Choose the Right Box
Use a box that is strong enough to protect the contents and large enough to leave space for adequate cushioning. Express Mail and Priority Mail boxes, envelopes, and tubes are available for free from your post office. You can also buy various sizes of boxes, as well as padded mailers, mailing tubes, and other packing materials at your local post office.
If you choose a previously-used box, make sure you remove or cross out any old shipping labels, and make sure the box is in good shape, with no weak spots or cracks. Old or new, make sure the box is made of heavy, corrugated cardboard. Thinner boxes, such as most shoe boxes or gift boxes are not strong enough for shipping.
2. Protect and Pack
Don't skimp on cushioning material. You can use shredded or crumpled newspaper, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam peanuts, or even plain air-popped popcorn. Pack items tightly to avoid shifting, and make sure the cushioning material covers all sides of the object.
If you're shipping several items together, wrap each one separately and provide enough cushioning to prevent movement.
Fragile items need extra protection:
- Hollow items - stuff with packing material to avoid damage due to shock. Cover handles or other protruding parts with extra padding and/or cardboard.
- Extremely fragile glass or ceramics - try double-boxing: pack the item as described, then place that box in a slightly larger box, with more cushioning material in between the boxes.
- Framed photographs or artwork - take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.
- Computer equipment, circuit boards and memory - pad well and pack in an Electro Static Discharge (ESD) bag to prevent damaging static buildup.
- Electronic items - remove batteries and wrap them separately.
For extra identification, place a return address label inside the package.
After packing, gently shake the box. If nothing moves, it's ready to be sealed.
3. Seal Carefully
A strong seal is essential, so always use tape that is designed for shipping, such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced kraft paper tape, or glass-reinforced pressure-sensitive tape. These items can be purchased at your local Post Office. We recommend you do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, or cellophane tape.
Make sure you seal the center seams at both the top and the bottom of the box securely. Cover all other seams with tape, and be sure not to leave any open areas which could snag on machinery.
If you plan to insure the package, leave an untaped area on the cardboard where your postal clerk can stamp "insured."
4. Address Correctly
To avoid confusion, put the delivery and return addresses only on one side of the package. Make sure you include the ZIP code and complete street address, including apartment or unit number, if applicable. Also include all these items in your own return address.
For overseas shipping, include the correct postal codes, city or town, province or state name, and country name.
Do not put the shipping label over a seam or closure, or on top of sealing tape. To avoid ink smudges, you can place a strip of clear packing tape over the address areas.
Take packages that weigh at least 1 pound into the post office for mailing.
For more shipping tips and information, pick up free Publications #2, Packaging for Mailing, and #227, Preparing Packages for Mailing at your post office.