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I use a pomade I probably couldn't find where I'm traveling. I know the TSA has a 3.4 oz limit to liquids. My pomade tin is 3.5. How do I risk-free deal with this? Use a red marker to get rid of the ounce label? Or do I need to put it in a different container because TSA is that petty and will question it? Thanks in advance.

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    Usually the TSA is not alert enough to notice such minor discrepancies, but occasionally they are. I once had a 4.0 fl.oz. bottle of shampoo at a checkpoint at a not-very-busy time, and a particularly grumpy screener noticed and threw it out. The odds are low, but you'll have to weigh them against how much you value the pomade and how inconvenienced you'd be if it got seized.
    – mlc
    Nov 2, 2022 at 4:35
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    If you do not need the whole tin for your trip you can put the expected amount and a bit extra in a smaller container.
    – Willeke
    Nov 2, 2022 at 6:05
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    Is it 3.5 fluid ounces or 3.5 ounces? If the latter, that's the weight, not the volume.
    – phoog
    Nov 2, 2022 at 6:40
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    Some more information: 3.5 (avoirdupois) ounces is 99.22333 grams, while 3.5 US fluid ounces is 103.507 ml, and 3.5 imperial fluid ounces is 99.44572 ml. European airports tend to give the limit as "100 g or 100 ml," but unfortunately the US doesn't seem to mention weight in this context. The first result I found searching "pomade 3.5 oz" was a tin labeled 100 g/3.5 oz, but I can easily imagine that many TSA agents if not most of them would be swayed by 3.5 being greater than 3.4.
    – phoog
    Nov 2, 2022 at 10:57
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    The obvious answer would be include it on your checked baggage. But given your question, I assume you're not checking any bags, correct?
    – BruceWayne
    Nov 2, 2022 at 15:20

5 Answers 5

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They would rarely notice such a difference, particularly since many checkpoints no longer require bottles to be taken out. Even if you did have them out in a clear plastic bag, the bottle would not look sufficiently oversize to get obvious attention. However, they might just happen to look when yours pass and then you would have to get rid of the entire container.

It is the container size that matters and so the easiest and safest way is to simply transfer the contents to some container of the right size. This is common enough that travel bottle kits are sold explicitly for such purpose and can cost very little, only a few dollars for one or more. You can search for travel bottles on Amazon to see many examples. Many of those listed explicitly say TSA approved but any bottle of the right volume works. When you use any bottle, it is best that the volume is indicated to remove any doubt by security.

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  • There's tiny bottles at Walmart too.
    – user27701
    Nov 2, 2022 at 16:12
  • Be careful with the "TSA approved" marker. I had previously purchased a small tube of hand cream at CVS, which had "TSA approved" label on it. While it was accepted in the USA when I was leaving, it ended up something like 110 ml - and was taken off me when I was transferring in Europe. I would make sure it clearly states the volume of no more than 100 ml.
    – Aleks G
    Nov 2, 2022 at 17:18
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    "TSA approved" only works with the TSA (as the name implies), which only operates in the US. Other countries really don't care about that label. I had a TSA approved corkscrew removed in Dubai. It's ok for domestic flights but doesn't help for international travel.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 2, 2022 at 17:33
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    @SirHawrk In the US, empty containers are fine regardless of the size. What TSA won’t do is try and guess how much is in a partly full container.
    – cpast
    Nov 3, 2022 at 13:12
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    @SirHawrk, in Europe the container size is what matters as well. Some airports have started to accept water bottles with water any size but the official rules still read containers of max 100ml and all of them in a clear resaleable bag of max one liter.
    – Willeke
    Nov 3, 2022 at 14:45
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You could also put the large container into your checked baggage (provided you are traveling with such, of course), and optionally fill a smaller container with a sufficient quantity for use during your airplane travel, to be taken in your carry-on.

From the TSA website:

Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.

Note: I would advise to put containers with liquids into sturdy, waterproof zip-lock bags (or similar) when packing them in checked luggage, to improve their resistance to spills during the inevitable rough handling. As commenters have pointed out, squeezing all redundant air out of plastic bags and soft bottles before closing them makes such a container much less likely to burst and spill due to air pressure changes.

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    TSA rules are that all carry on liquid containers must be in a single quart sized, clear plastic bag. I've always used a gallon sized bag and never had trouble. I don't think there's any rule for checked baggage, but it's foolhardy to not do it, as you say.
    – user27701
    Nov 2, 2022 at 16:16
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    I only check bags when there is absolutely no other way which is the case in less than 10% of my flights. Many people feel the same way so "put it in checked baggage" isn't a great answer.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 2, 2022 at 17:32
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    @27701 I've literally never put anything in a bag and never had trouble. Nov 2, 2022 at 21:30
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    @Milwrdfan the straightforward way to make sure a bag (1) completely seals liquids in, and (2) does not burst with pressure changes, is to mostly close the bag, then squeeze most of the air out, then fully seal the bag.
    – Jeffiekins
    Nov 2, 2022 at 22:13
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    @Jeffiekins this also helps with partially filled bottles. Squeeze the air out and close the bottle tightly.
    – phoog
    Nov 3, 2022 at 17:31
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How do I risk-free deal with this?

There is no way to make anything with the TSA 100% "risk-free". It's highly unlikely that a TSA agent would flag it but it's not impossible either. Some TSA agents even flag items that are perfectly legal and allowable. When that happens you can either try to elevate to a supervisor (and likely miss your flight in the process) or just give it up.

Use a red marker to get rid of the ounce label?

No. This will just draw attention to it and that's the last thing you want to do.

Or do I need to put it in a different container

No. This will just draw attention to it and that's the last thing you want to do.

because TSA is that petty and will question it?

Some TSA agents are that petty, many are not. You won't know until you get there.

In all likelihood it will go through just fine. If you absolutely cannot live without this item and must be 100% sure then consider repacking it into a smaller container. That's what I do with my after shave (while I was still shaving that is :-))

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    "Do I need to put it in a different container?" Yes, a smaller one. Any size smaller than the 3.4oz limit will work. Good answer otherwise.
    – Willeke
    Nov 2, 2022 at 13:53
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    "Put it in a different container"--uh, this isn't a problem, don't know why you think it would be. 1) So many people do this that it's not at all attention-worthy, 2) as long as the container is appropriate (either the correct size and labeled with a manufacturer label OR, even better, obviously smaller) then even if someone does pay attention to it they will just check that it's the correct size and immediately move on. Nov 2, 2022 at 13:55
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    You can even use multiple smaller containers, if the extra 0.1oz of product is really important you could use two 2oz containers and have room to spare (and this is perfectly fine, no problems doing this, it is allowed and TSA will not even blink at it). Nov 2, 2022 at 13:58
  • I've seen a couple of imported products where a (printed) sticker was stuck over to relabel the ingredients list/quantity to adhere to local requirements (even bar codes). Now imagine if a neat, official-looking label saying "100ml" (maybe with the e-mark) covered the "3.5 oz"...
    – frIT
    Nov 4, 2022 at 15:51
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From personal flying experience, I'd estimate it has less than 0.1% chance of being thrown out (less than 1 in a 1000).

If that is in your risk tolerance, I'd chance it. 0.1% risk probability times $20 (estimating your pomade cost) is a $0.02 financial risk, plus whatever inconvenience you'd have if you happen to not have your pomade.

In short, I'd risk it without a second thought.

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3.5 is larger than 3.4 so TSA is within their right to throw it out or make you put it in your checked luggage, period.

If they give you grief about this then just understand they're doing their job; they have zero incentive to jeopardize their job so that you can have pomade at your destination.

If they were being petty then they would invite you in the back room with rubber gloves after you gave them a hard time for doing their job.


If you're losing sleep over pomade then visit the airport a day early and ask a TSA agent directly for their advice.


If you decide to separate it into smaller containers then just make sure the container size is clearly labeled. Unlabeled containers are subject to immediate rejection.

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    That last is not true, if the size is clearly under 3oz, or under 75ml, it will be accepted. No need to have a label with the size unless it is near the limit or a very odd shape.
    – Willeke
    Nov 3, 2022 at 14:40
  • "...doing their job..." Right. Remember that most TSA staff do not want to confront you about anything you're carrying or upset you in any way. Their primary concern is not you or even safety but to avoid their managers crapping on them, penalising them, and even firing them. It's an unpleasant job with very poor and often abusive management.
    – cjs
    Nov 5, 2022 at 4:06

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