Shipping Restrictions: What Is the Difference Between Prohibited and Restricted Items?

What Is the Difference Between Prohibited and Restricted Items? When you mail something from a Post Office, a USPS employee will warn you if your package contains any items that cannot be mailed. However, when you print shipping labels online and mail packages on your own, there is no one to warn you about shipping restrictions; you should research them beforehand if you don’t want your package to get confiscated. One of the things you should research is the difference between prohibited and restricted items.

In fact, the difference is simple: prohibited items cannot be mailed under any circumstances, while restricted items can be mailed under certain conditions. Where things get tricky is figuring out which items belong to which of the two categories. The first thing you should learn about shipping restrictions and prohibitions is that they are different for domestic and international shipments.

The list of domestically prohibited items that cannot be sent via the United States Postal Service (USPS) is pretty short. It includes air bags, ammunition, explosives, gasoline, liquid mercury, and marijuana (hemp products, including CBD, are allowed, but restricted). Liquid mercury can be mailed neither by itself nor in devices like barometers, thermometers, and switches.

The list of domestically restricted items is a little bit longer. It includes aerosols; alcoholic beverages; cigarettes, cigars and tobacco; cremated human or pet remains; dry ice; firearms; glues; hand sanitizers (including wipes); hemp products (including CBD); lithium batteries; live animals; matches; medicines and prescription drugs; mercury vapor (found in devices like fluorescent light bulbs); nail polish; paint; perfumes; perishables; poisons.

Each of these categories of domestically restricted items has its own specific rules and restrictions for shipping. For example, firearms may be mailed or received only by licensed manufacturers and dealers, and many hazardous materials (HAZMAT) can only be sent by ground transportation but not by air. Some restricted items may require licenses, certificates, permits or other documentation, and most restricted items have specific packaging requirements, especially HAZMAT.

International shipping restrictions and prohibitions are a little bit trickier. First and foremost, if something cannot be mailed within the United States, it cannot be mailed internationally either. Secondly, some items are domestically restricted, but internationally prohibited. They include aerosols, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, dry ice, hemp-based products (including CBD), mercury vapor, nail polish, perfumes containing alcohol, and poisons.

Finally, each country has its own import rules and restrictions. Some of them are quite common (for example, many countries prohibit the import of coins, banknotes, lottery tickets, tobacco products, precious metals and stones, etc.), while others may seem rather bizarre if you’re unfamiliar with them. For example, you are not allowed to mail saccharine in tablets or packets to Algeria, “obscene or immoral articles” (which is quite a broad category) to Saudi Arabia, chewing gum to Singapore, honey to South Africa – and these are just a few examples.

So, here is what everyone who prints shipping labels online and mails packages from their home or office should do before purchasing a shipping label:

Make sure the items you intend to mail are not on the prohibited items list (domestic or international, depending on the destination).
If they are not, check whether they are on the restricted items list.
If they are not, ship them as you normally would. If they are, look up the specific rules and restrictions for mailing them.
When shipping internationally: look up the import rules and restrictions of the destination country.
Make sure that the items you’re mailing are properly packaged and have all the necessary documentation and labels (keep in mind that international shipments typically need more documentation that domestic shipments).