How to Return to Sender With USPS Mail

Returning unwanted mail and packages to the sender is a common occurrence. The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers several options for consumers to return mail or packages to the original sender.

To return USPS mail to the sender, you can redirect the mail, refuse delivery, use the USPS “Return to Sender” service, contact the sender directly, or follow specific guidelines for international returns. It is important to properly label the package and follow any return instructions provided.

By clearly marking an envelope or package as “Refused” or “Return to Sender,” attaching the correct postage, and dropping it in a collection box or handing it to a mail carrier, the USPS will route the mail piece back through their sorting and processing system to its origin.

This article will outline the policies, procedures, and best practices for returning both standard letter mail as well as packages through the USPS system. Properly addressing return mail, communicating with mail carriers, utilizing USPS customer services, and understanding mail classes, delivery standards, and timelines will all be covered.

With the right knowledge, consumers can seamlessly and promptly return any unacceptable, undeliverable, or unwanted mail that arrives in their mailbox.

What are the Different Ways to Return Mail to Sender?

Depending on certain circumstances, you can return incoming mail to the sender. Here are a few methods to return USPS mail.

Redirect the Mail

If the mail is not delivered, you can redirect it to the sender by contacting USPS and explaining your situation. USPS will redirect packages not showing ‘out for delivery’ or ‘delivered.’

Refuse Delivery

You can also refuse delivery when USPS attempts to deliver it. You can let the postal worker know why you are refusing the mail. Upon refusal, the item will be sent back to the return address.

Return to Sender USPS Service

USPS offers a ‘Return to Sender’ Service to ship back mail you did not expect or order. Ideally, you should not open the package. For opened packages, you must leave a note explaining why it’s being returned.

You must mention ‘Refused’ or ‘Return to Sender’ on the package and take it to the nearest post office for delivery. Alternatively, you can hand it over to the postal worker coming to pick up mail from your place.

Contact the Sender

You can also contact the sender to discuss returning the mail. If the sender agrees to the return request, the person will provide a return shipping label to initiate the mail return process.

The return shipping label will allow you to send the item back without bearing postal charges. If it’s the sender’s responsibility, the package will include a return service label at the time of delivery.

International Returns

International returns can be complicated due to customs regulations. You will have to follow specific guidelines based on the destination country’s postal regulations and any other instructions the sender may have.

How to Interact with the Mail Carrier?

For the return proceedings, try to make yourself available at the time of mail delivery. Your presence will enable you to return the item right away. You can also explain your situation in person to the postal worker.

If there are return instructions that USPS should know, share them with the postal worker. Finally, thank the person for the assistance, and check if you can get a tracking number for the return mail as proof of return.

How to Use the Mailbox for USPS Returns?

If you are using the mailbox for USPS returns, make sure to package the item properly with specific return instructions included in the package. Once properly packaged and labeled, place the item in the mailbox. The dropped package will get collected during regular mail delivery rounds.

What Do I Need to Write on the Mail to Return It to Sender?

On the outside, you should mention ‘Refused’ or ‘Return to Sender’ to indicate to USPS that it’s a return mail. The seller’s address should also be clearly mentioned on the package. If possible, leave a note on the package to help USPS identify the seller. The note must be clearly visible and securely attached to the package.

Can I Return Mail to Sender if I Have Opened It?

Opened packages can also be returned to USPS. However, it depends on several factors, such as the condition of the mail and the return policy. The item should be in good condition, and the return policy should state that they accept opened packages.

Ideally, you must return unwanted mail to avoid receiving promotional materials you are not interested in. Unwanted packages can also expose you to identity theft, which can be avoided by returning the mail containing personal information.

What Happens to Mail That is Returned to Sender?

When the mail is returned, USPS initiates the process of shipping the item back to the sender through its post office. From accepting returns, verifying labels, following return instructions, maintaining records, and routing the mail to the intended destination, the post office plays a crucial role in delivering the returned mail.

Once the delivery is done, the receiver usually processes the returned mail by verifying its content and following any other required internal procedure. Based on the item return terms, the receiver may issue a refund or take any other agreed-upon step. Some recipients may also contact the shipper to address concerns expressed by the shipper regarding the returned item.

The specific timeline for returning the item can vary based on the return policy of the sender. You should look at the packing slip that came with the mail to determine the return deadline. You should typically return the item as early as possible because the specified return date is normally calculated from the purchase date.

What Should I Do If I Receive Mail for Someone Who No Longer Lives at My Address?

If you have received mail belonging to a previous resident, you should mention ‘Not at this Address’ on the package and return it to the local post office. Alternatively, you can contact the sender and let the shipper know that the intended person no longer stays at the given address.

You can also notify the former resident. The person might come to pick up the mail from you and simultaneously update the required information with USPS to prevent this mishap from happening in the future. If you are concerned about receiving future mail, you can also contact the local post office and seek their assistance in updating the records.

It’s important that you communicate the address change request as soon as possible to prevent the mail from falling into the wrong hands, which can result in identity theft or even a breach of privacy. Updating the records will also ensure that the person involved receives future mail on schedule.

How Can I Prevent Unwanted Mail from Being Delivered to My Address?

You can take a few proactive steps to prevent unwanted mail from being sent to your address.

Stop Mail Request

USPS allows one to submit a ‘Stop Mail’ request to prevent unwanted junk and spam mail from being delivered to an address. To submit such a request, you must fill out the ‘USPS Form 1500’ and submit it at the nearest post office.

USPS Informed Delivery

Using the Informed Delivery service, you can digitally preview incoming mail to manage their delivery. USPS will email you a digital preview of the mail scheduled for delivery that day. This service is available only for letter-sized mail and not large packages.

Unsubscribe from Unwanted Services

If you want to stop receiving spam and junk newsletters or offers, contact the publisher or credit card company directly to remove you from their mailing lists. Also, be careful about whom you are sharing your address with.

Why Should You Refuse Unwanted Mail?

Refusing unwanted mail is important for many reasons, such as reducing the risk of data theft, misuse of sensitive information, minimizing carbon footprint, and saving yourself the time required to go through unwanted mail.

You can simply refuse any package that doesn’t belong to you or return it, preferably without opening it. You can also make efforts to change the address if the previous owner has moved. If you continue to receive undesirable mail, you can register a complaint with the USPS Postal Inspection Service.


Remember that you have the right to refuse delivery or ship back any unwanted mail through the post office or the postal worker visiting your place. The returned mail must be nicely packaged, though, with a clearly visible return address.

It’s also important to bear in mind that possessing mail not meant for you can do a lot of harm. Therefore, it might help to take proactive steps to prevent unwanted mail from getting delivered to your place in the first place, especially for senior guys.

If you are a senior person, taking control of your mail will not only prevent identity theft but will also simplify your life. It’s best advised to take advantage of the USPS Informed Delivery to cut out any undesirable mail delivery from your life.