Toilet paper is considered an essential commodity in many counties, including the United States, and much of it has to be imported in order to fill a demand that is showing no signs of lessening. With this in mind, there’s a lot of opportunity and profit up for grabs. Yet what if you don’t have the first clue about how importing toilet paper into the US even works? Surely, there are a lot of forms to fill out and hoops to jump through to make this a reality.
If approached correctly, especially with the help of an experienced and knowledgeable customs broker, importing toilet paper into the US doesn’t have to be complex. Knowing what’s required from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as the best methods of shipment can really give you a leg up in this retail space.
Working with a licensed customs broker like USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International can be just the thing to give your business a boost. Our team can help you through the entire import process, including by offering consulting sessions with our customs experts.
One-ply, two-ply, extra-soft, recycled — no matter the kind, toilet paper is one commodity that America produces much of inside its own country. However, the country of nearly 400 million people still relies on imports to completely satisfy its need for the ubiquitous bathroom tissue. It is estimated that one American household uses an average of 8 rolls of toilet paper per week, so the toilet paper train isn’t stopping anytime soon.
In 2018, the United States was the top importer of toilet paper in the world. It’s estimated that America saw $2.58 billion worth of this important bathroom product make its way through customs.
Three countries were far and away the biggest exporters of toilet paper in that year to the U.S.: Canada (41.8%), China (29.9%) and Mexico (17.5%). For this trio alone, that adds up to a bit more than 89 percent of all the toilet paper America imported.
So while we get most of our toilet paper imports from our North America neighbors to the north and south, we also receive a substantial amount from China. This includes items like flushable wipes as well.
Now that you have a better understanding of just how big a market exists in the U.S. for toilet paper, it’s time to grasp how to import the paper product. Toilet paper is not heavily regulated by any of the organizations in America, so you really won’t have to worry about jumping through hoops on that front. So that makes importing toilet paper a more straightforward endeavor than some other commodities.
The first step is to fall in love with filling out forms. All joking aside, there is a lot of paperwork to do and you’ll need to familiarize yourself with it all. If any of the paperwork is missing, or has incomplete or incorrect information on it, the CBP could delay your shipment or reject it altogether.
Some of the most important documents required — and short descriptions — include the following:
These are just some of the required forms and it will be up to you (or with the help of a customs broker) to figure out all the different paperwork required. Regardless of if you know which forms you need, using a customs broker to assist you in filling out the lengthy amount of paperwork could be a boon in the sense of saving you the time and potential headache of doing it yourself.
USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, is even an active member of Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). C-TPAT is a voluntary program a private importer can enter to partner with the U.S. government to help improve the security of America’s borders.
Besides the benefit that comes with making supply chains more secure, this membership has benefits to importers that can help in a small way to your overall operations. Some of the perks afforded to members include shorter wait times at U.S. borders, fewer CBP examinations, being moved to the front of the line for inspections and being able to use Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Lanes at land borders.
This part gets its own section because it’s a crucial aspect of ocean shipping. The ISF filing is called a 10+2 because of the 10 requirements for importers and the 2 additional carrier requirements.
The things that need to be recorded in the ISF are:
The additional carrier requirements are:
You must file this as well. It needs to be sent to the CBP no less than 24 hours prior to your shipment departing its country of origin. If you don’t, your shipment will be delayed and you can be hit with fines in the thousands of dollars for each individual violation.
The answer to this question — yes, you will — is easy. Yet the reasoning behind it requires a bit more explanation than simply answering yes. First, it’s good to know exactly what a customs bond is. The most basic explanation is that it is an insurance policy purchased by you for the CBP to make sure any duties or taxes on your shipment are paid.
If your business is going well, there should be little concern that you’ll be able to pay the fees levied by the CBP. However, this is a protection in case you were somehow unable to reimburse the U.S. government.
Customs bonds come in two different forms. Both serve the same purpose but one allows for unlimited imports over the course of a year. A single-use bond is just what it sounds like: a customs bond for a single shipment. Most importers don’t use these since they are conducting business at volumes which would make this an inefficient bond to go forth with.
The other type is a continuous customs bond. This allows you to have protection for as many shipments as you need for a full year from the time you purchase it. At a cost of several hundred dollars, a continuous bond is often the best value and also allows an importer to keep doing business over a year’s time with no holdups.
Since you’re likely to be dealing in large shipments of toilet paper in order to make money, you’ll be required to have a customs bond. The actual monetary value of your shipment only has to exceed $2,500 in order to mandate having to supply a customs bond. So if you know you need one, then go with a broker who has a vast amount of experience.
With USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, a customs bond is easily obtained. We can help you fill out the customs bond application, apply and get same-day approval so you’re not held up.
The Food and Drug Administration has a hand in making sure the food Americans consumed and other products — which includes toilet paper — are safe for use. When toilet paper is presented for sale to be used in a conventional manner, the FDA doesn’t oversee its use.
The only time this would not be true is if the product in question claims to have an added benefit (think therapeutic or cosmetic) that falls outside a straightforward use of toilet paper strictly for wiping. The FDA law governing this — the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — considers this type of toilet paper to fall under the category of a drug.
So unless you’re selling medicated wipes or something similar, you should have zero issues with having to meet any FDA regulations during the importation of toilet paper. Also, while the chances of buying toilet paper that would be harmful to humans is pretty low, it’s still your responsibility as the seller in the United States to make sure that it is safe to be used on the most delicate parts that humans possess.
There is a lot to know when it comes to clearing FDA regulated goods. To learn more, check out our FDA Customs Clearance article.
Anyone who has seen toilet paper on the shelves of a store knows how it is packaged — tightly wrapped in thin plastic with the rolls stacked on top of one another inside. In preparing the toilet paper for shipping, it’s a matter of taking each pack and putting it inside a sturdy cardboard box that is usually sealed shut with an adhesive such as glue.
The boxes are generally light enough to be easily moved around and can be loaded directly into shipping containers or 18-wheelers, but will be best served by going onto pallets so they can be easily loaded and unloaded at the beginning and end of the trip.
Depending on where the shipment is coming from will dictate what the best method of transportation is. For instance, if the shipment is coming from Canada or Mexico, plane or ocean shipping would not be ideal as transportation in most cases. Plane because it is expensive (albeit fast) and ocean shipping is not readily available for many popular shipping routes into the United States from Canada or Mexico.
For those journeys, trucks will be the best overall route because of the competitive pricing, ubiquity of trucks available and variety of established border crossings. Rail is also a good option but will always have to use trucks for part of the transportation since most railroad tracks don’t go directly to warehouses or businesses to offload goods. More and more shipments in the U.S. are intermodal, which means using two or more different types of transportation to complete a single shipment.
If the shipment is coming from China, however, there is really only one reasonable option to get it from the Far East to America: via ocean freighter. Your toilet paper will navigate the Pacific Ocean from China to either the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach in California. From there, it will be placed onto a train or truck and head toward its intended destination to either be sold or stored.
Purchasing your toilet paper from China will most likely result in a trade-off. It is very probable that it will cost less buying it wholesale from the Asian country but it will also take much longer to have shipped to the States. Meanwhile, a higher cost on goods coming from Canada or Mexico will be offset by being able to get access to products in just days instead of weeks.
While it’s true that you may have a better idea on the different aspects of importing toilet paper after reading the preceding sections, there is still a huge value to your business in getting help with some of the complexities of clearing customs.
We just got done discussing the necessity of securing a customs bond for your high-value shipment of toilet paper. One of the biggest perks of working with a customs broker is they can secure one on your behalf, often for a very competitive price. Another positive aspect of purchasing the customs bond through a broker is they can renew it for you on a yearly basis so that continuous bond actually stays continuous. It’s a nice feeling to know that you won’t have to be concerned with the bond lapsing when you’re in the middle of importing the paper goods many people rely on.
Looking just a little more big picture is the assistance you can receive from a customs broker during the entire customs clearance part. They will be able to help you fill out all the forms, advise you about any part of the process that you are unsure about and really help handle the entire journey of your goods.
This includes the last step when your toilet paper reaches U.S. shores or land borders. A top-line customs broker works in close tandem with the CBP and will be able to get your paper goods into America with little problem.
Working with a customs broker can give you advantages over your competitors that is well worth the added cost. Having an industry expert on your team can truly pay dividends in a variety of ways.
Now that you know about importing toilet paper into the US, you should still strongly consider using USA Customs Clearance to shore up any gaps in knowledge you still have on the subject. We offer personal import consulting sessions for a reasonable price where you get 1-on-1 time with one of our import consultants to ask them any questions you have.
This can be about tariffs, duties and taxes associated with clearing customs, as an example, but really about anything associated with the importation of goods into the U.S.. It can even include time set aside to help fill out forms or what to expect once the toilet paper reaches America’s border.
Furthermore, USA Customs Clearance can help you secure a customs bond so that you’ll have one very important aspect of the importation process covered. Another crucial thing — the actual importation — can also go much more smoothly if you let us help you handle the multiple steps it takes to succeed at meeting the various requirements.
So when you’re prepared to begin importing toilet paper into the US, give USA Customs Clearance a call at 855.912.0406 to talk to us about securing a customs bond or booking a consultation session with our customs experts.