9 things considered a liquid when flying that really aren’t


When it comes to deciding if something is a liquid it is generally pretty straightforward in every day life. If it is runny, it is a liquid, if it isn’t runny then it isn’t!

Simple, at least you might think so. But the definition of what is, and what is not, a liquid is not so simple when it comes to airport security unfortunately.

Wikipedia defines a liquid as “A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure.”

The TSA website has a saying referring to things that are considered a liquid which is “The general rule of thumb is that if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then it should go into a checked bag.”

So, of course water, beer, aftershave, perfume, nail glue, nail polish, nail polish remover etc etc are, as you might expect, all liquids for the purposes of passing through airport security so have to adhere to the TSA liquids rule. See a summary of the these rules below or read my full article on the 3 1 1 liquids rule.

9 things that are considered a liquid when flying but aren't

However, the following, which would probably not be things considered a liquid by most people, are indeed things considered a liquid by the powers at be in airport security. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot take them in your carry on but it does mean they will fall within the liquids rules. So they will need to be no larger than 3.4oz and will have to be presented at the security check in an approved one quart liquids bag.

9 liquids that aren’t really liquids

1. Toothpaste

Many people ask is toothpaste considered a liquid and although toothpaste is generally in the form of a paste or a gel it is actually considered a liquid for the purposes of airport security.

To take toothpaste into the aircraft with you, so that you can clean your teeth mid-flight, you will need to ensure that it is in a small tube which is equal to or less than 3.4oz (100ml) in volume.

2. Shaving foam/gel

These are counted as liquids but can be a problem as most containers are larger than 3.4oz unless you buy small travel packs. If they are larger then you either have to leave them at home or put them in your checked bag if you have one.

3. Mascara

Mascara may not come in a very large container but it must be included in your liquids bag when going through the airport security checkpoint. The same applies to eyeliner, nail polish, moisturizers, foundation and, of course, perfume. Read my article “Can you bring makeup on a plane in hand luggage?” for full details.

4. Gel lip balms and lip gloss

This only applies to gel and actual liquid types but not solid stick type lip balms.

5. Cream or gel eye shadow

These are considered liquids but powder type eye shadow is.

The amount of powder allowed in carry on used to be unrestricted but in June 2018 this is now limited to a total of 12oz per passenger. See TSA article. Mind you, it is pretty unlikely you will want to take more than this amount of eye shadow. You would need to have pretty large eyes if you do!

6. Preserves and jellies

These I would certainly not have immediately thought of as being remotely likely to be considered a liquid but they are as are spreads. So if you need to take them with you then they must be in your checked luggage, as they will without doubt be larger than 3.4oz.

7. Aerosols

Another frequent question that people ask is deodorant considered a liquid when flying. Well all aerosols contain liquids whether they are deodorants, antiperspirants, sun tan lotion etc so fall within the liquids rules.

8. Frozen liquids

This is an odd one. You might think that obviously a frozen liquid is still a liquid but strangely that is not necessarily the case when it comes to airport security.

If you wish to take something with you on the aircraft that needs to be kept cold or chilled so you want to pack it with ice or an ice pack then you can take this through airport security provided none of it has melted.

If it is completely frozen then it will be allowed but if any of it has melted, so that there is some water in liquid form then it will not.

9. Glow sticks

Why anyone would actually want to take glow sticks with them on a trip by air I cannot imagine but they are in any case treated as liquids.

9 things that are considered a liquid when flying but aren't - glow sticks
Glow sticks are one of the things that are considered a liquid

What you can do to get around the rules

Now I obviously don’t mean that you should try and trick airport security and get things through which are not allowed, or anything like that. The security rules must be complied with in full for everyone’s safety.

What I mean is that there are alternative ways to ensure you have these items at your destination. These are a few suggestions:

Travel bottles

You can by TSA approved liquids bottles into which you can decant shampoos and other liquids to use while you are away. Check out these on Amazon – Travel bottle set including an approved quart sized bag and a folding toothbrush.

Buy travel size

You can purchase many toiletry items in travel size packs (so 3.4oz or less) in may drug stores. These can be carried with you through airport security provided they are in the quart-sized liquids bag.

Buy in the shops air-side

9 things that are considered a liquid when flying but aren't - airport shops

In most airports there are usually a selection of stores after you pass through airport security (well they never miss a trick to part you with your money). You will be able to buy standard sized toiletries and other liquids in these stores and you can take these on board as you have bought them after security.

On word of warning. If you have a connecting flight after this one then you may be required to pass through airport security at that airport too. If this is the case then, of course, you could not take these through that security checkpoint.

Buy at your destination

Unless you are traveling to the back end of beyond, you will probably find it easy to buy the toiletries you require (or local equivalents) when you arrive to use during your stay. Doing this also saves you weight and space in your carry on bags.

3-1-1 Liquids Rule

This is a saying that is supposed to make it easier to remember the liquid rules but it is a bit lame in my opinion.

  • The 3 refers to the fact that individual liquids cannot be greater than 3.4ozs (not actually 3 which is a bit misleading)
  • The first 1 refers to the fact that all liquids in carry on must be contained within a 1 quart resealable clear bag. You can buy an approved liquids bag on Amazon quite cheaply – TSA 3-1-1 Approved Clear Airline Carry On Bag .
  • The second 1 refers to the fact that only one liquids bags is allowed per passenger.

The TSA and other government’s regulations state that any one liquid you may have in your carry on cannot be larger than 3.4oz (100ml). Remember, this refers to the size of the container not the amount of liquid in it. So, in other words, you cannot take a 6oz container that is half full in your carry on luggage.

Related articles

The complete guide to passing through airport security quickly

Is there a liquid limit for checked bags?

20 things you need to know about flying with a baby or toddler

John Parker

I have been traveling around the world since the early 70s and living overseas too. I have also been a private pilot for many years. About me page - https://travel-easier.com/about-me-travel-easier/

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