5 Surprising Things You Should Never Put in the Mail, USPS Says

The agency says these items shouldn't be put in your packages.

The function of the United States Postal Service (USPS) is so essential to everyday life that we learn how to send letters and check the mailbox from a very young age. Of course, the process of putting something in the mail can become more complicated as we get older—especially when you're sending more than a few important documents or a postcard. But while it might be easy to guess which items are off-limits for postage due to safety reasons, a few others might not be so obvious. Read on for the surprising things you should never put in the mail, according to the USPS.

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1
Alcoholic Beverages

Bottle of wine in a paper bag
iStock

Sending a loved one their favorite bourbon or a bottle of bubbly to celebrate a birthday or special event might seem like an excellent present option. However, according to the USPS's shipping restrictions list, it's against the rules to send any beer, liquor, or wine through the mail. In fact, any intoxicating liquors "having 0.5 percent or more alcoholic content are nonmailable."

And it's not just what's inside the package that can tie up your delivery. The agency also warns that anyone who repurposes a box with logos and labels from an alcoholic beverage company on it should cover or remove them before sending it out so it won't be flagged.

2
Nail Polish

Disorganized bottles of nail polish, makeup
Shutterstock

Nail polish can be one of the easiest ways to add a nice flash to your look. Unfortunately, the product itself can quite literally cause a flash due to how flammable its ingredients are. Because of this, the agency restricts many of the bottles from being carried through the mail system, with some items limited to just ground shipping.

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3
Perfume

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Finding the perfect perfume can be a long process that involves searching high and low for just the right match—even when traveling or on the road. However, if the item is made using alcohol, you won't be allowed to drop your new bottle in the mail to ship it home if you're out of the country.

Even domestically, USPS still has restrictions on what you can send. Any fragrances containing alcohol as an ingredient can only ship by ground transportation and require special labeling on any packaging.

4
Hand Sanitizer

close up of woman using a small hand sanitizer on her hand
Zigres / Shutterstock

Post-pandemic life has a few notable changes, including hand sanitizer becoming a new daily staple for many people. But if you're putting together a care package for a friend or family member, you might want to think twice before dropping it into the box.

According to the USPS, "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." That means they can only be mailed domestically via ground transportation using specific shipping options.

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5
Items Containing Mercury

Pouring out mercury from a bottle to a test tube.
iStock

It's not terribly common to see mercury still used in items. But in a press release on June 29, USPS reminded customers that the toxic metallic liquid was off-limits for the mail, including antique items such as thermometers, barometers, blood pressure monitors, and similar devices.

"Improper, undeclared, or prohibited hazmat (hazardous material) shipping can have serious consequences for everyone involved," the agency wrote. And as a hazardous item, USPS warns that anyone who knowingly ships a dangerous product is subject to potential fines and even criminal penalties.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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