The COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of cleaning supplies on store shelves have many people searching for how to ship hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes through USPS®, FedEx®, and UPS®. Since these and similar items use flammable alcohols such as ethanol and/or isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) that are flammable and potentially hazardous, they must be shipped using the same guidelines as other dangerous products. Not adhering to regulations could get you into trouble.
In this article, we will outline some of the guidelines imposed by USPS, FedEx, and UPS on how to ship hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, as well as other hazardous materials.
As always, check with your local office or specific carriers for the most up-to-date and accurate regulations.
First, let’s define what a hazardous product is. Anything that could cause harm to your package carrier, damage other packages or sorting machines during processing or transit, combust or explode for any number of reasons (temperature change, friction, chemical change, etc), or emit powerful odors can fall into the category.
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While that could encapsulate many products, it’s not likely you deal with those kinds of products on a day-to-day basis as an e-commerce merchant. Questions about this have become more prominent due to the current situation.
How to Ship Hand Sanitizer: USPS
There is good news to start. Small quantities of these potentially flammable hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes are permitted in domestic mail via surface transportation. That means you can not use any expedited shipping services like Priority Mail to ship these.
Multiple primary receptacles are permitted, provided the total quantity of flammable material per mailpiece does not exceed 1 quart for metal primary containers or 1 pint for nonmetal primary containers. As most hand sanitizers come in plastic containers, the latter quantity of 1 pint applies.
For reference, this is a 1 pint container of hand sanitizer.
Below are the guidelines set forth by USPS when it comes to shipping hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes.
- Flammable hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes are prohibited in international, Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, and Diplomatic Post Office mail.
- Small quantities of flammable hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes can be sent in domestic mail by surface transportation only by USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, or Parcel Select Lightweight.
- Customers can only ship up to 1 pint of liquid per package using surface transportation. Cases of 12-ounce bottles or more exceed USPS allowable limits.
Customers who want to use domestic air transportation of these products must submit a request and obtain written authorization from the product classification manager at ProductClassification@usps.gov. See the appendix section for additional information.
Marking and labeling
The USPS requires that hazardous materials and restricted or perishable matter must be clearly identified on the address side of the mailpiece. Each mailpiece that qualifies to be sent under the small quantity provision must be clearly marked on the address side with the following words:
- “Surface Only” or “Surface Mail Only” and “Consumer Commodity ORM-D.”
- Optionally, each mailpiece may bear an approved DOT limited quantity square-on-point marking, designating surface transportation, prepared under 343.3b, instead of an ORM-D marking.
Below is an example of a square-on-point marking.
Other markings required by the Postal Service or other federal regulatory agencies also must appear on the address side of any mailpiece containing hazardous material, restricted matter, or perishable matter.
These required markings must be applied with a nonsoluble material or other material that cannot be rubbed off or smeared by hand or while the package is in transit. So think permanent marker, the above stickers, or marking covered in clear packing tape to protect it.
When packing, you’ll want to make sure the lids are facing up and you apply the below sticker that shows which side is up on two opposing sides of the package. This will help prevent spillage, though the containers are required to have screw-on tops. Surround the hand sanitizer with enough padding to protect it. The cushioning and primary receptacles must be packed in securely sealed secondary packaging.
Your package must also contain a return address with your name and address on all packaging that contains the materials deemed hazardous. You will need to disclose what is in the package and your carrier or USPS representative will determine the package’s mailability based on those contents.
ShippingEasy’s software supports shipping hazardous materials via USPS. Learn more here.
How to Ship Hand Sanitizer: UPS
UPS accepts hazardous materials on a contract basis only. In order to use this service, you must:
- Have a ups.com profile
- Have a payment account
- Be in compliance with all regulatory requirements and UPS’s carrier variations
Customers must use either UPS Worldship or purchase an approved third-party software to be in compliance.
UPS services the U.S. and specific locations outside the U.S. Within the U.S. and Puerto Rico, UPS accepts non-bulk quantities of hazardous materials for transport by highway and rail, or air modes when prepared in accordance with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). UPS also accepts air shipments in accordance with regulations issued by International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO) and published as the Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
UPS has many of the same definitions when it comes to hazardous and dangerous materials. The limitations and timeframes available for shipping do differ, however.
The carrier provides a Dangerous Goods Acceptance tool that provides you with more information like maximum quantities and level of innate hazard posed by the chemical. You’ll need this pdf to find the correct Chemical ID when searching in the acceptance tool.
Do note that a hazardous materials service handling charge applies to all hazardous materials / dangerous goods packages that require a shipping paper or Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods.
UPS does not accept hazardous materials shipments at UPS Customer Centers, The UPS Store, Air Letter Centers, Authorized Shipping Outlets, commercial counters, or using Internet Shipping. U.S. Ground Service level shipments of Limited Quantity or ORM-D materials in the 48 contiguous states may be accepted at some locations.
For more information on how UPS regulates shipping dangerous items like hand sanitizer and other flammable liquids, visit this page.
How to Ship Hand Sanitizer: FedEx
FedEx allows you to ship approved dangerous goods items using their services. According to its website, training is required to do so:
Anybody shipping dangerous goods needs to have received the required training(s) and understand the applicable regulation(s). Alternatively, another person or company that has received the appropriate training(s) can be hired to prepare the shipment on your behalf.
If you’d like to take the training, you can find more information here.
There are accessible and inaccessible dangerous goods, and the ability to ship them to different locations varies, as is to be expected. FedEx does allow shipping dangerous goods within the U.S. A breakdown by country on what is accepted as well as a downloadable list can be found here.
That being said, FedEx recently released a statement noting that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a temporary relief notice specific to certain hand sanitizer products. Hand sanitizer shipments prepared under the PHMSA temporary relief notice can only be offered to FedEx Ground. Hand sanitizer shipments based on this temporary relief should not be offered to FedEx Express.
As for shipping hand sanitizer by any air services, FedEx notes the following exception for ethyl alcohol products containing not more than 70 percent ethyl alcohol by volume for liquids, and a shipment must meet these and the General Shipping Requirements below:
- When shipping in glass inner receptacle, each glass inner receptacle contains 8 ounces (0.063 gallons/0.23 liters) or less of hand sanitizer.
- Note: Glass inner receptacles may be shipped up to 16 ounces (0.125 gallons/0.47 liters) with the company name and the words “Contains Ethyl Alcohol” marked on the package.
- When shipping in non-glass inner receptacle, each non-glass inner receptacle contains 16 ounces (0.125 gallons/0.47 liters) or less of hand sanitizer.
For shipments containing more than 70 percent ethyl alcohol by volume for liquids, a shipment must meet this and the General Shipping Requirements below:
- The inner receptacle contains 8 ounces (0.063 gallons/0.23 liters) or less of hand sanitizer.
The above shipments must also follow the below guidelines:
- Applies to U.S. domestic shipments only.
- Total net quantity of hand sanitizer is 192 ounces (1.5 gallons/5.6 liters) or less per package.
- Gross package weight is 66 pounds (29.9 kgs) or less per package. Gross package weight is determined by weighing the final prepared package.
- Inner packagings must be secured and cushioned within the outer package to prevent breakage, leakage, and movement during transportation. Inner packagings are packed with package closures in an upright orientation.
As you can see, shipping hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes may feel like a noble cause. Due to its nature as a flammable liquid, however, you’ll need to make sure you’re following the rules to keep yourself out of trouble and keep your package delivery people safe!
Looking for information on just shipping liquids in general? We collected everything you need to know in this article!
USPS Information Source: https://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/Pub52/pub52.pdf
Note on written authorization from Manager, Product Classification
If a mailer holds a valid authorization or an exception from the Manager, Product Classification, the following criteria must be met upon acceptance of the items:
- Upon their first mailing at each postal facility, the mailer must provide a copy of a signed letter from Headquarters, Product Classification. The letter will contain the mailer’s unique approval number and applicable mailing requirements. Note: It is suggested that the facility maintains copies of such letters on file for future reference.
- The outer package must have the appropriate text marking “Contains xxx” followed by their assigned unique authorization number that will begin with either HSA, HSB, HSD, HSE, or HSS. Note: This information is included in the letter and can be hand or typewritten prominently on the package.
- Examples of text markings:
- “Contains Air-Eligible Ethyl Alcohol – Authorization No. HSA – xxxxxx”
- “Contains Air-Eligible Ethyl Alcohol – Authorization No. HSB – xxxxxx”
- “Contains Surface Eligible Ethyl Alcohol – Exception No. HSE – xxxxxx”
- “Contains Surface Eligible Isopropyl Alcohol – Exception No. HSD – xxxxxx”
- “Contains Surface Eligible Alcohol Solids – Exception No. HSS – xxxxxx”
Please note that these materials are strictly prohibited in international mail, Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) destinations.
More information on shipping dangerous items through UPS can be found here.
For the full breakdown of changes relating to FedEx shipping, please read the full pdf here.