The rules and regulations regarding what items you can take on a plane can be confusing. Some things are banned from your hand luggage, and others are not allowed in your suitcase. Much the same as other personal care items like hairdryers, razors, doedorants and even curling irons, shampoo is something most of us pack when we are going away, but you might not be sure what guidelines you should be following. While individual countries and airlines have different requirements, usually there are restrictions limiting you to a small bottle of shampoo in your hand luggage. However, there are no size limits on packing shampoo in a checked bag that is going in the hold.
Why Wouldn’t You Be Allowed to Take Shampoo in Carry-On Luggage?
The restrictions on what we are allowed to bring on a plane are there to protect the plane and its passengers. It can be hard to understand how shampoo could be considered a threat. The reason why you can only take a small amount of shampoo in your hand luggage dates back to August 2006.
After the tragic events of 9/11, security measures on planes were increased. On 9th August 2006, twenty-four people were arrested in what was, at the time, the most extensive anti-terrorist surveillance operation ever mounted in the UK. The foiled plot was to smuggle materials to make explosives on board flights in hand luggage. They planned to hide their chemicals in 500 ml plastic bottles of Oasis and Lucozade. A bomb would then be constructed and detonated mid-flight. Seven flights leaving from Heathrow were targeted. If they had succeeded, it would have been the largest terror attack in the West since 9/11. As a result, rules were brought in limiting the size of bottles of liquid that could be taken on a plane. The precautions were initially established in the UK, but they were quickly adopted worldwide.
What may surprise you is that the size of the bottles is the crucial thing. In an interview with the New York Times, former director of the TSA, Kip Hawley, explained: “With certain explosives you need to have a certain critical diameter in order to achieve an explosion that will cause a certain amount of damage. The size of the container itself is part of the security measure.”
So, Can I Bring My Shampoo on a Plane as Carry-On Luggage?Add Your Heading Text Here
The precautions recommended in the aftermath of the failed terrorist attack in 2026 were that liquids should be in containers of 100 ml (3.4oz) or less. This standard was implemented by most of the countries in the world.
America – What Does the TSA Say About Shampoo?
As you would expect, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was one of the first countries to follow the UK’s lead in controlling what liquids you can bring on a plane, including shampoo. If you have liquid shampoo, it has to be in a container less than or equal to 3.4oz (100 ml). You can only take as many of these small bottles as will fit in a quart-sized, zip-top bag. There are no limits on the size or quantity of shampoo in your checked bags.
If you are taking dry shampoo in an aerosol, there are slightly different regulations. If it is in your carry-on bag, it must be less than or equal to 3.4oz (100 ml). However, if it is in your checked bag, the total amount of medicinal and toiletry articles, including aerosols, is limited. According to the FAA: “The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces). The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).” The button or nozzle on the aerosol has to be protected by a cap to ensure it can’t accidentally spray its contents.
The UK – What Are the UK Government’s Regulations Concerning Shampoo?
The UK provides a detailed list of liquids that are subject to restrictions. In the category of ‘toiletry and cosmetic items’ you will find shampoo. Dry shampoo in an aerosol has the same restrictions as liquids if it is in your hand luggage. Aerosols must be secured so there is no chance of them being triggered, and you are not allowed to use them on the aeroplane.
Any liquids that you put in your hand luggage must follow these rules:
- containers must hold no more than 100 ml
- containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
- contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed
- the bag must not be knotted or tied at the top
- you’re limited to 1 plastic bag per person
- you must show the bag at the airport security point
Europe – What Are the EU’s Guidelines Regarding Shampoo?
The EU’s definition of liquids includes both liquid shampoo and dry shampoo in an aerosol. They require liquids in hand luggage to be “in individual containers with a capacity not greater than 100 ml and contained in one transparent resealable plastic bag of a capacity not exceeding one liter”.
Australia – Does the ABF Have Laws About Shampoo?
The Australian Border Force (ABF) implemented the same rule that powders, liquids, aerosols, and gels can only be in your cabin bag if they are in containers of 100 milliliters or 100 grams. All your containers must be individually presented at the screening point in the airport. You can only have as many containers as will fit into one transparent and resealable plastic bag, like a snap-lock sandwich bag. The four sides of the bag’s sealed area must add up to no more than 80 centimeters.
If your shampoo is in your suitcase, you should be aware that “the total net quantity of aerosols, toiletries and medicinal articles must not exceed 2kg or 2L, and the net quantity of each single article must not exceed 0.5 kg or 0.5L”. They also need any aerosols to be secured to prevent unintentional release of the contents.
New Zealand – What Are the CAA of New Zealand’s Rules About Shampoo?
The website of the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) lists toiletries, including shampoo, under the category of powders, aerosols, and gels that are restricted if they are in your cabin bag. They emphasize that the size of the container must not exceed 100ml, regardless of how much content it has. The combined total of 100ml containers must be less than “one volumetric litre”. They require the containers to be carried in a single, resealable 20cm by 20cm plastic bag.
Canada – What Does the CBSA Say About Shampoo?
The requirements of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fall in line with those in the rest of the world. Shampoo is permitted in your carry-on only in a 100ml (3.4oz) or smaller container. Any container of shampoo bigger than 100ml must go in your checked baggage.
Dry shampoo is allowed in both your carry-on and checked baggage. However, powders are limited in your cabin bag to “a total quantity of 350 ml (roughly the size of a soda can)”. Aerosols also have to be 100ml (3.4oz) or smaller too.
The Rest of the World
The limitations on the quantities of liquids allowed in hand luggage are more or less uniform worldwide. The majority of countries and airlines implement the requirement that any kind of liquid, including shampoo, that is in your hand luggage has to be in a container of 100ml (3.4oz) or less. The security checks at most airports insist that while there may be no limit on the number of 100ml containers, they must all fit into a 20cm by 20cm plastic bag, and each passenger can only have one bag.
What’s the Best Advice for Travelling on a Plane with Shampoo?
As we can see, restricting the size of the containers of shampoo you can take in your cabin bag is a worldwide regulation. The limit of 100ml (3.4oz) or less is implemented at almost all airports. The best method to transport your shampoo on a plane is in your suitcase that is going in the hold where there are fewer limitations on the size.
It might be worth considering leaving your shampoo at home and buying some when you arrive at your destination. This would not be an option if you require a specific type of shampoo, for example, if you are allergic to some common ingredients.
If you decide to bring shampoo on a plane in your carry-on baggage, you need to make sure you are organized, and you have conformed to the regulations. You can buy shampoo in small containers specifically designed to be the right size to go in your carry-on bag. These are usually called ‘travel-sized’ bottles, and you can find them in many shops, including supermarkets. While convenient, they are much more expensive than the larger bottles. An alternative is to buy refillable 100ml bottles and fill them from your usual larger bottle of shampoo. If you travel a lot, this will work out cheaper in the long run. Make sure you buy bottles with wide mouths to make filling them easier and less messy. You may want to use a funnel to reduce wastage.
Dry shampoo is popular and handy when traveling. Since aerosols are also limited to 100ml or less, you would have to buy a travel-sized can if you want to take it in your cabin bag. You will also find that security officers will require the aerosol to be secured so it can’t be sprayed accidentally. It might be worth taping the lid to the can if it doesn’t fit securely.
A possible alternate option to avoid the problems of taking shampoo on a plane is to use a shampoo bar. Shampoo bars are solids, and as such, their size is not restricted.
What Happens If Your Shampoo Is Flagged by Airport Security?
As you can see, the limitations to the size of shampoo bottles you can take in your hand luggage are very precise. Since these rules came in as a response to a terrorist plot to blow up planes, it is understandable why they are so strict. If you do not follow the guidelines, your shampoo will be flagged when you go through the security checkpoint at the airport.
If your shampoo does not conform to the requirements, it will be removed to be checked by a security officer. After you have collected the rest of your hand luggage, you will need to find the holding area where items that are being queried are taken. The security officer will identify and explain why there is a problem. The most common issue with shampoo is that it is in a container that is more than 100ml. If that is the case, you will not be able to keep your shampoo.
The other typical reason for your shampoo bottle being flagged at security is that you have too many 100ml bottles. There is no limit to the number of bottles, but they have to fit into a 20cm by 20cm bag. If you have too many bottles, then the security officer will ask you to choose which ones you want to keep and which ones can be thrown away.
If your shampoo bottle is not in a plastic bag, it may also be flagged. Although the rules are clear and there are signs while you are queuing confirming the instructions, this happens often. Most security checkpoints have a supply of suitable plastic bags that they will give to you.
If your shampoo is flagged at security, please remember why the process is needed. The security officers are not trying to make your life difficult; they are trying to keep you safe. It would be nice if you responded to them in a pleasant and polite manner.
Shampoo is classified as a liquid, and as such, it can only be taken on a plane in hand baggage in a container that is 100ml (3.4oz) or less. While there is no limit on the number of 100ml containers you can have, they must be in a single, clear, resealable bag that is 20cm by 20cm. Dry shampoo is subject to the same size restrictions, and if it is in an aerosol, it must be secured so it can not inadvertently spray. There are usually no restrictions on the size of your shampoo bottles if they are in your checked suitcase that is going in the hold. Shampoo bars are classified as solids, so there are no limits on their size. It is worth considering leaving your shampoo at home to simplify your travel and buy some at your destination instead.
See other articles in this series:
- Can You Bring Nail Clippers on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Tweezers on a Plane?
- Can You Bring Hiking Sticks on a Plane?
- Can You Bring a Lighter 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?