How to Make Soap: Turn a Household Necessity into a Homemade Business

How to Make Soap: Turn a Household Necessity into a Homemade Business

How to make homemade soap | Shopify Retail blogIf you’re an eager entrepreneur or an avid DIYer, here’s a unique idea for a squeaky clean business: homemade soap.

While the virtue of cleanliness may not sound like a viable income stream, learning how to make soap offers you a chance to scratch your creative itch while creating an in-demand product customers are clamoring for.

Sold on the idea? Here, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of how to make soap and then tackle the topic of turning this DIY beauty biz into a viable home business.

WANT THE FULL INFOGRAPHIC? This article features an infographic with a basic soap recipe. Download the full infographic here.

The History of Homemade Soap

Homemade soap isn’t exactly a new product. Some sources trace the origination of homemade soap all the way back to 2800 B.C., when ancient Babylonians handily mastered soap making from fats boiled down with ashes.

While soap making has certainly evolved over the last few thousand years, some of the primary ingredients have remained the same. Soaps have a fat and/or oil base like lye or glycerin, that is then customized with additional ingredients like different combinations of essential oils, moisturizers, and other additives.

Why Homemade Soap?

Soap is a common household product — that means pretty much everyone uses this kind of detergent in some form or fashion.

The demand for this hygienic necessity will always be high, and there’s a growing interest in natural and homemade varieties of soap.

According to a quick glance at Google Trends, you can see that global searches online for “natural soaps” have grown steadily since 2012.

How to make soap, Google Trends | Shopify Retail blogIn addition to the obvious interest for soap made with natural ingredients, the cosmetics industry is one which deserves the attention of eager entrepreneurs on the prowl for a new business idea. Beauty businesses are certainly growing, both in numbers and in market size. Based research from Statista, the cosmetics industry is projected to have made $62.46 billion in revenue in 2016.

Not only is there an obvious demand for this kind of natural, hand-crafted product, but it's relatively inexpensive to make your own soap at home.

Have dollars signs flashing before your eyes? Let’s take a look at some of the varieties of homemade soap, and highlight a simple recipe so you can get a slice of the growing beauty biz market.

Types of Homemade Soap

As you’re probably well aware, there are a bevy of handcrafted soaps — and they also boast different advantages. Many of the different types are dependent upon the ingredients you use, but they all generally rely on the same chemical reaction that occurs when your preferred materials are combined. And generally, natural, homemade soaps use food-quality ingredients in their recipes.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the types of homemade soap, here are some of the most common that you can create in your own kitchen.

Cold Process Soaps

How to make soap, cold process soap | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Flickr

Primary ingredients like lard, coconut oil, olive oil, purified tallow, or lye are combined with additional ingredients and mixed (we recommend a stick blender). Once the consistency has thickened to trace (i.e. emulsified so that it looks almost like pudding), then you can pour the mixture into your mold, let harden, then cut and cure it for 4-6 weeks.

Hot Process Soap

How to make soap, hot process soaps | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Flickr

Here, the maker actually cooks the soap as part of the process. The ingredients are combined and heated (for example, in a Crockpot or slow cooker), placed in molds, and allowed to harden overnight.

While this type of soap make take a little more time to create than Cold Process Soaps, the resulting bars are often smoother to the touch.

Curious about this process? Read more and find a simple recipe on the Prairie Homesteader.

“Ready-Made” Base

How to make soap, ready-made base | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Etsy

This is one of the simpler soap-making methods. Crafters purchase already made bases, melt them down, add colors and scents, and then pour the mixture into their preferred molds.

The benefit of this process is that the chemical reaction to actually make the soap has already occurred; all the maker is doing is putting their own fingerprint on the soap, essentially. Because this type of homemade soap isn’t technically “made from scratch,” it’s also easier to create intricate shapes and designs with this base.

These bases are created with everything from glycerin, shea butter, and goat’s milk, and can be purchased from your local craft store, or online in bulk from sites like Bulk Apothecary or Etsy.

How to Make Soap

How to make soap, gather your ingredients | Shopify Retail blog
When it comes to making your own soap, it’s often best to start off simple. That’s why we’ve compiled a recipe blow using a simple glycerin base. But as you get more experienced in the process of soap making, it’s easier to take liberties with your recipe with changes in oils, scents, or other additives.

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 turn all these liquids into soap. Other materials like shea butter will offer moisturizing qualities.

With that preface, let’s take a deeper look into how to actually make your first bars of soap.

Gather Your Ingredients

Grab all the materials you’ll need to cook up your first batch. Here’s what you’ll need and ideas on where to find your ingredients:

  • 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.
  • Essential oils: Again, these are available at your local craft store, on Etsy or Amazon.
  • 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 have these available.
  • Molds: See below for ideas on how to discover molds for your soaps.

Just like with making bath bombs, you have a variety of creative options when it comes to soap molds. If you browse a site like AliExpress, you’ll find dozens of options for beautiful soap molds with most under $7 per mold.

How to make soap, heart mold | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: AliExpress

How to make soap, leaf mold | Shopify Retail blog

 

Image Credit: AliExpress

How to make soap, rose mold | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: AliExpress

How to make soap, skull mold | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: AliExpress

Get Your Soap Base Ready

How to make soap, get your base ready | Shopify Retail blog
Once you’ve gathered your materials, next you need to cut and melt down your glycerin base. Cut small chunks of glycerin, place them in your microwave-safe container, and microwave for 30 seconds.

Stir and Combine

How to make soap, combine base | Shopify Retail blog
Use one of the stir sticks to stir the melting glycerin base and continue to microwave for short spurts until the base is fully melted throughout. Then stir in several drops of your chosen essential oil and combine.

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.

Pour and Let Set

How to make soap, stir and combine | Shopify Retail blog
Once the ingredients are combined and the molds are ready, pour the contents into the molds and allow to cool and set. When the bars have hardened, pop them out of the molds and your bars are complete. From here, simply lather, rinse, and repeat.

How to make soap, pour into molds | Shopify Retail blog

Additional Recipes

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.

How to make soap recipes | Shopify Retail blog

How to Market Your Homemade Soap Business

Selling Your Homemade Soap Online

You now have a handy homemade soap recipe to get you started — now it’s time to start selling. There are plenty of digital channels you can use to get your handcrafted products in front of as many buyers as possible.

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Consider building your own online store, listing your products on Amazon, and the bevy of other digital platforms we’ve outlined below:
  • Instagram: This visual social platform is a great medium to build a large following. Here, you can reach out to brand evangelists, provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how you created your terrariums, and create gorgeous images that show off your products.
  • Pinterest: Home décor is a particularly active category on Pinterest (I should know, as I have three boards dedicated to conflicting interior design visions). As such, merchants selling terrariums should consider the platform to find new customers.
  • Snapchat: While Snapchat is a relative newcomer compared to the other major social media platforms, it’s one of the fastest-growing around with a user base of more than 200 million. Those kind of numbers have caught the attention of many businesses, and many more merchants are looking to reach their target customers through this channel.
  • Giveaways and Contests: Set aside a few terrariums and offer them as prizes in a branded giveaway or contest. Yes, you may be giving away some of your products, but contests offer the chance to increase your customer base, introduce your products to new customers, and grow your business as a result.
  • Email Marketing: You can reach people right through their inboxes with targeted email campaigns. Offer subscribers and customers great deals, promotions, and business news to help move them along in the buyer journey.

Selling Your Homemade Soap In Person

How to make soap | Shopify Retail blogAlthough selling your sweet-smelling bathtime treats online offers entrepreneurs the ability to market to a global audience, selling your homemade soaps in person helps you tap into unique markets as well.

Homemade soaps, particularly when paired with beautiful packaging, can be beautifully presented in person. That’s why it makes sense for eager beauty biz entrepreneurs to set up a market booth at local craft fairs or flea and farmer’s markets to take advantage of in-person sales.

DIYers can also sell their wares in temporary retail spaces like a pop-up shop or in local boutiques or beauty/cosmetics stores. Temporary retail stores and wholesale opportunities also allow early-stage entrepreneurs to test out their homemade soaps on customers in person and receive feedback in person.

If those aren’t enough reasons to sell you on in-person sales, then consider the following benefits of physical sales:

  • Meeting other entrepreneurs and crafters: While every entrepreneur’s primary goal for in-person sales is to, well, make sales, merchants can also discover some serious inspiration at markets and fairs. Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs and DIYers can offer a wellspring of ideas for new products and new ways to market current inventory.
  • Connect with wholesale customers: It’s no secret that bulk buyers visit markets and fairs to find the next hot product to feature in their stores — which is why these events are a great way to forge new relationships with potential wholesale customers.
  • Live product testing: As aforementioned, these temporary retail events are ideal places to test new products out on shoppers. In-person feedback can give you great ideas on how to improve, and offers you the opportunity to address customer pain points on the spot.
  • Add to social followings and email lists: Your in-person marketing efforts don’t have to be siloed from your digital marketing. Use in-person sales events as a way to curate a larger social following for your branded accounts and add potential and current customers to your email subscriber list.

TRY SHOPIFY POS: Want to give Shopify's point of sale systems a test run? Start a free Shopify POS trial today.

Although in-person selling might sound intimidating at first for those planted firmly behind their computer screens, the right know-how can help set you up for success. In addition to learning how to nail the in-person selling experience, ensure you’ve got a point-of-sale system like Shopify POS that helps you take payments on the go.

Ready To Start Your Own Homemade Soap Business?

You’re now equipped with the knowledge to build your own homemade soap business, it’s time to get started. Not only do you have the info on how to make soap, you’ve also got some viable ideas on how to market your new DIY business both online and offline.

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About the Author

Lindsey Peacock is a writer, editor, and American expat invading the Great White North. When she isn’t helping entrepreneurs build their businesses, you’ll find her at the nearest dog park with Charlie, her ginger husky pup.

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