Shipping clothes from Canada to USA: what does the Certificate of Disinfection entail, where do I get it?
March 28, 2011 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I have 2 large boxes of used clothing/shoes to ship to the US soon, and the post office employee told me the volume of items would definitely not pass the border unless I have a Certificate of Disinfection. Unfortunately, this document seems non-existent. There is NO information in Google, answers are always something along the lines of, "Ship it in several smaller boxes!" or "Don't say it's clothing!" which are avoiding the point: I am trying to do this by the book (legally). Does anyone have experience with this particularly evasive document, or parameters that would let Customs determine the packages are okay? Or another way I could *legally* ship the clothing to the US?

The Canada Post guide mentions "Parcels containing used wearing apparel (e.g. used clothing, footwear, linen, etc.) may be required to enclose a certificate of disinfection issued by recognized disinfection establishments or in their absence, by private concerns including dry cleaning firms. The wrapper must be endorsed “CERTIFICATE OF DISINFECTION ENCLOSED”."

So I've been Googling for three days, calling dry cleaners and specialized cleaning services left and right: nobody knows what this Certificate is, nobody knows how to produce it or where I could get it.
One specialized service says they could probably process the clothes correctly if they have cleaning parameters, but I have no idea where to find those.

I even tried calling the US Embassy in Montreal, to no avail (can't even get a human being on the phone).
posted by Geethebluesky to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
something along the lines of, "Ship it in several smaller boxes!" or "Don't say it's clothing!" which are avoiding the point: I am trying to do this by the book (legally).

How is shipping it in several smaller boxes not by the book and legal?
posted by The World Famous at 12:58 PM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

What The World Famous says. Avoidance is good in these things, because they save time, money and hassle.

Also, you might be reading too much into the bureaucratese.

If I read it correctly, they expect the clothing to be in some kind of dry cleaner's packaging, looking as if they were recently (dry) cleaned, with some kind of paper sporting the label "certificate" from a dry cleaner's or Rentokil saying that they disinfected it. Shouldn't be too hard.
posted by NekulturnY at 1:00 PM on March 28, 2011

Are you sure it applies to you shipping personal goods across the border? And not to used clothes marketers or distributors instead, like Goodwill? (I'm assuming that these clothes are yours.)
posted by spinifex23 at 1:07 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This came up in an old eBay forum question, where someone said that Goodwill disinfects and labels mattresses, and could do the same for clothing.

Searching for Goodwill "certificate of disinfection" was amusing, as the first result was that same eBay thread, and the second was a collection of journals from October 1897 to September 1898.

The fourth result was probably more useful, but provided without much context: a PDF of an actual certificate of disinfection, which can be found on Suntrans International's documentation webpage, linked as a "Fumigation Certificate." The PDF refers to Quarantine Law, and has places for the signatures of Director of Quarantine Station and Quarantine Officer Concerned.

And that bit of information leads me to the CDC's page on Quarantine Stations, which has a lot more information.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2011

Interesting. I have, and know quite a few people who also have, shipped clothes back to the US among personal effects, and the issue of obtaining a certification of disinfection never came up.

In addition to filthy light thief's links, you might also see if you can find someone at an international moving company who would offer you some practical advice on disinfection, even if you're not planning to use their service.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shipping in smaller boxes means you're not a wholesaler or recycler who's going to regularly move large amounts of fabric for profit. The letter of that particular law wasn't really meant for you, and paying multiple layers of fees on principle just doesn't make sense.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Have you tried asking Canada Customs/U.S. Customs? Surely they're the ones who would be looking for the certificate and thus would hopefully know something about it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:22 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You really should ask the US Customs people ( My cursory glance at used clothing only netted people importing for commercial purposes and w/r/t importing from used clothing from Europe. Disinfection is not listed, but paying duties on items is.
posted by birdherder at 1:24 PM on March 28, 2011

I work in a US Customs brokerage office, and I've never heard of a certificate of disinfection, and I've had several shipments of personal effects that have included clothing in the past.

Every once in a while the USDA will flag a shipment for examination for foreign contaminants; they're really, really touchy about potential soil contamination, even if it's only something you personally are tracking into the country on the bottoms of your shoes.

I'll see if there's anything I can dig up.
posted by alynnk at 1:37 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may be able to fit everything into smaller boxes using those vacuum storage bags (the big ziplock bags that you suck the air out of with a vacuum. They are on infomercials and bed and bath stores). When we go on a trip we regularly use these, and they reduce the space that our clothes take up by almost half, depending on what the clothes consist of. This would allow you to use smaller boxes without necessarily using more boxes.
posted by markblasco at 4:43 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How is "used clothing" not perfectly ordinary luggage? Ship it in suitcases, which are commonly available at secondhand stores for small sums of money, and send it via a bus company, or a similar service like this one: LuggageFree.

It'll probably cost a bit more (which raises the question of why bother shipping clothes that it's cheaper to just replace), but it should be much more likely to avoid hassle.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:14 PM on March 28, 2011

« Older Historic R. L. Polk City Directories   |   What the hell does "poor outcome" mean, anyway? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.