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International Shipping

A Guide to Shipping Liquids: Know the Rules for USPS, FedEx, DHL & UPS

When it comes to shipping liquids overseas, there are some rules & regulations to follow. Read our latest guide to check what type of liquid you can ship.
A Guide to Shipping Liquids: Know the Rules for USPS, FedEx, DHL & UPS
Jules

By Jules

 

March 4, 2020

Key Points:

  • USPS, FedEx, DHL, and UPS have different rules and regulations when it comes to shipping liquids
  • Non-flammable liquids are easier to ship and can be sent through regular air, ship, or ground carrier services
  • Flammable liquids are trickier to ship, though if you have the proper packaging and paperwork, you're all set

Shipping liquids through the USPS, FedEx, DHL, or UPS can be complicated, with many different regulations and rules. First, many couriers simply won’t accept these types of products for shipping. Second, even if they do, you’ll face many restrictions and need to meet many criteria.

Sending liquids across borders is even more complicated since the destination country will have its own set of regulations in place. Many countries have stringent policies for flammable or alcoholic products - and many of them require a special license to import these.

Of course, even if you manage to jump all through these hoops, you’ll also have to figure out how to carefully pack your shipments. They’ll need to be adequately protected to avoid leakage or damage. If you’re planning on mailing liquids overseas, follow these five essential steps:

  1. Identify the type you want to ship.
  2. Find out whether your destination country requires a license for importing these products (and if so, get the correct license).
  3. Decide what type of packaging you need to protect your shipment.
  4. Adequately pack your shipment - don’t forget to add a “fragile” label!
  5. Find a reliable, affordable shipping service.

Table of Contents

Can You Ship Liquids?

The short answer? Yes. But of course, it’s a little more complicated than throwing a perfume bottle into a box and slipping it into the mail. Obviously, there are a wide variety of these types of products you might need to ship, from perfumes and shampoos to juices and cosmetics. Many carriers - and countries - have different shipping needs and requirements, so you need to be aware of the regulations around the particular type of liquid you’re shipping.

Shipping Miss Dior Perfume Overseas

As a general rule of thumb, non-flammable products are usually easy to ship and can be sent through regular air, ship or ground carrier services. Flammables are a little trickier to deal with, but if you have the proper packaging and paperwork, you should be able to ship these, too.

When planning for these shipments, there are some general do’s and don’ts that you should know:

  • You can’t mail nail polish, gasoline, perfumes containing alcohol, alcoholic beverages, or poisons internationally through normal services - you will need a commercial carrier that has specialized services for these.
  • Aerosol cans and similar items shouldn’t be sent by air as they can explode with changing air pressure - you’d do best with surface mail services.
  • Flammables can be shipped, but only in certain quantities.
  • Perishables like oil, soup, and drinks need to reach their destination before they expire - if need be, pack them in ice or other materials that will keep them safe.
  • You should always use sealed containers and padded packing materials.

Can You Ship Liquids Through USPS?

Shipping liquids by USPS is something you can consider for sending these products to other countries, although all customers are required to meet certain restrictions and regulations.

  • You can send non-hazardous and non-flammable items in sealed containers, as long as the package is labeled appropriately and displays the exact ingredients.
  • To send more than 4oz, you need to triple-pack the container with insulating materials and leakproof, sealed containers.
  • USPS doesn’t accept nail polish and perfumes with alcohol for international shipments; for domestic shipping, use ground services.

As long as you follow USPS’s regulations, you should be able to send your products through most of its services. The carrier doesn’t impose additional charges for liquids, so you would just be paying the normal rates. For example, you could use Parcel Select (from $3.19 domestic) or First Class Package (from $2.74 domestic / $11.65 international).

What About FedEx, DHL, and UPS?

Because there are so many special requirements to mail them, not all couriers accept liquids for shipping. And, if they do, they’ll usually have a strict policy that must be carefully adhered to. Each courier has its own set of distinctive rules and regulations, many of which may differ by region, too.

FedEx Shipping Liquid Rules

Merchants are able to ship liquids through FedEx and can find a detailed policy explanation and a step-by-step packing guide on their website.

To ensure your package is accepted for shipment:

  • Use a waterproof, sealable primary container.
  • Pad the empty spaces of additional containers so that they don’t touch each other - the materials should also be absorbant to contain any leakage.
  • Ensure the bottles are placed upright (you can use markings on the outside of the package to ensure they stay this way in transit).
  • The final, outer container should be able to contain any potential leakage.

UPS Shipping Liquid Rules

This courier is a little shy with its regulations on these products - it’s tough to find straightforward, definitive regulations for these types of shipment. However, it’s certainly prohibited to send glass bottles through its air services.

  • To ship with UPS, you should follow the advice laid out above for packing these products.
  • You can send wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages, but you have to have a special contract, first.

DHL Shipping Liquid Rules

This German carrier generally won’t transport dangerous products such as aerosols, eau de toilettes, perfumes, and aftershaves. However, you can send items containing alcohol locally in most countries - and if you want to use DHL to send these within European countries, you will have to do it in line with the regulations of the destination country.

Wine Bottles in a Crate

How To Ship Flammable Liquids

You should know that every liquid has a different flashpoint (the minimum temperature at which it can form a vapor that can be ignited and start a fire), and air transportation policies are decided according to this. Because of this, there are many categories under these types of products and each one has different regulations.

Shipping companies usually won’t allow shipments that have high flashpoints or are susceptible to pressure at high altitude to be sent with their air services. That’s exactly why you can’t send perfume and nail polish by air freight.

Flammables are defined as those that have a flashpoint of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. These are highly combustible and can be dangerous - that’s why carriers won’t allow them to be shipped by air. However, you can ship these through ground mail services. You should know, though, that you can only ship a limited quantity and that your package has to pass a qualification test. The package also has to follow strict packing rules and should have proper declarations and labeling.

How to Ship Beer and Wine

Shipping beer or wine - or indeed, any type of alcohol - can be a little difficult. If you’re in the business and need to make international commercial shipments of alcohol, you should be able to do so by carefully following your carrier’s regulations - and, you may also need import and export licences. However, if you’re just sending these as a gift, you’re better off using subscription or online retail services that have better access to the right type of mailing services.

Domestically, you can ship alcohol through ground mail - though some states like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah prohibit direct alcohol shipments. In addition, many Muslim countries either won’t allow you to ship alcohol at all, or require a trade licence.

What About Shipping Perishable Liquids?

Food such as soup or milk are considered perishable items, as they are time-stamped with an expiry date. For this reason, they need to be packed carefully and shipped fast to minimize the transit time. Try using a styrofoam cooler or dry ice for perishable products that need to be protected from temperature changes during shipping.

What Do You Need to Pack Your Liquids For International Shipments?

Now that you know how to send these types of products around the world, you need to know how to appropriately pack these shipments.

Materials

  • Taped or sealed plastic or glass bottles
  • Sealed plastic bags or containers
  • Cellulose wadding
  • Packing peanuts
  • Absorbent packets
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes
  • Thermal bubble wrap
  • Adhesive tape

8 Steps to Safely Pack Liquids for Shipping

  1. Assemble the cardboard box - use corrugated boxes (they’re more durable) and don’t forget to tape the bottom shut.
  2. Wrap each container in packing paper.
  3. Place the bottles in cardboard or foam trays and use dividers to keep bottles upright and separate.
  4. Fill any empty space with packing peanuts or other padding so that there’s no room for movement.
  5. Close the top of the box and seal it several times with tape.
  6. Mark “fragile” on the box so the couriers know how to deal with it (don’t forget to add “flammable” or “perishable” if necessary).
  7. Use watertight bags to protect the containers and prevent spillage.
  8. Don’t forget to use coolant packs or other refrigeration for temperature-sensitive products.

How Easyship Can Help

Sending liquids around the world isn’t going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. Luckily, it’s not that tough if you understand all the regulations and restrictions put in place by different countries and carriers.

Easyship can help you find courier services that will accept your shipments - and we’ll make the whole fulfillment process easy with automated labels and forms, too!

Sign up for a free account now to use our platform to start shipping your products around the world now.

Shipping Liquids FAQ

Is it illegal to ship alcohol?

Consumers may not ship alcohol of any type via USPS, FedEx, DHL or UPS. Only approved, licensed alcohol shippers are allowed. For more information, be sure to check the courier’s website.

How can I ship alcohol as a gift?

No, you can not directly ship alcohol as a gift. However, a loophole helps consumers ship beer, liquor, and wine to other states. For instance, instead of shipping a bottle of wine from your state to their state, find a retailer based in the state you’re shipping to and order it from that retailer.

Can I ship isopropyl alcohol?

Yes, you can ship isopropyl alcohol. However, shipping such a liquid must be done with careful planning and consideration because isopropyl alcohol is considered to be a hazardous material. When shipping it, be sure to follow your courier’s hazardous materials shipping guidelines.