It can be quite confusing to know what the carry on bag liquid limit is and also what is actually considered to be a liquid under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 311 rule.
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.
The Quick Answer: The TSA rules for flying with liquids specify that liquids on planes must be in containers that are no larger than 3.4oz/100ml each in order to be taken through airport security. All the liquids you are carrying must fit into one quart-sized resealable plastic bag.
Hopefully this article will fully explain the carry on liquid limits and make them much clearer so that you don’t break the TSA regulations.
Carry on liquid size policy?
The TSA uses what it calls the 311 rule.
The description 311 rule is a little tenuous as the 3 isn’t entirely accurate. What it actually means is quite easy to understand though:
|3||The 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.|
|1||The first one refers to the fact that all liquids must be contained within a one quart-sized, clear, resealable plastic bag.|
|1||The 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 311 liquids rule and the maximum liquid permitted in carry on bags in an airplane:
What is considered a liquid for airport security?
The 311 liquid 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.
- 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?
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
- Liquid, cream or gel eye shadow
- Gel lip balms
- Liquid foundation (powdered is fine proved it is less than 12oz)
Also read: Can you bring make-up on a plane?
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?
It is possible to carry medically necessary 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, lotions, liquid antibiotics, etc.
It doesn’t matter if the liquid is in a bottle, an aerosol, a cream or in gel form.
The full updated details are best read on the TSA website – Disabilities and Medical Conditions
Baby and infant products
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 about flying with a baby or toddler
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 to 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 you cannot take in carry on
There are a number of liquids that cannot be carried in hand luggage. Most of these are flammable or hazardous.
- cooking fuel
- lighter fuel
- pepper spray and other self-defense sprays
- bear spray
- liquid bleach
- alcohol over 70% ABV
Airline liquid rules
Don’t forget though that these limits do not actually refer to the maximum amount of liquid that is allowed on a plane but the maximum allowed to be taken through airport security.
Airline liquid rules allow any liquids which are permitted through airport security plus, 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 your 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 liquid 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.
The TSA liquid rules state that 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 in carry on.
Liquid limits in carry on could be scrapped once 3D scanners are in full operation at airports.
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.
I have been traveling around the world by air since the early 70s and living overseas too. I worked for British Airways for a number of years and I am also a private pilot. About Me