How many 3 oz items can you bring on a plane?

When packing liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes for air travel, the general rule is that containers must hold 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less per item. This rule, part of the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring on a plane.

The 3-1-1 rule

The 3-1-1 liquids rule for carry-ons allows:

  • Containers up to 3.4 ounces (100ml)
  • All liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must fit in one quart-sized bag
  • 1 quart-sized bag per traveler

The quart-sized bag must be a clear, resealable plastic bag. This rule applies to liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, pastes, pressed powder, and any similar substances.

How many 3 oz containers can I bring?

There is no set limit on the number of 3 oz containers you can bring, as long as they fit into one quart-sized bag. You could fit several small 3 oz containers or just a few larger ones. You are limited by the total volume rather than the number of items.

For example, you could bring:

  • 10 small 3 oz containers
  • 5 medium 3 oz containers
  • 3 large 3 oz containers

Or any other combination that fits neatly into the quart-sized bag.

What if I want to bring bigger containers?

Any liquids over 3.4 ounces must be placed in checked baggage. This includes things like shampoo, lotions, hair gels, toothpaste, mouthwash and other toiletries.

Some exceptions for liquids over 3.4 ounces in carry-on bags:

  • Baby formula/milk if traveling with a baby
  • Prescription medicine with a name that matches your ticket
  • Up to 5 oz. of hand sanitizer per passenger

Keep in mind that any liquids, gels or aerosols purchased after passing through security must still meet the 3-1-1 rule.

Examples of 3 oz liquid containers

Here are some examples of common 3 ounce liquid containers you might want to pack in a carry-on bag:

Liquid item Typical size
Shampoo 2-3 oz
Conditioner 2-3 oz
Toothpaste 2-3 oz
Mouthwash 3 oz
Hand sanitizer 1-2 oz
Facial cleanser 1-2 oz
Makeup remover 1-2 oz
Sunscreen 1-3 oz
Moisturizer 1-3 oz
Contact lens solution 2-3 oz

Baby care items like formula, breast milk, juice and baby food in containers larger than 3 oz are allowed through security with a baby or small child. Notify the TSA officer when you place these items on the belt.

What counts as a liquid?

The TSA considers anything that can be spilled to be a liquid. Examples include:

  • Beverages like water, juice, soda
  • Soups, syrups, oils, extracts like vanilla
  • Personal care items like shampoo, toothpaste, lip gloss, sunscreen
  • Creams, lotions, perfumes, masks, essential oils
  • Hair sprays, gels, mousse
  • Liquid makeup and makeup remover
  • Contact lens solution
  • Shaving creams, foams
  • Deodorant, shaving cream, bear spray
  • Hand sanitizers

Food items like peanut butter, honey and syrup are treated as gels.

What does not count as a liquid?

Items that are not considered liquids by TSA include:

  • Baby formula, breast milk, juice or other items for infants and small children (allowed in larger amounts)
  • Prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket (in any size container)
  • Solid foods like peanut butter, jelly, tuna, mustard
  • Gels or frozen liquids like frozen yogurt, pudding, ice packs
  • Lozenges and cough drops
  • Nail polish and remover (limited to 3 oz bottle)
  • Hair styling products like hair spray, gel, mousse (limited to 3 oz)
  • Liquid medications like insulin, eye drops (name must match ticket)

Guidelines for containers

All liquid containers must adhere to the following TSA guidelines:

  • 3.4 ounces or less per container
  • Placed in a single quart-sized plastic zip-top bag
  • Bag must be completely closed and seals intact
  • Only one bag per passenger
  • All liquids must fit easily within bag when zipped closed
  • Bags must be clear and resealable
  • Original containers must have labels visible

Any containers that do not meet these guidelines will not be allowed. The TSA officer can instruct you to return unacceptable items to your car, put in checked baggage or be voluntarily abandoned.

Tips for packing liquid carry-ons

Follow these tips for easy airport screening when packing liquids:

  • Place all liquid/gel items in your single quart-sized plastic bag before arriving at airport
  • Make sure container sizes are 3.4 oz or less before packing
  • Place plastic bag separately in screening bin, not inside luggage
  • Consider alternate items that aren’t considered liquids by TSA
  • Bring enough medications and baby items for the trip only
  • Know what quantities of exempted liquids are allowed
  • Arrive early to allow time for any bags check or delays
  • Print your boarding pass in advance and have ID ready
  • Follow all instructions from TSA officers

Packing regular liquids vs. TSA liquids

Packing liquid toiletries for a flight is different than packing for any other trip. Here is a comparison:

Packing normally Packing for air travel
Can use bottles of any size Limited to 3.4oz or less per bottle
No limit on number of bottles Must fit within one quart-sized bag
Can pack in bags, kits, boxes Must pack in clear plastic bag
No need to separate Bag must be taken out separately
Carry-on and checked bags Applies only to carry-on bags

Why was the 3-1-1 rule created?

The TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule was implemented in 2006 after a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives on flights from the UK to the US and Canada was uncovered by British police.

Restrictions were put in place to limit the amount of potentially dangerous liquids allowed past airport checkpoints. The 3-1-1 rule was conceived to allow passengers to still fly with necessary liquids while maintaining security.

By limiting container sizes and requiring bags to be screened separately, TSA officers can more easily inspect liquids at checkpoints. The clear bag also allows officers to identify any suspicious liquids.

Key events leading to 3-1-1 rule:

  • August 2006: Terror plot uncovered in UK
  • August 2006: Strict limits imposed on all liquids in carry-ons
  • September 2006: TSA implements 3-1-1 rule
  • January 2007: TSA begins using new liquid screening technologies

The 3-1-1 rule was a direct response to foil the liquid explosive plot and has been in effect ever since as an airline security measure.

Recent changes to liquid rules

In 2022, the TSA announced that some expired traveler identification cards would be acceptable for airport screening. These included driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs.

Some other recent changes include:

  • January 2021: Allowed up to 12 oz. hand sanitizer in carry-ons
  • April 2021: Accepted expired licenses and IDs due to COVID-19
  • July 2022: Extended acceptance of expired IDs to May 2023
  • October 2022: Allowed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge thermal detonator bottles

The TSA continues to adjust policies to address evolving screening needs while still enforcing liquid restrictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are some liquids, gels and aerosols restricted?

These types of items are restricted due to an ongoing security threat from terrorists attempting to conceal explosives in containers. The 3-1-1 rule was implemented after a plot to detonate liquid explosives on flights was uncovered.

Can I bring full size shampoo bottles in my checked bag?

Yes, the 3-1-1 liquid rule applies only to carry-on bags. You can pack any size liquid containers in checked luggage.

What if my liquids don’t fit in one quart-sized bag?

If you have liquids that exceed what can fit in the quart-sized bag, you will need to pack them in your checked luggage. Any that don’t meet the 3-1-1 rules for carry-ons will be confiscated at the checkpoint.

Do I have to take my 1 quart bag of liquids out of my carry-on?

Yes, the clear quart-sized bag of liquids, gels and aerosols must be removed from your carry-on and placed in a separate bin for x-ray screening. This allows TSA officers to get a clear look at the bag’s contents.

Can I bring a big bottle of shampoo if it’s still sealed from purchase?

No, only containers 3.4 oz or less are allowed, regardless of being sealed, opened or purchased at airport stores after passing security. Any liquids over 3.4 oz must go in checked bags.

What if I have medication liquid over 3.4 oz?

Medically necessary liquids over 3.4 ounces are generally allowed. However, you must declare them to a TSA officer at checkpoint and may be required to show proof that it is medically necessary.

Are solid foods and frozen items considered liquids?

No, only liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes are covered by the 3-1-1 rule. Items like peanut butter, frozen yogurt and ice packs are not considered liquids subject to the limits.

Can I bring full size bottles if I’m willing to give them up?

No, you cannot bring containers over the allowed size, even if willing to surrender them. Liquids not meeting the 3-1-1 rules for carry-ons should be packed in checked luggage instead.

What if another passenger leaves prohibited items at the checkpoint?

If you see another passenger abandon or leave behind prohibited items, do not pick them up and notify the nearest TSA officer right away. Picking up unattended items at the checkpoint could delay your screening.


Knowing the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels and aerosols allows air travelers to smoothly pass through security checkpoints. Remember these key points:

  • Containers must be 3.4 ounces or less
  • All containers must fit in one clear quart-sized bag
  • Only one bag per passenger
  • Take the plastic bag out separately for screening
  • Any liquids over 3.4 oz must go in checked luggage

Following the 3-1-1 guidelines and allowing extra time at airport security will help ensure you don’t have to give up prohibited liquids before boarding your flight.

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