Soap Making Materials in Malawi

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Making soap in Malawi is a viable business that people can start in Malawi with small capital. Many people contact me to express their interest to learn to start making soaps. And apart from learning the soap making process, people ask me about where they can find soap making materials in Malawi.

The two questions below are common among new soap makers;

Where can we find soap making materials in Malawi? 

Are the materials readily and affordably available?

Yellow soaps that I made at home

In this blog post, I will shade more light on the above questions.

Straight to the answer, some materials are readily available in Malawi while others are not. The same goes for the second question. Some ingredients for soap making you can affordably find them locally. While other ingredients are expensive and hard to source locally.

As described here, the major ingredients for soap making are oils, lye, and water.  Optional ingredients are colors and fragrances. Tap water is readily available. In places where there are no taps, use water from wells as an alternative.

Cost of buying lye in Malawi

Lye is a crucial ingredient in soap making. You cannot make soap without lye or caustic soda. It is readily available in cities, especially, Lilongwe and Blantyre in Limbe. However, lye is not readily accessible in many parts of the country.

A bag of caustic soda

Lye is affordable. It is sold in small amounts or 25kg bags. The average price for lye is K2000 per kilogram. A 25kg bags sell at K35 000.

Cost of oils

The costs of oils are the main contributors to the final soap produced. While the lye usage is on a lower ratio, oils take the largest share of every soap batch. It is important to know that there are many types of oils available for use in soap making.

Generally, animal fats are cheaper than vegetable oils.  

Look below the prices of oils that are commonly found and used in soaps

Oil type Price per Liter/Kg (MK) Availability
Palm oil 700   Easy to find
Sunflower oil 2500 Easy to find  
Soya been oil 2200 Easy to find
Coconut oil 3700 /8000 Scarce
Beef fat 500 Easy to find
Shear butter 12 000 Scarce
Moringa    
Neem    
Castor    
Lavender    

As you can see from the table above prices ranges for oils varies widely. It is therefore important to consider the cost of oils when making soap recipes.

As explained in my previous post on soap making, to make a good soap recipe requires at least three different kinds of oils. By this, I am trying to remind you that apart from cost consideration, when choosing your oils look at the characteristics the oils will contribute to the final product.

For instance, while sunflower and soybean oil they are all cheaper, they have similar properties. This means that using one is as good as using the other oil. 

Cost of Essential oils in Malawi

You may notice that I have not included prices for the last three oils in the table. I have done that for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s because these are essential oils, while the rest of the oils in the table are base oils.

Base oils are a necessity to make soap while essential oils are optional. Essential oils are used to give the soap extra benefits on the skin such as whitening, removing pores, being antifungal, and removing dark spots.

Secondly, I did not put the prices because I haven’t found these oils in regular shops. So far, I have been able to find them from informal markets where prices vary widely.

Notably, prices for essential oils are very high compared to base oils.

For instance, castor oil sells at K2000 per 50mls while I find lavender essential oil selling at K3000 per 100mls.

Alternatively, essential oils can be ordered online.

Soap colours and dyes

Colors give the soaps a beautiful look. In Malawi, green is common for laundry soap.

Bath soaps come in a wide range of colours including white, pink, orange, and black. The kind of colour used is solely based on makers’ choice as well as market perception.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find trusted suppliers of soap colours within Lilongwe or Blantyre. However, I have been able to find some soap dyes that people sell at malangalanga.

The only problem I have is that they only stock one colour- yellow. Yellow bars don’t look that great. I don’t love yellow bar soaps. Locally found colours are sold for K4000 per 250g. I also noticed some dissolve special types of paints to use in colouring soaps. It is sad.

Firstly, the paint is unsafe for human skin. Secondly, soaps tend to fade when using them for washing or bathing. The colour stains the surface while using. That’s the one you would expect your soap to do.

Hence, if you want perfect colours for your soap you can order online from China. You can also import soap colours from south Africa. 

Soap molds in Malawi

Molds give the soap the desired shapes. Rectangular shapes are popular for laundry soaps. Bar soaps, on the other hand, come in different shapes designed for easy grip as well as for decorative purposes.

I just found out recently, many people think of any rectangular soap as laundry soap. So, if you intend to make bath soap for commercial purposes you better get hold of special designed soap molds, not the regular rectangular shaped.

Soap molds are not sold in shops in Malawi, but you can make yours using wood or metals.

Previously, I used locally made molds. I gave instructions to a carpenter to make molds for me. The other time I bought some premade metallic molds made using roofing iron sheets. These are sold at K1000 each. Unfortunately, in both cases, they did not help me get the desired perfect soap.

As such, I opted to order factory-made silicone molds. Well, I loved the new molds. They are nice and lovely as they give my soaps a perfect uniform shape.

Furthermore, the silicone molds allow for easy removal of the soaps unlike the wooden and metallic molds. Silicone molds with six cavities cost K8000 each.

To sum up

I have described some basic costs for soap making ingredients. The prices I shared in this article I help it will help someone to make approximations in making homemade soaps in Malawi.

As explained above some of the ingredients are easily found while others are not. For instance, base oils like palm, sunflower, soybean, and animal fat are easily found anywhere in Malawi.

On the other hand, some oils like shear butter, essential oils, silicone soap molds and colours they are not easily found in Malawi. As such you can buy some of these on the internet. You can read here to learn how to order goods from China to Malawi.

 Good news!

The good news is that you can buy some of the soap making materials from me. For those outside Lilongwe, I can always send to you through an agreed courier. The buyer is responsible for courier charges from Lilongwe to where they are. 

Some items I have on sale and the prices are shown below;

Lye or Caustic soda

Price per Kg              = K2000

Price per 25kg bag   = K35, 000

Coconut oil/Kg         = K4500

Soap molds K8000 each

Soap making training

Are you interested to learn how to make soap at home?

I can teach you the skill. I offer soap making training, for individuals and groups.

Online soap making training is done through WhatsApp and it is K7000.

Offline training is K10 000 for individuals.

The charge for group training is negotiable depending on the number of people to be trained.

In all cases, soap making is one-day training but I offer continued support to all members I train.  To buy soap making materials or to enroll for soap making training WhatsApp/Call me on 0991230725   or email: chimwemwe@mawila.com

8 Comments

  1. franklin nyirenda
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