How Many Ounces Can You Take On a Plane?

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An airplane takes off over a runway with a sunset in the distance.
Photo credit: Travelphotoguy via Shutterstock

Whether you’re flying carryon only or want to make it through TSA security without having someone confiscate your toothpaste, here’s what you need to know.

The short answer is 3.4, but there’s more you need to know, so keep reading for your best shot at a smooth travel experience and keeping your toothpaste.

The Liquids Rule

You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the airport security checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.

Ideally, this contains basic toiletries for a quick trip or what you need to freshen up during international flights. We’ll give you the scoop on  how many ounces of liquids you can take on a plane, what types of liquids are allowed and how to pack them properly.

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Passenger Safety is the Reason Behind the Rules

Restrictions on liquids in your carry-on bag are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers on the plane.  

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has strict guidelines on the amount of liquids that can be carried onto a plane. According to their guidelines, you can bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag. Each container of liquid must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less. This includes items like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hairspray, sunscreen, toothpaste and other personal care items or liquid items.

It’s important to note that these guidelines apply to all liquids, regardless of whether they are in a bottle, tube or other container.

Easy to Remember – The 3-1-1 Liquids Rule

When preparing for air travel, remember the 3-1-1 rule. Each liquid you bring through the TSA checkpoint must be in a 3.4 fluid ounces or smaller container (“3”), all containers must be placed inside one clear quart bag (“1”) and each passenger is only allowed one plastic bag (“1”).

One of the ways to make compliance with the 3-1-1 rule easy is to use trial size toiletries, such as deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, nail polish, mascara and other items of makeup. If you have an extensive or high-maintenance personal care routine, the 3-1-1- rule might be more difficult for you to adhere to.

If you don’t follow the rules, you’ll be subject to additional screening by TSA security officers, which will often result in delays, for you and for other passengers.

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Rules for Lighters

You can only carry one lighter on board. You should put it inside a resealable plastic bag (like the ones used for liquids), which you must keep on you throughout the flight.

Rules for Baby Formula

If you are traveling with a baby or small child, you are allowed to bring baby formula, breast milk and juice in reasonable quantities that exceed the 3.4-ounce limit in your carry-on luggage.

Make sure you inform the TSA officer in advance if you’re traveling with larger quantities of liquids.

Rules for Freezer Packs

Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.

Note that medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy) with or without the presence of breast milk. Please notify the TSA officer at the checkpoint for inspection.

Liquids versus Powders

The TSA considers liquids to be any pourable substance, such as water, shampoo, lotion, etc. Items not considered liquids include powders, such as baby powder and ground coffee, and makeup, such as face powder or powdered eye shadow.  

However, if you are traveling with powders, the TSA requires that you place them in a clear, plastic, sealable bag and place them in your carry-on bag for inspection.

By the way, peanut butter is considered a liquid by TSA, so whether you’re toting individual packets of peanut butter or a PB&J to eat for later, be aware that this counts toward your allotment of liquids if someone hones in on your sandwich during the screening process.

Packing Liquids in Your Carry-On Bag

Make sure you pack your liquids to avoid spills or leaks. Here are some tips on how to pack liquids in your carry-on bag:

  • Make sure all your containers are 3.4 ounces or less. If you have larger containers, transfer the contents to smaller, travel-sized containers.
  • Place the bag of liquids in an easily accessible place in your carry-on bag. This will make it easier to remove the bag for inspection at security checkpoints.

If you have TSA PreCheck, you will be allowed to leave your liquids inside your bag when it goes through security. It’s still a good idea to have them easy to grab, just in case you get selected for additional security screening.

Rules for Liquids in Checked Baggage – The Limit Does Not Exist

If you want to bring liquids, toiletries, food items, baby food, your full size bottle of perfume or hand sanitizer, in excess of 3.4 ounces, put those in your checked luggage. Just make sure to seal them properly in a plastic bag in case the caps come loose during your flight.

There is no TSA liquid limit for liquids in checked baggage.

TSA Rules for Alcoholic Beverages

Want to bring alcohol on the plane? You can. For carry-on, you are limited to containers of 3.4oz or less that can fit comfortably in one quart-sized, clear, zip-top bag.

If you have anything larger than that, you’ll need to make arrangements to check your bag when you check in for your flight. If you buy alcohol at the duty-free shop, you’re already inside security, so the rules probably don’t apply. You’ll still have to adhere to your airline’s carry-on rules, though.

Prohibited Items

The TSA bans liquids that could make people sick if opened or spilled. Don’t check them in your luggage either. So, if you’re tempted to pack bleach, don’t.

Insecticides, gasoline or any type of flammable liquids are also prohibited. If you’re in doubt about whether you should pack something n your carry-on, check the TSA website before packing it.

The most important thing to remember is that TSA allows a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag.  Each container of liquid must be 3.4 ounces or less. If you think you have an exemption or exception, research it before you get to the airport.


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