Thursday, October 2

making soap

Soap. Handmade soap. Made in small batches and full of nourishing ingredients. I love making it and I love the words that describe it. I make my soaps with local olive oil and local goats milk. They are delicate and creamy, full of lovely ingredients like shea butter and avocado oil, honey, cocoa butter and coconut milk, and they are a dream to use. With a bath scrunchie they foam up into a mass of creamy bubbles and when you step out of the shower you feel comfortable and clean. You don’t get that tight, itchy feeling that can occur after using shower gel.

The house is constantly perfumed with freshly cut soap. Eddies of orange, mint, rosemary and vanilla waft around the living room where kilos of new soaps are layed out to cure on every available surface. But as quick as I make them, they seem to vanish. One guy with dry skin problems now buys a kilo at a time and shares them with his two flatmates. I’ve started making him his own personalised bars, so that there is soap left for everybody else!

Inventing new recipes, adding different additives, coming up with new designs and fragrances keeps me busy day and night. I even dream about making soap! Deciding to sell my soaps was an easy decision but the process of getting everything legal has been really hard. The main problem being the Italian laws.

It seems that in the US there aren't any laws. YOu just make soap and sell it. (I might be wrong there, let me know if there is more to it that this.)In the UK you can make your soap at home and sell it, once it has been safety assessed and certified safe to sell by a qualified chemist. There are rules about keeping information files on each product you make, rules about labelling, rules about what may go into a product, and the paperwork can seem overwhelming at times, but it is all do-able.

Italy, of course, has a whole different set of rules that are so complicated, money consuming and downright frustrating that very few people have actually succeeded in setting up a soap business.
I have 'borrowed' and translated the Italian procedure of starting a soap business, as experienced by the owners of La Saponaria.

Start by opening a partita iva (like VAT), registering as a laboratory of production of cosmetics. Then it is necessary to enlist yourself with the register of commerce (which will cost from €70 - €150) for which it is necessary to have various authorisations including:
the local council,
regional council,
local sanitary controllers etc etc…

Each of these authorisations will take at least a month and will involve lots of paperwork and added questions and problems, because nobody really knows what to do or how to go about it.

To pass these controls it is obligatory to have a room or premises for the commerce or craft that is completely washable, walls completely tiled, a bathroom with shower, adequate ventilation, washable floors, steel tables, cupboards, shelves, steel sinks, and whatever else the sanitary inspectors think of in the moment. It must be obviously destined to be used as a laboratory and will be seperately inspected by variouls inspectors from the above list

Once you have this authorisation you have to proceed with the ministerial certification and the pharmacutical certification which consists of producing a series of worrying documents which will end up in the archives of the ministry for a few hundred years, and which you are obligated to keep for 10 years after the production of every soap or cream.

You will need to hire a commercialista (a business consultant) to do the paperwork for you. This will cost you at the very least €300.
You will have to pay the social security service INPS €2300 per year, which is when you realise that this won’t be just a hobby, and another €1000 to INAIL the state company that provides sickness benefit in the event of accidents at work.

You are advised to only go ahead with this if you have:
1. Created a business plan
and 2. Have at least 4 or 5000 euro in case it doesn't work out, in order to pay the business consultant, taxes, INPS etc which are obligatory.

It seemed impossible. There was no way that I would ever even find a laboratory in or around this small but expensive town that I live in. I was crushed, but not to be defeated I have slowly put together a different plan.


  1. That soap looks and sounds so lovely I want to eat it.

    I'm afraid I slipped into a coma during the legal bit. There must be another way, surely? amanda

  2. I feel like eating them too.

    I suppose that the laws are there to protect the consumer. It's no wonder that the prices increase with all the extras you have to pay.

    What's the solution?

  3. That soap is so pretty. Yum!

    In the States there would be laws as well...if you want to do it legally. There is business i.d. stuff (even as a writer I had to get a business code, because technically working from my home made it a place of "business" and then there are the health codes stuff.

    Maybe your lab can be in the UK (is there less red tape?) and you just need a place to sell in Positano? How is Lush able to operate here? I think it's a UK company and they have showers. etc.

  4. Nell said,
    Is there not some abandoned ricotta or mozzarella making small factory that is out of business which would have stainless steel this and that .Meaning sinks and tables and wall with tiles.
    Italy is nothing if not a country that loves paper work and and receiving payments for a business they may or may not approve I wish you much Luck.

  5. Starting a business in any country is daunting particularly with products applied to the skin. Australia has strict laws too.

    Although, there must be a way around it and lm sure that the same creativity you use with making your soaps, will find what that way is for you.

    I have said this before but the soaps look fantastic.

  6. Who would have thought the soap business was so hard to get started??? It'll be worth it if you get over the hurdles as the soap sounds divine.

  7. I've said it before your soap looks like delicious fudge! I can't wait to one day try it on my tired old dry Canadian skin. Cheers to you darling and best of luck on the soapy business. I'm not sure what the laws here in Canada are. I'll have to ask my friend who is a chemist.

  8. Annette says...
    What about selling online, like thru Etsy? I wonder if that would be the same.
    Your soaps are lovely, btw. They look edible!

  9. Of course there's another way! NYC has got the idea.. clever girl!

  10. If the US doesn't have laws now they most likely will have them real soon considering to the ingredients found in all kinds of products from China.

    Good luck in your new adventure!

  11. Wow! I thought it was difficult here, seems like a walk in the park now =)
    Another gorgeous soap, stunning colours and swirls. Hope you can get round the red tape, your soap deserves to be seen and sold.

  12. Beautiful soap, oh there has to be a way for you to sell it.

  13. OMG - that does look good enough to eat! :)

  14. I'm so happy to hear you being this excited about something! When someone is this passionate about something, they're bound to succeed.

  15. I hope it works out for you...your soap is beautiful. Let me know when I can buy some!


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