Although the TSA refers to liquids in ounces what they really mean is fluid ounces. Ounces are a measurement of weight and fluid ounces are a measurement of volume.
The number of ounces that can be taken on a plane is much more strict when taking them through airport security in carry on bags than when packing liquids in checked luggage. Some liquids are permitted but restricted in size, others are permitted in greater quantities but have to undergo additional screening while others are banned totally.
The rules regarding the number of ounces of liquid, what is considered a liquid and those liquids that are prohibited are detailed in the following sections.
Taking liquids through airport security
How many ounces can each container hold?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) liquid rules state that you cannot take any liquids, gels or pastes that are in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) with the exceptions listed below.
It doesn`t matter how much liquid is in the container as it is the size of the container that counts. This means you cannot take a 7 oz container with only 3 ozs of liquid in it as that would be confiscated by a TSA agent.
The final decision rests with the TSA security agent.
As far as the TSA liquid rules are concerned any of the following can be considered a liquid:
- Liquids – pretty obvious really but they include shampoos, hair conditioners, liquid soaps, nail polish, bottled water other toiletry items and cans of soda
- Aerosols – Aerosols such as deodorant, body sprays etc
- Gels – shaving gel, gel lip balm
- Creams – face and hand creams, skin care, shaving cream, suncream, moisturizer and toothpaste
- Powders (even some of these can be considered a liquid)
How many ounces in total?
There isn’t actually a stipulated maximum number of ounces mentioned in the liquids rule that you can take through the security checkpoint in your carry on bag. You can take as many ounces of liquid as you can fit in a one quart sized bag.
The TSA website states that all the liquids that you are permitted to take through the airport security checkpoint (so less than 3.4 ounce each) must go in a quart size bag. This bag must be taken out of your carry on bags and be placed in a separate security tray to pass through the x-ray machine as part of the screening process.
Only one plastic bag containing liquids is permitted per passenger.
This is the response from the TSA to a passenger asking if he can take everything in his quart bag through security as they are all less than 3.4 ounce:
There are a few exceptions that allow you to take more than 3.4 ounces of liquids through the security checkpoint which include:
- Travel with a baby/child (water, baby formula, breast milk, juice and other liquids needed for a baby)
- Liquid medications (including contact lens solution)
- Transporting live fish
- Duty free liquids (if still in an unoped tamper evident bag)
All of these must be removed from carry on luggage for additional screening.
For full details of these please see my post What Liquids Do Not Go in a Liquids Bag?
You cannot take the following liquids, even if they are in containers smaller than 3.4 ounces:
- Fuel (petrol/gasoline)
- Flammable paints including aerosol paints and thinners
- Lighter fluid
- Lighter gases (which are a liquid when under pressure in a canister)
- Chlorine (for swimming pools and spas) including bleach
- Spray starch
- Lysol Spray
- Alcohol over 70 percent proof
- Self defence sprays
Taking liquids on a plane in a carry on bag
It may not seem obvious but although there are restrictions on the size of liquids you can take through airport security, the same rules do not actually apply to the size you can take on board the aircraft with you.
This is because any liquid items you buy in stores after passing through the security checkpoint are not restricted so you can take larger containers.
So, for example, you could buy a large bottle of water or a full-size container of deodorant from a store and take that with you in your carry on bags.
This is the TSA confirming that this is the case:
How many ounces in checked luggage
There are much fewer restrictions when it comes to bringing liquids on a plane in a checked bag compared to those that apply to carry on luggage.
When you pack aerosols, they must be protected by caps to prevent accidental activation in the bag.
The number of ounces of liquids that can be taken in checked luggage falls into two categories:
Aerosols and alcohol
You can only take a maximum of 70 ounces in checked bags if they are in the form of aerosol sprays or alcohol. Each container cannot exceed 18 ounces.
This includes aerosols, hair spray, perfumes, colognes, shampoo, nail polish, rubbing alcohol, shaving cream, inhalers and medicines.
See the FAA guidelines – Pack safe Medicinal and toiletry articles
You may take more of these liquids and will only be restricted by weight.
The same liquids are prohibited from being carried in checked baggage as are in a carry on bag as detailed above except that self-defense sprays can be packed (provided they have less than 2% by mass of tear gas).
This passenger is asking the TSA about the total liquid limit for checked luggage:
For full details of taking liquids in checked bags please see my post How much liquid can you take on a plane in checked baggage?
How many ml can you take on a plane?
You can take containers of liquids on a plane in your carry on that are no larger than 100 ml, which is the metric equivalent of 3.4 ounces. These must be packed in your quart liquids bag.
Can you bring multiple 3 oz bottles on a plane?
Yes you can bring as many bottles that are three ounces in size on a plane in your carry on as will fit in one quart size liquids bag.
How many quart bags can you bring on a plane?
Only one bag (clear quart zip-top bag) is permitted to be taken through security in carry on per passenger. That is with liquids in, as you could of course take any number of quart bags if they are empty.
How many 3oz bottles can fit in a quart bag?
You are unlikely to be able to fit more than 8 standard 3oz bottles in a quart bag, unless you are a champion packer.
If you choose a stiff-sided 3D quart-size bag like those I recommend in this post then you may get a little more in.
Do 3 oz bottles need to be clear?
There is no TSA rule which states that the bottles with liquids in need to be clear. Only the quart bag that the liquids must be carried in has to be clear.