Can You Mail Rubbing Alcohol? Dealing With Hazardous Materials

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many stores are struggling to maintain their stocks of rubbing alcohol, and you may be looking for a different way to get your hands on it. Unfortunately, there are a few hurdles that you’ll have to deal with when it comes to mailing rubbing alcohol.

So can you mail rubbing alcohol? Rubbing alcohol can’t be mailed as if it were a normal package. Most couriers and postal services will enforce their hazardous materials regulations when shipping rubbing alcohol due to its flammable nature. While this doesn’t make shipping rubbing alcohol impossible, it makes it a lot harder.

Can You Mail Rubbing Alcohol?

I’ll go over exactly what you have to do when shipping flammable materials like rubbing alcohol and discuss the differences between the rules for doing so with various popular couriers. 

Even though I’ll be providing you with the relevant info about shipping rubbing alcohol, always check with the courier or your local post office to ensure that you’re following their most recent regulations.

How to Mail Rubbing Alcohol

Since every courier handles hazardous materials like rubbing alcohol differently, this section will be split in three, based on the courier or postal service that you intend to use:

  • USPS
  • FedEx
  • UPS

USPS

The United States Postal Service has the laxest regulations when it comes to shipping things like rubbing alcohol, though they sadly only extend to things like hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes. If you want to ship these things, you can do so through regular surface mail, meaning that it can’t be sent priority or expedited.

On the other hand, if you’re shipping rubbing alcohol, you’ll have to comply with the USPS’s hazardous good shipping regulations. Here’s what you’ll have to do to comply with them:

  • Clearly write “Surface Mail Only” or “Surface Only” on the address side of the package
  • Clearly write “Consumer Commodity ORM-D” on the address side of the package
  • The “Consumer Commodity ORM-D” text can optionally be replaced with the DOT’s square-on-point mark which indicates hazardous materials

When applying this text and these markings, you’ll want to make sure that you do so with a non-soluble material. This means that the text or markings can’t be wiped off by hand while it’s in transit. This is to ensure that workers can always be aware of the potential danger when handling these packages.

Things like permanent marker or even stickers can be used to ensure that the markings don’t get worn away while the package is being handled.

You will also have to disclose the contents of the package to the USPS and you should include your return address on the exterior of the package if it contains hazardous materials.

Finally, all hazardous materials will have to be packed in facing upwards and they should be braced with padding to ensure that they remain facing the right direction while in transit. The package should also have orientation markings placed on the exterior so that mail employees know which way is up.

FedEx

Much like the USPS, FedEx has exceptions to hazardous goods currently in place for smaller shipments of things like hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, FedEx doesn’t allow you to ship rubbing alcohol under this exception, so it will have to be shipped as if it were any other hazardous good.

FedEx divides their hazardous goods into accessible and inaccessible dangerous goods. The former goods are allowed to be shipped through the service while the latter is considered unshippable without incurring significant risk.

Unfortunately, to ship hazardous goods through FedEx, you must have the proper training in handling them. If you haven’t been trained to handle dangerous goods, then FedEx allows you to hire a shipping service or even an individual on your behalf so that the goods can be shipped properly.

Depending on the goods that you’re shipping FedEx may not be willing to ship them internationally, but in most cases, they’ll be perfectly willing to ship rubbing alcohol domestically. This is because hazardous goods like rubbing alcohol are almost always shipped by land to reduce the possibility of a dangerous fire in mid-air.

Rubbing alcohol is classified as a class 3 accessible dangerous good to FedEx, along with all other flammable liquids, including solvents and paint. 

FedEx tends to be the strictest of the bunch when it comes to mailing rubbing alcohol, so you’ll typically want to avoid them, if possible.

UPS

UPS will only mail hazardous materials under contract, so you’ll need to have a profile and account set up with UPS to pay for your package if you’re going to mail rubbing alcohol.

Unlike the other two services, UPS may be willing to send hazardous materials by air as they do not have the same restrictions on sending things like rubbing alcohol through air mail. This is because UPS has its own air fleet and they have the training and take the necessary precautions to handle goods like these.

You typically won’t have an issue sending rubbing alcohol through air mail if you’re sending it from the US to another US holding, like Alaska or even Puerto Rico. To do so, your package will have to be prepared according to the DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations.

Air shipments will also have to be prepared in line with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Association) and IATA’s (International Air Transport Association) regulations on dangerous goods. 

UPS has much broader definitions about what constitutes a dangerous good and the amounts that you can send, as they only allow non-bulk deliveries through their service. Thankfully, UPS also provides its customers with a Dangerous Goods Acceptance tool that can determine whether or not you’re complying with all relevant regulations.

If you intend to send dangerous goods through UPS, you can expect to pay an additional handling fee for the additional work that the courier will have to do to ensure that your package is handled safely.

Keep in mind that some UPS centers may accept to ship small amounts of ORM-D materials (like rubbing alcohol) throughout the lower 48 states with less stringent guidelines. Contact your local UPS to learn if they are one of those centers.

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