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The Proper Way to Ship Cremated Remains

Do you need to ship cremated remains? Learn what steps need to be taken when you are packaging and shipping cremains domestically or internationally.
How to Ship Cremains Safely and Securely
How to Ship Cremains Safely and Securely

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Today, direct cremation is more common than ever before. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reports that in 2022 of all the cremations in the U.S. 41% were direct cremations with no services and 35% were direct cremations with a memorial service held afterward. 

A fair amount of the time direct cremation is selected because some or all of the surviving family members don’t live in the area where their loved one died. When that’s the case, direct cremation can be arranged remotely and then the cremated remains are shipped, usually to whoever provided the cremation authorization

Of course, this isn’t the only instance when cremated remains need to be shipped. You may need to send a portion of the cremains to another family member, or you may find it’s best to ship the cremated remains if you have to move. 

Regardless of why cremated remains are being shipped, there is a proper way to ship cremains so that it’s done safely and securely. Here’s what you need to know about how cremated remains are shipped whether you are sending or receiving them. 

Who Can Ship Human Cremated Remains

There’s only one entity that can ship cremated remains – the US Postal Service (USPS). Commercial shipping companies aren’t allowed to handle or transport cremains. 

You can choose to ship the cremains using Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail Express International. Both options come with tracking so you can know where the cremains are at any time. You can also choose to add insurance or require that someone sign for the package. Both add-ons are highly recommended for secure shipment, especially the latter.  

Keep in mind that international shipping is somewhat limited. Cremated remains can only be shipped to countries where Priority Mail Express International is available. You’ll also need to check to make sure that receiving cremated remains isn’t prohibited in the country where cremains are being sent.  

How to Package Cremains for Shipping

The packaging is going to largely determine how safe the cremains remain during shipping. You want to take extra precautions to prevent damage and ensure the cremated remains are delivered to the right location even if something happens to the box. Here’s what to do: 

  • Use a sturdy box that is undamaged and large enough to hold the cremains, urn and packaging materials. 
  • Put the cremated remains in a plastic bag and seal it shut securely. That way even if the urn material is breakable and gets damaged the cremains will remain contained. 
  • Label the plastic bag with “To” and “From” information so that the cremains can get where they need to go even if the package is damaged. You can also put a note with the to and from information in the box. 
  • Wrap the urn or receptacle with packing paper and/or bubble wrap.
  • Place the cremated remains in the box and fill any voids with packing paper so that the cremains don’t shift or move around during transit. 
  • Tape around the entire opening to securely seal the box. 
  • Place a postage label with the recipient’s information and a scannable barcode on the box.
  • If the cremains are being shipped internationally a customs form is also required. 

USPS Publication 139 is a brochure all about how to properly package cremains for shipping. But if you’re a visual learner, the USPS has you covered. They’ve created a video that shows you exactly how to pack cremated remains

Don’t Forget the Cremated Remains Labels!

One of the most important parts of the packaging process is making sure the package is properly labeled. The USPS requires that packages containing any type of cremains have a special Cremated Remains Label 139. Unless you use a specially labeled Priority Mail Express box, Label 139 stickers need to be placed on all sides, the top and the bottom of the package. 

If you are using your own box to ship cremains you can order Cremated Remains Labels from or a local post office. They are free and one roll contains 100 labels. 

Get the USPS Cremated Remains Kit

If you need to ship cremated remains yourself, it’s best to get a USPS cremated remains shipping kit. The kit is free and has everything you need, including directions for how to package the cremains. The local post office won’t have the kits on-hand, but they can be ordered online through

Extra Shipping Precaution We Take at Cremation.Green

At Cremation.Green we always follow all of the proper protocols and best practices when we ship cremated remains to clients. We also take the extra precaution of using ShockWatch 2 Impact Indicators. They are affixed to the outside of the box letting anyone who handles it know that the package is being monitored for damage. There is an indicator that will turn red if impact occurs that could cause damage to the contents inside. If the indicator is red, the recipient should check for damage before accepting it from the mail carrier. 

What Happens Once the Cremated Remains Are Shipped

You can expect cremated remains to arrive quickly. Priority Express Mail guarantees that the package will arrive within two days. Cremated remains aren’t your standard shipment, so the mail carrier won’t just leave the package on your doorstep or toss it over the fence into your yard. 

If you or the funeral home choose the ‘signature required’ option someone will need to sign for the package. Even if you didn’t, usually the mail carrier will hand deliver packages with the Cremated Remains Label 139. Cremated remains are typically handled with great care, but it’s always best to open the package and inspect everything inside before accepting the package. 

Have questions about how cremated remains are shipped? Give us a call, text or email and we can explain our process for shipping cremains safely and securely to a location of your choice.

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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