Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage on a plane?


Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage is a question many people who haven’t flown before (and some who have) seem to ask quite frequently. But with the increased levels of security that exist in today’s world it is not surprising that people are unsure.

Toiletry aerosol cans will not explode in checked luggage when they are in the aircraft’s baggage hold. The TSA and FAA do restrict certain types of aerosol cans from being carried in a plane’s hold if they contain flammable liquids, oxygen and some other gases. You need to understand the rules before packing.

This applies to all toiletry aerosols on planes, including those containing deodorants, antiperspirants, dry shampoos, hairsprays, body sprays, shaving lotions and suntan lotions.

Will hairspray explode on a plane

Why won’t aerosol cans explode in checked luggage on a plane?

While aerosol cans do have the potential to explode, fortunately the circumstances under which they might explode are not found under normal conditions in a plane. So the likelihood of them exploding is minute.

Aerosol cans containing a liquid are held in the can under pressure with an expellant. When the button on the aerosol can is pressed it opens a valve and some of the liquid contained in it are expelled.

There are a few different reasons why an aerosol can may explode which include fire/extreme heat, being damaged and decompression but under normal circumstances these conditions will never exist in an aircraft’s hold.

Decompression

It is the pressurization in an aircraft that seems to be the main worry that people have when it comes to wondering if aerosol cans explode in checked luggage.

In theory, if the pressure outside the can was to reduce, this may cause the can to explode due to the higher differential in pressures between the inside and outside. In practice this is not something that will happen. Even if the pressurization system on the aircraft failed the difference would not be enough for aerosol cans to explode.

Actually, an aerosol can would not even explode if taken on a space flight and was exposed to the zero pressure of space.

Fire/Heat

An aerosol can may explode if it is exposed to fire as the heat build up will be extreme. As the heat increases the pressure will increase in the can due to the expansion of the liquids and expellant. This may get to the point where the structure of the can will no longer be able to cope and the can will rupture, causing an explosion.

Heat from the sun could also cause this in some instances if the heat builds up, particularly if in an enclosed place.

This video shows what can happen when an aerosol can gets hot

Damage

An aerosol can could potentially explode if it is punctured by damage. If it is packed in a suitcase then this is not going to happen.

An aerosol can being hit with an axe

Aircraft Pressurization

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage?

A modern aircraft is basically a sealed tube with semi-spherical bulkheads at the nose and at the rear. Everything within that area of the aircraft is pressurized.

aerosol cans on a plane - potato chip bag

You may notice this if you take a sealed bag of potato chips on board with you, for example. Once at your cruising altitude, the bag expands, but even that is not enough for it to pop. The bag is only made of paper/plastic, so a metal can is definitely safe.

The whole aircraft is pressurized to the equivalent of being at 6000-8000 feet. This is usually a lower pressure than at the airport you take off from (unless you take off from a mountain airport). But it is not sufficiently low for an aerosol can to explode.

Rarely are there cases where the pressurization system on a plane have failed, known as explosive decompression. As far as I am aware, even when this has taken place, the aerosol cans on board, either in the cabin or in checked bags, have not exploded.

However, should the pressurization system fail, the lower air pressure even at 40,000 feet will still not be sufficient to make the aerosol cans. In fact, even in the vacuum of space they would be unlikely to explode.

What aerosol cans can you take on a plane?

Full size and travel size deodorant

You can bring aerosol cans on a plane but they are subject to some of the airport security regulations, particularly the liquid rules that applies to carry on bags.

Generally this means that most aerosol cans should be packed in your checked bags since only those which contain 3.4oz/100ml or less of liquid can go in your carry on bag.

Most standard aerosol cans contain more than this. Any larger than that will be confiscated by airport security if you try to take them in carry on.

If you can, buy the deodorants etc in travel size aerosol cans which are smaller than 100ml, just like the one on the right in this picture which is allowed in your carry on bag and will pass the security check.

Can you put aerosols in your suitcase on a plane?

This is really the best place to travel with aerosol cans on a plane since then you will not have to worry about the size restrictions for anything containing a liquid.

Aerosols you can take on a plane in checked bags

The aerosol cans you are allowed take may contain:

  • deodorant
  • antiperspirant
  • hairspray
  • body spray
  • dry shampoo
  • suntan lotion
  • perfumes/aftershave
  • shaving foam or gel
  • fly spray/insecticides – however they are allowed in checked bags 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

Aerosols you cannot take on a plane in checked bags

There are a few exceptions, some 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.

Mostly these are banned because they are potentially flammable and they include:

  • spray paint
  • spray oils and penetration spays
  • Lysol spray
  • cooking sprays
  • spray starch

Although not strictly aerosols these are not allowed either:

  • CO2 Cartridges
  • Butane
  • Propane
  • 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.

Is there a limit for aerosols in checked luggage?

Actually, although you can take quite a few aerosols in your suitcase, there is a limit. According to the TSA website which states that “toiletry-type 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 can salesman you are unlikely to exceed this limit under normal circumstances.

Can you take aerosol cans in hand luggage?

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage?

Just a reminder that you can also take aerosols on board in your carry on bags and, likewise, they will not explode there either. You can carry them provided that they are:

  1. No larger than 3.4 ounces (100ml) – so quite small
  2. That they, along with all other liquids including perfume, are all contained within a resealable clear plastic bag that is no larger than 1 quart.

So you cannot take regular sized aerosol cans into the cabin with you in other words, unless you buy them in stores located at the airport after the security checkpoint. If you do they will be confiscated when you go through security.

To find out more, read my full article about what the maximum liquids you can carry on a plane and the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule.

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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. For example:

Will aerosol cans explode in checked luggage on a plane? 1

This is the link they refer to – bit.ly/1mwo4KO

Tips for packing aerosol cans in checked baggage

In 40+ years of flying I have never had any problems with carrying aerosol cans on a plane in checked baggage or hand luggage. But if you are still concerned about putting aerosol cans in your checked baggage then there are a few things you can do to give you some peace of mind:

  • Pack aerosols in a seal-able 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 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.

Enjoy your flight and don’t worry – your aerosols will be fine!

Research

This is a link to a report made for the FAA Technical Center looking into the Hazzards of Aerosol Cans in Aircraft Cargo Compartments.

FAQ


Can you bring spray deodorant on a plane

Yes, you can bring spray deodorant on a plane without size restrictions in your checked bags but spray deodorants in your carry on must be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml.

Will an inhaler explode on a plane?

No, your inhaler will not explode on a plane. You can pack it in your checked bags but it is probably better with you in your carry on in case you need it on the flight.

Why are aerosols not allowed on planes?

Actually aerosol cans are allowed on a plane. It is only aerosol cans containing hazardous liquids such as spray paint, WD40, cooking spray etc which are not allowed.

Other air travel articles:

The complete guide to passing through airport security quickly

Best gadgets to make flying more comfortable in 2019

Best carry on luggage for men

10 long haul flight tips and tricks to make it bearable

John Parker

I have been traveling around the world since the early 70s and living overseas too. I have also been a private pilot for many years. About me page - https://travel-easier.com/about-me-travel-easier/

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