It’s important to know which items can be shipped through the US Postal System before you spend time and money packaging the item and paying for shipping.
With increased security, many items are now inspected and scanned via X-ray before they are shipped, and if your package contains hazardous or restricted materials, it may not reach its destination.
If you’re putting together a holiday care package also take a couple of minutes to read our guide before putting together a care package for your favorite troop overseas. Also send your package early so it arrives on time!
General USPS Mailing Restrictions
Many items are on the restricted mailing list, regardless of to whom or where the item is being shipped.
The best resource for locating which items may be banned or restricted by the USPS is Publication 52 – Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.
There are quite a few items that are banned or restricted, including anything that is explosive, flammable, corrosive, combustible, under pressure, liquids, perishable, oxidizers, poisonous, radioactive, drugs (including many prescription drugs, unless authorized), alcohol, tobacco, sharp items, produce, live animals, some batteries, and more. When in doubt, review the publication or contact USPS for additional guidance.
When contacting the USPS about shipping a restricted item, have the following information available:
- Detailed description of the restricted or perishable matter.
- Special precautions are necessary to permit handling without harm to Postal Service employees or damage to property.
- Proposed method of packaging.
- Explanation of any local, state, or federal regulations that apply to shipping such matter.
- Quantity per mail piece and per mailing, frequency of mailing, and post office(s) of mailing.
Mailing Restrictions When Shipping to APO/FPO/DPO Addresses
The above restrictions apply when shipping items to everyone, but there may be additional restrictions on shipments sent to military and diplomatic post offices overseas.
These restrictions are primarily in place for safety reasons – many of the restricted items are dangerous when not properly packaged or transported. Other restrictions are in place for legal reasons (for example, the restrictions on shipping alcohol and tobacco), or political (restrictions on shipping items to other countries which may be legal in the US, but are not legal in other countries)
For example, the USPS restricts shipping the following items to military members deployed in the Middle East:
- Obscene articles (prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc) and horror comics.
- Any matter depicting nude or semi-nude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or non-authorized political materials.
- Bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith. Items for the personal use of the addressee are permissible.
- Pork or pork by-products.
This is a general list, and each specific APO/FPO/DPO may have additional items that are banned or restricted.
Contact the USPS for More Information
This article is intended only as a quick reference guide.
For more information, please visit the USPS website, call 1-800-ASK-USPS, or consult your local post office.