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Heathrow airport security

Over the last few years, airport security has tightened up and there are many rules and regulations on what can and can't pass though security so here is a handy guide on going through security at Heathrow.


Following 2006 when police found what they believed were home made bombs disguised as soft drinks, there have been restrictions on allowing liquids through Heathrow security. This includes creams, gels pastes and aerosols.

Liquids need to be carried in containers which hold 100ml or less. These containers need to be placed in a transparent and resealable bag that is no bigger than 20cm x 20cm. You do not need to worry if you can't find a bag like this at home, you can pick them up at airport security. However, ensure that your items will fit in such a small bag before you check the rest of your luggage in, as any liquids that do not fit need to be placed in the hold baggage. There are, however, some exclusions:

Puréed food and baby milk are allowed on the flight in larger quantities. Security recommends you only carry what you need for the flight and you may be asked to open the container to taste the contents to prove they are not harmful. You can buy cartons of formula milk in the shops after security and you can even reserve milk by emailing

Liquid medicines are also allowed in larger quantities. Any liquid medicines over 100ml will need prior approval, from both the airline and departure airport and for this you will need documents from a qualified medical professional. Again security may ask you to prove it is your medicine by tasting it.

Don't forget:

  • Make up - most make up comes in containers which are under 100ml and so can easily be taken on board - just make sure all of your make up will fit in the small plastic bag along with any other items you plan to bring. Nail files are allowed as long as they are no longer than 6cm. The same goes for nail scissors, however if you are in doubt, it is best to pack them in the hold
  • Perfume - perfume is an expensive item to have to throw away at security. Before you place perfume in your hand luggage, check that the container is no bigger than 100ml
  • Contact Lenses - you will probably want a couple of pairs of contact lenses, especially if you are planning on sleeping on the plane. A few pairs of disposable lenses are allowed. If you need contact lens solution, this can also be carried on but needs to be in the sealable bag and in a container no more than 100ml.

Sharp and dangerous items

There is also a list of banned items from hand luggage, this includes anything sharp or dangerous or that can be used to cause harm.

Don't forget

  • Scissors with blades longer than 6cm
  • Toys and replica weapons that can be mistaken to be projectile-firing weapons
  • Cigarette lighters (you are allowed one per person)
  • Knitting needles are currently allowed at Heathrow but banned at other airports so it is safer to put them in your hold luggage

Large and special items

How big your bag and how many bags you are allowed is not determined by Heathrow security, but by your airline. If you are unsure, contact them either before you arrive at the airport or make sure you leave enough time to check in your bags. All bags taken on-board will be screened through security.

  • Laptop computers, cameras, spare batteries and large electrical items are allowed through security but must be removed from hand baggage and placed in the trays with other belongings to be screened. The screening process will not damage the items (this includes film cameras and their film)
  • Most musical instruments are allowed though security. Some accessories, that could be used as weapons, such as percussion mallets or wire brushes for drums, may not be allowed
  • Most sporting equipment is allowed though security. Again, items that will not be allowed are ones that could be considered as weapons - baseball bats or martial arts equipment may not be allowed, nor would air tanks and CO2 cartridges for diving equipment as they are flammable
  • Single gas cartridges for items such as hair tongs are allowed but you cannot bring spares. It is recommended that you check with your airline as some carriers may restrict these items
  • Food items are allowed though security as long as they are solid, however there may be customs restrictions at your destination

Packing tips

  • Most of what is and is not allowed is common sense - if it can be used in an offensive way, it is unlikely to be allowed
  • Remember to also check with your airline about what you can bring in with your hand luggage, this is especially important when it comes to the quantity and sizes of your bags as well as additional items
  • If you are travelling with gifts, don't wrap them until you get to your destination as staff may need to unwrap them to check the contents. Also open any gifts given to you prior to packing them - remember you will be asked if you have been given anything to carry on board the aircraft and gifts fall neatly in this category
  • While there is a lot of advice about what not to bring, consider putting a toothbrush and change of clothes, or at least underwear and a spare shirt, into your hand baggage. It can mean a little extra comfort at the end of a long-haul flight, or if hold baggage is delayed

Remember that security measures are there for your safety even if they seem like a pain to comply with. If you give yourself plenty of time to get though security and board the plane, it will be a less stressful experience.

Date published 01/05/2011

Information correct as of date of publishing, please check with the airport for updated information.

If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at and we'll include the most popular.

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