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Do Mailbox Flags Have to Be Red? (And Are Flags Even Required?)

Do Mailbox Flags Have to Be Red? (And Are Flags Even Required?)
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Red mailbox flags are everywhere, so it is natural to assume that it is a color stipulation. Red is the traditional color for the carrier flag, and this trend continues.

Mailbox flags do not have to be red, but they must be a contrasting color to the mailbox. While they need not specifically be red, they cannot be blue, green, white, brown, or yellow. The USPS has noted fluorescent orange as a preferred color as it is highly visible from a distance.

Mailboxes get a lot of attention, but very little is said about the handy little carrier flag tucked away on the side. Let’s find out more about carrier flags and if mailboxes need to have flags at all.

Must Mailbox Flags Be Red?

The rules governing mailboxes are set by the United States Postal Service. Specifications about mailbox design, color, position, and shape are made to smooth the mail delivery and pickup service. Carrier flags are specifically mentioned in the regulations about curbside mailboxes.

Red has traditionally been the color of choice for mailbox carrier flags. However, while there is no stipulation that a mailbox flag can only be red, there are only specifications about which colors it may not be.

Before you let your creativity take over and start your mailbox makeover, take note that although the carrier flag does not have to be red, these five colors may not be used in any shade:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • White
  • Brown
  • Yellow

Mail carriers cover a lot of ground each day, and a raised mailbox flag lets them know if they need to do a collection. Therefore, it is essential that they can see the raised flag from a distance.

The colors listed by the USPS to avoid are all on the list for a reason. Seasons change, trees change colors, and homes are often painted white, and they need those tiny little mailbox flags to be visible from afar.

So, your mailbox flag can be orange, pink, bright purple, or any color in-between. However, here is one more stipulation. The flag and the mailbox must be contrasting colors.

So long as your local Homeowners Association doesn’t have any specific regulations about the appearance of the mailboxes in their area, they can be creative works of art. However, the carrier flag must stand out sharply in contrast to the actual mailbox.

Red has been a popular choice since the inception of modern mailbox designs because it is easy to make the flag stand out against a cool contrasting color like green, blue, or black. The most popular color for mailboxes in the United States is black, which provides a timeless, classic appearance when teamed up with a red carrier flag.

What Are Mailbox Flags For?

Mailbox flags may look like a cute decorative touch on the side of curbside mailboxes, but there is a practical reason that they are there. The carrier flag is a clever way to signal to the mail carrier that there is outgoing mail inside the box that needs to be collected.

Not everyone receives mail every day, so instead of the postal delivery person wasting time checking inside of every mailbox on the route, a raised carrier flag will let them know that there is outgoing mail inside that needs to be collected.

So the process to follow when using a mailbox flag is as follows:

  1. When the homeowner has outgoing mail, they place it in their mailbox and put the carrier flag into the raised position.
  1. When the mail carrier is on the route, they will spot the raised flag and know they need to collect outgoing mail from the mailbox, even if they don’t need to do any deliveries.
  1. The mail carrier will remove the outgoing mail and move the flag into the lowered position.

Postal carriers will not stop and check inside mailboxes for outgoing post unless they have mail to deliver at that mailbox. Having a carrier flag on the side of a mailbox is a practical little non-verbal form of communication between the homeowner and the mail carrier to ensure an efficient service.

Do Mailboxes Have to Have Flags?

Mailboxes do not have to have a flag. It is entirely up to the homeowner if they would like to have a carrier flag on their mailbox. Having a carrier flag adds a convenient extra mail collection signal feature that ensures that any outgoing mail will be collected the next time the postal carrier does that route.

Carrier flags on the side of a mailbox are a way to let the mail carrier know that they need to collect outgoing mail from the mailbox. However, it is up to homeowners if they would like to use this service.

Although the USPS has pretty specific regulations about the approved shape, size, position, height, and materials that a mailbox can be made from, it is not a requirement that every mailbox must have a carrier flag.

Choosing not to have a flag simply means that unless the mail carrier is delivering to the mailbox, they may not collect any outgoing mail placed inside. Postal workers do not check for outgoing mail in mailboxes unless they are delivering mail to that address or see the carrier flag has been raised.

Mailbox Flag Requirements

The flag on the side of some mailboxes may not seem like much, but surprisingly there’s a lot more to these tiny flags than meets the eye. They need to be highly durable to withstand frequent handling and changing weather conditions.

The permissible color of the mailbox carrier flag is not the only factor to consider when choosing a new mailbox. These tiny flags need to be manufactured from some pretty heavy-duty stuff and should be able to withstand being lifted and lowered at least 7500 times – that’s twenty years of quietly signaling the postal carrier to the presence of letters.

It stands to reason then that mailbox flags can’t be made out of just anything. The material used is usually either metal or plastic. The USPS indicates that plastic is the preferred material for mailbox flags. Wood is not permissible as it is not durable enough.

Other regulations for mailbox flags are that they must be mounted on the right side of the mailbox – when facing it from the front. The flag must also be light and easy for the mail carrier to lift. It may not have any sharp edges that could cause injury.

Some modern mailboxes are designed with self-lowering carrier flags that go down automatically each time the carrier door is opened. That means that the mail carrier does not need to physically push the flag down each time they collect outgoing mail.

Can I Paint My Mailbox Flag Gold?

Metallic colors have become very popular for decorative purposes on mailboxes. There is no rule that says you can’t paint the mailbox flag gold, as the only prohibited colors are blue, green, yellow, white, and brown.

Before doing a mailbox makeover, homeowners should consider what the mailbox will look like in the spot where it will be positioned. The purpose of the carrier flag is to signal the mail carrier from a distance that there is outgoing mail in the mailbox.

While gold is not prohibited, it may not be as visible as orange or red. However, it can be an effective choice of color when set against a dark color mailbox.

Remember that adding seasonal décor to your mailbox is permissible so long as it does not interfere with how the mailbox functions. Whatever color you paint your carrier flag, be sure that it is always highly visible with your mailbox decorations.

Can My Mailbox be Red?

There are currently no restrictions on the color of a mailbox in the USA, so you can paint it red. However, mailbox carrier flags are often red, and the mailbox and the flag may not be the same color.

A red mailbox can add a dash of bright color to the property. If you have a full-service postal service mailbox with a carrier flag, the flag must contrast sharply with the color of the mailbox.

Five colors may not be used for carrier flags – these are white, yellow, brown, green, and blue. So for a red mailbox, the carrier flag could be a color like black or a metallic color, like silver or gold.

Can Any Outgoing Mail Be Placed in a Mailbox for Pickup?

Even if you have a full-service mailbox with a carrier flag attached, there are some exceptions to what the mail carrier will pick up. Letter carriers accept mail pickups from customers on their route, whether they are handed the outgoing mail or it is placed in a mailbox with a raised carrier flag.

There are some limitations to this convenient collection service that customers should be aware of.

  • The outgoing mail must have the correct postage attached.
  • The mail items must fall within the size and weight restrictions – pickup items may not weigh more than 10 ounces or be thicker than ½ inch each.
  • The number of items collected may be limited by the mail carrier’s equipment or vehicle.
  • The mail carrier cannot issue a receipt or stamp for items collected.

To signal your mail carrier that you have items for collection, simply place them in your mailbox and raise the carrier flag. Mail that does not meet the stipulations above should be mailed from a Post Office location.

Final Thoughts

Mailbox carrier flags don’t have to be red, but they may not be any shade of blue, green, white, brown, or yellow. The USPS preferred color is fluorescent orange, as it is easy to see from a distance.

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