Can a Lighter Be Sent By Mail?

Thought I’d do a simple post today.

Yes, a Zippo or refillable butane lighter can be sent through the mail. Here’s how to do it:

  • Make sure the lighter has no fluid in it. With a Zippo or similar liquid fuel lighter, open the lighter and let the fuel evaporate. This may take two or three days, depending on how full the lighter is when you start. Remove the flint.
  • If it’s a butane lighter, hold down the button you use to light the lighter just a little bit. Don’t actually light the lighter. You should hear the butane hissing out. Keep going until you hear the lighter quit hissing but keep the button down for another 30 seconds. Butane is under pressure, but some low pressure butane may be still leaking out. If there’s a flint in your lighter, remove it.
  • Post Office: If you’re shipping the lighter at the counter with the window clerk, they’ll ask you “Does this contain anything liquid, hazardous, flammable…” you can honestly say no. You don’t have to declare it’s a lighter unless you’re shipping it overseas or Registered. If it’s an expensive lighter, I’d suggest sending it Registered, not Certified. Registered Mail goes straight into a vault, and is transfered through the Postal Service under lock and key until it gets to it’s destination. I’d also suggest sending it Insured. It doesn’t cost that much. Using one or the other, you can verify delivery of the lighter when it reaches it’s destination. If you use Express, it’s trackable through the entire process and is automatically insured for a $100. If it’s value is more than $100, you can always add additional insurance.
  • If you choose to use another evil, sucky shipping service, follow their guidelines for shipping requirements.

Hope that helps!

20 Comments

  1. Clayton Campbell says:

    The US postal service refuses to mail zippo lighters internationally. My package was denied for delivery this morning. Flat out refusal, even without any lighter fluid. Do not think about labeling it as another item on the customs form. You can be prosecuted for lying on a federal form.

  2. Jack says:

    Hey Clayton,

    Your references are DMM 601 and Publication 52.

    The confusion comes between a butane lighter and a petrol (lighter fluid) lighter. A butane lighter generally is thought to constantly contain a flammable substance. You have to consider that the average window clerk is pretty unknowledgable about these kind of things.

    Make sure it’s sealed prior to shipping. Customs can inspect it if there’s any questions and it will clear without problems. The clerk may not know the rules as well as they do.

    Either use the USPS.com online Click-n-Ship tool to generate the custom form and postage, then drop it directly into a blue box, or go to a contract postal unit, instead of the local post office.

    In their zeal to enforce postal regulations, which is what they’re supposed to do, there is often some confusion between clerks and supervisors as to what you can or cannot ship and how to prepare it. In each district, there’s a department called Mailing Requirements that local offices can use to clarify what the actual rules are, but most people are to stubborn to ask for help. USPS.com’s Click-n-Ship walks you through this process avoiding the local post office’s confusion.

    Hey, I can’t remember the last time I actually asked for directions to a destination or read a software manual. I’d rather die than call any manufacturer’s customer support. And I’ve shipped lighters, prepared correctly, without any problems, as well as received them from overseas.

    If you don’t read this, I hope this helps clarify things for someone else wanting to ship things internationally. And by the way, I am a post office supervisor, so I’m not pulling this out of my fanny. 🙂

    • Jack says:

      P.S. All my clerks think whoever you talked to are idiots, or were unclear on what kind of lighter you were describing. Of course, I love my clerks, so I’m guessing the window clerks you talked to were secret UPS/Fedex plants placed there to sabotage the post office, not realizing we were doing a good enough job doing that ourselves.

  3. Carol Glidden says:

    Hi, I need to ship a lighter, not a Zippo. Apparently it is somewhat valuable, more than I thought a lighter would be, so I will be insuring it.

    So, if any lighter is left open, will the fluid evaporate?

    At USPS, can I say it is a lighter with no flint & no fluid? I think I would have to say that, for insurance purposes.

    Thanks!

    Carol

  4. Paula says:

    I just tried to ship a lighter to Australia. Never used and no fluid. Post Master told me that I could not ship it.

  5. Laura says:

    Hey! Saw this thead and was just wondering if you could help.. I posted a parcel containing a novelty lighter to New York about 8 days ago from the UK. I foolishly didn’t even stop to consider that it would be a prohibted item. Do you know if customs will bin the whole parcel or just the lighter?

  6. Jack says:

    Okay, regarding the lighter to Australia: You have to declare it on the customs form that it has no pressurized fuel, no fuel, no flammable material, no hazardous material, no flint, contains the case and insert only. You have to be very specific. You have to put the “No” on each line to avoid any sort of misunderstanding. We checked the current restricted item list and found no restrictions on lighters. If it’s a Zippo or Zippo-like lighter, make sure to declare it as such. You might even want to add “Non-butane lighter.” It sounds like the decision is being made at your Postmaster’s/window clerk’s interpretation, rather than the actual current restriction list, which in your case is why you have to be insanely specific.

  7. Jack says:

    Regarding the novelty lighter and customs: If they’re going to have an issue with the lighter, and they’re planning on isolating the package, they’ll stop the whole package, not just the lighter. Since it’s coming in to the US, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, since it’s not screened the same way. God knows how many lighters I’ve received from overseas still filled with fluid and flints. The US Post Office figures that once it’s passed through US Customs, they’re okay with delivering it.

  8. Kim says:

    A seller sent a ceramic lighter to me via USPS with insurance. He simply wrote “whisky glass” on the box. The lighter, I believe, had no fuel. Now it is broken. Can I claim the insurance? Thank you.

    • Jack says:

      Absolutely. You start all online claims at usps.com. If the lighter was packed well, chips on the lighter seem unlikely. I’ve seen ceramic items get damaged. Usually they just get smashed, or major chunks are broken off. The postal service will probably reimburse you, and it’ll be slow, but I’m going to agree with you that it was probably chipped before it was shipped.

      Most damage comes from packages falling ON the package. It’s either impact shock, or crush damage. Unless there was something else in the package to chip against the lighter, I call bullshit.

      Get your money back, and while I won’t encourage you to leave a negative comment about the seller, I sure as hell wouldn’t order from him again.

  9. Kim says:

    I bought a ceramic table lighter. The seller sent by USPS with insurance for $200. He wrote “whisky glass” on the box. Now it had chips. I believe that they were there before he shipped but he argues those happened during shipment and refused to refund the money. Can I claim the insurance? I believe that it had no fuel. Thank you.

    • Jack says:

      Absolutely. You start all online claims at usps.com. If the lighter was packed well, chips on the lighter seem unlikely. I’ve seen ceramic items get damaged. Usually they just get smashed, or major chunks are broken off. The postal service will probably reimburse you, and it’ll be slow, but I’m going to agree with you that it was probably chipped before it was shipped.

      Most damage comes from packages falling ON the package. It’s either impact shock, or crush damage. Unless there was something else in the package to chip against the lighter, I call bullshit.

      Get your money back, and while I won’t encourage you to leave a negative comment about the seller, I sure as hell wouldn’t order from him again.

  10. Steve says:

    I bought a ceramic table lighter on eBay. The seller shipped it via usps with insurance of $200. He put “whisky glass” on the box. The lighter had no fuel. There are chips on the lighter. I believe that they were there before he shipped but he argued that the lighter was damaged during shipment and refused to accept the return. Can I claim insurance? Thank you.

    • Jack says:

      Absolutely. You start all online claims at usps.com. If the lighter was packed well, chips on the lighter seem unlikely. I’ve seen ceramic items get damaged. Usually they just get smashed, or major chunks are broken off. The postal service will probably reimburse you, and it’ll be slow, but I’m going to agree with you that it was probably chipped before it was shipped.

      Most damage comes from packages falling ON the package. It’s either impact shock, or crush damage. Unless there was something else in the package to chip against the lighter, I call bullshit.

      Get your money back, and while I won’t encourage you to leave a negative comment about the seller, I sure as hell wouldn’t order from him again.

  11. Aleesha says:

    I need to ship a lighter from Hawaii to North Carolina because it was a going away gift. It has no liquid in it but also, my mother cannot know I’m shipping it. She cannot know I have a lighter at all. I have a cousin up there to receive it when I send it. Will I be able to put the lighter in an envelope and send it off with two stamps or something? I just can’t get caught and I don’t think I will be able to sneak it onto a plane.

    • Jack says:

      You’ll have to use a box or padded envelope and it’ll cost you more than 2 stamps. You’ll also need to make sure it’s totally drained of any butane or other fuel. Then, I’d just use the automated gizmo in the lobby to weigh it, put postage on it, and drop it in the parcel drop at your local post office. You can also get the packaging at any drugstore or other type of store with stationary in it, then generate the postage at usps.com, and it should be light enough to drop off in any blue collection box.

      Very sorry for the late reply. Got hospitalized there in between your post and my reply.

  12. Laura says:

    I’m trying to make my crafting business bigger, which means mailing out item around the US. I make decorative lighters using the Bic Classic, and I have some questions about shipping. I googled a bit and it sounds like I have to register each one before I ship it and get a letter of approval? It doesn’t give me an idea of how long the process would take or the cost of shipping once the process was complete. If you could give any insight into this I would really appreciate it, thanks.

    • Jack says:

      Okay Laura, there’s no permit needed, just some special packaging and shipping requirements. The permit is required for mass shipping of lighters.

      As an apology for my late answer, here’s 5 hours worth of research, and hopefully I’ve saved you some money and time.

      I’ll start with the simple definitive USPS answer, along with citations. I’m sorry, it’s not a short answer, because I’m trying to give you documentation, should you be challenged by postal officials.

      1. You must use Parcel Select service (aka “Ground”).
      2. You can add Tracking, Insurance, Certified, or Registered services if you’d like.
      3. You cannot use Priority, Express, or any type of international mail services.
      4. You can send up to 4 Bic lighters at a time, but no more than that.
      5. You must print clearly on the address side, the words “This package conforms to 49 CFR 173.4” No other marking are required.
      6. You’ll have to present the packages over the counter to a clerk and declare them as hazardous. However, should they say they can’t ship them, presuming you’ve followed steps 1-5, this is why you should print the rest of this post out. It has all the applicable citations you’ll need, and it comes from a postal supervisor that just spent 6 1/2 hours researching this, including confirming my findings with Mailing Requirements.

      My strongest additional recommendations:

      1. Use sturdy boxes or heavy padded envelopes. As per above, you can’t use the Priority packaging. Sorry about that. If you use a box, put a packing slip in with the lighter, roll a light layer of bubble wrap around the lighter (no newspaper or styrofoam peanuts) and cut the box down to size by slitting the corners down and folding it tight. This prevents crushing by eliminating any shifting ahead of time.
      2. If possible, get some thin plastic material that you can safely fit between the flint and the spark wheel or use something to prevent the spark wheel from turning.

      Now on to the lengthy stuff.

      Bics aren’t simple because they are already filled with fuel, and the sparking mechanism is (flint and wheel) already primed to work. Our packages could find themselves next to pure oxygen containers or other highly flammable substances on vehicles and airplanes other than our own for part of their journey, so I hope you can understand our extreme caution.

      Let’s start with this: A lighter is a Class 3 Hazard based on USPS Publication 52, Index C. USPS links are undependable, so keep the citations around in text form.

      Now, let’s jump to a special clause buried in Publication 52, specifically Chapter 336, Small Quantity.

      Paragraph 336.2 states specifically that Class 3 Hazardous materials “…are eligible to be sent in the domestic mail under the small quantity provision only when each primary receptacle is limited to the following quantity…

      Then sub-paragraph a. states, specifically, “30 ml (1 oz) or less for liquids other than Division 6.1…

      The average Bic lighter holds 5.4 ml of butane, which means you can send up to 4 and still remain within the within the guidelines of Publication 52, Chapter 336, Small Quantity. Why not 5? I’m allowing for certain variables in case you decide to use different lighters, or this information is slightly outdated. Better to stay clearly under 30 ml, than stray over it.

      Now, we have to go to 336.3 for Packaging and Marking, which states, verbatim, “Hazardous materials eligible to be shipped under the small quantity provision permitted in 49 CFR and 336.2 must be prepared following Packaging Instruction 10A in Appendix C. Each mailpiece that qualifies to be sent under the small quantity provision must be clearly marked on the address side with the following words: ‘This package conforms to 49 CFR 173.4.’49 CFR refers to the Code of Federal Regulations.

      The part about “…must be prepared following Packaging Instruction 10A in Appendix C,” means that each single package must ALL of the above criteria applied to it to see if it complies with Publication 52, Chapter 336, because some mailers will purposely apply it to mailing hundreds of lighters in a single package, claiming each individual lighter butane level falls under 30 ml.

      Now, at some point, some postal employee may attempt to cite the DMM (Domestic Mail Manual) for preventing your mailing. DMM Chapter 601.8.1
      states “Effective July 7, 2014, all content applicable to hazardous, restricted, or perishable mail was removed and incorporated into Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.

  13. Jack says:

    Hi Bruce,

    What you’re actually linking to is the Postal Service’s Domestic Mail Manual’s Section 600 Basic Standards For All Mailing Services, Subsection 601 Mailability. You’ll find the most current regs here: http://pe.usps.gov/text/dmm300/601.htm

    As such, you’ll find links to the most current forms at the USPS site. Some have changed since my original post and the PDFFiller site’s archive

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