We know you’re exhausted from looking up what you can ship from where. So, we’re here to give you a breakdown of the basics!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This article will give you a current rundown of prohibited and restricted shipping items, but unfortunately, each country comes with their own laws and restrictions. Luckily, the USPS has a handy guide to country-specific shipping restrictions! Simply click on the country you need and double-check your specific items. And remember, item restrictions go both ways—if you can’t mail something from the USA, you also can’t mail it to the USA.
Alright, on with the show—and our sincerest apologies if you tried and failed to import your French clown ensemble in 2014.
Lithium batteries became the talk of the shipping town over the past five years. Due to their light weight, recharging abilities, and power density, you can now find lithium batteries in almost every consumer home around the globe. If you own a smartphone, laptop, ebike, or other portable power item, it likely runs on lithium batteries.
However, popularity doesn’t make lithium batteries any easier to ship.
That’s because lithium batteries may literally explode under certain conditions. Ebike fires have started to crop up more and more often and as the incidents with lithium rise, so do the shipping restrictions.
The cell and battery types have passed the applicable UN tests
All terminals are protected against short circuits
Packaging limits are met
Appropriate inner and outer packaging is used
Packages bear the required marks and labels
The required documentation is completed
If you’re looking to ship a lithium battery or any item containing a lithium battery, you’ll want to double-check all packing requirements with your local post office. It might be a pain, but if your laptop explodes on its way to Mexico, it’s a lose-lose situation.
Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) include any items that could injure someone if handled incorrectly. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty broad umbrella.
There are two primary categories of HAZMAT, or Dangerous Goods (DG):
Restricted HAZMAT items can be shipped, but they usually come with a slew of rules and regulations attached. Unarmed weapons are one of the most commonly shipped restricted HAZMAT items. If you look at the list of prohibited items above, you’ll likely see why—you can’t ship anything with ammunition.
Additionally, shipping any kind of weapon—especially a firearm—requires specific packaging, registration, and carrier contracting. For example, even within the USA, you cannot mail a handgun via USPS. You can mail other types of firearms, but you need a specific contract carrier to mail a handgun.
Other restricted HAZMAT items include:
Non-firearm weapons (knives, swords, etc, including replicas)
Drugs and medicines may not pose an immediate threat, but they are subject to strict shipping regulations. Let’s start with the simplest one: you cannot mail recreational drugs. Period. That includes medical marajuana and any medical hemp-based products.
Medicines and controlled substances get a little more complicated. Room-temperature prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can be mailed with the proper labeling and treatment, however the amount of the medication is usually heavily restricted. Any large amounts of medication can only be mailed by DEA-approved distributors.
Refrigerated medications require a bit more paperwork and in some cases, cannot be shipped by an individual. In these cases, the medication must be shipped by an approved distributor with prescription documentation.
Chemicals, like hazardous materials, include a long list of items ranging from extremely dangerous to mildly inconvenient. That said, most chemical shipping restrictions come down to flammability. In other words, it’s not the chemical—it’s the fact that it might set the shipping vehicle on fire.
Some products under this umbrella are obvious (like aerosol cans), but some are less well known! Here are a few items that might surprise you when you’re turned away at the post office:
Nail polish remover
Perfume and cologne
Now, you’re probably not rolling up to the post office trying to ship gallons of perfume, but it’s worth understanding that anything in the flammable category will raise quite a few red flags. When in doubt, double-check the ingredients of your shipment and cross-check them with the restrictions in your country.
Ship Your Goods with the Best
AtTraveling Mailbox, we might not be able to change shipping laws, but we can make legal shipping options as simple as possible! We work with all major mail carriers, including USPS, DHL, FedEx, and UPS, to bring you consistently low shipping rates, international access, and legal transparency.