Last Updated on April 15, 2020
This post is about packing checked bags and taking aerosols in hold luggage. We specifically answer the question if your hair spray, shaving cream, dry shampoo, deodorant, insect repellant, or any other permitted aerosol spray cans are going to explode in your checked luggage.
We also cover which types and quantities of aerosols you can take in your checked bags. Some aerosol cans are not permitted in hold luggage at all. And those that are permitted have size restrictions.
If you want to know if you can take aerosols in hand luggage we have another post addressing that question and you’d be better off reading that one.
Okay, let’s see if your aerosol will explode on the plane or not…
What Causes Aerosol Cans To Explode?
Aerosol cans don’t explode under normal circumstances so long as the can remains intact and isn’t pierced by a sharp object.
They can explode when the pressure inside builds up too much.
For example, it’s very dangerous to leave an aerosol in a hot car. The temperature in the car can get so high that the aerosol container can’t contain the pressure anymore and explodes.
Aerosol cans left in direct sunlight can explode. But sunlight is not a concern when they are packed inside your suitcase.
Aircraft luggage holds are actually pressurized and the temperature is regulated so aerosols are reasonably safe.
However, there is always a risk with anything flammable and that’s why aerosol cans are regulated (see below).
The danger on planes comes doesn’t come from pressure due to changes in altitude or temperature, but there is still a danger.
The danger us if a fire starts for another reason. For example. Laptops and batteries are banned from checked luggage. This is because batteries can overheat and fires can start.
If a laptop was inside a suitcase and aerosols were packed next to it. The laptop could overheat increasing the pressure in the aerosol until an explosion happened.
Aerosol cans on planes are dangerous if a fire starts but they won’t start the fire on their own. They don’t just explode because they are in a plane.
FAA Regulations For Aerosol Cans In Checked Baggage
Although aerosols in hold luggage won’t spontaneously explode they still present a danger. They can explode if a fire breaks out and exacerbate an already bad situation.
So, some aerosols are permitted in hold luggage in limited quantities and others are banned.
As a general rule flammable aerosols are banned in checked luggage, but the FAA has exempted medicinal or toiletry aerosols presumably for reasons of practicality.
If the aerosol product doesn’t touch your body or skin when you use it it’s unlikely that it’s going to be permitted in your checked luggage.
You are also only able to pack aerosols that have lids or caps to prevent the button or nozzle on the can from spraying inside your case while packed. If your aerosol does not have a lid it will be removed by the baggage handlers.
Toiletry Aerosol Size Limits
You are able to take medicinal or toiletry aerosols in checked luggage in cans less than 18 oz (500 ml). You are permitted to bring a total of 70 oz (2 liters) of aerosol per person.
The limit is per person not per checked bag so you can’t increase your aerosol limit by bringing two checked bags.
70 oz is just under 4 x 18 oz cans. So, for example, you could bring 3 x 18 oz aerosol cans and 1 x 16 oz aerosol can.
There is no limit to the number of cans so long as the total is not more than 70 oz per person and no single can is larger than 18 oz.
Examples of permitted aerosols include:
- Sun cream
- Hair Spray
- Dry Shampoo
- Shaving Cream
- Hair Mousse
- Insect repellent
Examples of banned aerosols include:
- spray paint
- spray starch
- ironing spray
- cooking spray
- Silly string
- Disinfectant sprays
Pepper Spray Or Self-Defense Spray In Checked Bags?
Pepper spray or mace is allowed to be packed in checked bags but must be in containers less than 4 oz. The active ingredient must be at a concentration of less than 2 %.
If you are flying internationally make sure that you are permitted to carry pepper spray at your destination country.
Compressed Air Or Gas Cylinders
On a slightly related subject, compressed gas cylinders such as soda steam capsules are not permitted in checked luggage or carry on luggage.
The Bottom Line
You can take medicinal or toiletry aerosols in hold luggage. They must be in cans smaller than 18 oz and you are not permitted more than 70 oz total per person.
Your aerosol cans are not going to explode while in the luggage hold, not unless they are subject to extreme heat from a fire or something.
Aerosols are still a risk and that’s why they are managed. The FAA doesn’t let people take aerosols that don’t seem sensible for vacations.
Packing silly string on a flight is unnecessary and well… silly. But nobody likes body odor so we’d better let people pack deodorant.
Anyway, we don’t make the rules we just report on them 🙂
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