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If I created a shortlist of the most effective decision I made in streamlining and business and increasing my bottom line, switching to shipping almost everything in poly mailers would be in the top 3 (along with using a thermal label printer and using cross-posting software).
If you are on the brink of utilizing poly mailers for your business (especially if you ship clothing) then this should provide you with all of the information you need to make an intelligent decision.
Should You Be Using Poly Mailers In Your Business?
If you ship things that can be shipped in poly-mailers, yes, you should be using them in your business.
They have several advantages over other types of shipping containers:
- They are far cheaper to ship than boxes (mainly due to the weight sasvings)
- They are cheap to buy (we typically pay $.13-25 apiece depending on size)
- They don’t have air space to fill with packing (decrease both weight and size)
- The don’t tear (unlike envelopes)
- They are weather resistant (unlike boxes)
- They are available in just about any size
I estimate that shipping in poly mailers (as opposed to boxes) saves my business $3-4,000 per year. And that’s just with sending 500 clothing items in poly mailers.
Drawbacks of Poly Mailers
For most items, poly mailers only have benefits. However, you can’t use them to ship everything.
The main (and most obvious) drawback is that poly mailers do not provide a great deal of protection. For the majority of clothing items, this is fine. However, boxes can end up crushed or small items damaged if you do not protect them adequately during shipping.
If you still want the weight savings from a poly mailer you can get padded poly mailers or wrap the item you’re shipping in bubble wrap before packing it.
What Sizes Of Poly Mailers Do You Need?
Almost any non-fragile item can be shipped in a poly mailer. I’ve shipped shirts, coats, backpacks, snowsuits, pillows, and just about every other soft thing you can think of in them.
However, I’ve simplified the poly-mailers I keep on hand to only 3 sizes. They allow me to ship almost everything I get my hands on and, if I’m shipping something bigger, I will hook two poly mailers together to fit it inside.
The 3 Best Sizes Of Poly Mailers For Clothing & Soft Items
This is the smallest size of poly mailers that we keep on hand but we go through a ton of them. This size is perfect for shipping t-shirts, blouses, shorts, small stuffed animals, etc.
If we had to use only one size of mailer for shipping all of our clothing sales, this would be it. It is big enough to ship almost all types of clothing including pants, coats, vests, etc.
The advantage of having mailers this size is that I can easily fold them in half if I run out of a smaller size and need to ship t-shirts or other small items.
For everything else, we keep a small stack of these king-kong-sized poly-mailers in stock. We don’t use them very often but, when we need them, there isn’t really another option.
This size is the least useful of the three but we use them to send large jackets, blankets, etc.
The Best Poly Mailers For Clothing Sellers
We follow the same method for buying poly mailers that we do with every other business item. We find a company/product that we like and buy exclusively from them. When we run out, we reorder the same thing again. It saves time and, after all, time is money.
For poly-mailers, we buy from METRONIC on Amazon as they offer plain white poly mailers that are high quality (especially for the price) and available in a ton of sizes.
7 Special Types Of Poly Mailers You May Want
As with any other tool that you buy for your business, I would recommend that you buy the most basic item possible that will actually do the job you need it to. While poly mailers typically don’t come with many bells and whistles there are a few things you can waste money on if you so desire.
Nearly every large company that uses poly mailers to send clothing is using resealable poly mailers. These poly bags typically have a perforated opening strip between two different adhesive strips. When the item is shipped, the upper strip is used. If a customer decides to return the item after opening it they can use the lower strip to reseal the package.
The most obvious advantage to this is that you don’t have a customer trying to cobble together something to send the item back in. It is just a better user experience overall.
However, it makes the most sense at a company with a double-digit rate of returns. Our return rate for our eBay store is typically 2-4% which, in our minds, does not justify the extra cost of resealable mailers.
2. Easy Open
A step back from resealable poly mailers is the “easy open” variety which has a perforated opening strip but no extra adhesive. These make for an easier opening experience for your customer. The main problem is that they compromise the integrity of your poly mailer somewhat. The possibility that they may be torn in transit is enough to make me steer clear of the easy-open variety.
If your business can afford a small extra expense, go for compostable poly mailers. In general, poly bags are not compostable or recyclable and create a huge amount of waste. Compostable bags are typically made of plant material (such as corn starch). That way, even if it ends up in a landfill, it won’t be there for a million-billion years.
I would encourage most people who are shipping clothing to get discreet and unmarked poly mailers. Cuter and more noticeable packages are more likely to be stolen as well as tip potential thieves off about what could be inside.
We focus on luxury and high-end clothing and sent all of our items in eBay branded poly-mailers until a customer let us know how off-putting it was to receive an expensive jacket in eBay branded mailers. We now focus on shipping items in plain white mailers that nobody could identify.
5. Ones With Carry Handles
Poly mailers with carry handles are all the rage now. Why? I’m not actually sure. I don’t want the shipping company to be carrying it around but the handle. I don’t expect my customer to carry it any further than the front door to their couch. So these get a pass from me as they seem to simply be a gimmick.
Padded poly mailers typically go by the moniker of “bubble mailers” and they could have a valuable spot within your shipping supplies. If you ship anything besides clothing in your poly mailers you may want to invest in a padded option.
Padded poly mailers are typically lined with bubble wrap which not only protects the item inside but strengthens the mailer itself. This is particularly useful when shipping something like a small box as the padding performs the dual function of protecting the box and stopping the corners from poking holes in the poly mailer.
Common Questions About Shipping With Poly Mailers
Are Poly Mailers Waterproof?
Typical poly mailers used to send packages are not waterproof. The polyethylene film that poly mailers are made out of is considered to be moisture resistant but the closures are not made to keep water completely out.
Having said that, I have never had an issue with items that I’ve shipped in a poly mailer getting wet. They are typically fine in rain and would have to be completely dunked in water for the items inside to get wet.
Are Poly Mailers Recyclable or Eco Friendly?
Poly mailers are made of thin plastic so they are, in theory recyclable. However, most recycling plants group poly mailers with plastic bags and are not equipped to properly recycle them. You can find a drop-off location that handles plastic film if you want to properly dispose of your poly mailers after use.
The chances of your customers actually following through and recycling their poly mailers is quite low. If you want to make a more eco-friendly decision in your business be sure to use compostable poly mailers that will break down eventually even if they are thrown away.
Is It Actually Cheaper To Ship In A Poly Mailer?
In general, poly mailers are cheaper to mail than boxes. This is entirely due to the weight savings as shipping carriers consider them both to be packages and charge the same rate based on weight.
An average-sized shipping box with packaging material can weight up to a pound. If I am shipping an item to New York (from Utah) this means that using a box instead of a poly mailer could save me up to $9.
The savings are particularly pronounced when using a poly mailer is the difference between being able to ship an item First Class or needing to upgrade to priority mail (as is often the case when shipping clothing).
Are Poly Mailers Considered Envelopes?
In general, poly mailers are not considered envelopes. Thick envelopes must be under 3/4″ in thickness, very less than 1/4 inch in thickness, and be rigid enough to pass through a sorting machine.
Poly mailers, especially those holding clothing, are considered to be a parcel/package and should be shipped as such.
Can You Reuse Poly Mailers?
As long as the item inside is secure there is no problem with reusing poly mailers.
Be sure that the old label is completely covered as well as any additional barcodes or markings.
If you reuse a poly maile it will likely require some packing tape to properly secure it and smooth it out enough to attach a new label.
In general, poly mailers are cheap enough that we don’t try to reuse them unless we are returning the item that was delivered in the poly mailer.