Will Aerosol Cans Explode in Checked Luggage on a Plane?

Will aerosols explode in checked baggage 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.

Aerosols will not explode in luggage when they are in the aircraft’s baggage hold. TSA and FAA regulations do restrict the carriage of certain types of aerosol cans on a plane if they contain flammable liquids, oxygen and some other gases as they could explode in the unlikely event of a fire.

The improbability of aerosol cans exploding applies to all toiletry aerosols on planes in hold luggage, including those containing deodorant, antiperspirant, dry shampoos, hairspray, body spray and suntan lotion.

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Is it safe to pack aerosol cans in checked baggage?

It is perfectly safe if you have packed your aerosols containing deodorant and other toiletries in your bag that will travel in the aircraft’s hold, although there are TSA rules which prohibit certain types of potentially hazardous or flammable aerosols from being carried on a plane, packed in either carry on or checked luggage.

It would probably be prudent to put any aerosols you are packing in your hold luggage in a plastic bag just in case any aerosols are accidentally activated to prevent any of your clothes or other items from being contaminated.

Below is the answer from the TSA to a passenger’s question regarding the rules and regulations for carrying aerosols in checked luggage on an airplane.

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TSA @AskTSA service on Twitter

You may find our post “Can you take aerosols on a plane” useful for further information.

Why won’t aerosols explode in a plane’s baggage hold?

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

Aerosols 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 is 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 aerosols will explode in their checked luggage.

In theory, if the pressure outside the can were 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, aerosol cans would not even explode if taken on a space flight and were exposed to the zero pressure of space.

Fire/Heat

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

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

Damage

Aerosol cans could potentially burst if containers are punctured by some kind of impact causing damage. If it is packed in a suitcase, surrounded by clothes etc, then this is very unlikely to happen.

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.

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.

aerosol cans on a plane - potato chip bag

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 has 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 luggage, 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 containers fail. In fact, even in the vacuum of space they would be unlikely to burst.

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

Research

The FAA has carried out extensive research on this and this is a link to a report made for the FAA Technical Center looking into the Hazards of Aerosol Cans in Aircraft Cargo Compartments.

FAQs

Will an inhaler explode on a plane?

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

Will spray sunscreen explode on a plane?

Your spray sunscreen will not burst on a plane whether it is in pump or aerosol form. You can take it in your carry on if it is smaller than 3.4 oz otherwise you need to place it in your checked baggage.

Will dry shampoo explode on a plane?

No, dry shampoo will not explode on a plane in an aerosol can. You can take dry shampoo in your carry on but only if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to put it in your checked luggage.

Will bear spray explode on a plane?

No, bear spray will not explode on an aircraft in an aerosol can. You cannot take it in your carry on luggage, or through airport security, so you will need to put it in your checked luggage.

Will pepper spray explode on an airplane?

No, pepper spray will not explode on an airplane in an aerosol can. You are not permitted to take pepper spray or any personal defense spray in your carry on bag, or through airport security, so you will need to pack it in your checked luggage.

Does hairspray explode on planes?

No, hair spray will not explode on an aircraft in carry on or checked bags. You can take hair spray in your carry on but only if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to pack it in your checked luggage.

Does shaving cream explode on a plane?

Shaving cream will not explode on a plane in carry on or checked bags. You can take shaving gels and cream in your carry on but only if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces otherwise you need to pack it in your checked luggage.

Will soda cans explode in checked baggage?

Soda cans are unlikely to burst or leak in checked baggage unless they are damaged in some way. If you need to pack them, to be safe, put them in a sealed plastic bag or container so if they do burst then the contents will not spill over the other contents of your checked bags.

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