Before September 11, 2001, you could board a plane with your entire collection of products from Bath & Bodyworks with no worries. That’s not the case today, and we all know why.
After that horrific day, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), designed to keep the skyways safer inside the USA and abroad, instilled stricter regulations about what can and can not be brought with you on a plane. That includes aerosol toiletries and even certain hairstyling tools.
Although going through security checks is a hassle, the TSA is our friend. And if you understand the rules and abide by them, you’ll find that you can more or less take what you need to look your best at that destination wedding or stay safe and comfortable on outdoor adventures in the wilderness.
In this article, we answer the questions you may have about carrying aerosols on a plane and how to pack them.
Many toiletries and grooming products come in an aerosol form including deodorant, hairspray, shaving cream, mousse, and more. Aerosols can contain liquids, and all of these products must comply with the TSA’s liquids rule if you fly with them.
Therefore, all the liquids in your carry-on or hand luggage must be in 3.4-ounce (100 mL) or smaller containers. And no, an almost-empty larger container is still against regulations.
The convenience of dry shampoos and conditioners in aerosol form makes them popular travel items but note that even these products must follow the same rules. This can be confusing because the contents of the can don’t contain liquid. The reasoning is that almost all aerosols are flammable and must be carefully regulated because of the propellant gases used in the cans.
Additionally, these aerosols must follow the liquids rule of being placed into a quart or liter-sized zip-top bag, and each passenger can only have one liquids bag in their hand luggage.
Carrying aerosols in your hand luggage sounds tricky, but basically, it’s the size that matters most. Fortunately, many of these products come in handy travel sizes. But if you can’t find your favorite styling mousse in a travel size and simply can’t live without it, you’ll have to stow it in your checked baggage. And even then, rules apply.
Again, size matters. The TSA says, “Toiletry-type aerosols in checked baggage must not exceed 70 oz. (68 fl. oz) total and each container must be 18 oz. (16 fl. oz.) or less.”Note that the rule says “toiletry-type aerosols.” So if for some strange reason you find yourself needing a can of spray paint, cooking spray, or WD40 on your journey, you’ll have to pick it up at your destination.
Carrying your deodorant on a plane can get even more confusing. It all depends on the type you use. Aerosol deodorants and spray-on deodorants are considered liquids, and you’ll have to abide by the TSA’s liquids rule when packing it in your hand luggage or checked luggage.
What about roll-on deodorants? Solid stick deodorants aren’t considered liquids, and you can pack them wherever you want and in any size. But alas, some roll-ons are liquids. If you have a brand where a tiny amount of gel oozes up through a slot in the top, that’s a liquid. If you pack this type of deodorant in your hand luggage, it must be 3.4 ounces or smaller, and it must be placed in your liquid bag.
So, the easiest thing to do is switch to a solid deodorant when traveling.
Taking pepper spray on a plane isn’t as outlandish as it seems, especially if you’re traveling to a destination where safety is questionable. But all types of defense sprays including mace and bear spray (for backwoods camping) aren’t permitted in your hand luggage no matter how small. That’s because they are classified as potential weapons.
Self-defense aerosol products must be packed in your checked baggage, and then, there are a couple of other rules that apply. First, you can only have one 4-ounce (118 mL) container of defense spray. To prevent accidental discharge, make sure it comes equipped with a safety mechanism.
And if the defense spray you choose contains more than two percent tear gas (CN or CS), the TSA won’t allow it anywhere on the plane.
You should also check with your airline before packing. Some airlines may have stricter rules and don’t allow any types or sizes of defense sprays. Further, some countries consider pepper spray a weapon. If traveling to another country, research the rules or you could get fined, or worse.
Hairspray is definitely something you’ll want to pack so you’ll look your best in all those Instagram photos. As you may have already surmised, hairspray is considered a liquid by the TSA. That means your hairspray must be in a 3.4-ounce (100 mL) or less container for your hand baggage. It will also need to fit into your liquids bag.
A regular-sized can of hairspray usually ranges from 10 to 12 ounces and must be packed in your checked baggage. But the good news is, that hairsprays in travel-sized containers are very easy to find in almost any brand.
So if you want to primp before picking up checked baggage, you’ll have to go with a travel-size container. And only do so in the airport lavatory if at all. That’s because aerosols flying in a confined space may harm other passengers who are sensitive to chemicals. The same courtesy applies to perfumes
Going to a buggy tropical location? You’ll definitely need some bug spray. The TSA will only allow aerosol insect repellents in checked bags and they must not be labeled as hazardous material (HAZMAT.) Still, it’s best to check with the airline you’re traveling on before bringing any type of insecticide. And they absolutely aren’t allowed in the cabin on any airline.
Some insect repellents are available in lotion form, but this is one item that may make more sense to buy at your destination.
Packing aerosols in your hand luggage or carry-on is fairly cut and dried. They must be in travel-sized containers and placed in a leak-proof liquids bag such as a large zip-top bag. But what about the larger aerosols in your carry-on?
If you use a lot of toiletries that come in aerosol cans, the total could easily exceed 68 fluid ounces. You’ll have to plan accordingly and either leave your favorites behind, settle for travel-sized toiletries, or purchase them at your destination.
Once you’ve selected the aerosols you want to take, it’s also a good idea to place them inside a leak-proof bag. Some travelers wrap a towel around them. Both methods will prevent messes should they can leak or explode. You could even go the extra mile and do both. Then you’ll have no worries about sticky hairspray or other liquids ruining your clothing.
Some travelers also advocate for taping the lids to aerosol cans. That way, if your bag gets jostled, the lid won’t fall off and the actuator won’t accidentally get pressed.
The question of how to take aerosols on a plane will be easier if you remember that all aerosol products are considered liquids by the TSA. Old pros are well-acquainted with the following 3-1-1 rule for liquids:
“Each passenger may carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces or100 milliliters. Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels, and aerosols.”
The “3” stands for 3 ounces (actually 3.4 to be precise.) The first “1” refers to the 1-quart-sized bag they must be placed in for your hand luggage. The second “1” means one bag of liquids per passenger.
And remember, you also have other options for carrying your personal products of choice on a plane such as solid deodorants and sunscreens in a tube.
Whenever possible, use travel-size containers to stay within the total of 68 fluid ounces guideline. Another simple solution is to purchase your personal products at your destination, especially for extended stays.
However long your journey, stay safe, and happy travels.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.