Travel Tips

5 min read

Sky-High Grooming: Are Nail Clippers TSA-Approved?

Ever been side-eyed by TSA for your grooming gadgets? Let's clip the confusion on taking nail clippers sky-high - no one likes a snag in their travel plans, right?

Tobi Miles
May 31, 2022

Airports frequently change requirements for baggage. For that reason, it can be hard to keep up with the ever-changing rules. You have likely heard the common plight of someone you know, packing a shampoo that was an ounce over the limit and having it confiscated.

Another common grooming and hygiene item that raises questions is nail clippers.

According to the TSA rules, nail clippers are allowed on the plane. If the blades are under 6 cm in length, it should be no issue. Additionally, the clippers should not be sharp enough to be used as a weapon. Any sharp objects in carry-on luggage or checked bags should be securely wrapped to prevent injury.

Of course, the security of passengers is the top priority of TSA. Their security staff are trained to identify risks and they have some discretion what is allowed. While nail clippers are in almost all cases allowed, they are allowed to assess items in further detail and make that determination in the moment.

Other grooming items like cuticle cutters are also allowed if they follow the same safety rules. When packing your grooming and hygiene items, it helps to be mindful of size and shape. Blades that are over 6-8 cm may be better suited for checked luggage. Beyond that, standard nail clippers are permitted in either carry-on or checked luggage.

Credit: Shutterstock

Will TSA Confiscate Nail Clippers?

Most likely not. Since nail clippers are a very standard grooming item, they are often safe to fly with. Exceptions would be items that may pose a danger or are otherwise prohibited.

When screening for safety, TSA is considering whether your items are liquid, fragile, or perishable. Additionally, they look for “dual use” items – in other words, things that can be used as weapons.

Objects that are especially sharp or heavy will often require extra evaluation. In the case of nail clippers, this means items that have excessively large blades, sharp points, and other features that may pose a safety threat.

Does it Matter What Type of Nail Clipper it is?

This is a great question. As you may know, there are a variety of tools for more specific nail trimming. These can help with grooming thicker nails or hangnails or serve other purposes. For instance, nail technicians may have a wide array of tools for providing manicures and pedicures. Depending on their design, they might be allowed.

In general, nail clippers are classified by TSA as sharp item and will likely be evaluated for safety. Nail clippers that are larger or sharper than standard may raise additional concern for TSA guards.

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Popular Clipper Types (and Whether they are Typically Accepted):

  • Cuticle cutters: Created to combat hangnail, these small and thin nail clippers come with a sharp, thin point. As with regular nail clippers, if they do not surpass 4 inches in length and are secured to prevent injury, they – and your cuticles – should be okay.
  • Lever-type clippers: These are the most common. Lever-type clippers are convenient and compact, equipped with two horizontal heads you can squeeze together. Many also have a small file that you can fold away as needed. These are perfectly fine to pack in your carry on or checked bag.
  • Scissor clippers: Nail scissors would fall under different rules. TSA scissors rules prohibit blades longer than 4 inches. In other words, small scissors that are typically found in manicure kits would be permitted in hand luggage.
  • Nipper clippers: These nail clippers resemble more of a wire cutter or pliers. They are strong on thick, tough nails. While these are usually heavy duty, they are allowed.

A good rule of thumb to follow is the 4” length limit. Also, anything with rounded edges presents less danger and is more likely to be accepted. If you are not sure, you can contact your airline directly for confirmation.

Additionally, the @AskTSA feature on Twitter is a helpful tool. With one tweet, you can get the answers to your pressing questions about packing.

Does it Matter if the Nail Clippers are in a Carry-on vs. Checked Bag?

No, not especially. Nail clippers can be packed in either your carry-on or checked-bag. When deciding which to pack them in, you might weigh the following pros and cons.

Credit: Shutterstock

The pros of placing you nail clipper it in a carry-on include easier access, should you need them on a layover or quickly upon getting to your destination. A potential con could be that security wants to pull your bag aside for a second look. This minor inconvenience would be to ensure the item is not too large or sharp to be brought onboard in checked luggage.

The pros of packing in your checked bag include the assurance that they will not be flagged as a safety risk for during your flight. So long as they do not exceed the 4” limit, tucking them away in a safe location in the bag should ensure they get to your destination. If you are not in urgent need of a clippers while you are at the airport or on your plane, this is the way to go.

The con in this case would be the inconvenience of an untimely hangnail or loose piece of skin. This will likely not be the case, so you can pack your nail clippers in a checked bag without much worry.

Related Read: How to Choose an 18x 14x8 Bag

How Should I Pack my Nail Clippers?

Now that you know it is fine to bring nail clippers while you travel, the question remains: how do I pack them? As emphasized above, TSA does not restrict approved nail clippers on planes, so you can pack them in either your carry-on or checked bag.

That said, there are a few considerations for doing so safely and for your convenience.

Step 1: Pack the Right Size

Be mindful of size requirements to ensure your item is approved, and the rest should be simple.

Step 2: Pack the Clippers Securely

Wrapping or placing your nail clippers in a secure bag can prevent injury to you or inspectors and baggage handlers. It will also make them easier to find and screen, should TSA want to check them as you go through the security checkpoint.

Step 3: Put the Clippers in a Kit

Though it is not required, securing your nail clipper, tweezer, or other sharp items in a manicure kit will aid you in accessing them easily. Once you arrive to your destination, they will be easy to unpack and at the ready for your grooming needs.

Credit: Shutterstock

Can I Bring Nail Clippers on a Plane in My Pants Pocket?

While this may be possible, it is not recommended. When going through a security checkpoint, your pockets are to be empty. This is to make the process of safety screening more seamless and safer.

Having sharp objects on your person is sure to prompt TSA to pull you aside. Avoid the awkward pat-down by securing your nail clippers in your carry-on or checked luggage. In this case, it would be better to tuck the nail clipper away in your carry-on luggage.

That way, it is far more likely that TSA will not confiscate your item. You will be able to clip your nails in peace once you get to your destination. The hangnail may be a pest, but it can at least wait until you get through security!

Related Read: Can You Wear Jewelry Through Airport Security?

Can I Clip my Nails on the Plane?

It technically is not illegal to pull out your manicure tools and groom while on the plane. That said, it is polite to try to refrain from grooming while you are on the plan. You can prevent making a mess or being a nuisance to your neighbors by waiting until you deplane.

Credit: Shutterstock

Likewise, flight attendants may not take kindly to this practice and ask you to stop. Should you have a stray hair or hangnail that badly, you could take your item to the restroom to take care of it.

Related Read: How Strict Is JetBlue with Personal Item Size?

What About Other Common Grooming Items?

Tweezers are subject to similar restrictions as nail clippers. Be mindful of their sharpness and length, and you should be OK. Bonus points if you keep them together in a small manicure kit. This will make it more convenient to assess for safety and access once you need it.

Still Not Sure? You Can Ask TSA

If you are on the fence about whether your clippers may work, you can ask TSA beforehand. TSA has a Twitter account dedicated to fielding questions from future travelers.

They are generally quite responsive; all you have to do is tweet your inquiry to @AskTSA. Include your question, details, or a photo of your item, and be sure include their handle. From there, you should get a response that clarifies your question.

In the past, many travelers have submitted questions about their nail and grooming items. If you would like to see how TSA responded, you can go to the @AskTSA profile and search “nail clipper”. You will see previous results from when others asked about their items and can decide if your clippers will be OK to fly.

Summary

Overall, it can be confusing knowing what you are allowed and not allowed to bring on a plane. Fortunately, trusty items like nail clippers are often allowed. If packed appropriately and not posing a danger to others, you can safely take your nail clippers with you on a plane.

If you are uncertain, it can help to check with your airline regarding any carry-on restrictions or special instructions.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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