How many 100ml bottles can you take on a plane UK?

When packing liquids in your hand luggage for a flight from a UK airport, there are restrictions on the amount you can take through security. All liquids must be in individual containers with a maximum capacity of 100ml. These containers must be placed in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag that does not exceed 20cm x 20cm in size.

The 100ml liquid rule

The 100ml liquid rule, also known as the liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) rule, restricts the total amount of certain liquids passengers can take through airport security in hand luggage. It applies to all passengers departing from UK airports, as well as many other airports globally.

The rules are as follows:

  • All liquids must be in individual containers with a maximum capacity of 100ml
  • All containers must fit comfortably inside a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag that does not exceed 20cm x 20cm in size
  • The contents of the plastic bag must fit comfortably when the bag is sealed
  • Only one plastic bag per person is permitted

The 100ml limit applies to liquids, gels, pastes, lotions, creams, jams, liquid foods and any other solutions that have similar properties. It also includes non-solid toothpaste, hair gel, drinks, soups, syrups, perfume, shaving foam and other items of similar consistency.

Why was the 100ml rule introduced?

The 100ml liquid rule was introduced in November 2006 by the European Union. It came in response to a foiled terror plot in August 2006 to detonate liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks on board multiple flights travelling from the UK to the US and Canada.

Restricting the amount of liquids each passenger can carry is intended to make it more difficult to smuggle dangerous liquids onto a plane that could be used to assemble an improvised explosive device. By limiting containers to 100ml, terrorists would need to assemble several components, which is more challenging to coordinate.

The new airport security measures have been successful and there have been no further attempts to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes departing from the UK since 2006.

What liquids are restricted?

The 100ml limit applies to all liquids, gels, pastes, lotions, creams, jams, and any other solutions or items with similar consistency. This includes:

  • Drinks such as water, soft drinks, juice and liquid baby food
  • Liquid foods like soup, syrups, sauces and olive oil
  • Toiletries including shampoo, sunscreen, shower gel, perfume, makeup and other cosmetics
  • Medicines such as cough syrup, contact lens solution and other liquid pharmaceuticals
  • Other items like toothpaste, hair gel, honey, and any other liquid or semi-liquid items

Each of these items must adhere to the 100ml per container limit. Larger bottles or tubes over 100ml will not be permitted, even if they are only partially full.

Liquids exempt from restrictions

There are some exemptions to the liquids rule. Liquids in the following categories do not need to adhere to the 100ml limit:

  • Prescription medicines – Required for the duration of the journey for medical reasons. May need supporting documentation.
  • Special dietary products – Such as liquid baby food or special foods required for medical reasons. May need supporting documentation.
  • Alcohol over 24% ABV – In containers of less than 5 litres carried by passengers over 18 years old.

Passengers may also carry larger volumes of liquids in their hold luggage, where the 100ml rule does not apply. However, some restrictions still exist on the transport of dangerous goods in hold luggage.

How many 100ml bottles can you take?

There is no definite limit on the number of 100ml bottles passengers can take through security. However, all containers must fit comfortably inside the single transparent bag no larger than 20cm x 20cm.

As a guide, most passengers are able to fit around 10-15 individual 100ml bottles or containers within this size plastic bag when it is fully sealed. However, this will depend on the exact size and shape of the containers.

For example, bottles with a flat shape can often be stacked more efficiently than taller round bottles. Squarer shaped bottles or tubes also pack better than long thin ones. The objective is to utilise all the space available within the plastic bag when it is sealed.

Tips for packing 100ml liquids

To make the most of your 100ml liquid allowances, here are some useful tips:

  • Use containers with a flat shape where possible – these can be stacked more efficiently
  • Refill any bottles over 100ml into empty 100ml bottles if possible
  • Opt for sample or trial sizes of toiletries under 100ml
  • Pack items like toothpaste, deodorant and hair gel at the bottom as they have a firmer consistency
  • Utilise all available space by packing items tightly and efficiently
  • Only take essential liquids – non-essentials can go in hold luggage

Plastic bags for liquids

Clear resealable plastic bags for holding your 100ml liquids can be purchased from most airports immediately prior to the security checkpoint. The maximum permitted bag size is 20cm x 20cm and most airports sell bags in the region of 17cm x 20cm.

You are required to present all your liquids sealed within this bag when you reach the screening point. Some airports may also provide free plastic bags before security.

Alternatively, you can use your own transparent plastic bag if it meets the size requirements. Some ideas include:

  • Reusable freezer bags
  • Small zip lock bags
  • Sandwich bags
  • Makeup or toiletry bags

As long as it is transparent and seals fully, you can reuse your plastic bag on multiple trips. Just keep it with your travel liquids container for easy use at the airport.

Screening of liquids at airport security

When you arrive at airport security, you will need to take your sealed plastic bag of liquids out of your cabin bag and place it in a separate tray. Your bag will go through an x-ray scanner which allows officers to examine its contents.

You may also be asked to open your bag and demonstrate that all containers are 100ml or less. Any containers over 100ml will be confiscated. If your liquids are not within the required bag, you may also have them taken away.

After screening, an officer may swab your bag and test for any explosive residue or chemicals. Your items will then be returned if everything is in order. The process helps ensure adherence to the liquids rules.

Consequences of breaking the liquid rules

If you break the 100ml liquid rules at airport security, you face having your items confiscated before being allowed to board your flight. In most cases, security officers will also explain the rules if you did not understand them.

However, more serious breaches of the rules could potentially lead to you being prevented from travelling. Deliberately trying to evade security by hiding oversized liquids could result in your being detained or handed over to the police.

Your flight operator will not offer a refund if you are denied boarding for contravening hand luggage liquid restrictions. You also stand to lose any liquids confiscated by not following the 100ml rules.

100ml liquid allowances around the world

The 100ml liquid rule applies as standard for passengers departing all UK airports as well as other airports in the European Union.

Most major international airports also now enforce very similar 100ml restrictions for cabin baggage liquids in line with global security standards. However, some differences exist between certain countries and regions.

For example, the USA permits containers up to 3.4oz (100ml) while Canada allows up to 3.4oz (118ml). Australia specifies containers up to 100ml.

Wherever you are flying from, always check the specific hand luggage liquid allowances for that airport before packing. When in doubt, adhere to the more restrictive 100ml EU limit to be safe.

Changes at airport security from 2024

From 2024, passenger screening at UK airports is set to change with the planned roll out of new 3D scanners. These will provide more detailed x-ray images of cabin baggage contents.

It is anticipated that eventually this technology could allow passengers to keep laptops and liquids inside their bags during screening. However 100ml liquid restrictions will still apply.

Passengers selected for trialling the new 3D scanners from 2024 onwards will be able to leave their liquids and laptops inside bags. But most travellers will need to continue following existing security rules until the technology is fully implemented.

Key takeaways

  • All liquids over 100ml are banned from hand luggage
  • Each container can be up to 100ml maximum
  • All containers must fit in a transparent resealable bag no more than 20cm x 20cm
  • Prescription medicines and special dietary products are exempt after screening
  • Around 10-15 individual 100ml bottles fit in a typical bag
  • Breaching the restrictions risks confiscation of items
  • 100ml allowances apply at all major airports globally


Abiding by the 100ml liquid rules is mandatory for passengers at all UK airports. You should limit each container to no more than 100ml and place all your liquids in a clear resealable bag not exceeding 20cm x 20cm.

Aim to utilise all the space available within your plastic bag by packing as many 100ml bottles as possible. Around 10-15 bottles is typical with efficient packing. Following the rules to the letter ensures you stay airside and avoid losing your liquids.

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