How Much Liquid Can You Take on a Plane in Carry On Bags?

It can be quite confusing to know how much liquid is permitted in carry on bags and also what is actually considered to be a liquid under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 3-1-1 rule. Hopefully this article will fully explain the carry on liquid limits and make them much clearer.

Liquids must be in containers that are no larger than 3.4oz/100ml each to be taken through airport security. All the liquids must fit into one quart-sized resealable plastic bag. Only one plastic bag containing liquids is allowed per passenger.

By making sure you follow the TSA liquids rules you will pass through airport security much quicker and with fewer problems. You will also ensure that you don’t have any expensive toiletries etc taken away from you.

How Much Liquid Can You Take on a Plane in Carry On Bags
How Much Liquid Can You Take on a Plane in Carry On Bags? 1

What is the TSA 3-1-1 liquid rule?

The description 3-1-1 is a little tenuous as the 3 isn’t entirely accurate. What it actually means is quite easy to understand though:

3The three refers to the maximum size each liquid item can be. It is actually 3.4 ounces (100ml) so not really three but close enough.
1The first one refers to the fact that all liquids must be contained within a one quart-sized, clear, resealable plastic bag.
1The second one refers to the fact that only one quart-sized bag may be carried per passenger.

The carry on liquid size of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) refers to the maximum size of the container, not necessarily the amount of liquid actually held in it. So for example you cannot take a container of deodorant that held 6 ounces when full but is now less than half full.

If traveling to or within Europe the allowable size for your bag of liquids is 1 liter. This is very slightly larger than one quart so if you have a TSA-approved quart-sized bag you will be fine.

You can buy an approved liquids bag on Amazon quite cheaply and some come with empty travel-sized containers to put liquids in – TSA 3-1-1 Approved Clear Airline Carry On Bag

Larger liquid containers must go in your checked bag. See How much liquid can you take on a plane in checked baggage?

What to do with your liquids at the security point

When you get to the TSA checkpoint, hopefully after not too long a wait, you must remove the quart-sized resealable bag containing your liquids from your carry on and place it separately in a tray to go through the x-ray machines.

Do not leave them in your carry on bag otherwise you will be delayed and have to put them through again.

This is the official Transportation Security Administration video explaining the 3-1-1 liquids rule and the maximum liquid permitted in carry on bags in an airplane:

What is considered a liquid for airport security?

The 3-1-1 rule is pretty clear I think. Now what is, and what is not, considered to be a liquid is rather less straightforward so I will try to give as full a description as possible and then answer some of the most often asked questions.

The easy answer is that almost anything that isn’t actually solid is considered to be a liquid such as liquids, gels and aerosols.

These include:

  • Liquids – pretty obvious really but they include shampoos, hair conditioners, liquid soaps, bottled water and cans of soda
  • 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 these can be considered a liquid)

You can buy many of these in travel-size containers.

Read my post – 9 things considered a liquid when flying that really aren’t

What makeup counts as liquid on a plane?

What makeup counts as liquid on a plane?

Some types of makeup are pretty obviously liquids but just to be clear the following is considered a liquid so is subject to the restrictions and rules detailed above.

  • Nail polish
  • Nail polish remover
  • Nail glue
  • Tube mascara
  • Perfume
  • Liquid, cream or gel eye shadow
  • Gel lip balms
  • Liquid foundation (powdered is fine proved it is less than 12oz)

Are there any exemptions to the liquid rule?

There are some exemptions to the 3-1-1 liquids rule. These exceptions mean they can be in containers larger than 3.4 ounces and they do not have to go in the quart-sized plastic bag although they do need to be placed in a separate bin for additional screening.

For full details read my post – What liquids do not go in a liquids bag?

Hand sanitizer

The TSA has increased the size of hand sanitizer that can be taken through airport security for the duration of the pandemic to 12 ounces (350ml).

As it is larger it does not have to go in your liquids bag but must be taken out of your carry on luggage for screening at the security checkpoint. This includes homemade sanitizer.

For full details read my post – Can you take hand sanitizer on a plane

Liquid medication

It is possible to carry liquids larger than 3.4 ounces if required to treat certain medical conditions. These include things such as saline solution used to clean contact lenses,

The full updated details are best read on the TSA website – Disabilities and Medical Conditions

Baby and infant products

Maximum liquids in carry on

There are exceptions if you are traveling with a baby or infant, but you must have the baby with you, which may sound rather obvious, but means you cannot carry it for someone else. Breast milk can be carried without a baby though.

You can take “food” items for the baby in reasonable quantities through airport security that exceed the 3.4 ounces/100ml rule such as:

  • made up baby formula
  • expressed breast milk
  • sterilized water to make up baby formula (must be in a baby bottle)
  • baby food

You should tell the TSA officer that you have these before you put them through the x-ray machine for additional screening.

You can read my more detailed article – 20 things you should know about flying with a baby or toddler

Duty-free

You are allowed to carry duty-free liquids provided they are in unopened, secure, tamper-evident bags, (as supplied by the duty-free store) if more than 3.4 oz or 100 ml in your carry-on bag and also if the following is true:

  • The duty free liquids were purchased internationally and you are traveling back into the USA with a connecting flight.
  • The liquids are packed in a transparent, secure, tamper-evident bag by the duty free store and they have not been tampered with, or opened, when shown at airport security.
  • You have the original receipt for the liquids.
  • The purchase was made within the previous 48 hours.
  • The items, in their bags, should be removed from your carry on and to be screened separately.

Liquids after airport security

Don’t forget though that these limits are not actually referring to the maximum amount of liquid that is allowed on a plane but the maximum allowed to be taken through airport security.

Once you are through the TSA checkpoint you can purchase any reasonable amount of liquids from any of the stores that are in the departure lounge and take these on the aircraft with you.

You can also fill water bottles from a water fountain or buy bottled water too.

Useful tips for carrying liquids in carry on

These days, particularly with budget airlines, it costs extra to take checked bags so many passengers opt to travel with only carry on, particularly if it is a relatively short trip.

This can present a problem with many personal hygiene products, such as shampoo, conditioners, face creams etc as they generally come in bottles that are too large to go through airport security.

So you either have to:

  • find your favorite brands in bottles small enough to go through security (which often isn’t possible)
  • try and buy some larger bottles when you arrive at you destination. But that may prove difficult, particularly if traveling overseas. Even if you can it also means you are likely to throw away much of what you have bought before you return as you can’t take it with you, due to the liquids rules, which is a waste.

The solution is to buy some refillable bottles that meet the liquids rules and just fill them up from your larger containers before you leave home.

These are some that I have used that also come with a TSA approved quart-sized bag and a folding toothbrush.

Ask the TSA

If you have any specific questions regarding what you can or can’t take on a plane, either in carry on baggage or a checked bag then you can ask the TSA using Twitter.

They will answer your specific questions during the hours of 8am-10pm ET weekdays; 9am-7pm weekends & holidays – AskTSA on Twitter.


FAQs

How many Ziploc bags can I take on a plane?

Only one ziplock liquids bag containing liquid items may be taken through airport security per passenger.

Can you bring multiple 3 oz bottles on a plane?

Yes, you can take as many 3.4 ounce bottles containing a liquid on a plane that you can fit in a quart sized liquids bag.

Are makeup wipes considered a liquid?

Make up wipes as well as baby wipes and sanitizer wipes are all allowed on a plane as they are not treated as a liquid.

Is toothpaste considered a liquid?

Toothpaste is considered a gel or cream and so for the purposes of airport security is treated in the same way as a liquid. This means that you can take small travel tube which is less than 3.4 ounces and it must go in the quart-sized liquids bag.

Is deodorant a liquid for air travel?

Deodorants are treated as liquids on a plane unless of the solid “stick” deodorants so any others must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less.

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