Travel Is Good For the Toothpaste Industry

I finally had my bizarre TSA / toothpaste confiscation experience.  It was bound to happen – I’m just surprised it took this long.

Yesterday I went through security at DIA.  Like a good little traveller, I had put my toothbrush, toothpaste, and bacitracin (for the cut on my knee that is still healing) in a small ziplock bag.  I took the ziplock bag out of my carry on bag and put it in the grey storage tub, along with the contents of my pockets, my shoes, my laptop, my spare laptop battery, and my coat (ok – it was three tubs.)  The person behind me bumped me and pushed my stuff forward as he was trying to undress and get all his paraphernalia into a tub.

I went through the metal detector and got a polite wave from the TSA screener.  I then stood and waited for my bags (and tubs).  And waited.  And waited. 

Eventually, the TSA guy came over holding my little ziplock bag.  He asked if it was mine.  I said “yup.”  He said “your toothpaste container is 4 oz.”  It was a Tom’s of Maine plastic see through container and it was obvious that it was less than half full.  I responded “yes – but there’s not 3 oz of liquid in there – my guess is there is less than 2 oz.”  The nice TSA man responded “I’m sorry – but if the container is larger than 3 oz, it’s not permitted.” 

While I was a little baffled, I was cutting it close and didn’t really feel like arguing.  So – I shrugged.  My TSA friend then said “if you’d like, we can mail it to you.”  I responded that I thought this was a poor use of taxpayer dollars and he should feel free to either take it home with him or throw it away.

At my hotel (The W in Seattle), I asked them if they had any toothpaste.  I now have a very nice micro-toothpaste tube (1 oz) that I expect I’ll have no trouble smuggling onto the plane later today.

  • Just flew to Baltimore from Denver yesterday and was afraid to bring my toothpaste for just this exact reason, Brad. Maybe this is actually a plot by the American Dental Association??

  • mathew

    All you have to do is tape the toothpaste to your leg, just like smuggling a brick of cash – simple.

  • Derald Muniz

    Unbelievable. But, then again Brad, you do mildly resemble the shoe bomber dude. Mildly.

  • Exactly what happened to me the other week!!! I was about to blog about it since it was waaaay too bizarre. I purposefully packed a nearly-empty toohtpaste tube and they still grabbed it saying “we go by what it says on the contained”…

  • Jim

    I went DEN-SFO and back this week. Left my toothpaste and contact solution in my suitcase (they were trial sizes). No one said a thing.

    I think if you pull it out they inspect it more.

  • This could be the start of a wonderful new industry – 3 oz and smaller versions of all these liquids you need when traveling. Could be good for the economy 🙂

  • Lura Vernon

    I cruised through your post on this, got a good laugh, and then within an hour, while I was cruising around looking to amuse myself while the kids got ready for karate, I found this:

    Looks like you could be a cartoonist, Brad.

  • Come on Brad! You were baffled? Why?! I went here:

    It’s says in big letters, “Don’t bring any container larger than three ounces.”

    I really don’t see how they could be much more clear about it.

    I’m not suggesting you, or anyone else, has to *like* the travel restrictions – of course they’re a pain – but I completely fail to see how they’re in away difficult to understand.

  • Pete

    Same exact thing with me in DFW yesterday, and same exact conversation! Funny that the good folks in LGA and Houston Hobby didn’t seem to care, but security at DFW wasn’t about to me by with a half full tube!

    Also, just curious– but how does a plastic ziploc bag enhance security?


  • security? That I want to know!!!! Please!

  • Dennis

    I would like to find an adapter to connect my large size tube of toothpaste to my 1 ounce tube so I could refill it. It is stupid to have to pay 90 cents for an ounce of toothpaste. TSA is really starting to bug me.

    • Mike (Texas)

      I created such a device from 2 toothpaste tube end caps. You just need to heat up the ends of them at the same time from a gas flame (propane torch or gas kitchen burner) and once they start to melt or just barely catch on fire, stick them together to fuse together. Then either drill out the center of them or take a piece of wire, heat it up in the flame and melt a wide hole through both of the caps.

      After having done that, I decided to search the web to see if anyone actually made a commercial product like this. I couldn't find one, but I did find a case where an individual was using a short piece of vinyl tubing to connect the two toothpaste tubes. For the toothpaste brands that I use, the threads all match, but I can't guarantee that for every brand, so my system might work for you or it might not. The one with the short piece of vinyl tubing would probably be less dependent upon the threads on the toothpaste tube.

  • Rich

    I wonder if the person at TSA who ultimately invented this nonsense is the same one getting kickbacks from Proctor & Gamble?