15 Items You Cannot Send via Mail

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We rely on our postal service to ship parcels for business and personal reasons. The law states that certain items should not be shipped via our postal service. These items could be restricted, prohibited and non-mailable altogether. The article mentions 15 such items you cannot send via mail.

Arms and Ammunition

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It is illegal under federal law to mail arms and ammunition, such as but not limited to shotgun, pistol, rifle, revolver, cartridges, primers, and propellant powders. The US Department of Transportation categorizes small arms and ammunition under “explosive materials”. You will be liable to civil penalties and criminal charges in case you are found to send them via postal service.

Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco

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These are restricted items and can be mailable only under specific circumstances. Cigars can be transported domestically, in limited quantities. The law exists to govern the tobacco distribution process and to comply with various state laws. You should review the applicable laws for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco before sending them via post.

Corrosive Materials

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Any chemical that can cause damage to other cargo materials are strongly prohibited. For instance, you cannot send acidic chemicals via postal service. Such materials can lead to spillages during transit which can spoil other cargo items and most importantly, harm the postal service workers. Check your items for corrosive materials before sending them via postal service.

Counterfeit Items

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Mailing counterfeit goods are strictly prohibited and punishable under criminal charges. This is done to protect consumers and ensure that the transported goods are authentic. It is important for the public to retain trust in the postal service system. Forged documents, fake currency, and non-commissioned replicas are some examples of counterfeit items.

Counterfeit Postage Stamp

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Much like counterfeit items, people commit mail fraud by affixing counterfeit postage stamps on goods. This is illegal and a punishable offense. Such goods are typically addressed to non-existing receiver addresses, and the postal department abandons these packages after some time.


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Winning the battle against illegal drugs is a top priority of the postal service. Using the mail to send controlled substances, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs is strictly prohibited to combat drug trafficking. You can mail prescription drugs only if your entity is registered and approved by the DEA.


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Explosives like fireworks are banned due to the health and hazard risk it poses to the public and the postal service staff. The law has been in existence for long with the purpose of protecting the security and integrity of the postal service system.

Flammable Liquids

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Liquids that can catch fire easily or can facilitate the spreading of fire are flammable liquids, such as diesel, petrol, alcohol, lighter fluid, animal oils, and so on. These items are banned due to fire safety reasons during transit. Like we cannot carry flammable liquids in domestic and international flights, the same law works for the postal service.

Live Animals

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There are strict rules and regulations that govern the transport of live animals via the postal service. Detailed information is available with the USPS to check if the live animal can be transported and in what way. The laws exist to implement ethical treatment of animals and promote responsible care for animals.

Lottery Tickets

Photo of Man Buying a Lottery Voucher
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Lottery tickets are totally non-mailable and subject to criminal charges. Evidently, this has been done to prevent lottery fraud and to ensure that the lottery systems retain their integrity. This also helps to protect the public from fraudulent schemes and scams, and ensure that any gambling activities have fair play.

Perishable Food Products

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Any food items, like fresh fruits and vegetables, that spoil or decay quickly should not be mailed. If you still wish to, check out the USPS website for guidelines governing perishable food items. Basic guidelines are that they have to be packaged in a sturdy and spill proof box, and covered with dry ice or frozen gel packs.

Poisonous Materials

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Poisonous materials could be anything that can cause harm to the postal service workers and recipients. One common example is liquid mercury. Items like thermometers and blood pressure gauges contain liquid mercury. If damaged or broken, it can turn the air toxic and turn breathable air into poison.

Pornographic Materials

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Sending pornographic materials are totally non-mailable and subject to criminal charges. It is done to prevent the distribution of obscene content and to uphold civic society standards. It is important to value the moral expectations and the comfort of the common public.

Radioactive Materials

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It is unlikely that the common public will ship anything radioactive anywhere. Still, it is good to keep in mind that radioactive materials are strictly prohibited due to their potential health hazards to humans and the environment. Commonly known radioactive materials are uranium and radium that is found in brick, gypsum, and granite.

Stolen Property

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You cannot use the postal service to mail stolen goods and items. Shipping stolen goods come under criminal offense, and liable to be prosecuted under federal law, not local or state jurisdiction. It can lead to fines up to $250,000. This law exists to deter criminal behavior and uphold the property rights of the owner.


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