Key Points:

  • Poly mailers are lightweight, sturdy plastic bags that are designed to ship light and less fragile items
  • Poly mailers help eCommerce sellers cut back on packaging and shipping costs because they are affordable and take up less space on carrier's vehicles while on transit
  • Poly mailers may cost as less as $0.25 per unit when purchasing in bulk

eCommerce is about cutting costs, and the type of packaging you use will determine how much you will pay to get items to the customer's doorstep. To get a positive return on their customer acquisition cost, retailers need to drive shipping costs down.

One way to do this is to choose the right packaging for shipments that will protect items from getting damaged on transit at a reasonable cost. While cardboard boxes are excellent for mailing delicate items, they may be unnecessary and expensive when sending less fragile items such as apparel and shoes.

That is why poly mailers have gained much popularity in the eCommerce shipping industry as an affordable alternative to standard packaging. They enable eCommerce merchants to strike the delicate balance between keeping buyers items safe and reducing shipping costs.

In this article, we define what poly mailers are, the common reason retailers use them, the type of product they can ship, and where to get them. We will also look at some of the shipping solutions that Easyship offers to eCommerce retailers to help them drive down shipping costs further.

Table of Contents

What are Poly Mailers?

Poly mailers are lightweight, sturdy plastic bags that are designed to ship light and less fragile items. They are a great alternative to standard packaging. They help eCommerce sellers cut back on packaging and shipping costs because they are affordable and take up less space on carriers' vehicles while on transit.

Poly mailers on desk

They have a self-sealing fold-over lip and require no tape. A shipping label can also be affixed directly to the bag. This makes them easier to pack and ship, hence making for an excellent alternative for shipping non-fragile items that don't have to be shipped in big bulky boxes.

The Different Types of Poly Mailers

Whether you want to add more protection to your buyer's items, lower shipping costs, be eco-friendly or showcase your brand, you are sure to get the exact type of poly mailer to achieve your goals.

Basically, there are four types of poly mailers available. They are:

  • Regular white poly mailers are the standard and most cost-effective poly mailers with no bubble padding. They are your best bet if you want to save money on shipping costs. They are best suited for non-fragile items like apparel, or fragile items that are already in sturdy packaging and require no additional protection.
  • Bubble padded: Poly bubble mailers drive their name from the fact that they come padded with bubble wrap on the inside to provide additional protection to items being shipped. They are a bit more expensive and are ideal for high-quality items that require extra cushioning to prevent damages or scratches.
  • Expansion poly mailers: These are heavy-duty poly mailers that feature a padded bottom to allow for the shipping of thicker items. They are made of strong polyethylene and are ideal for protecting items from moisture damages during shipping. They are also punctured tamper, and tear-resistant.
  • Eco-friendly options:  These are kinds of custom poly mailers that are made for eco-conscious brands, and they include biodegradable and recycled options. This makes them ideal for eco-friendly brands that are focused on minimizing waste and maximizing the use of renewable energy because they are safe for both consumers and the environment.

Related: Packaging & Shipping Fragile Items

Common Reasons Online Retailers Use Poly Mailers

As we have already seen, poly mailers provide an affordable alternative to standard packaging. Here are the common reasons why online sellers use poly mailers.

  1. They are affordable: Affordability is among the top reasons many sellers consider using poly mailers to send products to buyers. Poly mailers may cost as little as $0.25 per unit when purchasing in bulk, but you may end up paying as high as $1.25 for cardboard boxes of a similar size, even when buying in bulk.
  2. They are smaller and lighter: Poly mailers are space-savers. That means they take less space on shipping trucks. Due to their lightweight and small size, they help eCommerce merchants cut back on shipping costs compared to cardboard boxes that come with the dimensional weight element. On the other hand, poly mailers help reduce dimensional weight, hence reducing shipping costs for lightweight items that would otherwise take more space when shipped in a box.
  3. They are easy to brand and customize: Just like boxes, you can give your poly mailers a sleek look with custom branding options and delight your buyers with a great unboxing experience. It is even easier and cheaper to include your logo, imagery, colors, and other branding materials on poly mailers than boxes.
  4. They include eco-friendly options: If your brand is built on an environmental-conscious foundation, you may rightly look down upon standard poly mailer bags as a terrible option for the environment. The good news is that there are many eco-friendly packaging options for poly mailer bags offered by different packaging companies. You may even approach a packaging company to make your own custom poly mailers that are recyclable and biodegradable.
  5. They offer an extra layer of protection: Some retailers prefer poly bubble mailers because they help cushion items from the unfortunate reality of shipping damages without the need to use extra dunnage. When sending fragile items that may get damaged when packed with standard poly mailer bags, they can just opt for a little extra padding with bubble-lined ones to maximize security and prevent damages.

What Items Can I Ship?

So, what eCommerce products are ideal for shipping with poly mailers? Well, poly mailers are perfect for shipping non-fragile items that cannot be crushed, or items that are already in sturdy packaging. Apparel and shoes are good examples in these categories.

If a product won't get damaged if thrown about or heavy boxes are tossed on top of it, then it can be shipped in a poly mailer bag.

However, you should avoid using poly mailers on fragile items made of glass, or any other items such as foods that can be smashed and crumbled. It is safe to stick with boxes when mailing such items. If you want to ship such products in a poly mailer bag, first ensure that they are in sturdy packaging before you wrap them with a poly mailer bag.

Top categories of items that you can ship with poly mailers include:

  • Any items in sturdy packaging:  If a product is already in sturdy packaging, it will be a kind of overkill to package it in a cardboard box. Instead, poly mailers are excellent for shipping such products and any other soft and flat items that cannot easily be crushed like phone cases, a deck of playing cards, and smaller board games.
  • Apparel: products like Shirts, footwear, and jeans that can't be crushed in transit are great candidates for poly mailers. You can also ship cloth and fabric-based products such as beddings, face masks, swatches, and yarn. When shipping apparel that contains fragile beading and ornaments, it is advisable to use poly bubble mailers or boxes to avoid damages.
  • Book and printed media: Bubble-lined poly mailers are excellent for shipping books and printed media because they provide the extra padding needed to prevent rips and dents on such shipments.
  • Some health and beauty products: Poly mailers provide an excellent option for shipping some health, beauty, and wellness products. Popular products in this category include vitamins and supplements, cosmetics, and nutrition products. As long as they are already encased in sturdy materials, these products can be safely shipped with poly mailers.

Where to Buy Poly Mailers

So far, you know what poly mailers are and the type of products you can ship with poly mailer bags. But where can you buy them? You can find poly mailers for purchase at any of the major carriers' retail locations or online, and any other store that sells shipping supplies.

Common places include:

  • Target
  • Walmart
  • UPS
  • FedEx
  • USPS

Common Poly Mailer Sizes

It is important that you find the right poly mailer that makes for a snug fit for the item you are sending. For example, an extra small t-shirt will need a different poly mailer size than an XXL t-shirt. The table below gives you a ballpark of common poly mailer sizes and the products that are best suited for them.

Poly Mailer SizeProduct Type
12 x 15.5" or 14.5 x 19"Sweater
12 x 15.5"2-3 shirts
10 x 13" or 12 x 15.5"Yarn
10 x 13"Napkin Set
6 x 9" Socks
12 x 15.5" or 14.5 x 19" Jeans or Dress
9 x 12" T-shirt
10 x 13" Dress shirt
10 x 13" Fabric -1 yd
12 x 15.5" Fabric -2yds
14.5 x 19" Fabric -3 yds
14.5 x 19" or 19 x 24"Sheet set
9 x 12"Fabric patterns

Poly Mailers vs. Standard Packaging

While standard packaging such as cardboard boxes is ideal for shipping certain products, it may be unnecessary sometimes. For example, it won't make sense to put a product that is already packaged in a sturdy box inside another cardboard box.

Remember that carriers use both the actual weight and dimensional weight -whichever is greater to calculate the shipping rate of your package.

Take for example a pair of shoes, that is already packaged in a strong cardboard box. Putting it inside another cardboard box adds both the actual weight and the dimensional weight of the package. This increases the shipping rate.

If you ship your pair of shoes inside a poly mailer bag, you are not only reducing the actual weight of the package, but also the dimensional weight. That means you will significantly save on shipping costs.

Therefore, it is advisable that you use poly mailers to ship products that are already in sturdy packaging, and any other items that cannot easily be crushed or broken, and only use boxes to mail fragile items that are susceptible to damage if sent without a box.

Important Things to Consider for Your Shipping Process

Poly mailers are a great option when it comes to saving on shipping costs because they are lightweight and occupy less space on delivery trucks. To make sure that your buyers receive their packages in pristine condition, there are some things you need to consider for your shipping process with poly mailers.

Here is a quick rundown:

  • Don't use poly mailers to ship fragile items unless they are in sturdy packaging
  • Cheap poly mailers can tear easily exposing your items to damages. Only use reputable, high-quality poly mailers.
  • Bubble-lined poly mailers come with an extra layer of protection, and you are better off using them when shipping items that require a bit of extra protection.
  • If you use standard poly mailers, make sure the product fills the bag completely. Otherwise, fill any empty spaces with extra padding materials like bubble wrap or packing peanuts. This makes it easier to process at the post office and avoids any risk of package delivery delays.

USPS Rules For Poly Mailers

Poly mailers are commonly shipped with USPS. To that end, there are some USPS rules and guidelines that you should be aware of when shipping poly mailers.

They include:

  • Poly mailers must be 2 mils thick for shipments up to 5lbs and 4 mils thick for shipments up to 10 lbs.
  • Their overhang should not exceed 0.5" when the package is laying flat.
  • First Class Mail can only be used for any poly mailer weighing under 16 oz
  • Priority mail can be used for any poly mailer weighing under 70 lbs
  • USPS media mail can be used for any poly mailer weighing under 70 lbs with a content type of books, blu rays, videotapes, DVDs, vinyl records, sound recordings, and printed music.

How Easyship Can Help

Poly mailers are an excellent option when shipping products that are already in steady packaging or non-fragile items that cannot be easily crushed or broken. They provide an affordable option to standard packaging, hence helping eCommerce sellers save on packaging and shipping costs.

Easyship can help retailers up their shipping game with poly mailers in the following ways:

  • Shipping rates calculator: Use our shipping rates calculator to compare shipping rates for mailing poly mailers with different carriers.
  • Custom branding: If you want to brand and customize your poly mailers, Easyship helps you do exactly that with branded customs slips and shipping labels that bear your imagery, logo, colors, and other custom branding materials.
  • Great shipping rates: We help you access shipping discounts up to 91% from different couriers, something you can't get when you go it alone!
  • A network of 3PL providers and couriers: To further help you drive shipping costs down we partner with fulfillment providers in different locations and have a network of over 550+ courier solutions to help you reduce shipping time and cost.
  • Show rates at checkout: Don't surprise your customers. Using the Rates at Checkout feature in our platform, you can show shipping rates and times to your buyers so that they know upfront how much they will be paying for shipments.

Sign up for a free Easyship account today to get started!

Shipping Poly Mailers FAQ

Can I put a stamp on a poly mailer?

Yes, you can put a stamp on a poly mailer.

What can I use instead of a poly mailer?

You can use paper mailers or shipping boxes as an alternative to a poly mailer.

Is a poly mailer eco-friendly?

Yes and no. Plastic poly mailers contain polyethylene materials, which can be harmful to the environment.

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