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 What can you send in the mail?

October 2017

woman posting a large letter

Post today is pretty confusing. For a start, Royal Mail, which was loved and honoured by so much when we were young, no longer has any Government involvement. From its origins in 1516, two years ago the Government sold its remaining shares and now the business is run by the independent Royal Mail Group Ltd. which includes the brands of Royal Mail for letters, Parcelforce Worldwide for parcels and also General logistics Systems.

But despite the change in ownership, and despite the rapid rise of other parcel and indeed letter delivery services, Royal Mail still plays a very important role in the lives of the British people.

According to the latest Ofcom’s report on communications, Royal Mail handled over 5.1 billion items in 2015. While inevitably due to emails and other social media platforms, the sending of letters is reducing, nevertheless 5.1 billion is still a lot of items. Personal mail is still the most common type of mail sent each month (although predictably lower for younger adults aged under 34) and interestingly six in ten adults say they are very or fairly reliant on letters and cards as a way of communicating.

Christmas time of course is one of the busiest seasons for both Royal Mail and Parcelforce, and so in good time it is worth noting a guide to prohibited and restricted items which the Royal Mail Group issued earlier this year.

There are some obvious items you aren’t allowed to send by post of course: explosives, gasses, firearms and drugs of course.

Sending flammable liquids is also prohibited...and while this sounds obvious it is worth noting that this includes nail varnish remover which can be part of the modern nail decoration sets.

There are more restrictions on what we can send overseas than across the UK. For instance, many aerosols including those used in deodorants, body sprays and so on can be sent across the UK but not abroad. If sent here, there are packing guidelines that say the parcel must not exceed 500ml, you mustn’t pack more than two items in a single parcel and the parcel has to be posted through a counter at a post office and not in a post box.

Alcohol is another item that you can send across the UK but not overseas (no British beer packs for your overseas friends I am afraid!). In the UK you can even send glass bottles of drink, as long as they don’t exceed 1 litre and are well packed and marked as fragile. However, no alcohol is allowed to be sent anywhere if it is over 70% proof.

Perishable materials including flowers and fruit can be sent across the UK but again not abroad. First class posting is recommended and the packaging must be marked “perishable”.

But in modern life it is batteries that generally cause the most concern when posting. So many children’s toys especially at Christmas and for birthdays rely on batteries and many will have them already installed. Here the posting regulations are quite precise but also complex and differ according to the type of battery. There are far more different types of batteries than many people realise.

Generally batteries are classified as dangerous goods and certain batteries are banned from posting to addresses both here in the UK and overseas.

Toys and gifts today however often today use the new lithium batteries. These batteries can be posted  but only when sent with an accompanying electronic device. Here the rules differ from the UK and for overseas.

For the UK as mentioned, you are allowed to post modern lithium batteries with toys and devices such as mobile phones and digital cameras. However there are a few aspects to be aware of. When the batteries are not connected to the device, then the maximum number of lithium batteries allowed in each parcel is the minimum number required to power the device plus two spares. If the battery is connected to the device, then each parcel must contain no more than two batteries installed in the device.

However, the new alkaline metal, nickel metal hydride, nickel cadmium and zinc chloride batteries can all be sent both to the UK and overseas as long as unopened and in their original retail packaging.

Any concerns and it is worth visiting your local post office to show the item before you carefully pack it and post it off.

More information is also available at

If you are using different postal and courier services, it is worth checking their own guidelines.

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