How I Smuggled Six Ounces Through Airport Security
But only if they follow the rule of three. Here’s a few lines from the TSA’s “Permitted and Prohibited” chart for carry-on luggage, which lists the substances you're allowed to carry as well as the safe and proper amount of each item:
Aerosol spray bottles and cans Yes - Less than 3 oz.
All creams and lotions including Neosporin or first-aid creams and ointments, topical or rash creams and ointments, suntan lotions, moisturizers, etc. Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Bubble bath balls, bath oils or moisturizers Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Bug and mosquito sprays and repellents Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Deodorants made of gel or aerosol Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Hair styling gels and spray of all kinds including aerosol Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Hair Straightener or Detangler Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Lip gels such as Carmex or Blistex Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid lip glosses or other liquids for lips Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid bubble bath including gel or liquid filled Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid foundations Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid, gel or spray perfumes and colognes Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid sanitizers Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid soaps Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Liquid mascara Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Make up removers or facial cleansers Yes - Less than 3 oz.
Mouthwash Yes - Less than 3 oz.
...and so on, in alphabetical order.
The rule of three is very important because it keeps us safe from terrorists. Nonetheless, last week when I flew out of state I carried four ounces of shampoo and eight ounces of conditioner onto the plane with me. That’s right: I made it through with twelve ounces of hair-cleaning materiel where regulation only allowed for six. In my last post before leaving last week, I mentioned my plan to smuggle extra hair-cleansing supplies and promised to share the details when I returned.
A decent and responsible person who loved America would never keep such a promise. What if there’s a terrorist somewhere who plans to blow up an airplane but needs eight ounces of conditioner to do it? And since TSA will only let him have three he’s all flummoxed and sad and about to abandon his plan, but one day he does a Google search for “how to smuggle conditioner through airport security” and finds this essay here.
A lot of people could die if I share my evil-genius smuggling brilliance with the world. That would be a heavy burden to bear on my conscience, except I don't have one. Are you surprised to learn this? You shouldn't be: if I'm sociopathic enough to bring more than three ounces of shampoo onto an airplane, it naturally follows that I'm callous enough to throw millions of lives away if I think I can get a blog post out of it. So here's the secret:
the way to carry eight ounces of conditioner onto an airplane in defiance of TSA’s three-ounce restrictions is to decant it into multiple small bottles of less than three ounces each.
And I did. TSA regulations state that any liquids or gels must be kept in a clear one-quart Ziploc bag. You can easily fit well over twenty ounces in such a bag if the bottles are the right size and shape, so long as no one bottle is more than three ounces.
TSA’s very strict about the rule of three-ounce bottles; an agent last week asked the woman in front of me if any of her bottles held more than three ounces. But that agent said nothing to me, since the dozen or so bottles in my Ziploc were all miniature enough to avoid suspicion. (I played it extra-safe: not only did I use a collection of one- and two-ounce bottles, but every bottle looked different so no agents would get suspicious to see three or four bottles of the same substance.)
To reiterate, here’s America’s latest anti-terrorism rule of thumb:
Eight ounces of conditioner in one bottle: potentially dangerous. TSA will confiscate it.
Eight ounces of conditioner in four bottles: guaranteed safe. TSA will let it through.