Have you ever been in the situation where you are packing your carry-on bag and realize you are not sure exactly what you are allowed to take on board? If you are flying internationally, do different countries have different rules? Nail clippers are one item that frequently cause confusion. The short and sweet answer is that generally, you should be OK to carry your nail clippers in your hand luggage, but it is safest to pack it in your hold luggage if possible.
Why Wouldn’t You Be Allowed to Take Nail Clippers in Carry-On Luggage?
Nail clippers seem like a normal part of a manicure set and the kind of everyday item it would be expected to take with you if you are going away for a few days or more. After all, our nails don’t take a holiday from growing! So why would there be an issue with taking your nail trimmers on a plane?
- They can be used as a weapon. The issue is that, technically, nail clippers are a sharp object. Anything with a sharp edge could potentially be used as a weapon.
- They could cause an injury. If you have something with a sharp edge in your baggage and someone is required to check through your bag, they could potentially hurt themselves.
- They could damage equipment. Potentially, when your bag goes through security, items could fall out. Small objects like nail clippers could slip through gaps. Anything with a sharp edge could cause damage to the belts and machinery.
Other articles in this series:
- Can You Bring Hiking Sticks or Poles on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Tweezers on a Plane?
- Can You Bring a Lighter on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Shampoo on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Razors on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Curling Irons on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Deodorants on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Candles on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Scissors on a Plane?
So, Can I Bring My Nail Clippers on a Plane as Carry-On Luggage?
Thankfully, common sense means that nail clippers can generally be taken on a plane. Although they have sharp edges, the design of most fingernail cutters would make it difficult to use them as a weapon. The exception would be if you had large clippers with additional accessories, such as a small blade or a metal file or tweezers.
You will notice that we don’t say you absolutely can take your nail cutters in your hand luggage. This is because the final decision regarding whether you are allowed your fingernail clippers in the plane’s cabin is down to the individual officer scanning your hand luggage. Some may feel for some reason that you can’t have your nail clippers. That would be their decision, and you couldn’t argue with them. Objecting could lead to you being fined.
America – What Does the TSA Say About Nail Clippers?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sets the rules for what can and cannot be taken on planes in America. The guidelines they give regarding sharp objects is that you shouldn’t have sharp objects in your carry-on bags. They may allow some equipment with blades if the sharp edge is less than 4 inches. If you do have anything that could be considered a sharp object, they require it to be sheathed or securely wrapped. Regarding nail clippers specifically, the TSA website says they are allowed in both carry-on bags and checked bags.
The TSA warns that “the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.” Your nail clippers can be removed from your luggage and disposed of if an officer decides they are not allowed onboard. You do not have a right to argue, nor is there the option to have them stored and collected later. See what the USA TSA website says about bringing nail clippers on a plane here.
The UK – What Are the UK Government’s Regulations Concerning Nail Trimmers?
The UK government’s official website has a straightforward list of personal items and whether they are or are not allowed through security at UK airports in carry-on bags. The list includes nail clippers, which are permitted in both hand and hold baggage. See what th UK Gov.uk website says about bringing nail clippers on a plane here.
Europe – What Are the EU’s Guidelines Regarding Nail Clippers?
The EU asks that ‘when packing, you should bear in mind that certain articles, that may appear harmless, are not allowed in your hand luggage for security reasons’. They include ‘sharp objects such as knives or razor blades’ in this category. They further say, ‘ Any sharp objects that might be used as weapons are not allowed in the aircraft cabin. These could be everyday objects such as corkscrews, knives, and scissors of a certain size, which should be packed in your hold luggage.’ Some blades are allowed, but they must be under 6cm. They do not expressly state any regulations about nail clippers. This means that it is left to the judgment of the security officers how they interpret these guidelines when scanning your luggage. If in doubt, the EU advises, ‘Check your airport’s website for a detailed list of prohibited items or ask your airline before traveling’. See what the Transport.ec.europa website says about bringing nail clippers on a plane in the EU here.
Australia – Does the ABF Have Laws About Nail Cutters?
The guidelines for items that are or are not prohibited from being transported in the cabin of an aircraft in Australia do not mention nail clippers. ‘Pointed metal scissors, manicure scissors and scissors with blades more than 6cm long’ are included in the list of ‘Sharp items that are not weapons but are capable (with or without modification) of causing harm by penetration’. You could presume that nail clippers might be classed with manicure scissors. However, under the heading of ‘Items that are not prohibited’, the list includes ‘blunt-ended or round-ended scissors with blades less than 6cm long’. This would suggest that nail clippers would not be considered a security risk. They suggest that ‘if in doubt about whether an item can be carried onboard an aircraft, check with your airline prior to arriving at the airport’. See what the Australian ABF website says about bringing nail clippers on a plane here.
New Zealand – What Are the CAA of New Zealand’s Rules About Nail Clippers?
If you visit the official website of the CAA and look in the ‘What can I bring?’ section of the passenger information, you will not find any explicit references to nail clippers. In common with most countries, they have restrictions on carrying sharp objects in your hand luggage. Under the scissor section, you will find that the restrictions are ‘all scissors with blades more than 6cm in length can only go in checked-in luggage; all scissors with blades less than 6cm in length can go in carry-on bags’. Logically, this would suggest that nail clippers would be permitted. However, the website for Auckland Airport has this statement: ‘Auckland Airport reminds passengers that sharp items, such as nail clippers, scissors, pocket knives, and metal nail files, should not be packed in carry-on luggage.’ If your nail clippers are removed during security screening, the Aviation Security Service does not keep them. Items removed from passengers’ checked luggage are handed over to the airline to dispose of per their carriage conditions. Usually, if you don’t contact the airline, they will dispose of items within three to seven days. See what the New Zealand’s aviation.gov.nz website says about bringing nail clippers on a plane here.
Canada – What Does the CBSA Say About Fingernail Trimmers?
Helpfully, the CBSA gives specific guidelines about traveling with nail clippers. While they have the same concerns about sharp objects that could be used as weapons, their website includes nail clippers as personal items that are permitted to be brought on board in your carry-on luggage. See what the Canadian CBSA website says about bringing nail clippers on a plane here.
The Rest of the World
As you can see, it is not straightforward trying to work out if you can carry your fingernail clippers on board an airplane in your hand luggage. There is no one clear rule that applies everywhere. Some Asian airlines will not let you have your nail clippers, but others will. The same inconsistencies are found in Latin America and Africa. Most of the biggest airlines, as you can see by using the links below, do not allow you to bring nail clippers in the cabins of their planes. The best advice is to contact the airline you are traveling with and ask for their guidelines.
What’s the Best Advice for Travelling on a Plane with Nail Clippers?
Always take a moment to check the rules of the country you are traveling in. It is also advisable to double-check with the airline you are using, as they can impose their own stricter rules.
As we have seen, the usual answer is that carrying your nail trimmers in your carry-on bag is acceptable. However, this is not absolutely guaranteed as many countries are not specific and leave it to the security officers’ judgment who could decide your nail cutters are not allowed. If you are taking a suitcase that is going in the hold, it would be safest to put the clippers in there. However, many today choose to travel with only carry-on luggage, so putting your nail clippers in the hold is not an option.
If your nail clippers have sentimental value, are part of a manicure set, or were very expensive, then it’s not worth running the risk that a security officer might confiscate them. If you have no suitcase to pack them in, buying a cheap pair to travel with that you would be OK with losing might be advisable. Alternatively, if you have easy access to shops at your destination, you could travel without nail clippers and buy an inexpensive pair if needed.
If you are traveling without a suitcase and only have a carry-on bag, there are some things you can do to make it less likely there will be a problem with your nail clippers. It helps to consider the reasons why a security officer might deem your nail trimmers a risk and then take steps to counter these possible objections.
- Ensure they can’t be used as a weapon. Don’t put your nail clippers where they can be easily accessed, for example, in an outside pocket. Instead, pack them away in a washbag or trousers or skirt pocket. A security officer is less likely to view them as a potential weapon if they aren’t easy to get to.
- Ensure they can’t cause an injury. Putting some tape around the nail cutters to hold them closed reduces the risk of them hurting anyone. Use low-tack or masking tape so no sticky residue is left on your fingernail clippers. If you have nail clippers with attachments like nail files, taping everything up so it can’t move will significantly increase the chances of a security officer allowing you to carry it in your hand luggage.
- Ensure they can’t damage equipment. It could be a good idea to wrap your nail clippers in a piece of material tied with a ribbon. You could also make a sheath or small bag to keep them in. The nail trimmers may have come in useful packaging that you could keep and use for storing them. Any of these options help to contain the nail clippers and make them bigger so they are less likely to slip into areas of machinery where they could cause damage. It would also prevent the sharp edges from coming into contact with anything that could be cut.
What Happens If Your Nail Clippers Are Flagged by Airport Security?
You may be wondering what happens in the worst-case scenario where you have your nail clippers in your hand luggage, and they are flagged by security. If this happens, the main thing is to be polite and respectful when you speak to the security officer.
While things vary from country to country, usually your bag will be in a tray on a conveyor belt that takes it through an X-ray machine. If something in your bag needs checking, your tray will be flagged. Instead of continuing on the conveyor belt for you to collect your belongings, the tray will be taken to a holding area. It is usually easy to see where your tray has been moved to, and you need to walk around to the area to speak to the security officer in charge.
One of two things will now happen – either the security officer will empty out the entire contents of your bag, or they will ask you to start unpacking it. In either case, when they identify an item that could potentially be a problem, they will ask you to explain what it is and why it is in your bag. Be brief and polite when you reply. The security officer will decide if you can keep the item or if it will be thrown away. Your bag will then be rescanned to check if there is anything else that might be a security problem.
It can be stressful to have your bag examined in this way. However, it is essential to remember that the security officers are just doing their jobs. They have a lot of responsibility to identify potential threats to the safety of everyone traveling on airplanes. While they may be inconveniencing you by checking your bag, they are carrying out a vital task to protect you and your fellow travelers. It is better that they are over-protective and refuse to allow you to carry your fingernail clippers in your hand luggage than they are lax and allow potential threats onboard.
Nail clippers may seem like a small item that can go in your carry-on bag, but they could possibly cause an issue when you go through security. While some countries, such as Canada and the UK, specify that nail clippers are permitted in hand luggage, others are not as clear in their regulations. It is always left to the discretion of the security officer checking your bag to make the final decision. Therefore, if you have a suitcase going in the hold, it is the best place to pack your nail clippers. Carrying fingernail clippers in your cabin bag will probably be OK, but you can’t be completely sure a security officer might not confiscate them.