People often get confused over the rules for bringing liquids on a plane, which is understandable as they can be pretty complicated.
However, although the carry on liquids limit rules are quite onerous, the rules for liquids in checked baggage are quite simple.
The Quick Answer: TSA rules permit you to take almost unlimited amounts of liquids in your checked bags apart from flammable liquids (which are not permitted at all), and restrictions on the amount of self-defense sprays and alcohol.
For full details of the checked bags restricted liquids read the rest of the post below.
There are actually very few restrictions on how much liquid you can take on a plane in checked baggage although there are restrictions on the types of liquids. Fortunately, all of the complicated rules that specify what is actually considered a liquid, only apply to what you can take in your carry on bags.
It doesn’t matter what size they are (they do not need to be in travel sized containers) and whether they are liquids, gels and aerosols – provided they are in your checked baggage. Neither do they have to be in a quart sized bag.
- 1 TSA liquid limit: checked baggage
- 2 What liquids are not permitted in checked luggage
- 3 Can the TSA open my checked luggage?
- 4 Liquids in checked baggage – international flights?
- 5 How to pack liquids in checked luggage
- 6 Liquid limits for carry on luggage
- 7 Summary
- 8 Other articles you may find helpful
TSA liquid limit: checked baggage
Apart from the TSA rules which restrict certain types of liquids, such as alcohol and flammable/hazardous liquids (see sections below), there is not really a check in baggage liquid limit so you are pretty safe to carry liquids, gels and aerosols in checked bags in any quantity you want.
You can pack full size toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion etc in your checked bags so you should have sufficient for your trip.
In particular, you can only pack toiletry aerosols that are 18 ozs or smaller in checked bags and a maximum of 70 ounces of aerosols in total. But they do not have to go in a one quart-size bag as they do in hand luggage. An aerosol will not explode in a checked bag so don’t worry.
You can also pack medically necessary liquids but only if you are not likely to need them during the flight or if you need to take them when you arrive (as your checked bag may be delayed or even lost).
If you are unsure if you can take a particular liquid in your checked bags then you can use the @AskTSA service on Twitter as this passenger did to ask about the liquids rule for checked baggage:
What liquids are not permitted in checked luggage
Flammable and hazardous liquids
Certain types of liquids, especially flammable or hazardous materials or liquids, are not permitted to be carried in your checked luggage to go in the aircraft’s hold under the TSA liquids rules and in many cases cannot be taken on a plane at all, and not even allowed in carry on luggage.
- 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 (see below for full details)
The passenger below asked the TSA whether he could take aerosol paint and varnish on a plane in his checked baggage and this was their response:
Although self defense sprays can be packed in checked bags, subject to the rules below, you should check with your airline as some airlines have a complete ban on them being carried wither in checked or carry on bags.
- Only one spray (including taking pepper spray on a plane) is allowed in checked luggage per passenger
- Cannot exceed 4 fluid ounces (118 ml)
- Spays containing tear gas cannot exceed more than 2% of CS or CN
- Pepper spray and other sprays must have a way of ensuring that spray will not be accidentally discharged when packed, for example, a cap that fits over the firing mechanism)
You cannot take bear spray on a plane at all as these are always larger than 4 ounces
You can take alcoholic beverages on a plane in checked bags, but they are subject to the following restrictions:
Less than 24% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 48 proof
For example, beers and wine can be packed in your checked luggage with no limit. But remember, it will be heavy so watch your checked bag weight rules defined by your airline.
Between 24%-70% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 48–140 proof
In your checked baggage you are limited to a maximum of five liters per passenger. But they must be in unopened retail packaging so no home brew!
Over 70% alcohol by volume (ABV) or over 140 proof
These very strong alcoholic beverages are not allowed on the aircraft at all, whether in your checked baggage or your carry on bag. Leave them at home.
Below is an example of a passenger asking the TSA on Twitter, if they can take alcoholic beverages in their checked luggage to Equador:
Read this post for more information on flying with alcohol
Passengers are restricted to taking rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) in containers that are no larger than 18 fluid ounces.
You can see the TSAs reply to a passenger asking this question below:
Can the TSA open my checked luggage?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has the power to open any checked bag they wish to inspect the contents of. Normally they would only do this for bags that are marked for a manual inspection during the screening process but they do carry out random checks too.
If they do open your bag they will place a notice inside the bag stating that they did open it and also give details of anything they may have confiscated.
If you lock your checked luggage then make sure you use a TSA approved luggage lock as they hold master keys for these so they can open without damaging the lock. If you do not and they wish to carry out a manual inspection then they will forcefully remove the lock.
You can read the full details on their website – TSA security screening.
Liquids in checked baggage – international flights?
In general, there is no international flight liquid limit as most countries follow the above rules for liquids carried in checked baggage so you should be able to travel internationally without worrying.
However, if you are planning on taking some alcoholic liquids, a few bottles of local wine, for example, remember that most countries have customs restrictions on the amount of alcohol you can bring into a country.
Check the customs regulations for the country you are traveling to before you leave to make sure they are not confiscated by customs when you arrive.
You should also be aware that some Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have a complete ban on alcohol. So if your trip includes visiting one of these countries then either:
- check with their embassy before traveling
- or, probably the best advice to be totally safe is, to leave the alcohol behind.
How to pack liquids in checked luggage
I am sure the last thing you want when you arrive at your hotel at the start of an exciting vacation is to find that one of the containers holding your shampoo, or other liquid, has smashed or split, emptying the contents all over your clothes and the other things you packed.
Imagine how inconvenient it would be if the first thing you had to do when you arrived at your hotel was to find a way of having most of your clothes cleaned.
So to try and prevent this do the following:
- place each container in a zip-lock plastic bag
- pack them in the middle of your suitcase, not by the edge
- do not put them close to each other so they cannot bang against each other
- put them in shoes, if they will fit
- wrap them in sweaters or other clothes that will protect them
- if you have some then wrap bubble wrap around them
Liquid limits for carry on luggage
To find out the full details of carry on baggage liquid restrictions you may wish to read my article on maximum TSA Liquid rules for carry on bags which will make things clearer. Or check the TSA website.
How much liquid can you take on a plane in checked baggage is not governed by the same strict TSA liquid rules that carry on is. You can take liquids in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces so when packing liquids in hold luggage do not worry too much about the TSA fluid limit.
Other articles you may find helpful
Liquid limits in carry on could be scrapped once 3D scanners are in full operation at airports.