How to Ship Mailing Tubes

Learn about shipping mailing tubes (hint: it's not so different from shipping a regular package)
how to ship mailing tubes
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Have you ever thought about how you would ship a baseball bat? What about a rolled-up poster? The fact of the matter is, all kinds of products come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes, you’ll want to ship them inside mailing tubes.

Table of Contents

What is a Mailing Tube?

A mailing tube is a cylinder-shaped cardboard container that people use to package and ship a variety of specialty objects. They are perfect for shipping rolled-up papers such as blueprints and posters, as well as long specialty objects like fishing poles, telescopes, or shipping golf clubs. Those aren’t the only items we see them used for, though! Tubes are also great for sending rolled-up shirts, making them a popular packaging solution for crowdfunding campaigns.

Pro Tip: Some artwork is capable of being rolled up into a cylinder, so some shippers also use tubes for sending rolled-up artwork such as watercolors! That being said, you obviously can’t ship a hard canvas with a tube, since canvases don’t roll.

Is There a Certain USPS Mail Class for Mailing Tubes?

Nope! A mailing tube is simply a unique form of packaging, and you can ship them in any regular USPS mail class. If the tube weighs less than 16 ounces, you can send it with First-Class Package Service. However, other items inside tubes may weigh more than 16 ounces. In that case, tubes are almost always sent by either Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express.

Something to keep in mind: First-Class Package restricts packages to a maximum size of 22″ x 18″ x 15″. So, even though some lengthy items like golf clubs may weigh less than 16 ounces, you’ll still need to ship them with Priority Mail if they exceed the First-Class Package dimension limits.

Here’s a bonus: USPS offers free tubes you can order off their website! Note that these particular tubes are triangular, not cylindrical, and can you can only use them for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express.

Make Sure USPS-Branded Mailing Tubes Match the Service You Pay For

If you’re using one of those USPS-branded Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express Tubes we just mentioned, you’ll need to choose the exact corresponding mail class before you purchase postage. For example, if you’re using a Priority Mail Express tube, you’ll need to buy Priority Mail Express postage.

How Do I Measure the Dimensions?

Good question! People often get confused because they assume a cylindrical mailing tube only has two dimensions: length and depth. However, this isn’t the case. You measure a tube’s dimension the same way you would measure a regular package: with THREE dimensions. When entering a tube’s dimensions in your shipping software, simply enter the length, width, and depth. Be sure to always enter these THREE dimensions, as that will determine the proper price you pay for postage.

The visual below shows you how to find the dimensions of a mailing tube:

Mailing Tubes are “Irregular Packages” and May Incur Surcharges from Different Carriers

One thing to keep in mind when sending mailing tubes is that most shipping carriers consider them “irregular packages,” which is a designation they give to parcels that aren’t shaped like a normal box or envelope. As a result, you’ll most likely need to pay surcharges on top of your cost of postage.

The amount of surcharges you’ll need to pay varies from carrier to carrier, as well as the type of surcharge you’ll incur. For instance, if your tube is too long for normal parameters when shipping with UPS, you’ll likely see Additional Handling surcharges. When shipping with USPS, you may be subject to certain non-standard fees on top of your postage costs that were introduced in April 2022. These surcharges are unavoidable, and they’re always good to be aware of when shipping a tube!

Save the Most Money on Mailing Tubes with Online Shipping Software

As always, you can save the maximum amount of money on shipping items inside mailing tubes when you buy postage online with shipping software. Most online shipping software solutions let you access special discounts such as USPS Commercial Pricing, which reflects the kind of savings USPS typically only gives to huge commercial shippers. Whether you’re shipping items inside mailing tubes or in regular packages, you’ll always get the best discounts with shipping software.

When creating a label on the shipping software of your choice, you’ll typically have the option to choose “Box or Rigid Packaging” when selecting your package type. Click that, and once you enter your tube’s dimensions, you’ll pay the same postage rate as you would a box!

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