Aerosols on a Plane: Are They Allowed? Will They Explode?


One of the most frequently asked questions from infrequent flyers is whether you can take aerosols on a plane, and in particular whether they can be packed in checked luggage without them exploding.

TSA rules allow aerosols on a plane in both carry on and in checked bags. If packing them in your carry on bag then the size you can take is restricted by the TSA to no larger than 3.4oz/100ml. No aerosols containing flammable liquids can be taken in carry on or checked bags.

There are also restrictions on the type of liquids contained in the aerosol that can be taken on a plane, which I will go into below, as well as what types you can take in either your checked or carry on bags.

Can You Bring Aerosol Cans on a Plane? TSA Rules Explained

What aerosol cans can you take on a plane?

Full size and travel size deodorant

You can bring aerosol cans on a plane but they are subject to some of the TSA airport security regulations, particularly the liquid rules that applies to carry on bags.

Generally this means that most aerosol cans should be packed in your checked bags since only those which contain 3.4oz/100ml or less of liquid can go in your carry on bag.

Most standard aerosol cans contain more than this. Any larger than that will be confiscated by airport security if you try to take them in carry on.

If you can, buy the deodorants etc in travel size aerosol cans which are smaller than 100ml, just like the one on the right in this picture which is allowed in your carry on bag and will pass the security check.

Can you take aerosol cans in hand luggage?

Just a reminder that you can also take aerosols on board in your carry on bags and, likewise, they will not explode there either. You can carry them provided that they are:

  1. No larger than 3.4 ounces (100ml) – so quite small
  2. That they, along with all other liquids including perfume, are all contained within a resealable clear plastic bag that is no larger than 1 quart.

So you cannot take regular sized aerosol cans into the cabin with you in other words, unless you buy them in stores located at the airport after the security checkpoint. If you do they will be confiscated when you go through security.

To find out more, read my full article about what the maximum liquids you can carry on a plane and the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule.

Can you put aerosols checked baggage?

This is really the best place to travel with aerosols on a plane since then you will not have to worry about the size restrictions for anything containing a liquid.

Aerosols you can take on a plane in checked bags

The aerosol cans you are allowed pack in checked bags may contain:

  • deodorant
  • antiperspirant
  • hairspray
  • body spray
  • dry shampoo
  • suntan lotion
  • perfumes/aftershave
  • shaving foam or gel
  • fly spray/insecticides – however they are allowed in checked bags as long as they are not labeled as hazardous material (HAZMAT).
  • air fresheners
  • personal protection sprays such as mace, pepper spray – see separate rules later in this post

Although you can take quite a few aerosols in your suitcase, there is a limit on size and total amount. According to the TSA website which states that “toiletry-type aerosols” which are carried in checked baggage must not exceed 70oz (68 fl. oz) in total and each container must be 18oz (16 fl. oz.) or less.

Unless you are a traveling aerosol can salesman you are unlikely to exceed this limit under normal circumstances.

Aerosols you cannot take on a plane in checked bags

There are a few exceptions, some which sound strange as on the face of it they do not seem dangerous and others where I wonder why anyone would want to take with them at all.

Most of these are not banned because they are more likely to explode in checked baggage under normal circumstances than other aerosols. They are banned because, in the unlikely event of a fire in a baggage hold, they may then explode and fuel the fire.

Mostly of these are are potentially flammable and they include:

  • spray paint
  • spray oils and penetration spays
  • Lysol spray
  • cooking sprays
  • spray starch

Although these items are not always contained in aerosols (but can be) they are not allowed either:

  • CO2 Cartridges
  • Butane
  • Propane
  • Fire Extinguishers and Other Compressed Gas Cylinders
  • Recreational Oxygen
  • Tear gas

The FAA has a very good article showing exactly what you can and can’t take on board an aircraft with you. Hazardous Materials: Carried by airline passengers and crew members.

Rules for aerosol cans on a plane

Remember the carry on liquid size rules for carry on are that containers with liquids should be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml when referring to this table

TypeCarry onChecked bags
deodorantYesYes
antiperspirantYesYes
hairsprayYesYes
body sprayYesYes
dry shampooYesYes
suntan lotionYesYes
perfumesYesYes
aftershaveYesYes
shaving foam or gelYesYes
air freshenersYesYes
fly spray/insecticidesNoYes (see note 1)
personal protection spraysNoYes (see note 2)
spray paintNoNo
spray oils and penetration spaysNoNo
Lysol sprayNoNo
cooking spraysNoNo
spray starchNoNo

Note 1: Allowed in checked bags as long as they are not labeled as hazardous material (HAZMAT)
Note 2: You are only allowed one container of self defense spray in your hold luggage and it cannot be larger than 4 oz/118ml. It must be fitted with a safety catch to ensure it does not go off by accident. They are not allowed if the they contain greater than 2 percent of tear gas in them.

Can you take flammable aerosol cans on a plane?

Can you take flammable aerosol cans on a plane

Aerosol cans that contain flammable liquids are not allowed in checked luggage or in your carry on bag. These include such items in aerosol cans as oil (WD40 type and even cooking oils), spray paint, starch (used in laundry)

You may take aerosols on a plane containing some liquids that are potentially flammable which includes hair or skin products such as deodorant, dry shampoo, hairspray, shaving cream or even insect repellents in either your carry-on or check-in bag. You have to remember though that if you are taking it in your carry on then it must not be larger than 100ml/3.4oz.

So if you are flying somewhere to do some street art you will have to buy your spray paint when you arrive.

If you are confused then @asktsa

If you are unsure about whether you can take a particular aerosol can in checked luggage then you can use the excellent @asktsa service on Twitter and they will give you specific advice.

This passenger is asking if the airplane symbol means it can be taken in her carry on bag:

Aerosols on a Plane: Are They Allowed? Will They Explode? 1

In this example as passenger is asking if they can taken in checked bags:

Aerosols on a Plane: Are They Allowed? Will They Explode? 2

This is the link they refer to – bit.ly/1mwo4KO

Tips for packing aerosol cans in checked baggage

In 40+ years of flying I have never had any problems with carrying aerosol cans on a plane in checked baggage or hand luggage. But if you are still concerned about putting aerosol cans in your checked baggage then there are a few things you can do to give you some peace of mind:

  • Pack aerosols in a seal-able plastic bag – just in case it may leak. You don’t want the contents going all over your clothes. This is actually a much better idea for the non-aerosol liquids in your luggage which are more likely to leak on to your clothes (and that has happened to me).
  • Don’t let them rattle around. Ensure that they cannot move and bang together. Putting them in plastic bags between your clothes, or in your shoes helps.
  • If you really want to be ultra safe, and they are brand new, then perhaps release a little of the contents, and therefore the pressure, in the can.

How to take larger aerosol cans in carry on

In practice, the liquids rule only applies to items taken through airport security in your carry on bags. It doesn’t apply to what can actually be taken into the cabin of the plane.

What I mean by that is that, assuming there are stores in the departure area of the airport you are flying from (after going through airport security), then you may buy larger aerosol cans in those stores to take with you on board. That way you could take your favorite aerosol deodorant, antiperspirant or whatever with you, assuming the stores at the airport sell it rather than trying to find travel size versions.

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage?

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage on a plane?

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage is a question many people who haven’t flown before (and some who have) seem to ask quite frequently. But with the increased levels of security that exist in today’s world it is not surprising that people are unsure.

Aerosol cans will not explode in checked luggage when they are in the aircraft’s baggage hold. TSA and FAA regulations do restrict the carriage of certain types of aerosol cans on a plane if they contain flammable liquids, oxygen and some other gases as they could explode in the unlikely event of a fire.

The improbability of aerosol cans exploding applies to all toiletry aerosols on planes, including those containing deodorants, antiperspirants, dry shampoos, hairsprays, body sprays, shaving lotions and suntan lotions.

Why won’t aerosol cans explode in checked luggage on a plane?

While aerosol cans do have the potential to explode, fortunately the circumstances under which they might explode are not found under normal conditions in a plane. So the likelihood of them exploding is minute.

Aerosol cans containing a liquid are held in the can under pressure with an expellant. When the button on the aerosol can is pressed it opens a valve and some of the liquid contained in it are expelled.

There are a few different reasons why an aerosol can may explode which include fire/extreme heat, being damaged and decompression but under normal circumstances these conditions will never exist in an aircraft’s hold.

Decompression

It is the pressurization in an aircraft that seems to be the main worry that people have when it comes to wondering if aerosol cans explode in checked luggage.

In theory, if the pressure outside the can was to reduce, this may cause the can to explode due to the higher differential in pressures between the inside and outside. In practice this is not something that will happen. Even if the pressurization system on the aircraft failed the difference would not be enough for aerosol cans to explode.

Actually, an aerosol can would not even explode if taken on a space flight and was exposed to the zero pressure of space.

Fire/Heat

An aerosol can may explode if it is exposed to fire as the heat build up will be extreme. As the heat increases the pressure will increase in the can due to the expansion of the liquids and expellant. This may get to the point where the structure of the can will no longer be able to cope and the can will rupture, causing an explosion.

Heat from the sun could also cause this in some instances if the heat builds up, particularly if in an enclosed place.

This video shows what can happen when an aerosol can gets hot

Damage

An aerosol can could potentially explode if it is punctured by damage. If it is packed in a suitcase, surrounded by clothes etc, then this is very unlikely to happen.

Aircraft Pressurization

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage?

A modern aircraft is basically a sealed tube with semi-spherical bulkheads at the nose and at the rear. Everything within that area of the aircraft is pressurized.

aerosol cans on a plane - potato chip bag

You may notice this if you take a sealed bag of potato chips on board with you, for example. Once at your cruising altitude, the bag expands, but even that is not enough for it to pop. The bag is only made of paper/plastic, so a metal can is definitely safe.

The whole aircraft is pressurized to the equivalent of being at 6000-8000 feet. This is usually a lower pressure than at the airport you take off from (unless you take off from a mountain airport). But it is not sufficiently low for an aerosol can to explode.

Rarely are there cases where the pressurization system on a plane have failed, known as explosive decompression. As far as I am aware, even when this has taken place, the aerosol cans on board, either in the cabin or in checked bags, have not exploded.

However, should the pressurization system fail, the lower air pressure even at 40,000 feet will still not be sufficient to make the aerosol cans. In fact, even in the vacuum of space they would be unlikely to explode.

Enjoy your flight and don’t worry – your aerosols will be fine!

Research

This is a link to a report made for the FAA Technical Center looking into the Hazzards of Aerosol Cans in Aircraft Cargo Compartments.

FAQs

Will an inhaler explode on a plane?

No, your inhaler will not explode on a plane. You can pack it in your checked bags but it is probably better with you in your carry on in case you need it on the flight.

Will spray sunscreen explode on a plane?

No, your spray sunscreen will not explode on a plane whether it is in pump or aerosol form. You can take it in your carry on if it is smaller than 3.4oz otherwise you need to pack it in your checked bags.

Will hairspray explode on a plane?

No, your hairspray will not explode on a plane whether it is in pump action or in an aerosol can. You can take it in your carry on if it is smaller than 3.4 ounces otherwise if larger you need to pack it in your checked bags.

Will shaving cream explode on a plane?

No, shaving cream will not explode on a plane in an aerosol can. You can take it in your carry on if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to pack it in your checked bags.

Will dry shampoo explode on a plane?

No, dry shampoo will not explode on a plane in an aerosol can. You can take dry shampoo in your carry on but only if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to pack it in your checked bags.

Will bear spray explode on a plane?

No, bear spray will not explode on a plane in an aerosol can. You cannot take it in your carry on bag or through airport security so you will need to pack it in your checked bags.

Will pepper spray explode on an airplane?

No, pepper spray will not explode on a plane in an aerosol can. You are not permitted to take pepper spray or any personal defense spray in your carry on bag, or through airport security, so you will need to pack it in your checked bags.

Does hairspray explode on planes?

No, hairspray will not explode on a plane in carry on or checked bags. You can take hairspray in your carry on but only if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to pack it in your checked bags.

Does shaving cream explode on a plane?

Shaving cream will not explode on a plane in carry on or checked bags. You can take shaving cream in your carry on but only if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to pack it in your checked bags.

Will soda cans explode in checked baggage?

Soda cans are unlikely to explode or leak in checked baggage unless they are damaged in some way. If you need to pack them, to be safe, put them in a sealed plastic bag or container so if they do explode then the contents will not spill over the other contents of your bag.

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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