What are TSA Prohibited Items?

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Save yourself the trouble and learn what items the TSA bans (or not)

What are TSA Prohibited Items?

Knowing before you fly what TSA bans on a plane can save you a lot of time, aggravation and embarrassment, as well as possible fines and jail time. Take the stress out of going through security by acquainting yourself with TSA's regulations before you even start packing your bag.

TSA permitted and prohibited items list

TSA maintains a thorough list online to help you figure out what to pack and what to leave out of your carry-on and your checked-in luggage. The prohibited items list covers seven different categories of items you may wish to bring with you on a plane.

  • Explosives/Flammable: Naturally, things like dynamite and blasting caps make the prohibited list. But some everyday items are flammable or explosive too. Vaping devices, for example. You can carry them with you onto the plane but can't store them in your checked luggage. Many toiletries are flammable. Nonsolid items can't exceed 3.4 ounces if brought on board in hand luggage and are limited to 70 ounces total if you pack them in a checked-in suitcase. 
  • Firearms: Bringing your firearm in your carry-on or packing it incorrectly in your checked bag can cost you up to $7,500 in fines and get you referred for criminal prosecution. The hard-sided case that came with your gun may not be enough to secure it for TSA purposes. You'll also want to check with your airline and review gun laws at your destination to prevent breaking the law. 
  • Food: You can bring many foods on board in your carry-on, such as pies, cakes, crackers, meat and fresh whole fruits. Semiliquid foods like gravy, yogurt and dressings will need to go into 3.4-ounce or smaller containers if you want to take them with you on the plane. Otherwise, pack them in your luggage. 
  • Self-Defense Items: As you might guess, self-defense items such as martial arts weapons and brass knuckles need to go in your checked baggage. The only exception is one 4-fluid-ounce container of pepper spray or mace, which you can pack in your carry-on. Just make sure any spray you pack in your checked baggage or carry-on has less than 2 percent tear gas by mass. 
  • Sharp Items: Believe it or not, you can bring a knife on the plane with you. But only if it's a round-bladed butter knife or plastic knife. Secure any other knives in your luggage. Nail clippers, tweezers, disposable razors and knitting needles are also okay to pack in carry-on luggage.
  • Sporting Goods: Whether you're traveling to your next meet or enjoying outdoor recreation, chances are good that you'll have to pack your sports gear in the baggage hold. The exceptions are ice skates, roller skates and longboards, which can be carried onto the plane.
  • Tools: If you're Mr. or Ms. Fixit, you can bring screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers in your carry-on bag. All other tools must be packed as checked baggage. Sheathe any sharp objects such as saws and axes so baggage handlers and security officers don't get hurt.  

Can I bring it on a plane?

If you still don't see a certain item on the list, use TSA's online "Can I bring my ... through the security checkpoint?" tool. If, for example, you want to bring a glass bowl, just enter "glass" in the tool's search engine. You'll see a drop-down list of various glass items where you can select the option to read about glass bowls. TSA permits glass items in both checked baggage and carry-ons, provided they are empty.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.