Soap making and importing
If you’re planning to sell soaps that you make or import, you may need to register your business with us and check that your ingredients are on our Inventory.
Who must register
You must register with us if you:
- make soaps in Australia by a process involving a chemical reaction (such as saponification using lye) for commercial purposes — this includes selling the soaps in-store, online, at local markets and giving out free samples to market your product
- import soaps from overseas — including packaged soaps ready for sale and soaps that will be packaged locally
- import chemical ingredients into Australia for soap making intended for sale
You must register regardless of how much soap you sell. There is no threshold limit.
Who doesn’t need to register
You don’t need to register with us if you:
- make or buy soaps for personal use only
- sell soaps made with pre-made melt-and-pour bases that you bought from a local Australian shop, supplier or manufacturer
- re-sell soaps (packaged and unpackaged) that you bought from a local Australian shop, supplier or manufacturer
- make soaps and gift to family and friends or sell them for the cost of the materials only (no profit)
How much does it cost to register
Your registration fees and charges are based on your previous financial year’s total importation and manufacture (introduction) value. To work out how much you will pay, see how much is my registration fee?
Your registration is valid until 31 August, regardless of when you registered during the year. This is because our registration year starts on 1 September and ends on 31 August every year. There is no pro-rata registration.
The process you use to make your soaps is important
If you’re making soaps to sell, the way you make them determines whether you need to register with us.
|Soap-making process||Description process||Do I need to register?|
|Cold-process||Chemical reaction — saponification||Yes — if you sell the soaps for a profit|
|Hot-process||Chemical reaction — saponification||Yes — if you sell the soaps for a profit|
Mixing and blending (also known as melt and pour) using locally bought soap bases
If you’re using soap bases, glycerine blocks and pre-made, melt-and-pour bases purchased from an Australian supplier, the chemical process has already occurred.
No — this process does not result in a chemical reaction. The person who originally imported or manufactured the bases must register with us.
We've also put together some explainers to help you work out whether you need to register with AICIS. You can click on each of the images below to enlarge them.
Check that your ingredients are on the Inventory
If you need to register with us, you'll also need to check that each chemical ingredient in your soap is on our Inventory. You can do this by searching the Inventory using the chemical’s CAS number or CAS name.
Examples of common ingredients used in soaps
The following tables lists examples of common ingredients used in soaps. 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 and chemicals||CAS number||Is this on the Inventory?|
Sodium hydroxide; caustic soda; sodium hydrate; soda lye; NaOH; lye
Potassium hydroxide; potassium hydrate; caustic potash; lye
|Essential oils||Each oil has a unique CAS number and name||Search the Inventory for the oils you will use|
Fragrance — usually composed of many chemicals
Each chemical has a unique CAS number and name
Search for each fragrance chemical on the Inventory
Soaps made from natural or organic ingredients
All soaps, including ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ soaps, contain industrial chemicals. It’s also important to know that many natural and organic ingredients do not meet the legal definition of a naturally occurring chemical. This is because many ingredients from natural or organic sources are made using a process that involves a chemical reaction, such as steam distillation or solvent extraction (for example, to make essential oils).
If you plan to import soap or make soap using natural or organic ingredients, you’ll still need to register with us (unless you meet the who doesn’t need to register criteria) and check that each ingredient is on our Inventory. You don’t have to register if you buy pre-made soap from an Australian supplier to re-sell or re-package as your own (the supplier has already registered with us).
Frequently asked questions
Q. I'm a soap maker. After reading your page on getting started: registration, importing and manufacturing, I have worked out that I need to register my business with AICIS. What do I do next?
A. First of all, you will need to sign up to AICIS Business Services and register with us.
Note: you register your business – not your products or chemicals.
Next, you'll need to check that each chemical ingredient in your soaps is on our Inventory. You can do this by searching the Inventory using the chemical’s CAS number or CAS name.
If all of your ingredients are listed on the Inventory and you can comply with the terms of the listing, you are authorised to import or manufacture your soaps without telling us about it beforehand.
At the end of the registration year, you'll need to submit an annual declaration and tick which type of introduction you are making.
Q. I am manufacturing soap (hot process) and am planning on selling the product. I am using essential oils to scent my product. Would you please direct me to a source that helps me work out safe usage rates for using essential oils in hot process soap for sale in Australia?
A. We’re often asked about safe usage rates for adding essential oils to soaps. For more information, check the Poisons Standard (the SUSMP) for information about restrictions on the use of ingredients in consumer products.
Q. I’m making hot/cold process soap — do I need to register?
A. Yes, but only if you sell the soaps for a profit. If this applies, 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.
Q. What about melt-and-pour soap? Do I need to register?
A. No, you don’t have to register if you bought the ingredients from an Australian supplier, because the supplier has already registered with us. 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.
- 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.
Q. Do I have to register if my soap only has 'natural' ingredients? What if it’s vegan?
A. Yes, if you’ve imported or made the soap using a chemical process — and you plan to sell the soap commercially — then you need to register and check the Inventory for your ingredients.
All soaps will have at least one 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.
Q. I didn’t make the soap, I just plan to sell it. Do I need to register?
A. 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 must register with us.
Q. How do I label my products?
A. You need to label your soap according to the Australian labelling requirements for cosmetics. Visit the ACCC website or read more on our labelling, SDS and packaging page.
Q. I’m a very small business or I’m only selling soap as a hobby. Do I still have to pay anything or register?
A. Yes, but we apply a sliding scale to our fees. Businesses importing and manufacturing less than $49,999 in total annual value of industrial chemicals pay the lowest amount.
Q. I’m making soap to give to friends or family. Do I have to register?
A. 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 or small or start-up business. It is a legal obligation and fines can apply for non-compliance.
Download our information sheet
We've put together an information sheet for soap makers to help you work out whether you need to register with AICIS.