You’re finally ready for that fun vacation and are packing your carry-on luggage, so you have everything you need to be comfortable and clean during your journey. Then you reach for your deodorant and remember – the TSA has some restrictions about liquids when you travel. But what are they, and is deodorant considered a liquid when flying?
Deodorant can be considered a liquid when flying if it is in a gel or aerosol form. If your deodorant is solid, though, the TSA will let you bring a standard stick of solid deodorant with you in your carry-on luggage.
However, any gel or aerosol deodorant products are restricted and are usually limited to checked luggage (unless you buy really small, travel-sized deodorant). Not sure what exactly qualifies as a liquid or not? Read on for more information about packing deodorant in your carry-on bag!
Understanding Airline Rules for Flying with Deodorant
The TSA has different rules when it comes to flying with deodorant. They are based on the material type of the deodorant in addition to the container size.
For example, modern TSA regulations allow you to carry solid deodorant in any size (although you might get strange looks if you try to carry tons of solid deodorant with you in a carry-on bag). So if you have a stick of your favorite deodorant, rest assured you can bring it with you on your carry-on luggage.
However, the TSA severely limits how much deodorant you can bring in your carry-on luggage if it is a liquid or aerosol. You are limited to container sizes of 3.4 ounces or less if you want to bring a spray or liquid deodorant with you in your carry-on bags.
Fortunately, you can bring any deodorant of any size in your checked luggage. So if you have a favorite liquid deodorant that you don’t want to leave at home, just check it to be safe.
There are limits to the grand total amount of aerosols you can pack in your checked luggage, however. According to the TSA, the total aggregate quantity per person can’t exceed 70 ounces or 68 fluid ounces. So don’t bring more deodorant than you’ll use over a few weeks or so at most.
If you end up needing more deodorant at your destination, you’ll have to purchase it there.
The TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule
It can be tough to remember 3.4 ounces or the difference between solid and liquid deodorants when packing your bag. Instead, you can just remember the 3-1-1 rule from the TSA.
The 3-1-1 rule states that you can carry a little over 3 ounces of a liquid or aerosol in one container in one quart-sized, resealable bag. This means that you can’t duplicate your favorite liquid or aerosol deodorant by purchasing and carrying multiple bottles under 3 ounces in size.
3-1-1: it’s simple, easy to remember, and applies to any liquids or aerosols you may wish to take with you. These include toothpastes, mouthwashes, lotions, shampoos, and so on.
What if You Try to Bring Liquids in Larger Sizes?
The TSA will catch any liquids that are in your carry-on luggage in sizes greater than 3.4 ounces. When they do this, they will immediately throw it out no matter how much you protest or how unthreatening the deodorant looks.
Don’t get mad at the TSA agents – it’s just their job. But then you’ll have to purchase new deodorant at the overpriced airport stores or buy something when you land at your final destination.
Since there’s no arguing with the TSA when you step into an airport, it’s better to just play by their rules rather than try to negotiate. Furthermore, you won’t find any gel or aerosol deodorant products at an airport. Any deodorant you will find will undoubtedly be stick or solid.
Why Does the TSA Limit Liquids to 3.4oz?
There’s a lot of history behind the rules the TSA maintains to this day. It all began in 2006 during an intelligence event called Operation Overt (you can watch the story on Netflix).
In short, Operation Overt saw international intelligence efforts to stop a British citizen and potential terrorist named Abdulla Ahmed Ali. Over the course of this investigation, it was discovered that Ali might try to create a liquid-based explosive.
The potential terrorist attack was foiled. But it changed the way the TSA looked at liquids for the foreseeable future.
According to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, 3.4 ounces is the “critical diameter” that’s necessary to blow something up. In other words, 3.4 ounces is just enough of a potentially explosive liquid to cause harm to an aircraft.
Containers with liquid that are smaller than this don’t represent enough of a threat to justify the TSA banning them. This is also why solid deodorants are allowed in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces.
Will the TSA ever change this rule? It’s tough to say. For now, remember the 3-1-1 rule and 3.4 ounces as the most important numbers when packing your bag and choosing what deodorant to bring with you on your trip.
What Counts as Liquid Deodorant?
The TSA doesn’t consider standard stick deodorant to be a liquid product. If you can run your finger over the deodorant surface and it doesn’t easily smear, you’re probably safe.
However, some deodorant products are applied using an aerosol spray. The deodorant is in a liquid state inside the canister, so it falls under the 3-1-1 rule described above. Furthermore, some deodorants are intentionally soft, mushy, and closer to a liquid than a solid.
Those deodorants are necessarily classified as liquids by the TSA. They may be called “gel” deodorant in the grocery store or on their canisters. Regardless, you won’t be able to bring containers with more than 3.5 ounces of them in your carry-on luggage.
When in doubt, run your finger over the deodorant product. If you can scrape away a lot of deodorant without any pressure, the TSA may classify it as a liquid.
Tips for Traveling with Deodorant
Now that you know what the TSA thinks of deodorant and whether it considers deodorant to be a liquid, let’s break down some key tips you should keep in mind when traveling with your favorites.
Apply Before Your Flight
It’s a good rule of thumb to apply plenty of deodorant before your flight takes off. After all, most airplane cabins can become pretty hot and it’s easy to get sweaty mid-flight. If you apply deodorant beforehand, you won’t stink and annoy other people on the plane or next to you.
Furthermore, applying deodorant before your flight means that you should be covered for several hours and can simply check your favorite deodorant without worrying about bringing it in your carry-on luggage.
This is great if you have a favorite gel or aerosol deodorant and don’t want to go to the trouble of buying a stick of travel-sized deodorant just for your carry-on bag. Just apply deodorant before you board the plane and your stink will be left behind with the departure terminal.
Always Carry a Spare
On the other hand, you could fork over the extra cash needed to carry a spare stick of travel-sized deodorant. You can rely on this spare as an emergency deodorant you only wear when you travel on an airplane.
Even better, you can put the spare stick of deodorant in your carry-on bag and never have to worry about forgetting it at home. In this way, you’re guaranteed to be able to pass through TSA security quickly and guaranteed to not smell in the middle of your flight.
Frozen Liquid Workaround
If you really have a favorite liquid deodorant and can’t bear to leave home without it, there is one workaround to consider. The TSA technically allows you to carry frozen liquids in quantities over 3.4 ounces as long as they are completely frozen solid.
If the liquid is half-melted or a little mushy, you’ll still be asked to throw it away or put it with your checked luggage.
Granted, it may not be a great idea to freeze liquid deodorant. Who knows what that might do to the formula? But this might be a reasonable workaround if you have a single deodorant brand or fragrance you can’t replace.
Just keep in mind you’ll have to unfreeze the deodorant before you use it again! Odds are it won’t work with a gel or aerosol spray canister when it is still frozen.
Choosing the Right Deodorant for Your Flight
So, stick deodorant is the way to go unless you purchase a sub-3-oz container of gel or aerosol deodorant. But what else should you consider when choosing deodorant for an upcoming flight? Let’s take a look at some key tips one by one.
For starters, it’s a good idea to choose a deodorant that doesn’t have a massively noticeable fragrance. What smells great to you may not smell good to the person sitting beside you or other people in the airplane cabin.
If you want to be a great passenger and a neighbor to your fellow flyers, choose an unscented deodorant if at all possible. Unscented deodorant should still take away your sweaty smell and prevent you from stinking for hours on end.
Once you land, you can then apply a different deodorant with your favorite fragrance or even use another fragrance like a cologne or perfume.
Pick the Right Size
Don’t forget to choose the right size of deodorant for your flight! As mentioned above, 3.4 ounces or below is the rule you have to keep in mind when bringing a gel or aerosol deodorant with you on your journey.
However, even if you have a stick deodorant, smaller is usually better. The stick still has to fit inside a standard quart-sized baggie. On top of that, the smaller your deodorant is, the less room it takes in your carry-on luggage.
Given that the prices for checking baggage can be pretty exorbitant, it pays to pack as much into your carry-on bag as you can. Remember, you can always bring another kind of deodorant or more deodorant in your checked luggage. You don’t need a big stick or a big bottle of deodorant in your carry-on bag.
Consider an Antiperspirant
Lastly, you might consider purchasing a travel deodorant that explicitly includes an antiperspirant.
I would recommend:
- For man: this one.
- For woman: Vanicream Anti-Perspirant Deodorant for Sensitive Skin (my wife’s favorite antiperspirant).
Antiperspirant ingredients don’t directly counteract the sweaty smell in your armpits. Instead, they prevent you from sweating in the first place by temporarily blocking pores and stopping sweat from reaching the skin.
How does this help? The sweaty smell we all recognize is, in fact, due to bacteria snacking on the proteins and salt in your sweat. When they do this, they reproduce and create the sulfuric smell we all know and hate.
If there isn’t any sweat emerging from your skin’s pores, there’s nothing for the bacteria to eat. So they don’t make the same stink as they normally would.
Antiperspirants usually last for 3 to 4 hours or even longer depending on the brand of deodorant you choose. Since you’ll be packed in with other passengers for at least that long, antiperspirant deodorant could very well be your friend!
On the other hand, there’s some evidence that antiperspirants (and particularly aluminum) can lead to negative side effects for your skin and overall health. If you’ve used antiperspirant deodorant in the past with no problems, this probably doesn’t apply.
But if you have never used antiperspirant deodorant before, give it an experimental try before bringing it with you on your flight. Rub a little deodorant on your skin to see if you have an allergic reaction or if your skin becomes irritated.
If it does, feel free to skip this tip!
All in all, deodorant is not always considered a liquid when flying. However, certain types of deodorant certainly are. Those deodorant types are limited to 3.4-ounce or below containers and can only be carried under certain circumstances.
Because of these limitations, it’s usually smarter to stick with solid deodorant or to simply apply deodorant before your flight, then check your favorite deo with your other luggage.
- Transportation Security Administration: What Can I Bring? Deodorant (Solid)
- TSA: What Can I Bring? Deodorant (aerosol)
As the founder of Container FAQs, my goal is to provide readers with in-depth information on the containers used in daily life and related subjects. Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any suggestions for articles you would like to see on my blog.