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Basic Requirements to Starting Soap Making Business in Nigeria

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Soap making is also a science because it involves some basic chemistry. Soap is made by combining fats and oils with a chemical (Sodium Hydroxide, also known as ‘Caustic Soda’ or ‘lye’). This beautiful chemical reaction is known as ‘saponification’ in the world of chemistry. Don’t let the high-sounding name scare you, it’s much simpler in practice.

What kind of fats and oils am I talking about? All kinds. Some of the most popular oils used for soap making are palm kernel oil, coconut oil, canola oil, olive oil, soya bean oil and several more. These oils are commonly referred to as base oils in soap making and each oil has unique properties that it will impart into the soaps you make. Coconut oil, for example, produces soap that lathers (foams) very well. Olive oil and shea butter are known to produce very good moisturing soaps.

Caustic soda (also known as ‘Sodium Hydroxide’) is arguably the most common and widely-used chemical in the modern world. Apart from its very important role in soap making, this Caustic Soda is also used in the production of paper, textiles and cleaning agents. How can you identify it? Well, Caustic Soda is a white solid substance that easily dissolves in water. It is available on the open market where it is often sold as pellets, granules or flakes. However, I must warn you that this chemical is very corrosive. If it comes in contact with metal or human flesh in sufficient concentrations, it could cause serious damage!

#1 – Ingredients and Tools

Interestingly, the only things you need to make soap are: (1) a couple of ingredients, (2) a few basic tools and (3) soap making knowledge. You may be surprised to know that the main ingredients used in making soap are: fats/oils, Caustic Soda and water. That’s all. Things like scents (fragrances) and colour are optional and will not prevent the soap from forming. Amazing isn’t it?

Like the ingredients, the tools you’ll need are very basic too. Below is a list of the major tools:

Bowls and Spoons – You’ll need a couple of bowls for measuring and mixing. Spoons are also required for measuring and stirring. It is preferable to use bowls and spoons that are made of steel, glass or plastic. Caustic soda will react and eat through bowls and spoons made of aluminum or wood.

A Measurement Scale – Remember what I said earlier about the importance of measurements in soap making? You’ll need a scale to make sure you get the right measurements. A digital scale like this one on Amazon is a good example.

A Stick or Immersion Blender – This tool is used to properly stir the soap mixture (oil and Caustic soda). Although a spoon can do the same job, imagine doing an hour’s worth of spoon stirring in only five minutes! That’s the advantage of using a stick blender. If you’d like to know what it looks like, you can view it on this Amazon product page.

Soap Mould – This is usually any container that you pour the liquid soap mixture into. The soap will cool, harden and eventually take the shape of this container. It can be anything from empty milk cartons to plastic or wooden soap mould.

Others – There are other basic tools such as knives (for cutting the hardened soap into desired sizes), freezer paper (for lining the mould so the soap won’t stick to it) and a couple of other basic tools which you’ll learn about in the video tutorial below.

#2 – Measurement is the key to success

Measurement is surely the key to success in soap making. If you don’t measure the ingredients or combine them in the wrong proportions, you just may produce something else that isn’t soap. If the amount of fats and oils in your soap recipe is more than the caustic soda, the soap you produce will feel very greasy and oily on the skin. If caustic soda is in excess, the soap could irritate or even burn the skin.

The secret of measurement in soap making lies in your understanding of ‘Saponification Values’. What does it mean? I’ll give you a simplest explanation I can find. You see, every fat or oil requires a different amount of Caustic soda to turn it into soap. For example, coconut oil requires more Caustic Soda to form soap than olive oil. As a result, the Saponification Value for coconut oil is higher than olive oil. Knowing the saponification values for the oils you use will help you measure the right amount of Caustic soda.


The key issues in the business has to do with one’s ability to produce qualitative soaps as well as market same in an efficient way. Once these two criteria have been established, a prospective operator is on his way to becoming a successful soap manufacturer.
A prospective or aspiring entrepreneur can begin this business with N 100,000, excluding the cost of renting an operational location or a shop. After acquiring the soap making skills from an existing operator, a new operator may go ahead to buy some basic equipmens he needs

These are some of the list of the equipment needed in soap making; a mould, a cutting machine and a trimming machine. In addition, a metallic stamp is required for labeling if you wish to build your brand.
For cost reasons, locally made versions of the equipment are cheaper, it is advisable for a new operator to start with locally-fabricated equipment.
For instance a locally made three-in-one machine, which includes a mould, cutting and trimming machines, costs about N 25,000. The three-in-one machine can be used to produce, cut and trim the soaps.

Depending on the intended scale of production, about N 30,000 can be used to buy other minor tools and raw materials needed for producing the soap. Most of the raw materials are chemical in nature. Some of the basic raw materials needed for the business includecaustic soda, soda ash, silicate, calcium, palm kernel oil (PKO) and perfume.
This business is viable because people make use of soap on a daily basis.

All you need to do is understand the importance of marketing, a new operator can begin in his or her neighborhood by selling to petty traders and kiosk owners around the area.
Another way of marketing the soap, is to engage the services of young secondary school leavers, who can help in sales in some targeted areas.

“Making a bar soap- is very easy. There are actually three types of soaps, namely:detergent, bar soap and liquid soap. Soaps used for washing plates and other things are called laundry soap, and it is a variant of bar soap.
“Becoming a producer of a bar soap on a small scale is very easy. You can start in your house; you can do it in your kitchen pending when you will get a place. A local welder can help you to do a mould, a cutting machine and a stamp, through which the soap’s name can be engraved on the soap bar.

The beauty of the business is that a new operator can start in a small way before going on a larger scale.”
An operator saves some money by buying chemicals from wholesale dealers, as opposed to buying from retailers.

Challenges – a new operator, who chooses to use a domestic location must be very vigilant and cautious, especially as regards the place he keeps the chemicals as “most of them are corrosive.”
Marketing the soaps can be very challenging. Hence, new operators must get their acts right in terms of the marketing strategies to be adopted.
because a good marketing strategy employed is crucial to the survival and growth of the business.

Author: Olawale

Olawale Sanusi is an enthusiast, a passionate lover and good writer of football stories. Also, a creative story developer

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