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Is it allowed to carry aerosol spray cans (deodorant, insect repellent, waterproofer, spray paint, i.e. any common thing you can think of that typically comes in spray bottles) in the checked luggage on airplanes?

Is it safe to do so?

My concern is that pressurized containers may not be allowed due to the potential pressure decrease on the plane.

Answers applicable only to US domestic flights are also welcome.

  • I read somewhere that (at least in Europe) companies now travel with the luggage compartment pressurized. I am not sure how accurate this information is though. – nsn Aug 20 '14 at 15:36
  • I think most cargo holds are now pressurised... – Fattie Aug 20 '14 at 15:41
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    The people over on Aviation Stack Exchange are of the opinion that most modern cargo holds are pressurized, – David Richerby Aug 21 '14 at 0:26
  • Hi David! Yes, as I said, I asked that question there to help with this question here! :) – Fattie Aug 21 '14 at 13:13
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SafeTravel covers this somewhat, saying you'll want to check the details on your deodorant / other can. If it says it's a flammable product, it may not be permitted in your checked luggage.

If it's not flammable, however, then it should be fine to travel with, provided the top is on.

So to be clear - it's the flammability that's more of a concern here, rather than any explosions from pressure - most large passenger plane cargo holds are pressurized. In fact in larger jets, pressurization of the cargo hold is also required to prevent damage to pressure-sensitive goods that might leak, expand, burst or be crushed on re-pressurization.

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    I just checked three entirely different products, and all of them have some sort of flammability warning (one says "don't use next to open flame", one says "flammable" and one "extremely flammable"). Must be the gas used to propel the material from the can. Based on your link I get the impression that most sprays would not be okay. – Szabolcs Aug 20 '14 at 16:36
  • Indeed, which is why I have a small roll-on deodorant for travel with. – Mark Mayo Aug 21 '14 at 1:38
  • @MarkMayo Since CFCs were banned, pretty much all aerosol sprays use flammable propellants. Are you aware of any country or airline that prohibits aerosol sprays in checked (or even carry-on) luggage? As per my answer, the TSA and British Airways both allow passengers to bring reasonable quantities of aerosol sprays with them. – David Richerby Aug 21 '14 at 7:22
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    @MarkMayo You've misinterpreted the SafeTravel page. It says that personal, medicinal and toilet aerosols are always fine (regardless of whether or not they're flammable; these days, they generally are flammable). You don't need to check your deodorant: it's flammable but you can take it. Other aerosols generally can't be brought on planes if they're flammable: for example, spray paint isn't a "personal, medicinal or toilet" item and it is flammable, so you can't bring it on the plane. – David Richerby Aug 21 '14 at 7:26
  • @DavidRicherby I can confirm the US has on multiple occasions taken my aerosol can off me from my carry-on luggage (I believe Australia too, but can't remember for sure). Thinking about it, though, it may be because of the size - they're aerosols, sure, but they also contain more than 100ml of liquid....not sure. – Mark Mayo Aug 21 '14 at 14:03
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The US domestic answer is that aerosol toiletries are fine: the TSA says that aerosols are prohibited, "except for personal care or toiletries in limited quantities". The regulations in other countries are, I believe, broadly similar. As a random other example, Britsh Airways' dangerous goods list says (page 2) that "Non-radioactive medicinal or toilet articles (including aerosols) such as hair sprays, perfumes, colognes and medicines containing alcohol" may be carried in checked or carry-on luggage or on your person.

Why the explicit mention of radioactivity? mindcorrosive pointed out in a comment that radioactive substances are used medicinally to treat conditions including hyperthyroidism (see Wikipedia). Also, up to at least the 1960s, radioactive cosmetics were available.

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It depends; it appears that some are and some are not.

If flying within the US, the FAA has a table of items that are allowed and forbidden on airplanes (either as checked or carry-on luggage). From that table, you can see that, for instance, aerosol sunscreen is allowed, pressurized whipped cream is allowed in checked luggage but not carry-on, and spray paint is completely forbidden.

If in any doubt, you should check with the airline agent (when checking luggage), or the security officers at the checkpoint (for carry-on).

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Whether or not allowed and whether or not safe is essentially the one issue. That is, if 'safe' they are allowed and if 'unsafe' they are disallowed.

Safety here (as usual!) is somewhat subjective† (eg say a controlled drug) but for aerosol cans is more a matter off flammability than pressure. As mentioned by @Mark Mayo most large passenger plane cargo holds are pressurized, even if not to pressure at ground level. For an example of subjective, most airlines deem liquid volumes over 100ml 'unsafe' even though exactly the same liquid in a smaller quantity is deemed 'safe'.

For flammability, there are two aspects: 1) the content and 2) the propellant.

As mentioned by @Nat Eldredge, some content is allowed and some not. For US domestic flights a place to check is TSA's site as he suggested. There may be some items that are disallowed despite not being flammable (and therefore in reality 'safe') on the 'subjective' basis that the majority of such items are flammable (eg perhaps water-based spray paint) - it is simply not practical to cover every single possible item that someone might want to transport, so a 'broad brush' approach has to be taken.

Propellants are usually flammable but when used for toiletries are normally in small quantity, hence allowed as for small quantities of most liquids.

† TSA governs USA, EASA the EU and IATA 'fills in the gaps'. The wording at least of each differs, hence the scope for interpretation differs, hence back to an element of 'subjectivity'.

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