your bars of soap.

Graphic showing how to heat soap chunks and stir them

5. Pour your soap and let it set

Graphic showing how to pour soap and let it set

Carefully pour the soap mixture into molds. Tap the molds gently to remove any air bubbles. When the bars have hardened, pop them out of the molds and your bars are complete. From here, simply lather, rinse, and repeat.

Graphic showing how pour soap into molds and then pop it out

6. Cure the soap

For cold-process soap, you need to cure it, which means allowing it to rest in a dry, ventilated area for about four to six weeks. This process allows the soap to fully saponify and harden.

Green and yellow-striped soap bars on green cloth
Cold-process soap requires a curing process. Source: SoapQueen

7. Unmold and cut

Once the soap has set or cured, gently remove it from the molds. If you have larger blocks, use a soap cutter or a knife to cut them into bars.

8. Package and label the soap

Wrap your soap bars to protect them from moisture and dust. Don’t forget to label them with your brand and any relevant information, like ingredients or usage instructions.

9. Choosing different scents

Want some ideas on ways to tweak this recipe to make it your own? Here are some options for different essential oils you can switch out to achieve a different scent and feel for your soap bars.

Graphic showing different scent recipes including lavender, jasmine, and orange vanilla

How to create unique soap products to sell

Crafting soaps that stand out in a crowded market requires creativity, experimentation, and an understanding of what appeals to your target audience. Here are some key strategies to make your soap products irresistibly attractive to customers.

Experimenting with different scents and colors 

The aroma and visual appeal of your soap are its first points of contact with customers. Experimenting with a variety of scents and colors can help you find combinations that resonate with your audience. Consider the following:

  • Seasonal themes: For instance, warm cinnamon scents in autumn or floral tones in spring.
  • Color psychology: Use colors to evoke emotions or themes, like calming blues or energizing oranges.
  • Essential oil blends: Mix essential oils to create signature scents.

Adding unique ingredients for special soap varieties 

Incorporating special ingredients not only adds a unique selling point but also caters to specific customer needs. Think about:

  • Natural exfoliants: Ingredients like oatmeal, poppy seeds, or coffee grounds.
  • Skin benefits: Additives like aloe vera or goat’s milk for their nourishing properties.
  • Specialty oils: Argan, jojoba, or almond oil for luxury soap lines.

Designing attractive soap packaging

Your packaging is a powerful tool for branding and can significantly influence purchasing decisions. Focus on:

  • Eco-friendly materials: Sustainability is a growing concern among consumers.
  • Branding consistency: Ensure your packaging reflects your brand’s ethos and aesthetic.
  • Practicality and protection: While aesthetics are important, the packaging should also protect the soap and maintain its quality.

The key to creating marketable soap products lies in understanding your market and continually innovating to meet and exceed customer expectations. Your soap is not just a cleansing product; it’s an experience, a lifestyle choice, and a reflection of your brand’s values.

Unwrapped wild rose pink soap bar and Neal’s Yard packaging
Neal’s Yard Remedies packaging makes its soaps instantly recognizable

Marketing your handmade soap

Successfully marketing your handmade soap involves more than just creating a great product. You need to connect with your audience, set the right prices, and leverage various platforms to showcase your soaps. 

Here are some effective strategies:

Setting up your online store

To get in front of a larger target audience, an online store is essential. Here’s how to set yours up for success:

  • User-friendly design: Create a clean, navigable, and visually appealing website.
  • High-quality product images: Showcase your soaps with professional-grade photos.
  • SEO: Use relevant keywords and descriptions to improve your site’s visibility.
  • Customer engagement: Include features like product reviews, blogs, or newsletters.
Screenshot of product images for bamboo charcoal and pink clay soap bars
Known for its natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare products, Herbivore Botanicals promotes a range of soaps made with organic ingredients on its site.

Pricing strategies for your handmade soap 

Pricing is key to your business’s viability and growth. Consider these points:

  • Cost-plus pricing: Calculate your costs and add a markup for profit.
  • Competitive analysis: Research prices of similar products in the market.
  • Perceived value: Price can reflect the quality and exclusivity of your soap.
  • Flexibility: Be open to adjusting prices based on feedback and sales trends.
Screenshot of three different multi-colored soap bar types
Boutique brand Osmia Organics clearly displays soap pricing and incentivizes new customers with a 15% discount.

Promoting your soap on social media and other platforms

Social media is a powerful tool to reach and engage with your audience. Here’s how to use it effectively:

  • Consistent branding: Maintain a consistent style and tone across all platforms.
  • Engaging content: Share behind-the-scenes looks, customer testimonials, and soap-making processes.
  • Regular posting: Keep your brand top of mind with frequent updates.
  • Cross-promotion: Utilize various platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and even TikTok to reach different audiences.

In addition to social media, consider other platforms like local markets, pop-up shops, and collaborations with other local businesses to expand your reach.

Effective marketing involves storytelling. Your brand’s story, values, and the uniqueness of your product should be at the heart of all your marketing efforts.

Dr. Squatch often uses its signature sense of humor to promote its line of soaps.

Turning your soap making passion into profit

By following this guide, you can start turning your soap making hobby into a lucrative business. Start by mastering soap making basics and gathering quality supplies. Develop unique products with appealing scents, colors, and ingredients, and ensure your packaging reflects your brand. 

Next, create an online presence, adopt smart pricing strategies, and actively promote your products on social media. Then always stay adaptable to market trends and customer feedback.

How to make soap FAQ

What are the ingredients for homemade soap?

The basic ingredients for homemade soap are oils or fats (like olive oil, coconut oil, or shea butter), lye (sodium hydroxide), and water. Additional ingredients can include fragrances, essential oils, colorants, and additives like oatmeal or honey for specific properties.

How do you make soap at home?

To make soap at home:

  • Mix lye with water (always add lye to water, not the other way around).
  • Melt and combine your chosen oils.
  • Slowly mix the lye solution with the oils.
  • Add fragrances or additives if desired.
  • Pour the mixture into molds and let it set.
  • Once solidified, unmold and allow the soap to cure, typically for four to six weeks.

    What are the ingredients for making washing soap?

    Ingredients for making washing soap (laundry soap) often include a combination of lye, water, and harder fats like tallow or coconut oil for more cleaning power. Some recipes might also include borax or washing soda for extra stain removal and cleaning efficiency.

    What 3 ingredients are needed to make soap?

    The three fundamental ingredients needed to make soap are oil or fat (like olive oil, coconut oil, or animal fat), lye (sodium hydroxide), and water. These ingredients are essential for the saponification process that creates soap.