Selling Soap


Having encouraged–I hope!–many of you who read here to make soap, most likely some of you have also thought about selling it. For me, selling soap is very much a sideline. I’m a writer, and writing will probably always be my primary occupation, above selling soap, teaching workshops, or even farming. I’m no traditional farmer, that’s for sure–I’ve simply found a way to combine a multiplicity of passions under one big “umbrella” by writing about farming, cooking, crafting, and country living. Teaching skills and selling some of the by-products work in there, too, so that it all fits together. Still, just because selling soap isn’t my main thing doesn’t mean I don’t have to approach it professionally–and so do you, even if it’s a sideline for you, too.

Someone emailed me recently asking if I knew about labeling, and it occurred to me that labeling might make a helpful post. This post isn’t intended to be an end-all be-all of instruction–your end-all be-all on such topics should be your local county extension service, which is the end-all be-all resource for many things! If they don’t know the answer, they will help you find it.

If you’re selling any type of baked goods, canned goods (jams, jellies, etc.) and other products, those items also need to be properly labeled. My county extension service has a free booklet with specific information in a farmers market vendor guide, which is helpful even if you’re not selling at a farmers market.

My soap (and other items I sell locally) is packaged in a very rudimentary way. Maybe someday I’ll get some fancier packaging, but I’m not into fancy packaging, so maybe not! How fancy you want your packaging to be depends on your perspective and how/where you intend to sell your soap. (Remember also that packaging costs money.) If you’re displaying your soap in local stores, or making very “artsy” soaps, you might want your packaging to reflect that artsy aspect. My perspective is about the old-fashioned air of my soaps, which is why I make my soap by the hot process method (more in touch with old-time soapmaking) and prefer my soap to come out looking rustic and quaint. Extremely simplistic packaging reflects those ideals. Also, I primarily sell my soap from my website, so I’m not trying to attract buyers with my packaging.

When I first starting sending my soap out, I just stuck the bars in an envelope! I’ve gotten slightly more sophisticated. (Ha.) Now I place each bar in a plastic sandwich baggie. I include my business card and a Sassafras Farm sticker that I put on everything I sell, and a label with the following information:

The name of the product (example: Sassafras Tea/Homemade Soap), an ingredients list in order (by greatest to least), and contact information to identify and locate the maker of the product. Identifying information does not have to be your entire home address, but should make it possible for you to be located. I list Sassafras Farm and my county and state. I also list my website address. This is enough to identify and locate me as the maker of the soap. Sassafras Farm is a registered business in the state of West Virginia. Whether or not you need to register as a business to sell soap is not a question I can answer. (In this case, I’m not sure if the county extension agent would be the best resource. You may also want to talk to your accountant.) Chickens in the Road is incorporated and I operate Sasasfras Farm as a business under the Chickens in the Road corporation, which includes my farm, writing, workshops, and all else and sundry. This is the setup that works best for me in order to streamline my otherwise complicated taxes. You may need to do some homework to figure out what will work best for you and I can’t give any advice in that area other than you should be sure that you are doing business under the law in your state.

I slice my soaps so that every bar weighs approximately 4 ounces, but since every bar of homemade soap is unique and varies in weight by minute percentages, I have “Net Wt” on the label then leave the weight blank. I weigh each bar in ounces and grams and hand-write it in.

It’s also important to list any potential allergens (which includes fragrance or essential oils).

As I said at the beginning, this is not intended to be a complete instruction, but hopefully may be a helpful start. Remember also that, no matter what special ingredients you use with helpful herbal, natural medicinal, or so on properties, you cannot claim or advertise that your soap does anything but clean (or you will be in trouble with the law). Good luck!

P.S. You can find my soap for sale in the Farm Store.

P.P.S. I’m making six pounds of Sassafras Tea soap today to fill orders!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on July 31, 2012  

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20 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 7-31

    I’ve been making cold process soap for years. Just for our use and I sell some occasionally to a friend or two. One thing I learned years ago was not to wrap the soap in plastic. It needs to breath and will stay dry that way. I know when you sell it, especially outdoors, it can be necessary to cover with plastic so it doesn’t get wet. I used to wrap mine with just a sleeve of card stock paper with the label on it. That way it can breath on the ends but can be stacked and handled easily. I usually only make 15 bars at a time. Lately I just dump it in a basket under the sink. Hubby keeps an eye on it and tells me when it’s time to make more. He was so skeptical about it he waited months before tying any. Now he refused to use store bought.

  2. 7-31

    I sold my soaps for the first time last year at Christmas time … I learned so much from everyone in the forums .. especially Cindy! (thanks, Cindy!!) And I beam every time I get a call from a repeat customer! I came up with a cigar band label that I use. My husband built me some wooden crates to put the soaps in at crafts fairs and it makes setting up and breaking down SO much easier than before.

  3. 7-31

    Thanks, Paula. I only put each one in the baggie right before shipping, to protect them during shipping. I might start wrapping them in some lightweight paper, though!

  4. 7-31

    Another thing to remember is that soap will shrink as it dries. I don’t mark the weight until I’m ready to sell, because a bar can lose 20% or more weight as it dries. And I don’t put labels on until a few days before a show because the labels fall off as the soap shrinks.

  5. 7-31

    Well, for mailing you might want to continue to bag in plastic for the actual mailing. Who knows what could happen. I just tell the people to be sure to unwrap when they get it. It really does make the bars last longer if they stay dry. I also instruct not to leave them in water too. Even an undrained soap dish can make a soupy soapy mess. Maybe I’m to attached to my soap. I have to leave a long list of things to do to take good care of it. LOL

  6. 7-31

    Robin, do you put your labels directly on your soaps?

    I don’t weigh my soap until right before I put it in the package to ship.

  7. 7-31

    Paula, maybe I should add instructions! LOL.

  8. 7-31

    When I made soaps, both cold and hot processed, we just wrapped a narrow band around the soap and glued the edges together. These were printed out on the printer. I have also seen pieces cut from craft paper. Maybe even tie with a piece of twine around it if you liked. I love ,love homemade soaps. i havent made any for awhile, tho. its the only cleanser I use on my face. I dont know how something can leave your skin feeling so soft and non drying be made from lye,lol

  9. 7-31

    I have a question: where do you all purchase your PH strips, oils and fragrance? I’m slowly gathering my supplies:: and If I can find those ingredients locally or if they have to be purchased on line?? I’m super excited about learning and making my soap, almost ready to go!!!!

    Sandy (aka, Country Doodle)

  10. 7-31

    Sandy, I can find most of my ingredients locally, including the coconut oil, which is sometimes harder to find, but if I’m making an order anyway, the coconut oil in bulk online is a better deal. I order the pH strips, though you might be able to find them locally. Two places I often order from are Brambleberry and Wellington.

  11. 7-31

    Thank ya::: I’ve looked at a few stores that we have here in town, w/ no luck on the PH strips, but they sell some other stuff??? lol, I don’t know who their “buyer” for the store is, but that person, needs to get a clue??? why would you sell 3 or 4 ingredients, but yet not one of the most important products needed?? “Boggles me mind” lol Thanks bunches!! once again:)


  12. 7-31

    I am making soap today as well. I am on my 5th batch so far. And I am using Pringles cans for some of the molds. Thank you. I never thought of that. I bet you Sassafras soap smells so good. I do like root beer. I sell my soaps at the farmer’s market here for $4 a bar or 3/$10. They are really selling pretty good. I’m making a soap now for guys. There are a few more I want to make for guys too. I need more oil now. Anyway, sounds like you’re selling a lot. It is fun to make soap for sure. And it makes me feel good knowing that there are no nasty ingredients in mine. Only good fresh things. And the lather! Have you tried any with lard yet? That is the best lathering soap I have made so far.

    I use that crinkly brown paper packing stuff that I found at an office supply store with raffia. Looks really pretty and rustic.

  13. 7-31

    Yes, you did inspire me to make soap. I made my first batch last week using your recipe. I was buying my soap from Soap Hope .
    I made vanilla & cinnamon with cut up vanilla bean in it. It smells good enough to eat! I’ve been using it and my husband has asked for a manly scent- I’ll be making dragon blood for him this week!

    My son has also asked for handmade soap. I will be making our soap from now on, but not to sell- it looks like my family will be keeping me busy :)

  14. 7-31

    bolek’s crafts in dover has a big line of supplies, for soaps, candles, etc. good prices and reasonable shipping. free with a bigger order. No I dont work there. But its here local and its been around forever with good prices.

  15. 7-31

    ahh but you can say Sassafras soap is “fresh”, unlike the eggs from your hens!

    {{ibpallerts: Just a note about men’s soap: Anise can hide the scent of humans, making it a useful soap for hunters and fisherman. It also hides the scent of onions and garlic making it a useful soap for cooks and canners. }}

  16. 8-1

    Sorry for the delayed follow up reply, Suzanne.

    Yes, I put my labels right on the soap. I sell a set with two bars of soap and a handwoven cloth and I label the soap so they know which is which. The labels are paper bands that go around the bar.

  17. 8-1

    Hey Suzanne, I got mine already! Anyone wanting to order from Suzanne should get it done.

    I got a call, it is at the mail box so I haven’t smelled it yet. I can’t wait…………….

  18. 8-5

    I just want to say I’m so excited about making my first batch of soap. I came across this website earlier this year, and I’ve been able to gather many of the items for free, like the crock pot, lard, and glass measuring items…and the rest I’ve slowly purchased. The pH test strips just came on Friday!

    I hadn’t thought about selling it until I read this blog, and overheard some coworkers talking about going to the farm show and buying homemade soap.

    Thank you for all the articles! I love reading them, and I already feel more self sufficient.

  19. 8-6

    I just made my first batch of “crock pot soap” It is FABO! My question to you is, can I replace the water that I mix the lye into with green tea?

  20. 8-6

    Yes, you can exchange an equal amount of tea for the water.

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