At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Are Mailing Tubes?

B. Miller
B. Miller

Mailing tubes are long cardboard tubes designed for mailing large papers, such as posters or other documents, or for mailing oddly shaped items. They usually have a removable plastic cap at each end to make inserting and removing items easier. Mailing tubes are a necessity if you do a lot of mailing and shipping.

Mailing tubes come in various lengths and widths to accommodate different sized items. Most of these shipping tubes will not be longer than 48 inches (122 cm). It is important to note the usable dimensions of the tube before you purchase it -- the usable dimensions are generally a bit shorter than the actual tube, because there is some unusable space at the end of the tube.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

This unusable space occurs because most of these tubes either feature snap-on plastic caps at the ends, or they fold in on themselves and snap closed to seal. Either way, you would not want your document getting crinkled and bent if it is pushed down from a plastic cap or a fold. Don't leave so much extra space that the document is continuously sliding back and forth, though -- it is best to figure out exactly how much space you need and purchase the right size accordingly.

Mailing tubes can be purchased at most post offices, shipping stores, and office supply stores. They can also be ordered online. Aside from length and width, there are other considerations to note when purchasing a shipping tube. There are different colors available that you might use for a birthday or holiday. There are also heavy duty tubes designed to withstand damage, which you might use for shipping something internationally. Telescoping tubes are also available, which are able to lengthen as needed.

Mailing tubes are best used for documents of any size that you do not want to fold, or do not want to risk being damaged if mailed in a flat envelope. A flat envelope or a bubble mailer is another option, though, if you are mailing relatively small documents. A tube might also be useful for an oddly shaped item that is too long to fit in a standard sized box.

You might also choose to fill a mailing tube with small gifts and mail it to a friend or family member for a birthday present or a care package if they are away. Most people would appreciate such a thoughtful gift. As most tubes are made of cardboard, they are easily recyclable, which is another benefit.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


@Kristee: I work for a cardboard mailing tubes manufacturer. You'd be surprised how thick and durable cardboard shipping tubes are. They are manufactured for all sorts of uses ranging from shipping artwork to vintage posters, etc!

The sizes really can range from the tiniest mailing tubes used for coins to large cardboard tubes for storage of carpets. People use them to ship all sorts of items from fishing rods, to candles, to cosmetic items.


I use brightly colored mailing tubes to mail any birthday presents that can fit inside them. I personally would love to receive a bright yellow or pink tube in the mail on my birthday, so I think that this adds excitement to the recipient.

When my uncle turned fifty, I used a black mailing tube to send him his gift as a sort of joke. Everyone had been giving him gag gifts like black balloons and black flowers to poke fun at his age.

However, my gift to him actually had something nice inside. I'm sure that it filled him with dread when he saw the exterior, but he loved what it contained.


@Kristee – The price will vary greatly from place to place. You should definitely shop around before deciding.

Make sure that you get the heavy wall plastic tubes. If you just buy the regular plastic ones, they won't be substantial enough to stand up to abuse.

You can buy clear plastic mailing tubes that are built to protect your items, and while these will cost a bit more than regular tubes, they will be worth the money. If you are worried about costs, then consider adding the price of the tube onto the shipping and handling fee for customers when they buy your artwork.


I am trying to sell drawings I did with pastel pencils on thick paper, but I am a little afraid to use cardboard mailing tubes for shipping. I know that postal workers can sometimes get a bit rough with the mail, and if the tube gets dented, then my artwork could get wrinkled and be ruined.

How expensive are plastic mailing tubes? Are they significantly more sturdy than cardboard ones? I'm trying to decide if they would be a good investment.

Art on paper isn't something that can be straightened back out if it gets folded or dented. That dent will be present on the work forever, so I have to find the best way to protect the art during shipping.


I have a friend who designs personalized retro posters and sales them online. I ordered one from him for my dad's birthday gift, and it arrived in a white mailing tube.

The poster was 11 inches by 17 inches, so I envisioned it shipping in a fairly long tube. I didn't realize that it would be more economical for him to roll it from the short end downward, so I was surprised at how small the tube was when I got it.

It had plastic caps at both ends, and they were really hard to remove. I ended up needing a dull knife to pry the cap off one end. Luckily, he had allowed enough room between the poster and the ends so that I didn't wrinkle it while struggling to open it.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman with hand on her hip
      Woman with hand on her hip