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Close up of person placing shoes in a security bin at the airport security line
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5 Surprising TSA Rules You Didn’t Know

SmarterTravel

Think you’re enough of a frequent flyer to know all of the rules from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)? These five lesser-known TSA rules may surprise you—but knowing them could make your next trip through airport security smoother.

The 3-1-1 Rule Doesn’t Apply to Hand Saniztizer

Close up of person's hands as they put on hand sanitizer on an airplane
Евгений Шемякин | Adobe Stock

Taking a long trip or just don’t have any travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer? Due to the pandemic, the TSA is temporarily allowing one container of hand sanitizer that is 12 ounces or less in carry-on bags. However, if the hand sanitizer is over 3.4 ounces, you will need to take the oversized hand sanitizer out for additional screening. 

Peanut Butter Is Subject to the 3-1-1 Rule

If you’re packing a peanut butter sandwich in your carry-on, no need to worry—you can bring peanut butter onboard as long as it’s less than 3.4 ounces. However, if you want to pack a full jar of Skippy, know that peanut butter falls under the “cream” category and is subject to the 3-1-1 rule. In addition to liquids, the TSA requires any substance that can be considered an aerosol, gel, cream, or paste, to be in a 3.4 ounce container or smaller. 

You Don’t Have to Remove Your Liquids With TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck members don’t have to remove liquids, laptops, shoes, belts, or light jackets when going through security screening. (However, TSA PreCheck members do still need to abide by the 3-1-1 rule.)

You Can’t Fly With Strong Alcohol

Various bottles of alcohol laid out on a grey background
New Africa | Adobe Stock

Bringing home a powerful souvenir? If it’s alcohol over 70% ABV (140 proof), you’ll have to leave it behind. Only alcohol under 140 proof is allowed on planes. Regular-strength alcohol can be packed in a carry-on (but only in containers of 3.4 ounces or less). 

Regular-sized bottles of alcohol that is under 140 proof can be checked, and there is no limit on how much alcohol you can bring if it’s under 48 proof (like beer and wine). There is a five liter limit for alcohol between 48 – 140 proof in checked bags, and it must be in unopened retail packaging. 

Powders Will Have to Be Screened if You’re Flying Abroad

If you’re flying to the U.S. on an international flight, you might want to limit the amount of powder you’re packing. According to the TSA, “powder-like substances” in containers of 12 ounces or more packed in a carry-on may require additional screening. If the powder cannot be identified by security, they may not be allowed onboard. Powders in checked baggage are not subject to the same limits. 

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