Can You Take Mouthwash on an Airplane?

Can You Take Mouthwash on an Airplane?

It’s not a crime to want to have fresh breath wherever you go! That means keeping your favorite mouthwash close by—even if you’re stepping on a plane. 

You may be able to find mouthwash at your destination, but it may be in a bottle far too large to take back. Or your final destination may be a remote backcountry location—perfect to unplug and relax in peace and tranquility … but not perfect for stocking up on toiletries.

It makes sense to want to include your favorite mouthwash in your traveling toiletries kit. But can you even bring mouthwash on a plane? Airlines and the TSA are notoriously sensitive about what people bring on planes, and for good reason. Post-9/11 aviation rules have made passengers more sensitive than ever about what they pack in their bags, especially liquids.

So what rules apply in this situation? Can you take mouthwash on a plane?

Bringing Mouthwash on a Plane: The 3/1/1 Rule 

The best-known rule regarding the transportation of liquids on airplanes is also one of the least-understood. It’s called the “3/1/1” rule, and it has been imposed by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Other countries have different rules, but if you want to board a plane in the US, 3/1/1 applies. 

The rules break down as follows:

  • 3 = Maximum 3.4 ounce container size. This gets shortened to “3,” and many people think three fluid ounces is the limit. But the rule is actually 100 milliliters, which converts to 3.4 ounces. These could be bottles, canisters, pouches … any container, as long as the maximum capacity is 100 mL. 
  • 1 = Maximum one zipper-sealed baggie. Each passenger only gets one ziplock baggie full of 3.4-ounce containers. All the containers you bring, including mouthwash, have to fit inside that baggie.  
  • 1 = Maximum baggie size of one quart. The baggie must have a capacity no larger than one quart. It doesn’t matter if you fill this baggie with a mix of liquids, or stuff it entirely with one-ounce pouches of mouthwash—as long as it’s less than one quart, you can bring it. 

Why does this rule exist? The TSA implemented this rule in 2006 after an attempted bombing of a commercial airliner in the UK. The assailants tried to blend a sports drink and other ingredients into an explosive cocktail. Studies showed that limiting individual liquid quantities to 100 mL or less would prevent hypothetical future attackers from blending an effective liquid cocktail and endangering the flight. 

It’s important to note that the 3/1/1 rule only applies to carry-on luggage. You can put as much liquid as you want, in any size container, in checked luggage. Just be careful—you don’t want a big mouthwash bottle to break and soak the rest of your luggage when a baggage handler tosses your suitcase roughly into the plane’s storage compartment. 

Do Rules Against Alcohol Prohibit Bringing Mouthwash On a Plane? 

Some antiseptic mouthwash contains alcohol. Among its other fun qualities, alcohol is a powerful disinfectant. It can be very effective at killing the kind of bacteria, fungus, and oral flora that cause bad breath. 

But you may have heard through the grapevine that you are not allowed to bring alcohol onto a plane. Does this mean mouthwash is a no-no? 

In a word, no. There is actually no law that prevents you from bringing alcohol on a plane. You can even bring bottles of alcohol in your carry-on bag—as long as it conforms with the 3/1/1 rule (3.4-ounce bottles or less, and they have to fit in your one-quart plastic zipper-seal baggie along with your other liquids).

So why do people think this is the case? The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) prohibits airline passengers from consuming their own alcoholic beverages on the plane. Consuming alcoholic beverages served and/or sold by the flight attendant is fine. Bringing a one-ounce bottle of vodka on the plane is also fine, as long as it fits in your one-quart baggie. But try to pour that vodka into your orange juice and drink it mid-flight, and you’re actually breaking a Federal law.

How does this apply to mouthwash containing alcohol? Not much. Mouthwash isn’t an alcoholic beverage. Even if it contains alcohol, it isn’t a beverage. If your in-flight meal leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you can grab a one-ounce pouch of mouthwash from your carry-on baggie of liquids, duck over to the lavatory, crack open the pouch, and freshen up your breath … without violating any Federal laws.  

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Despite what would seem to be some stumbling blocks, it is actually not illegal or difficult to bring mouthwash on a commercial jetliner. Just follow the same rules you would follow with any other liquid, and you’ll enjoy fresh breath for your entire trip!