Have you ever walked into a room that smelled like utterly blissful heaven? If so, then chances are someone put out some essential oils to set the vibe and make people feel at home! Essential oils are highly popular with everyday American consumers, and sales of these products have blown up as online sellers have jumped on the trend in recent years. However, shipping them out isn’t as easy as one might think…but that’s where Shipping School comes in. This guide is all about how to ship essential oils for the cheapest prices, and what sort of restrictions you might be up against when sending them out. Let’s twist the cap open and take a whiff, shall we?
Which Shipping Carrier to Use to Get the Cheapest Prices
First thing’s first: before you do anything, you’ve got to decide which shipping carrier to choose to send out your oils. We’ll make it easy for you. USPS will always be the cheapest carrier to ship essential oils. Shipments containing oils like these tend to be on the smaller, lightweight side, which is exactly what USPS specializes in…and as a result, you’ll get far better rates with USPS than with any other carrier.
For context, UPS offers the best rates for heavier, oversized shipments, as well as for emergency deliveries. FedEx’s bread and butter is business deliveries, and niche shipments like frozen food and other perishable items that require special packaging.
Essentials Oils Contain Hazardous Materials, So You Can Only Use Ground Services
Here’s the thing about essential oils: you need to know what’s in them before you start buying up tons of shipping labels. Most bottled essential oils are diluted in solvents like pure ethanol and polyethylene glycol. These particular solvents are highly flammable when you expose them to a certain temperature. As a result, USPS classifies essential oils as a type of hazardous material, and restricts these shipments to ground transportation services only.
Since this is the case, you can only use the ground-based mail class Parcel Select Ground (or Retail Ground, depending on if you’re buying postage at the Post Office) to send out your oils. When using ground-based services, you’ll need to follow these instructions:
- Affix a Limited Quantity Label onto the outside of your package
- Clearly mark the outside of the package with the phrase “Surface Transportation Only”
Pro Tip: Since essential oils are a hazardous material, USPS prohibits them from being shipped internationally. We know, we know…we’re bummed out about it, too.
The Exception to Ship with Air-Based USPS Services
As is the case with every rule, there’s usually an exception! In some instances, you might be eligible to ship your oils via domestic air-based USPS services such as First Class Package or Priority Mail. However, in order to do so, you’ll need to comply with the following provisions:
- Meet all the criteria to mail under the Excepted Quantity provision (see Pub 52, 337 and Packaging Instruction 10B on the USPS website)
- Obtain a written authorization to mail under an air-eligible ethanol authorization (see Pub 52, 343.27 and Packaging Instruction 3D)
How to Obtain Written Authorization
In order to ship First Class Package, Priority Mail, or Priority Mail Express, you’ll need to obtain written authorization from USPS. Here are the steps you need to take to receive that authorization:
- Submit a letter of request to USPS’ manager of Product Classification. Your request must include a list of each specific product to be mailed under the authorization, an MSDS for each product, the office of mailing, and an expected report of how frequently you’ll be shipping the items, as well as how much of them you’ll be sending
- Address your letter to:
- MANAGER, PRODUCT CLASSIFICATION, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
- 475 L’ENFANT PLAZA SW RM 4446
- WASHINGTON DC 20260-5015
If USPS approves you to ship via air-based transportation services, they will present you with specific instructions on labeling your package, and will tell you which stickers or markings you’ll need add to any shipments.
Save the Most Money on Essential Oil Shipments with Online USPS Shipping Software
Whether you ship via ground or air-based services, saving the most money on your shipping labels is critical. Simply put, the only way to do that is to use shipping software to buy discounted postage online.
Shipping software companies allow you to access the deepest level of USPS discounts available, known as Commercial Pricing. USPS typically only extends these discounts to huge companies sending out more than 50,000 packages per year. However, when you use shipping software, you can get these same discounts no matter how many packages you’re shipping!
The coolest thing about using shipping software is how convenient it is. As long as you have a printer and Internet access, you can buy and print postage from the comfort of your own home. You can also schedule free pickups that your local letter carrier does for you whenever they typically deliver your mail. That means you’ll never have to go to the Post Office (or put on pants) when you’re running your business! Oh, and also…the best shipping software companies out there are totally free.
Pro Tip: There are a ton of different online shipping software options. If you want to find the best one, we suggest doing some homework to see which option is right for you. A good place to start is by checking out our Reviews page.
Looking for the right shipping software for you?
To get the deepest discounts on all USPS services, check out our guide: