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Can You Travel With Aerosols on Planes?

By Oscar Brumelis


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TSA (Transport Security Agency) and other airport security agencies across the world allow bringing most everyday aerosols on planes but with certain limitations.

You’re allowed to travel with two types of aerosols – toiletry aerosols intended for personal use and non-flammable household aerosols. Toiletry aerosols include hairspray, dry shampoo, aerosol deodorants, antiperspirants, perfume, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and shaving cream. Some examples of non-flammable household aerosols include whipped cream and electronic screen cleaners.

When packed in hand luggage, aerosols have to follow the 3-1-1 rule for liquids. It states that they must be in 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottles or smaller and packed in a single, 1-quart bag of toiletries. So only small aerosols are allowed in hand luggage and you must pack them together with your other liquids.

In checked bags, larger aerosols are allowed, up to 500 ml (17 fl oz). But they’re treated as hazardous materials, just like perfume, hand sanitizer, nail polish, and other flammable toiletries. In total, each passenger can have a maximum of 2 kg (71 oz) of hazardous toiletries.

Because aerosols are flammable, TSA also requires that you always have a protective cap over the nozzle. This is to prevent accidental spills.

It’s also worth noting that liquids with a mechanic spray nozzle aren’t treated as aerosols. Instead, they’re treated as liquids. In checked bags, the 500 ml / 2 kg limit doesn’t apply to them.

Some Aerosols Are Banned on Planes

All aerosols consist of two substances – the main product and a propellant. The propellant is a substance that keeps the aerosol pressurized, which allows spraying out the main product through the nozzle. The main problem with aerosols is that most manufacturers use liquid gas (butane, isobutane, or propane) as the propellant, which is flammable. This means that most aerosols are a security risk on planes because they can cause a serious fire.

Because of this, flammable non-toiletry aerosols are banned both in hand and checked bags. This includes aerosol lubricants, WD-40, spray paint, aerosol cooking oil, aerosol glue, and other flammable aerosols. To find out if an aerosol is flammable, look at its safety markings. A red square with a flame inside indicates that it’s flammable.

TSA has also banned aerosols that are labeled as hazardous materials. This includes insecticides, bear spray, and pepper spray. To find out if the specific aerosol is banned look at its HAZMAT safety markings. Squares with “toxic”, “corrosive”, or “oxidizer” written inside them are the ones to look out for because they’re banned on planes.

How to Pack Aerosols in Your Luggage

As far as the TSA is concerned, you only need to follow a few rules when packing aerosols in your luggage.

In hand luggage, you can pack very small aerosols below 3.4 oz (100 ml), and only in a Ziploc bag together with your other liquid toiletries.

You can pack larger aerosols in your checked bags, but not over 500 ml (17 fl oz). You don’t need to put them inside any bags, but you need to put on a cap over the safety nozzle.

Aerosols shouldn’t explode when packed in your checked luggage. That’s because the cargo hold of the airplane is always pressurized and temperature-controlled. You only have to worry about accidental spills.

How to Keep Aerosols From Spilling in Your Bag

Sometimes, the safety cap can slip off the aerosol while it’s packed inside your bag. To keep this from happening, always put a piece of tape over the cap. This should keep the cap in place and keep it from slipping off and making a mess.

You can also put your aerosol inside a Ziploc bag. On some older airplane models, or on smaller charter aircraft, the cargo hold may not be pressurized. By putting it inside a Ziploc bag, you’ll ensure that your aerosol won’t make a mess in case the nozzle accidentally releases some of its contents.

You should also avoid placing aerosols near the edges of your luggage. That’s because luggage is exposed to a lot of damage during baggage handling, which could puncture the aerosol can and make a mess.

When Traveling, You Can Substitute Most Aerosols

Aerosols are not only heavier and larger than other alternatives but also less friendly to the environment. So here are a few alternatives to aerosol toiletries.

  • There are non-aerosol dry shampoo alternatives in the form of powder or paste.
  • You can replace aerosol shaving cream with smaller travel shaving cream pastes.
  • You can replace an aerosol deodorant with a stick deodorant, which doesn’t have any packing restrictions.
  • Hairspray can be replaced with hair mousse, wax, paste, clay, or gel.
  • You can replace sunscreen aerosols with lotions and pastes

Summing Up: Traveling With Aerosols

Bringing small toiletry aerosols in your hand baggage shouldn’t cause any issues. If they’re too large, you can put them in your checked bag or choose non-aerosol alternatives.

But remember that you can’t bring all aerosols on planes, like pepper spray, WD-40, or any other aerosol that isn’t intended to be used on the skin and is flammable. You most likely won’t get into trouble by bringing them, but you will be asked to discard them at the airport.

About Oscar Brumelis

Oscar is a freelance writer who loves traveling and hiking. He's been to over 30 different countries and hiked over 2000+ miles throughout his life.

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