TSA Liquids Rule: What is the 3-1-1 Rule?

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Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

Make sure you understand the TSA 3-1-1 liquids guidelines before packing your carry on! I’m answering the most common questions about what is and isn’t allowed.

If you’re going to be traveling by air, then you need to know the TSA Liquids Rule, also known as the “3-1-1 Rule”. This pertains to liquids that are packed in carry-on luggage (the rule does not apply to checked baggage). So if you plan to travel with hand luggage only, then it is important for you to understand this rule.

I’m a big proponent of packing light, so I almost always travel carry on only. That means that all of my toiletries have to fit within the TSA liquid limits. With plenty of experience flying and dealing with airports, I’m answering all the most asked questions below to help clarify what is and is not allowed under the TSA 3-1-1 rule.

While the rule is easy to break down and really simple once you understand it, there are still tons of details that pop up in your head. Is this item considered a liquid? Is this bottle the right size? We all ask those little questions in the beginning, but eventually you’ll know what fits into the TSA liquids rule without hesitation.

For travelers, this rule mostly concerns toiletry items. However, the rule does apply to ALL types of liquids. For example, you cannot bring beverages through airport security. You can fill up water bottles or get beverages in the airport terminal AFTER going through security and bring those onto the plane.

Following these guidelines is really important for security reasons. If you have items in your hand luggage that don’t fit within the liquid restrictions, those items will be confiscated when you go through airport security. Generally you won’t have any major consequences to deal with if you accidentally slip something in that’s too large. However, the rule is strict, so it will make your life much easier if you just stick to the liquids rule to begin with. It will also make going through security much easier, both for you and for the TSA agents.

So here’s everything you need to know about the TSA 3-1-1 Liquids Rule.

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What is the 3-1-1- rule?

3.4 oz (100ml) bottles of liquids/gels/pastes/creams/aerosols

1 clear quart sized bag

1 bag per person

All liquids must be stored in containers of 100ml or less, and all containers must fit into one (1) quart sized-bag.

Shop my Favorite TSA Approved Containers and Toiletry Bags

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What type of items are part of the TSA 3-1-1 rule?

The 3-1-1 rule applies to all liquid items, as well as creams, gels, pastes, and aerosols. ANY kind of item that fits into this category will be subject to the liquid limitations.

How many 3.4 oz bottles can I carry on?

There is not a specific number of bottles you can or cannot take with you in your carry-on. As long as every bottle/container of liquid fits inside of a single quart-sized bag, you can take it. The size and shape of your products and bag will determine how many 3.4 oz bottles you can carry on.

Is bar soap considered a liquid by TSA?

Bar soap is NOT considered a liquid by TSA. As long as it is a solid bar of soap, it will not be subject to the liquids rule.

What toiletry items can be carried on airplanes?

Most regular toiletry items are allowed on planes in your carry on. Any liquid, gel, paste, cream, or aerosol products MUST adhere to the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Any non-liquid items are fine to pack in your carry-on luggage without restrictions. Tweezers and disposable razors are also allowed in your carry-on, and do not need to be packed into your quart-sized toiletry bag.

Does deodorant go in a quart sized bag?

Deodorant comes in many forms: usually solid, gel, or aerosol. Solid deodorants do not need to fit into the quart sized bag. However, gel deodorants and aerosol/spray deodorants DO count towards the liquids rule, and do need to be places in your quart sized toiletry bag.

Is toothpaste considered a liquid when flying?

Toothpaste is considered a liquid when flying. Since it is a gel, cream, or paste, it will be subject to the 3-1-1 rule.

Try these Lush toothpaste tabs to avoid the TSA liquid limits

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Do wet wipes count as liquids by TSA?

Wet wipes, baby wipes, face wipes, etc. are NOT counted as liquids by TSA. So they can be packed in your carry-on and do not need to be places in your quart sized bag.

How many quart size bags can you have in your carry on?

According to TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, you can carry ONLY 1 quart sized bag in your carry on. All liquid items (100 ml or less) must fit into this one bag. Anything that doesn’t fit should be packed in your checked luggage, or left at home.

Is mascara considered a liquid on planes?

Yes, mascara counts as a liquid when flying. All liquid, cream, and gel based makeup products are subject to the TSA liquids rule. That may include things like mascara, liquid foundation, face creams, lip gloss, etc.

Is chapstick a liquid?

Solid lip balms do not count as liquids. However, if you use a gel based lip balm (like Vaseline), those DO count as liquids and should be placed in your quart sized liquids bag.

Can I carry a 3.4 oz perfume/cologne on the plane?

Yes. Perfumes, colognes, and other fragrances of 3.4 oz or less are allowed on the plane. They are subject to the same liquids rule, so as long as they are less than 100 ml, they are allowed. But they do need to fit in your liquids bag.

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What if my liquid items are larger than 3 ounces?

If you have any liquid toiletry items larger than 3.4 ounces, they MUST go in a checked bag. They cannot be taken on board a flight in your carry-on. TSA will most likely remove the items from your luggage and you will not get them back. If you are not bringing a checked bag, then be sure you keep your toiletries to less than 3.4 ounces.

What counts as liquid for TSA?

Here are some typical toiletry items that are considered liquids:

  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Body Wash/Shower Gel
  • Toothpaste
  • Face Wash
  • Lotions
  • Hairspray and other Aerosols
  • Gel Deodorants
  • Mouthwash
  • Fragrances

I hope that answered most of your questions concerning the TSA Liquids Rule. Just remember: 3-1-1. (3.4) oz bottles, (1) quart sized clear bag, (1) bag per person. If you have any other questions, ask away and I will try to answer!

If you don’t want to fuss with your toiletries every time you fly, I recommend creating a Liquid-Free Toiletries Kit for traveling. That way you never have to worry about whether you can bring the items you need or not. Just check my guide to Liquid-Free Toiletries for product recommendations.

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By Courtney Minor

Wandering around and writing about it.

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