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Mail and Ship Checklist

The United States Postal Services (USPS) delivers more than a billion packages a year. So to be sure your packages arrive safe and sound, take some advice from the experts. 

Choose the right mailing container

Choose the right mailing container Be sure your box, padded envelope or mailing tube is the appropriate size. A container that's too big, even packed with cushioning, may allow your items to shift too much and become damaged. A container that's too small may not provide sufficient padding, also causing potential damage.

Maximum weight

On the bottom of boxes, manufacturers provide a strength certification – exactly how much weight the box can hold before breaking or rupturing. USPS recommends boxes made of "heavy, corrugated cardboard. Thinner boxes, such as most shoe boxes or gift boxes, are not strong enough for shipping."


Well-padded Ample cushioning is one of the most important steps in the mail and ship process. According to the USPS, padding "absorbs and distributes forces of shock, pressure, and vibration." Cushioning options include bubble wrap, crumbled or shredded newspaper, and packing peanuts. In a pinch, the Post Office says plain air–popped popcorn will do.

Do the shake test

Before sealing your package, the USPS recommends that you "hold your package closed and tilt it back and forth fairly vigorously. If you feel or hear movement inside, you probably need more cushioning." Be sure to pack your box tightly and that cushioning surrounds the whole item.

Inside information

Inside information Consider placing a duplicate address label inside the package. Include your return address, the recipient's mailing information, and a list of the package's content. This way the shipper will be able to return or deliver your package if the outside becomes damaged or unreadable.

Seal it

Use strong tape, specifically designed for shipping. Tape all box seams shut.

Addressing your package

Addressing your package USPS stresses the importance of providing accurate and complete address information. Without such information, packages can be difficult, if not impossible to deliver. "Today there are more than 40 streets in Atlanta, Georgia, with the name Peachtree – N. Peachtree Ct., Peachtree St. NW, W. Peachtree St. NE, and so on. Imagine trying to deliver a letter addressed only to Mrs. Smith on Peachtree. We would not know where to send it," says USPS.

Label protocol

If you hand–address labels, be sure to use waterproof ink. Write or print easy–to–read labels. You should be able to read the address from an arm's length. When using computer–printed labels, USPS recommends using a minimum font size of 10 to 12.

Special instructions

Special instructions If you're shipping fragile objects, perishables, or items that cannot be bent, print or stamp this information above the recipient's address, below the postage, and on the back of the package.

Insuring your package

No matter how carefully you package your item, it may be damaged during transit. To recover potential losses, consider insuring your packages. Should a package arrive or be returned to you damaged, save the packaging as evidence for your claim. Also, save your receipt showing you purchased insurance until you know your package has arrived safely.

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