Work From Home: Amazing Natural Soap
You’re a stay-at-home Mom, or a retired person, or someone who lives in an area where decent full-time jobs are hard to come by. Or you’re just someone who loves to create, and would love it even more if you could recoup the expenses you put into your craft, or would walk on air if you could actually support yourself at it. But whatever your situation, you have begun exploring the possibility of becoming a work-at-home soap maker. You love the idea of producing a natural product which will have health benefits for those who use it, and offer an alternative for over-processed, and often toxically-altered, commercial soaps. So you want to get started, but what is the minimum you need to know before you do? First, you need to assess you living situation and decide if you have the physical facilities to make soap making on an income-producing level. It’s one thing to whip up a couple of pounds of soap for the family’s use, and another thing entirely to produce it in batches large enough to satisfy demand from dozens, or, hopefully, hundreds of customers.
Second, decide which technique of soap making you will employ. As a beginner, you might be wise to start by using “melt-and-pour” soap bases and adding your own fragrances and colors, until you are satisfied that you want to continue with a more advanced technique. If you have either a microwave, or double boiler and standard stove, you can use the melt-and-pour method. You’ll need to have a supply of the soap base, a heat-resistant container, essential or fragrance oils, colorants and any other additives--oatmeal or dried flower buds for exfoliates, honey, glycerin, or Aloe Vera gel as healing and emollient agents, and almond meal to absorb excess skin oils are just a few suggestions. All of them can be found at your crafts or grocery store.
You’ll just melt your soap base, according to the manufacturer’s directions, in the microwave or double boiler, stir in your additives, and pour it into your molds. Once cooled, it will pop right out, and you’ll have your first home-made soap! If, however, you want to make soap the “old-fashioned”, cold-pressed way, remember that it requires the use of lye. So you’ll need to have an area where you can use the lye without its caustic fumes being a problem. This implies an area away from your normal living space--perhaps a porch, garage, or workshop. Since cold-pressed soap ingredients need to be measured by weight, you’ll need an adjustable scale. Research the types of oils available, and learn what properties each will lend to your finished soap. Most soap makers use a blend of different oils. You’ll need, when you work with lye, gloves, goggles, and protective clothing; glass, enamel or plastic containers in which to mix the lye, and wooden or plastic utensils with which to stir it as lye will corrode metal, and a supply of white vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that is spilled. You’ll also need two glass or stainless steel thermometers to measure the temperatures of your oils and lye/water mixture before combining them. Most soaps, if left unscented, will have an “oily/ lye” odor, so it’s best to add essential oils to your batch of soap at about one tablespoon per pound.
The essential oils, because of their molecular structure, act as “aromatherapy” when hot water releases their fragrance. So you will, of course, need to find some reliable local or online suppliers to provide you with what you need for your business, and don’t be afraid to approach them about discounts on your volume purchases. You’ll also need to decide about your bookkeeping and order-taking systems, and incorporation choices. You’ll need a marketing plan, and at least at the start, will have to spend as much time publicizing your soaps as you do making them. You’ll have to familiarize yourself with the tax and insurance consequences of owning a home-based business, so you will very likely have to talk to an attorney at some point. But if you have tried, and loved, making your own soap, have gotten positive feedback from friends, and have the time and financial resources to devote to turning your passion for soap making into a full-time business, in the not too distant future you and your natural soaps might be “cleaning up!”.
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