Domestic Shipping Prohibitions, Restrictions, & HAZMAT

When you mail a letter or send a package, you must follow U.S. and USPS® guidelines. Learn what things you can and can't send in the U.S. mail:

  • Some items are prohibited (completely forbidden).
  • Some are restricted (allowed under certain conditions).
  • Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) might be prohibited or restricted.

If you're shipping internationally, see International Shipping Prohibitions & Restrictions.

Reminder: Mercury (a silver metal that's liquid at room temperature) is prohibited and can't be mailed, whether by itself or in devices like antique thermometers, barometers, and switches. However, items that contain small amounts of mercury vapor, like compact fluorescent lamps, can be mailed domestically. Learn More

Mailer Guidelines

All USPS customers are responsible for:

  1. Reviewing USPS Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, & Perishable Mail to find out if your item is mailable.
  2. Complying with Postal Service regulations and U.S. laws and regulations.
  3. Packing your package securely and marking it as required. You can take your package to a Post Office location to make sure it is labeled correctly.

Shipping Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT)

Hazardous materials are substances that could injure people or cause damage if not handled properly, like chemicals or flammable items.

HAZMAT also includes lithium batteries (like the ones in cell phones and electronics; they contain a lot of energy and can be a fire risk) and liquid mercury:

  • Some HAZMAT is prohibited—you can’t send it through USPS and must use another carrier.
  • Other HAZMAT is restricted—you can mail it if you follow all the rules.
  • Some HAZMAT can only be sent by ground transportation—it can’t go on airplanes.
  • If you are mailing packages that contain hazardous materials (HAZMAT), you must separate HAZMAT packages from all other packages and present them in a container marked "HAZMAT."

If you knowingly mail materials that are dangerous or injurious to life, health, or property, for each violation, you face a civil penalty of at least $250 (but not more than $100,000), the costs of any cleanup, and damages. You may also face criminal penalties.

TIP: Try our tutorial on sending hazardous materials, HAZMAT Shipping Safety.

Domestically Prohibited Items

You can't send these items in the U.S. mail:

Domestically Restricted Items

You can send the following items if you follow all the rules and restrictions. See a more complete list in USPS Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, & Perishable Mail.

Expand Allor close all content topics for immediately following heading

Open or Close content below Aerosols

Examples of mailable gases and aerosols include propane, butane, and fire extinguishers. Make sure you read about the specific rules and restrictions for sending mailable gases.

List of Mailable Gases

Open or Close content below Alcoholic Beverages

Beer, wine, and liquor may not be sent through the mail, except in limited circumstances.

Please note, if you want to reuse a box that has alcoholic beverage labels on it, remove all logos and labels so your package will pass through the mail system.

Exceptions for Mailing Intoxicating Liquors

Open or Close content below Cigarettes, Cigars, & Tobacco

Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are restricted items and can only be mailed in limited circumstances. Cigars may be mailed domestically. Customers are advised to review the Cigarettes, Cigars, and Tobacco Definitions and Mailability.

Exceptions for Mailing Cigarette & Smokeless Tobacco

Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are mailable only in the below circumstances:

  • Intra-Alaskan and intra-Hawaiian shipments
  • Business/regulatory purposes
  • Small-quantity “gift” shipments to individuals
  • Individual returns of an unacceptable tobacco product to a manufacturer

Other Shipping & Packaging Requirements

Allowable cigarette or smokeless tobacco shipments must be approved by a Postal employee at a Post Office. The Postal employee will verify that an individual recipient is of legal age to receive the shipment.

Tobacco Shipments to APO/FPO/DPO

When shipping to APO/FPO/DPO locations in foreign countries, USPS treats the mail as domestic mail, but shipping is still subject to those foreign countries’ prohibitions and restrictions. Customers should be aware that size and weight standards may differ from USPS standards. See International Country Listings to find country-specific prohibitions and restrictions.

Open or Close content below Cremated Remains

USPS® is the only shipping company that ships cremated remains (human or pet ashes). You may ship cremated remains domestically but must use Priority Mail Express®. Make sure the inner primary container is strong, durable, and properly sealed. For the outer shipping package, you must use one of our two Cremated Remains Kits or use your own strong, durable container properly packaged and labeled with Cremated Remains Label 139 on all four sides of the box, plus top and bottom. Order free cremated remains shipping supplies on The Postal Store®.

Watch How to Ship Cremated Remains Safely Video
Publication 139 - How to Package & Ship Cremated Remains
Other Guidelines on Shipping & Packaging Cremated Remains

Open or Close content below Dry Ice

Dry ice is permitted to be mailed when it is used as a refrigerant to cool the content of a mailable hazardous or nonhazardous material. Packages containing dry ice must be packed in containers that permit the release of carbon dioxide gas.

Shipping Dry Ice Rules & Restrictions

Open or Close content below Firearms

Only licensed manufacturers and dealers may mail or receive handguns. Even though unloaded rifles and shotguns are mailable, mailers must comply with applicable regulations.

Additional Information on Mailing Firearms

Open or Close content below Glues

Glues have a wide range of flashpoints. You are responsible for knowing the flashpoint and toxicity of the glue you want to mail. Flammable glues may be mailed if they are a consumer commodity. Some glues may only be sent by ground transportation. Glues are categorized as “adhesives” in the below resources.

Shipping Flammable & Combustible Liquids
Packaging Instructions for Combustible Liquids

Open or Close content below Hand Sanitizer

To ship hand sanitizers, including wipes, you must use USPS Ground Advantage or Parcel Select® service. These services are only available through your local Post Office branch.

Most hand sanitizers, including wipes, contain alcohol and are flammable in nature and are therefore handled and shipped as hazardous matter (HAZMAT) in the U.S. Mail. As flammable materials, these products are limited to surface transportation-only in domestic mail. It is prohibited to send these materials by International Mail including APO/FPO/DPO (military) destinations.

If you are unsure whether or not the product that you are shipping is flammable, please check with the manufacturer of the product before mailing.

Additional Resources
Publication 52-Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Mail Packaging Instructions 3A

Open or Close content below Hemp Products (including CBD)

A cannabis-derived substance with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of 0.3 percent or less is legally hemp. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the flower resin of cannabis plants.

You can send certain hemp-based products domestically (within the U.S. and to U.S. territories) if you comply with all applicable laws. (You cannot send hemp and hemp-derived products to international or military destinations.)

To mail legal hemp and hemp-based products, including CBD, you must:

  • Follow the guidelines outlined under Publication 52, Section 453
  • Comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws pertaining to hemp production, processing, distribution, and sales
  • Retain records establishing compliance with such laws, including laboratory test results, licenses, or compliance reports, for no less than 2 years after the date of mailing

Open or Close content below Lithium Batteries

For domestic mailings only, small consumer-type primary lithium cells or batteries (lithium metal or lithium alloy) like those used to power cameras and flashlights are mailable domestically under certain conditions.

Lithium Batteries in Electronic Devices

If you're mailing pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices containing or packaged with lithium batteries, you must send them via ground transportation; they are prohibited in air transportation.

These devices must be marked on the outer packaging with the text, "Restricted Electronic Device" and "Surface Transportation Only."

Shipping Lithium Batteries

Open or Close content below Live Animals

Except in limited circumstances, pets and warm-blooded animals may not go in the mail. Shipments of live animals, including poultry, reptiles, and bees, have very specific packaging requirements. Although you can drop these animals at any Post Office location, they are only shipped when the appropriate transportation is available.

Regulations on Shipping Live Animals

Open or Close content below Matches

Safety Matches

Safety matches have treated match heads that will only ignite when struck against a specially prepared surface like a match book, card, or box. Safety matches must be sent via ground transportation and cannot be mailed internationally.

Additional Information on Mailing Safety Matches

Strike-Anywhere Matches

Strike-anywhere matches will light from friction against any surface. Strike-anywhere matches may not be mailed domestically.

Open or Close content below Medicines & Prescription Drugs

When sending medicine or drugs through the mail, mailers and shippers must know the characteristics of the items they are sending and treat them correctly. Medicines are controlled substances and are subject to strict regulations. Prescription medications may only be mailed by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registered distributors. Similar regulations apply to some over-the-counter medications.

Shipping Controlled Substances & Drugs

Open or Close content below Mercury

Mercury is a toxic metal that’s a shiny, silver liquid at room temperature. It's often found in antique devices like thermometers, barometers, thermostats, and switches.

Liquid Mercury

Liquid mercury in any amount (and devices containing a visible amount of mercury) is prohibited from the US Mail, so you must find another carrier.

Mercury Vapor Devices

Some consumer devices, like compact fluorescent light bulbs, contain tiny amounts of mercury vapor. These items are restricted, but mailable. See Pub 52, Section 348.22g and Packaging Instruction 8C for more details.

Open or Close content below Nail Polish

If the nail polish you want to mail is flammable, you are responsible for knowing its flashpoint and toxicity. Flammable nail polishes may be mailed domestically if they are a consumer commodity. Some nail polishes may only be sent by ground transportation.

Shipping Flammable & Combustible Liquids
Packaging Instructions for Combustible Liquids

Open or Close content below Paint

Flammable or combustible paint and paint-related items are generally accepted for mailing, provided the material can qualify as a consumer commodity material or ORM-D (for surface only), and is sent within the quantity limitations and packaging requirements. Latex Paint or a similar water-based paint product that is not flammable or combustible is not regulated as a hazardous material, and therefore, is not restricted.

Additional Information on Mailing Paint

Open or Close content below Perfumes

Perfume containing alcohol may not be shipped internationally or mailed domestically using air transportation. Perfume containing alcohol, however, may be shipped within the United States by ground transportation.

Shipping Flammable & Combustible Liquids
Packaging Instructions for Combustible Liquids

Open or Close content below Perishable Items

Perishable items are materials that can deteriorate in the mail, such as live animals, food, and plants. Permissible perishable items are sent at the mailer’s own risk. These items must be specially packaged and mailed so that they arrive before they begin to deteriorate.

Shipping Perishable Materials Guidelines

Open or Close content below Poisons

Poisons are considered toxins. You are responsible for knowing the toxicity of the material you want to mail. Some poisons may be sent by air and ground transport, others only by ground.

Mailable Class 6 Materials
Packaging Instructions for Toxic Substances