Can You Ship Lithium Batteries via the USPS?

Can You Ship Lithium Batteries via the USPS? Nowadays, a lot of electronic devices contain lithium batteries, which means that they can be tricky to ship because batteries contain highly flammable electrolytes and can start a fire while in transit under certain conditions. Because of this, most carriers impose shipping restrictions and sometimes even do not allow to mail lithium batteries at all. Can you ship lithium batteries via the United States Postal Service (USPS)? Let’s figure it out together.

Can You Ship Lithium Batteries Domestically?

Lithium batteries are classified as domestically restricted items and as miscellaneous hazardous materials in the USPS domestic shipping guidelines, which means they can be sent in the U.S. mail under certain conditions. This applies both to small consumer-type lithium metal cells or batteries (primary, non-rechargeable), like those used to power flashlights, and to lithium-ion or lithium polymer cells and batteries (secondary, non-rechargeable), like those used to power smartphones or laptops.

The conditions include the maximum lithium content per primary cell/battery or the maximum watt-hour rating per secondary cell/battery, as well as specific packaging requirements. Note that there are different restrictions and requirements for cells/batteries installed in equipment, cells/batteries mailed with (but not installed in) equipment, and cells/batteries mailed without equipment. You can look them up on the USPS website.

Primary and secondary lithium batteries that are properly installed in equipment or packed with equipment, but not installed in it are mailable both by ground and by air, as long as packaging requirements and mailpiece limitations are met. Individual batteries in originally sealed packaging mailed without the device or equipment they operate are prohibited in air transportation.

Used, damaged, defective, or recalled batteries cannot be mailed. Pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices that contain or are packaged with lithium batteries are prohibited in air transportation. If you need to mail such devices, they must be send via surface transportation and clearly marked as “Restricted Electronic Device” and “Surface Transportation Only”.

Please note that domestic transportation requirements for lithium batteries include Alaska and Hawaii, but do not include Army, Fleet and Diplomatic Post Offices (APO, FPO, DPO), which are covered under international shipping requirements.

Can You Ship Lithium Batteries Internationally?

The USPS allows to mail abroad new lithium batteries installed in electronic devices such as Bluetooth headsets, cameras, GPS devices, laptops, portable medical devices, radio controlled toys, scanners, smartphones, tablets, video cameras, walkie talkies, etc. You are not allowed to mail new lithium batteries that are not installed in equipment (neither packed with equipment, nor separately). Used, damaged, defective, or recalled batteries cannot be mailed internationally under any circumstances.

It should be noted that specific countries and APO/FPO/DPO locations can have their own restrictions regarding the import of lithium batteries. You should research these restrictions before mailing any devices that contain lithium batteries internationally.

As far as packing requirements are concerned, make sure to turn off the device and put a protective cap on the switch (if possible) to prevent it from accidentally turning on while in transit. Make sure to use enough cushioning materials to protect the contents of your package and label the package properly to let the carrier know it contains equipment with batteries.