Regular readers know that the 3-ounce container restriction on liquids in carry-ons is one of my “favorite” gripes. As a person who hates to check bags, I am regularly irritated when I can’t, say, bring a bottle of wine in my carry-on. (Especially when there are reports of airlines refusing to permit wine in checked luggage, either. But I digress…)

But Bob Rosner’s column at ABC News just confused me even more. He writes:

Remember when we were only allowed three-ounce containers on our carry on bags? Recently that was increased to three-and-a-half ounces, according to a TSA supervisor that I talked to.

Why the increase? Because of complaints by the perfume industry. You can’t make this stuff up.

Huh?? When, exactly, did the TSA’s limit increase to 3.5 ounces per container?

The European Union adopted a standard of 100ml per container recently, which technically comes to 3.2 ounces. Many TSA agents might unofficially look the other way on that one, especially for passengers traveling from Europe to the U.S., but I still wouldn’t want to bank on that.

The TSA’s website doesn’t list any change in the rules, either. 3 ounces is all they list. 3.0000.

I’ve put in a call to the TSA to see if there’s any truth to this 3.5 ounce story, and to ask about official policy regarding 100ml/3.2 ounce bottles. I’ll report back what they say.

In the meantime, I wouldn’t risk carrying 3.5 ounces of anything on board. Unless you’re willing to lose it.

pixel Whats the legal limit for carry on liquids?  3, 3.2, or 3.5 ounces?
Categorized in: airport security, liquids, travel, TSA

16 Responses to “What’s the legal limit for carry-on liquids? 3, 3.2, or 3.5 ounces?”

  1. Britton Says:

    My experience is that any bottle that looks small enough will work. They regularly make allowances for 4.0 OZ bottles of contact solution, and recently I’ve used bottles slightly larger than 3.0 OZ and not had any difficulty. As long as everything fits comfortably inside a quart size ziplock bag you’ll be OK

  2. S A Says:

    I’ve seen people with small but bigger than 3oz bottles that fit into a quart bag get their stuff confiscated, so I’m not sure I’d risk that. At least not with anything expensive.

  3. Mike Maddaloni Says:

    I went through security at Chicago’s Midway Airport last Thursday and a man in front of me was pulled aside by security and they went through his bag. He had a can of Axe body spray (the TSA agent pulled it out and held it high, that’s how I know!) that was not in a Ziploc bag, and was a few points over 3 ounces. He was let through.

    Personally, I check my toiletries – I try to eliminate any and all hassles, or as many as I can.

  4. Upgrade: Travel Better » Blog Archive » Update: TSA compresses 100ml to 3.0 fluid ounces Says:

    [...] Yesterday’s post regarding the TSA’s possible introduction of a 3.5 fluid ounce standard for carry-on liquids yielded a small storm in my e-mail inbox, including a thoroughly disposable form letter response from the TSA itself, encouraging me to check the website. Gee, great. Thanks for that. [...]

  5. Upgrade: Travel Better » Blog Archive » Reader mail: Are unlabeled bottles legal through airport security, and how do you deal with agents who make up rules? Says:

    [...] Reader Joe H. writes: In your link to Bob Rosner’s column, I think you missed a point that’s just as big as the 3 versus 3.5 oz. debate. Fourth paragraph: For example, on my most recent flight I had my baggie full of gels and liquids out and ready to show anyone who wanted to know the secret for my youthful appearance. A TSA staffer scrutinized the bag. She informed me that she’d have to empty one of my bottles because, she explained, they only allowed gels and liquids in their original containers — no camping-style plain plastic bottles are allowed. She methodically emptied out my soap from its container. Apparently terrorists have not figured out how to empty shampoo bottles to put something more dangerous inside. [...]

  6. Crick Says:

    I’ve been traveling for months with a Tom’s of Main tube-style shaving cream. It’s (new) weight was 3.6 oz. Several TSA operatives commented on the 0.1 oz violation, then waived me through…

    Until today. I’m sitting in the Kansas City terminal right now after having my 3.6 oz tube confiscated. The real insult is that when I asked him if he could let it go since the tube in its squeezed state is now way under 3.5 oz, he insistently informed me that the limit is 3.4 oz ~!!!

    Who know the real deal? Certainly the TSA employees aren’t receiving the same information that the TSA is feeding to the public on their wesbsite!

    This paragraph may shed some missing light – the 3-1-1 is a simple to remember rule where the actual rule is somewhat different:

    “Items must fit in one clear, re-sealable quart or liter-sized plastic bag, in containers of 3.4oz/100ml or less. In the European Union, items must fit in one clear, re-sealable liter-sized plastic bag, in containers of 100ml/3.3oz or less. (Please note: The TSA’s exact measurements are stated above. But for ease of memory please follow the 3-1-1 rule.)”

  7. Crick Says:

    I’ve been traveling for months with a Tom’s of Main tube-style shaving cream. It’s (new) weight was 3.6 oz. Several TSA operatives commented on the 0.1 oz violation, then waived me through…

    Until today. I’m sitting in the Kansas City terminal right now after having my 3.6 oz tube confiscated. The real insult is that when I asked him if he could let it go since the tube in its squeezed state is now way under 3.5 oz, he insistently informed me that the limit is 3.4 oz ~!!!

    Who know the real deal? Certainly the TSA employees aren’t receiving the same information that the TSA is feeding to the public on their wesbsite!

    This paragraph may shed some missing light – the 3-1-1 is a simple to remember rule where the actual rule is somewhat different:

    “Items must fit in one clear, re-sealable quart or liter-sized plastic bag, in containers of 3.4oz/100ml or less. In the European Union, items must fit in one clear, re-sealable liter-sized plastic bag, in containers of 100ml/3.3oz or less. (Please note: The TSA’s exact measurements are stated above. But for ease of memory please follow the 3-1-1 rule.)”

  8. Marlene Roberts Says:

    I NEED TO CARRY ON A 4 oz. BOTTLE OF BOSTON LENS CONDITIONING SOLUTION. ALSO A 1 oz,BOSTON CLEANER. IS THIS OK
    THANK YOU

  9. Mark Ashley Says:

    Marlene – Technically you’re not supposed to bring a 4oz. bottle through security. You can take your chances, but you risk getting it confiscated. The 1oz. bottle is fine.

  10. Eric Says:

    A week ago I was flying out of Denver and they took my 4oz. bottle of AXE and said “3.4oz is ok but not 4oz”. Whatever… I didn’t have any trouble flying out of Nashville a week earlier. I don’t know why they don’t just cap the limit at an even 4oz since it is such a common size. :/

  11. Eric Says:

    A week ago I was flying out of Denver and they took my 4oz. bottle of AXE and said “3.4oz is ok but not 4oz”. Whatever… I didn’t have any trouble flying out of Nashville a week earlier. I don’t know why they don’t just cap the limit at an even 4oz since it is such a common size. :/

  12. John Says:

    If you use AXE body spray it should be confiscated and you should be jailed! gross!

  13. Lucy Says:

    i was just wondering if i could bring my 4oz. bottle of shampoo and another of lotion. i just got them. does each airport have different restrictions?

  14. shaving guy Says:

    New 2009 TSA Rules: You can now carry on liquids up to 3.4 oz.

    It’s about time! A common worldwide package size for toiletries is 100ml, which translates to 3.38 oz (NOT 3.0 oz). Finally, the TSA caught up with the rest of the world.

    The official TSA web site with new 2009 3.4 oz liquid carry on rules: http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm

    The following TSA article clarifies that as of 2009, liquids up to 3.4 oz are allowed to be carried on all USA planes and how the TSA 3.4 oz / 3.0 oz. liquid policy confusion happened:

    http://www.tsa.gov/blog/2009/02/3-oz-or-34-oz-what-gives.html

    We manufacture a very popular men’s grooming line of shaving, skin and hair products (www.men-uusa.com) that is 3.38 oz and we’ve been explaining to our customers that they can carry on these products. The TSA has not done a very good job communicating this 2009 change allowing 3.4 oz liquids in carry on luggage.

  15. cathy bolton Says:

    my friend has a feeding tube and needs to carry the liquid nutrition at room temp. What ate the rules for carrying the fluid needed?

  16. Lefty Says:

    Cathy B, your friend’s medical supplies are excluded from these limits, as are mothers with baby formula. I often have to carry larger containers for my own digestive disorder. I usually get a note from my doctor on the medical necessity of anything in question. Check the TSA website . . . you will find the rules on medical supplies.

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