Can You Bring Aerosol on a Plane?

Aerosols are a common and convenient way of packaging and dispensing liquids and are often used in makeup and toiletry products including hairspray, and some types of sunscreen. Aerosols are also used in a range of non-cosmetic products such as spray-paint, mechanical lubricant and certain types of food products like aerosol cream.

Aerosols make use of compressed gas and are often labelled as ‘Highly Flammable’. Given that there are restrictions about carrying compressed gas on flights and the very fact that they are labelled as a fire hazard, it’s understandable that travelers may be cautious about packing aerosols.

The good news is that aerosols that are considered as cosmetics or toiletries are allowed on planes as are any aerosols that are specifically labelled as ‘Non-Flammable’ (that includes edible aerosol cream!) – though airlines do treat these products as liquids, so they will be subject to liquid restrictions in hand luggage.

However, it isn’t all good news, and non-cosmetic, flammable aerosols, including spray paint, mechanical spray lubricants, WD-40 and aerosol cooking oil are forbidden on planes. Insect repellents/bug sprays often also use aerosols and there can be special requirements associated with these if they contain hazardous chemicals.

Aerosols are also used in various defensive weapons such as pepper spray or Mace and bear spray and these are generally not permitted on aircraft at all. One notable exception is that America’s FAA does permit small canisters of Mace to be carried in hold luggage – though individual carriers can override this and if you’re travelling internationally from the USA, carrying a spray like this could land you in very serious trouble at your destination.

aerosol on a plane

Why Wouldn’t You Be Allowed to Take Aerosol in Carry-On Luggage?

Aerosols are generally very safe: The technology has been used in consumer products for close to a hundred years. However, the fact remains that aerosols make use of compressed gas and are also typically highly flammable. With this in mind, there are several reasons why you might not be allowed to board a flight with an aerosol in your hand luggage:

Damaged aerosols present a real explosive or fire hazard. If an aerosol can is visibly damaged – if it’s dented or if the nozzle is broken – then airport security could very reasonably say that it presents an unacceptable risk or exploding or catching fire.

Non-cosmetic aerosols are not permitted on flights. If you are carrying an aerosol that isn’t considered a cosmetic or toiletry item, then it will not be allowed to fly. Examples of cosmetic aerosol products include hairspray, shaving cream or aerosol sunscreen.

Aerosols are subject to liquid quantity limits in hand luggage. Airport security treats aerosols as liquids, so they are subject to the same hand luggage restrictions as other liquids, meaning that you cannot carry a single aerosol container greater than 100ml/3.4oz in your hand luggage. 

So, Can I Bring Aerosol on a Plane as Carry-On Luggage?

The short answer is yes, provided it’s an aerosol that can be considered a cosmetic or toiletry item such as hairspray, shaving cream or aerosol sunscreen and also provided that it complies with liquid quantity restrictions – so no single aerosol container can exceed 100ml/3.4oz in capacity and it must also fit along with your other liquids in a single clear resealable plastic bag measuring 20x20cm or having a volume not exceeding 1l/1 quart. 

USA – What Does the TSA Say About Aerosol?
America’s TSA and FAA have extensive guidance on carrying aerosols. Generally, cosmetic or toiletry aerosols are fine to carry in either hand or hold luggage, though they are subject to quantity limits in hand luggage – no single container can be above 100ml/3.4oz.

Aerosol insect repellents must be carried in hold luggage and cannot be labelled as ‘HAZMAT’ and non-cosmetic aerosols are generally not permitted at all, though, perhaps oddly, the TSA makes an exception for small cans of self-defense spray carried in hold luggage – bear in mind that these self-defense sprays are illegal in a lot of the world and bringing one out of the USA could land you in serious trouble! Non-flammable aerosols of any kind are allowed. There are quantity limits for aerosols – even in hold luggage.

The UK – What Are the UK Government’s Regulations Concerning Aerosols in Hand Luggage?

The UK’s CAA has the following regulations on aerosols: Cosmetic or toiletry aerosols and any non-flammable aerosols are allowed in either hand or hold luggage, though those in hand luggage are limited to containers sized 100ml/3.4oz or below. There’s an upper limit of 2l/70oz per passenger for aerosols carried in hold luggage.  Flammable non cosmetic aerosols such as spray paint are not permitted to fly.

Europe – What Are the EU’s Guidelines Regarding Aerosols?

The EU’s guidance on aerosols is in line with the UK and America’s: Aerosols in hand luggage are limited to 100ml/3.4oz per container. Flammable, non-cosmetic aerosols are not permitted.

Australia – Does the ABF Have Laws About Aerosols?

Australia’s guidance on aerosols is in alignment with the rest of the world. Cosmetic and non-flammable aerosols may be carried and are subject to the 100ml/3.4oz per container limit if carried in hand luggage. 

New Zealand – What Are the CAA of New Zealand’s Rules About Aerosol?

New Zealand has very clear restrictions on which types of aerosols may be carried – essentially, you are limited to medical, cosmetic and non-flammable aerosols and they helpfully define cosmetic aerosols as products intended to be applied directly to the skin or hair.  Those carried in hand luggage are subject to the 100ml/3.4oz per container limit and there is an upper size limit of 500ml per container and 2l in total per passenger for aerosols in checked luggage. 

·       https://www.aviation.govt.nz/passenger-information/what-can-i-bring/show/aerosols

H3 = Canada – What Does the CBSA Say About Aerosol?

The Canadian restrictions on aerosols are in line with the rest of the world: cosmetic aerosols may be carried and are subject to liquid limits of 100ml/3.4oz if carried in hand luggage. Non-cosmetic flammable aerosols are generally not permitted. 

The Rest of the World

Exact restrictions vary from country to country and from airline to airline, but by and large, restrictions on aerosols follow the same pattern around the world: provided the aerosol product can be classed as a cosmetic or toiletry, then it’s fine to carry it. The same goes for non-flammable aerosols.  Flammable, non-cosmetic aerosols are not permitted.  

There is often a (generous!) allowance for the maximum number of aerosols each passenger can carry in their checked luggage.  Note that there is some variance in these restrictions – for example, Emirates officially only allows aerosols to be carried in checked hold luggage and not in carry-on.  It’s always worth checking with your specific carrier to see if they have specific restrictions.

can you take aerosol on a plane

What’s the Best Advice for Travelling on a Plane with Aerosol?

Generally cosmetic or toiletry products that use aerosols are fine to fly with. That includes things like hairspray, shaving cream and aerosol sunscreen. It’s usually fine to carry these products in either your cabin or hold luggage, but if you do carry them in your hand luggage, remember that they will be subject to liquid quantity restrictions – so, no individual containers above 100ml/3.4oz. It’s also important to ensure that any aerosols you have are secured against accidental discharge – so make sure the cap is on the can!

Non-cosmetic and non-flammable aerosols – such as edible aerosol whipped cream and certain electronic cleaning sprays – are also fine to carry, though they’ll also be subject to liquid quantity restrictions if you plan to carry them in your hand luggage and for certain products that simply aren’t available in these relatively small packaging sizes, this might make them impossible to carry in hand luggage. 

Non-cosmetic, flammable aerosols – that includes things like spray paint and WD-40 spray – are generally not permitted on aircraft at all.

What Happens If Your Aerosol Is Flagged by Airport Security?

It’s generally fine to carry cosmetic or toiletry aerosols in your luggage, however there are none the less various reasons why security may flag your aerosols. First of all, they may want to double check that an aerosol is the type permitted for travel. They may also want to physically inspect the can for damage or to see if its cap is present – both of these are grounds for security to confiscate an aerosol.

Airport security has the final say on whether an item is allowed to travel, and they have a legal right to confiscate items they consider unsafe.  If they do flag an aerosol in your luggage, it can lead to extra security checks and delays not just for you but also for other passengers too so it’s always best to ensure you are as compliant as you can be with regulations before you travel.

How to Pack Aerosol in Your Luggage

First of all, check the types of aerosols you are planning to carry. Anything that isn’t a cosmetic or toiletry product and is also marked with a flammable warning is not permitted on aircraft – so don’t pack it! Ensure that your aerosol cans are not damaged and have their caps on to prevent the spray form being activated if they get knocked in transit.  It’s also worth placing aerosols in a plastic bag or similar, to contain any spillage should they leak or get activated during travel.

Packing Aerosol in Carry-On Luggage

Aerosols carried in hand luggage are subject to liquid quantity restrictions.  This means that no individual aerosol can exceed 100ml/3.4oz. As you can’t really decant aerosols into smaller containers, that means you’ll be limited to carrying travel-sized miniatures. Be sure that any aerosols you carry are undamaged – no dents or deep scratches in the cans and that the nozzles are intact – and that they all have their caps on. Any aerosols you carry in hand luggage must fit alongside any other liquids in a single clear plastic, resealable bag. 

Packing Aerosol in Hold Luggage

Checked hold luggage can be knocked and bashed around during handing, so it’s wise to pack aerosols in the center of your luggage, surrounded by clothing to provide padding – this will help prevent the cans from getting damaged should your bag receive a sharp knock. It’s wise to ensure that any aerosol cans have their caps fitted to prevent the spray from being accidentally triggered and it’s also a smart move to place aerosol cans in a knotted plastic bag to contain any leaks that might occur. 

What Are the Different Types of Aerosols?

Aerosols are a convenient way of dispensing products that use high pressure gas to turn a liquid into a directional mist (as is the case with hairspray or spray paint) or to produce a foam (such as with shaving cream or aerosol edible whipped cream). They are widely used in many different types of products. Most aerosols make use of highly flammable gas – like butane – though some – notably edible products – use non-flammable gas like nitrogen or carbon dioxide. 

From the point of view of the traveler and airport security, the key types of aerosol are cosmetic and non-cosmetic and flammable and non-flammable.  The only flammable aerosols you are generally allowed to carry by air are those that can be considered cosmetic or toiletry products and the only non-cosmetic aerosols you can carry are generally those that are non-flammable.

There are some special exceptions to this: For example, aerosol bug spray or insect repellant could reasonably be considered a toiletry item, but it can sometimes contain other hazardous substances that mean certain brands cannot be carried on a plane or are limited to checked hold baggage.

Conclusion

Aerosols are used in a wide range of products and as such, there are often more than one set of restrictions that dictate whether they can be taken on a plane. For most travelers, though, the question is whether they can bring cosmetic or toiletry aerosols with them – that might include things like hair spray or mousse, shaving cream and aerosol sunscreen. 

The good news is that these products are absolutely fine to fly with, though, if you choose to carry them in your hand luggage, they will be subject to liquid quantity restrictions – which basically means you’ll need to use specific travel-sized products as decanting an aerosol into a smaller container is not a realistic option.

One potential grey area is with aerosol insect repellants or bug sprays. These can reasonably be classed as toiletry products, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they can also contain hazardous substances that are restricted for air travel. The restrictions can vary from product to product, so it’s worth researching the specific product if you wish to carry them.