Are you making and selling soap?

Four photos of people making soap, stak of soap, close up of soap

If you’re planning to sell soap that you import or make, you will probably need to register with us and check that your ingredients on the chemical Inventory. This is because most soap ingredients are regulated as industrial chemicals in Australia.

Download "Are you making and selling soap?" [PDF 389KB]

Who needs to register?

You need to register your business with us if you:

  • make soaps in Australia by a process involving a chemical reaction — for example saponification using lye
  • import soaps from overseas — this applies to packaged products ready for sale and soap that will be packaged locally
  • import chemical ingredients into Australia for soap making

You register your business with us, not your products or ingredients.

Who doesn’t need to register?

You don’t need to register with us if you only do one or both of the following:

  • Resell soap that you bought from an Australian supplier or manufacturer.
  • Make soap from ingredients that you bought in Australia and the process you use doesn’t involve a chemical reaction.

The process you use to make your soap is important

If you’re making soap, the way you make it determines if you need to register with us.

Soap making processes Description of process Do I need to register?
Cold-process Chemical reaction – saponification Yes
Hot-process Chemical reaction – saponification Yes
Mixing and blending (also known as melt and pour) If you are using soap bases, glycerine blocks and melt and pour premade bases that you bought from an Australian supplier, the chemical process has already occurred. No – this process does not involve a chemical reaction.
The person who originally imported or manufactured the bases need to be registered with us.  

Step by step guide

If you need to register, follow these steps.

  1. Register your business
  2. Check that your ingredients are on the Inventory
  3. Ensure you meet your legal obligations

1. Register your business

Register and renew your registration online at NICNAS Business Services. You’ll need to calculate your registration level and pay a fee. Read more about how to register.

2. Check that your ingredients are on the Inventory

You must search for every ingredient in your soap on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (Inventory).

Chemicals on the Inventory

If your soap ingredients are all on the Inventory you can import or make your soap without telling us. We refer to importing or manufacturing industrial chemicals in Australia as ‘introducing’ a chemical or ‘introduction’.

You must comply with any obligations that may be associated with a chemical. These may be conditions of use listed on the Inventory or secondary notification obligations if the chemical has been assessed by us.

Chemicals NOT on the Inventory

If an ingredient is not on the Inventory, see if it meets our definition of a naturally-occurring chemical. If it does then you can import or manufacture it (or the soap containing it) without telling us. Note that chemicals from ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ sources aren’t automatically naturally-occurring chemicals.

If an ingredient is not a naturally-occurring chemical and is not on the Inventory, you will need to inform us before importing or manufacturing the chemical or the soap containing the chemical.

Examples of common ingredients used in soap making

Below are examples of common soap ingredients. Remember to search the Inventory for each ingredient in your soap. Ingredients and chemicals often have many names. The best way to search the Inventory is to ask your supplier for a CAS number.

Examples of ingredients/chemicals CAS number Is this on the Inventory?
Sodium hydroxide; caustic soda; sodium hydrate; soda lye; NaOH; lye 1310-73-2 Yes
Potassium hydroxide; potassium hydrate; caustic potash; lye 1310-58-3 Yes
Water; aqua 7732-18-5 Yes
Olive oil 8001-25-0 Yes
Cocoa butter 8002-31-1 Yes
Essential oils Each oil has a unique CAS number and name Search the Inventory for the oils you will use
Coconut oil 8001-31-8 Yes
Fragrance — usually composed of many chemicals Each chemical has a unique CAS number and name Search for each fragrance chemical on the Inventory

3. Other legal obligations

You must ensure that you follow all relevant Australian Government and State/Territory laws including:

Your questions

I’m making hot/cold process soap, so do I need to register?

Yes, you need to register your business and check that each ingredient is on the chemical Inventory. These methods for making soap rely on a chemical reaction called saponification.

What about melt and pour soap? Do I need to register?

No, you don’t have to register if you bought the ingredients from an Australian supplier. For most soap bases, the chemical reaction already happened. If you’re just melting a soap base and adding ingredients bought from an Australian supplier, then you don’t need to register.

However, if you are importing or manufacturing any ingredients used in the process you need to register – even if they are being used in a mixing or blending process. You also need to check that all ingredients are on the Inventory.

Examples:

  • If you are making essential oils using steam distillation, you need to register.
  • If you are importing essential oils you need to register.
  • If you are importing the soap bases, you need to register because soap base includes chemicals.
  • If you are importing glycerine, you need to register because it is considered an industrial chemical. It is listed in our Inventory, so you can import it (within the conditions) and you must be registered.

Do I have to register if my soap only has 'natural' ingredients? What if it’s vegan?

Yes, if you’ve imported or made the soap using a chemical process, then you need to register and check the Inventory for your ingredients, even if you buy the ingredients from an Australian supplier.

All soaps will have at least 1 ingredient that does not meet our definition of a 'naturally-occurring chemical'. Most ‘natural’ ingredients are extracted using chemical processes, so you must register if you import or manufacture these ingredients.

Our definition of an “industrial chemical” covers most cosmetic ingredients, even those sourced from nature.

There is an exception — you don’t have to register if you only buy your ingredients from an Australian supplier and you make soap using a melt and pour process with a soap base.

I didn’t make the soap, I just plan to sell it. Do I need to register?

It depends where you purchased the soap:

  • If you’re importing the soap, then you need to register and check that all ingredients are on the Inventory. This is because you’re bringing the chemicals into Australia.
  • If you purchased the soap in Australia, you do not have to register. The person who made or imported the soap need to be registered with us.

How do I label my products?

You need to label your soap according to the Australian labelling requirements for cosmetics. Visit the ACCC website or read more on our labelling cosmetic ingredients page.

I’m a very small business or I’m only selling soap as a hobby. Do I still have to pay anything or register?

Yes, but we apply a sliding scale to our fees. Businesses importing and manufacturing less than $100,000 in total annual value of industrial chemicals pay the lowest amount.

I’m making soap to give to friends or family. Do I have to register?

No. You don’t need to register if you gift or sell your soap to others for the cost of the materials.

But you do need to register and check that your ingredients are on the Inventory if you give out free soap for business purposes to market your product. Examples include handing out free samples of branded soap on the street and in stores.

IMPORTANT: Registration applies even if you are a hobbyist, small or start-up business. It is a legal obligation and fines can apply for non-compliance.

Last update 8 October 2018