If you are considering making soap, first consider the following factors:
Safety: Do you have the personal protective equipment (PPE), utensils and work space necessary for handling caustic chemicals? There are risks involved in making soap, for example, lye is a caustic material (meaning it will damage other substances it comes into contact with, including clothes and skin) and must be handled with caution. Proper safety equipment such as thick rubber gloves and safety glasses must be worn throughout the mixing process.
Objectives. Consider why you are making soap for your COVID-19 response. Are there other suitable commercial products available and affordable (all types of soap will effectively remove and kill coronaviruses). Are there existing companies or factories that would be better placed to scale up production? Will this be a sustainable initiative or are you setting it up solely for your COVID-19 response?
Local practice and use. Consider what types of soaps are already used by the community. Will a locally made soap be accepted?
Availability of materials. Do you have access to sufficient supplies of PPE, and the ingredients and equipment needed to make soap?
Urgency. Is the need for soap urgent? Making soap takes a minimum of 4 weeks, so if you need the soap sooner than this you might want to consider other alternatives like purchasing and transporting soap from elsewhere in the country, importing soap, or promoting alternatives to soap.
Costs. Consider the cost of commercially available soap and compare it to the cost of producing soap locally. Think about costs of equipment, raw materials, labour and transportation. If local production is more expensive there may not be an incentive to produce soap locally.
If there are viable alternatives available to making soap, such as preparing soapy water for handwashing or procuring commercial soap, we recommend these options over making soap yourself.
Want to learn more about making soap and alcohol-based hand rub at the community level:
Author: Astrid Hasund Thorseth
Reviewers: Ron Orcajada, Amy Pickering, Melinda Foran
Last update: 27.5.2020