Shipping Hazardous Materials: A Guide How to Properly Package & Send Packages with Hazardous Materials

Learn about the different kinds of hazardous materials and how you can ship them
Hazardous Materials
Grab these resources for this guide
USPS Hazardous Material List
The Postal Service's 9 classes of hazardous materials
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When was the last time you threw on some cologne (or perfume) for a hot date? Hopefully, it wasn’t too long ago…but that’s beside the point! Most people don’t realize it, but cologne and perfume are examples of products containing hazardous materials. When it comes to shipping these kinds of products, there are a number of restrictions and guidelines you’ll have to meet. Let’s throw on the safety gloves and dive right in, shall we?

Table of Contents

What are Hazardous Materials?

Let’s start off with a simple definition. A hazardous material is any kind of material that poses an unreasonable risk to health, safety, or property. The US Department of Transportation has broken down hazardous materials into nine different classes. We’ve listed those below.

  • Explosives – Class 1
  • Gases – Class 2
  • Flammable and Combustible Liquids – Class 3
  • Flammable Solids – Class 4
  • Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides – Class 5
  • Toxic Substances and Infectious Substances – Class 6
  • Radioactive Materials – Class 7
  • Corrosives – Class 8
  • Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials – Class 9

How Can I Ship Products with Hazardous Materials?

Products with hazardous materials are subject to certain transportation restrictions you’ll need to follow. For example, you’re not able to ship them on an airplane. Instead, they are required to be transported on the ground using shipping services like USPS Ground Advantage service. However, that’s assuming you’re even able to ship your items domestically in the first place. Some hazardous materials, such as explosives, are prohibited from air AND surface transportation! Also, you can’t ship products containing hazardous materials internationally.

Four Steps to Follow

If you’re shipping out products containing hazardous materials, follow these five steps below:

  1. Figure out whether a material meets the definition of a hazardous material
  2. Identify the Class and Identification Number
  3. Package your item properly based on your materials
  4. Apply a hazard warning label to your package
  5. Purchase a USPS Ground Advantage label either at the Post Office,, or through online shipping software for the deepest discounts on postage

Pro Tip: Each shipment of a hazardous material may require additional shipping papers, emergency response information, certifications, and other requirements like security plans and compatibility guarantees. Fortunately, most shipping carriers will satisfy a lot of these requirements and won’t require you (the shipper) to work through the details. However, it’s always important to guarantee your package leaves your facility or residence in its required packaging.

Properly Packaging These Types of Shipments

Items with hazardous materials can pose serious problems if they take damage or break during transportation. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you package them properly. Firstly, you’ll want to use a brand-new corrugated cardboard box. We then recommend that you use proper packing material on the inside of your package, such as plenty of bubble wrap, or even custom mold inserts which keep your items from shifting around during transit. The more protective material you use, the better chance you have of your shipment arriving at its final destination intact!

Why You’re Typically Limited to Ground Service When Sending Hazardous Materials

When shipping hazardous materials, you’ll almost always need to ship them via ground service, no matter which shipping carrier you choose (UPS and FedEx will also limit you to their ground services when sending hazardous items). Due to safety concerns, carriers won’t allow certain materials aboard airplanes, such as flammable liquids or aerosols, so they created protocols to limit parcels with hazardous materials to ground transportation only. Since this is the case, you also typically can’t send any packages containing hazardous materials internationally!

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  1. Bec

    Can I mail a halon fire extinguisher by ground transport?

  2. JOSE


  3. lori

    There is no “surface transport only” to Puerto Rico. It either goes via air or by vessel. Ship it via air using the hazardous materials regulations in 49 CFR 171-180. You can ship using a limited quantity label but also need to fill out a shipper’s declaration and mark the package with the proper shipping name and UN#. It may be easier to have it shipped directly from the place where you bought it.

  4. Chris

    Hi. Great and informative article! Thank you. Just wondering, would you need to have licences and/or insurance documents to ship hazardous materials?

    Much appreciated!

    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Chris, it depends on the kind of material you’re shipping. Most hazardous materials don’t require a license, but some do (like firearms). I’d check the Postal Explorer for your items if I were you here. Also, it’s not required for you to buy insurance, but I always do for my shipments! It’s worth the couple of extra bucks…especially because a lot of shipments are getting lost in the USPS mail stream right now.

      • Chris

        Hi Rockwell,

        What I’m referring to is class 8 cleaning chemistries which include sodium hydroxide. Not sure if that’s of any help…


        • lori

          If you’re shipping hazardous materials in commerce, you will need hazardous materials shipping training. See 49 CFR 172.700-704.

  5. Jennifer A Luttrell

    Thanks so much for the reply and the link with info. Hope your Christmas, Holiday was Blessed.

  6. Jennifer A Luttrell

    I want to ship CO2 bottles for a sodasense machine to Puerto Rico. I can’t figure out if this is ok or not, or what I need to do to properly ship if that is permitted.
    Thanks for your help!

    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Jennifer, this is definitely possible! USPS considers Puerto Rico as a domestic destination, since it’s a US territory. You’ll want to ship your box with ground service only though. You’ll also want to write “Surface Transport Only” and affix the proper Limited Quantity label on the package. I know this is a lot of info, so this guide may help get you going in the right direction:


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