How to Ship Dry Ice with UPS: A Complete Guide to Sending Dry Ice Shipments with UPS

Learn about sending dry ice with UPS and what regulations for labels and packaging you'll need to follow
how to ship dry ice with UPS
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Did you know that different shipping carriers have different regulations for sending hazardous materials? For instance, USPS and UPS both allow you to add dry ice to your packages, but they treat dry ice shipments a bit differently from each other. Many D2C food businesses use dry ice to keep their products from spoiling during transit…and in case your business is considering UPS, this guide covers all the details you’ll need to know before you start shipping!

Table of Contents

UPS Allows You to Include Up to 5.5 Pounds of Dry Ice Per Air Shipment (Without Any Special Contracts)

In case you fell asleep during science class, dry ice is a solid form of carbon dioxide, and has an exceptionally cold temperature of minus 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (or minus 78.5 degrees Celsius). Since this is the case, adding dry ice to your package is best for sending products that absolutely need to be kept very cold, like shipments containing frozen food, sensitive medical supplies, and some biological materials.

Due to the extra-cold nature of dry ice (and the fact that it’s a fairly hazardous substance), UPS restricts you from adding too much of it to any given shipment. However, if you’re using any UPS air service—for example, Next Day Air, 3 Day Select, or 2nd Day Air—UPS allows you to include up to 5.5 pounds of dry ice per shipment without any special contracts or Hazardous Material shipping papers. All you need to do is mark your box with a phrase that indicates the package contains dry ice inside of it. Writing “Dry Ice” or “Carbon Dioxide Solid” on the side of your box will do just fine.

If you want to send more than 5.5 pounds, you’ll also need to include a Class 9 Hazard Diamond Label on the outside of the package, on top of marking it with “Dry Ice” or “Carbon Dioxide, Solid.”

What About Ground Shipments?

UPS Ground shipments are a bit of a different story when it comes to dry ice. Unlike their air services, UPS doesn’t regulate dry ice shipments for UPS Ground service. In fact, UPS hasn’t published any information about the maximum amount of dry ice you can use with Ground on their website. The maximum weight limit for a UPS Ground shipment is 150 pounds, though, so you won’t be able to exceed that! Either way, you’ll still need to write the proper markings on the package, i.e. “Dry Ice” or “Carbon Dioxide Solid.”

Properly Package Your Shipment to Prevent a Pressure Burst

Before you place dry ice in your shipment, you should definitely throw on some insulated gloves. Dry ice is ultra-cold, which means you’ll burn yourself pretty badly if it comes into contact with your skin.

Dry ice should never actually come into direct contact with your items, either. So, once you’re ready to handle it, keep the ice separate from the item you’re shipping. This will all need to go into a polystyrene container (at least 2 inches thick), with an absorbent liner to prevent any leaks. Basically, the polystyrene container should also hold any moisture and condensation that might crop up during shipping, and the outer box should be taped securely.

Don’t keep it air-tight! Dry ice creates pressure by releasing carbon dioxide over time, so there needs to be some sort of open slot for pressure to be released. If your shipment is air-tight, pressure will build up inside of your box and eventually cause it to rupture and burst. That can get messy, and can ruin whatever perishable items you’re sending.

International Dry Ice Shipping with UPS

UPS allows you to send dry ice to international destinations! That said, you’ll still need to follow the IATA regulations for labeling your package, and include signed paperwork with your shipment. Specifically, you will need to:

  • Have a signed International Special Commodities (ISC) contract with UPS
  • Affix a Class 9 Diamond Hazard Label with the amount of dry ice noted on the label in weight (pounds or kilograms)

Fortunately, UPS provides a checklist that you can work through to make sure you’ve followed all the proper guidelines for sending dry ice before you hand off your package. You can check out that document here.

For more information on sending dry ice with UPS, visit the UPS landing page dedicated to the subject.

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  1. Thomas Green

    The photo accompanying this article is horribly irresponsible! The model should be wearing thick gloves to illustrate the importance of preventing burn-like damage to bare skin. Appropriate protective clothing is crucial to protect against injury when handling dry ice.

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