One of the most frequently asked questions from infrequent flyers is whether they can take aerosols on a plane, and in particular should they go in aerosol cans go in carry on or checked baggage.
TSA rules allow aerosols on a plane in carry on baggage but they must be in containers that are 3.4 ozs (100ml) or less. They can be packed in checked baggage almost without size restrictions. Aerosols containing flammable liquids are prohibited in both carry on and 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 carry on or checked baggage.
Taking aerosols through airport security in carry on bags
You can bring aerosols through the TSA checkpoint at the airport but they are subject to some of the TSA airport security regulations, particularly the liquid rules that apply to hand luggage. This surprises some people as they often do not consider that they contain a liquid so they are frequently confiscated by TSA agents.
It is the size of the containers that is the main issue with regard to being able to take them through the TSA checkpoint rather than the fact that they are an aerosol.
Only those aerosols which contain 3.4oz/100ml or less of liquid can go in your carry on bags. Generally, this means that aerosol cans should be packed in your checked bags since most aerosols contain substantially more liquid than this.
If you can, buy your deodorants and other toiletry aerosols in travel-size cans that are smaller than 3.4 oz (100ml), just like the one on the right in this picture above. Travel size are allowed in your carry on luggage and will pass the security check.
To find out more about traveling with liquids, read my full article about the maximum liquids you can carry on a plane and the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule.
How to take aerosols through the TSA checkpoint
All liquids, including those contained in aerosols, must be separated from your carry on baggage and be placed in a transparent, resealable quart-sized plastic bag in a separate bin.
Only one quart-sized bag is allowed per passenger.
All aerosols larger than 3.4 ounces will be confiscated by airport security if you try to take them in your carry on bags.
What type of aerosols can you take through the TSA checkpoint
Provided they are in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces (100m) then you can take aerosols containing most types of liquid through.
However, the following types are prohibited:
- Fly spray/insecticide/bug repellent
- Self defense spays including pepper spray, tear gas etc
- Spray paint
- Spray oils, including cooking oils and starch
- Lysol spray
- Bear spray
How to take larger aerosol cans in carry on luggage
In practice, the liquids rule only applies to items taken through airport security in your hand luggage. It doesn’t apply to what can actually be taken into the cabin of the plane.
What I mean by that is, assuming there are stores in the departure area of the airport you are flying from (after going through airport security), then you may buy standard size aerosols (bigger than 3.4 ounces) in those stores to take with you on board.
That way you could take your favorite deodorant, antiperspirant, shaving cream or whatever with you, assuming the stores at the airport sell it, rather than trying to find travel-size versions before you go.
Can you use aerosols onboard a plane?
You may use any aerosols that you are permitted to take on the plane while you are onboard.
Clearly, some that are permitted you would have no reason to use but you may want to use aerosol toiletry items. Ideally, you should use these in the aircraft restroom so as not to disturb other passengers.
Can you take aerosols in checked bags?
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 as the 3.4 ounces rule does not apply.
Many people believe that aerosols may explode in their checked bags – if you want reassurance that they will not then you may wish to read my post – Will aerosol cans explode in checked bags
You can take these types of aerosol in checked luggage
The aerosols you can take in checked baggage may contain the following:
- hair spray
- body spray
- dry shampoo
- suntan lotion
- shaving foam or gel
- fly spray/insecticides – however they are allowed in checked baggage 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
Size limits for aerosols in checked luggage
Although you can take quite a few aerosols in checked luggage, there is a limit on the size and total amount. According to the TSA website which states that “toiletry 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 containers salesman you are unlikely to exceed this limit under normal circumstances.
Restrictions for aerosols on a plane in checked baggage
There are a few exceptions, some of 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.
Most of these are potentially flammable aerosols and they include:
- spray paint
- spray oils and penetration spays
- Lysol spray
- cooking spray
- spray starch
Although these items are not always contained in aerosols (but can be) they are not allowed either:
- CO2 Cartridges
- 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.
TSA Rules for aerosol spray on a plane
Remember the liquid size rules for hand luggage are that containers with liquids should be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml when referring to this table
|Type||Carry on luggage||Checked luggage|
|shaving cream, foam or gel||Yes||Yes|
|fly spray/insecticides||No||Yes (see note 1)|
|self-defense spray including pepper spray||No||Yes (see note 2)|
|spray oils and penetration sprays including WD 40||No||No|
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 mechanism or catch to ensure it does not go off by accident. They are not allowed if they contain greater than 2 percent of tear gas in them.
Can you take flammable aerosol spray on a plane?
Aerosol spray cans that contain flammable liquids are not allowed in checked luggage or in your carry on. These include such items in aerosol cans as oil (WD 40 type and even cooking oils), paint, starch (used in laundry)
So if you are flying somewhere to do some street art you will have to buy your 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 this aerosol can be taken in her carry on bag:
In this example as a passenger is asking can aerosols go in checked luggage:
This is the link they refer to – bit.ly/1mwo4KO
Tips for packing aerosols in checked baggage
In 40+ years of flying, I have never had any problems with carrying aerosols on a plane in checked baggage. But if you are still concerned about putting aerosols in your checked baggage then there are a few things you can do to give you some peace of mind:
- Pack aerosols in a resealable 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 there is a safety mechanism or catch then ensure this is in operation
- 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.