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Ever wondered about taking magnets on a plane? Magnets are in so many things. From watches, kids toys, and electronics, to those special souvenir fridge magnets that are so handy to bring home. Can you bring magnets on a plane?
Generally weak, small magnets are ok to bring in your carry-on or in your checked luggage, as they won’t interfere with the aircrafts magnetic compass used for navigation. This is confirmed by the Transportation Security Administration. However they do caution it is up to the TSA agent whether or not they allow items through. Powerful magnets with a strong magnetic field can be classified as “magnetic materials” and may require appropriate package shielding and labelling as dangerous goods.
During a spring break trip to with toddlers I first became aware of magnets as I wanted to bring magnatiles on our cross country plane trip and our travel destinations.
I never really thought about magnets before, but it got me curious as to what types of magnets are allowed, and which fall into the dangerous goods category.
There are a few things to consider when planning to take or bring home magnets on your travels. So we’ve gathered all the latest info to help make things smoother.
Here’s everything you need to know about travelling with magnets. What types of magnets are safe, and which may require a bit more care and thought before transporting by air.
Can You Bring Magnets on a Plane?
According to the TSA website you can bring magnets on the plane in both checked and carry-on luggage. There are no restrictions to carrying weak magnets through the security checkpoint. You also don’t need to place them on the tray seperately.
Here’s a screenshot of the TSA rules around magnets, directly from their website:
Magnets you can carry in your personal item or checked baggage include regular everyday items:
- Cell phones
- Magnetic toys
- Electronic devices like laptops
- Every day electronic equipment
- Magnetic chessboard or travel games
- Souvenir Magnets
- Fridge Magnets
- Magnetic charging cables
- Magnetic jewellry
- Magnetic puzzles
Unless you are carrying specialized equipment with industrial magnets, rare earth magnets, or a giant suitcase full of thousands upon thousands of magnetic souvenirs, you should be ok.
Just be aware that the TSA officer or an airport security officer in another country makes the final decision as to whether they think it’s a risk or not. You may also be subject to extra screening.
For other countries check out their baggage rules
It’s a good idea to confirm the rules with your airline or with the local transportation authority for international flights if in doubt.
- Canada: Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or the Transport Canada website
- European Union: General luggage restrictions
- Australia: Australian Border Force
Can You Bring Strong Magnets on a Plane?
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the FAA have strict & precise guidelines around the strength and magentic field allowances for magnets on planes.
They use the magnetic field measurement to determine if the magnet can be transported by plane.
- It is forbidden to bring magnets onto flights if the magnetic field is greater than 0.00525 gauss (5.25 milligauss) at 15 feet (4.5m) from any surface of the package. (FAA Title 49, Part 173.21Forbidden materials and packages)
- If the field strength is 5.25 milligauss or more at 7 feet away from the package, it must be labeled as, “magnetized material.” As it is then considered a hazardous material.
Here’s a tweet from @FAASafetyBrief that answered this question. You can tweet them with all your questions on what you can / can’t bring on planes:
I also sent an email to their HazMatInfo@faa.gov email address to confirm this info about magnets was still current and they replied:
“Magnets are generally considered to be regulated “dangerous goods”. Depending on the strength of the magnet, it may not be permitted in air transportation. Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, § 173.21 forbids “For carriage by aircraft, any package which has a magnetic field of more than 0.00525 gauss measured at 4.5 m (15 feet) from any surface of the package.” If the magnetic field is equal to or stronger than that metric, it cannot fly.”The FAA
Examples of Strong Magnets
Magnets with a high magnetic field may be strong rare earth magnets like neodymium, or be inside industrial equipment. They may also just be the result of the accumulated effect of large quantities in air shipments.
Strong magnets can damage electronic components by stripping away their programming. Like when your credit cards get demagnatized and you can’t use it.
While planes nowadays have fancy GPS navigational equipment, the basic compass can still be part of aircraft navigation.
Navigation may be compromised if there are too many strong magnets affecting the accuracy of the compass readings. Think kryptonite to superman’s powers. You don’t want the plane to be 100’s of miles off of the correct landing runway.
Also strong magnetics can cause problems with pacemakers, credit cards and your laptop, notebook and other computer hard drives.
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How can I measure the strength of my magnets?
If you’re like me you probably have no clue what a milligauss is or how to measure it. Here are a couple of ways you can test the strength of your magnets.
The simplest way to test the strength of your magnets is to buy a milligauss reader, which does all the work for you. You can measure the readings at different distances to see if you are under the limits.
Use a Compass
Strong magnets will deflect compass readings by certain degrees, depending on their strength, and how close you are to the magnet itself.
According to the IATA if your magnet produces a magnetic compass deflection of 2 degrees or less it is usually ok to bring on a plane, or ship by air.
How to reduce the Strength of Magnets
How you stack your magnets and how far away you are from the source does determine the strength of the magnetic field.
A couple of ways to reduce the overall strength include:
- If you are carrying lots of magnets, arrange them in alternating stacks, with the polarity of each stack facing in opposite directions
- Shielding your magnets in a steel lined box. Any ferromagnetic metal (metal containing iron, nickel or cobalt) will help. While it won’t block the magnetic field, it helps redirect the flow reducing the magnetic field.
Can You Bring Magnets In Checked Luggage?
You can bring small and weak magnets in your checked luggage. No need to worry about every day things like headphones, cell phones, toys and souvenirs in your checked bag. Provided they are under the powerful magnet limits (magnetic field measures less than 0.00525 gauss (5.25 milligauss) at 15 feet (4.5m) as mentioned above.
Can I take Souvenir or Fridge Magnets on a Plane?
Yes you can take souvenir magnets or fridge magnets on the plane. As they tend to use small and weak magnets which won’t create magnetic interference or interfere with a plane’s navigation system. So next time you are in Cuba, or on a family vacation grab your favorite souvenir, without worrying about bringing it home.
Can You Take Magnetic Toys on a Plane?
You’ll be happy to know you can take magnetic toys on a plane. These magnets are usually small and weak, and won’t be considered hazardous items. This is such a relief, as it can be hard to keep the kids entertained while travelling.
There are plenty of varities of activities you can buy that contain magnets. Our favorites are the little magnetic travel games like chess, or hangman or small magnetic puzzles, as you are less likely to lose pieces.
There are different sets of rules regarding battery operated and remote controlled toys, or toys weapons such as water guns, and swords. A toy weapon can flag you for a more thourough check, and delay your flight.
So be sure to know their rules too. Check out the TSA’s What Can I Bring Page.
- Imitation explosives such as toy grenades are prohibited
- Toy weapons are allowed, but it is recommended that you put them in your checked luggage.
- Squirt guns, Nerf guns, toy swords, or other items that resemble realistic firearms or weapons are prohibited.
Can You Bring Magnatiles on the plane?
Yes you can bring magnatiles on the plane. According to the US Transportation Security Administration these type of magnets are fine to take in either your carry-on or packed suitcase. They contain magnets that are weak, so aren’t likely to interfere with plane’s instruments.
Can You Bring Neodymium Magnets on the Plane?
You may be able to bring neodymium magnets on a plane if the overall magnetic field measures less than than 0.00525 gauss (5.25 milligauss) at 15 feet (4.5m) from any surface. Neodymium magnets are the most widely used rare earth magnets, and are the strongest commercial magnets in the world. In fact they are 10x stronger than regular magnets.
You can find neodymium magnets in things like wireless tools, audio equipment (microphones, headphones, speakers), hard disk drives, and jewellry.
Do Magnets Set Off Airport Metal Detectors?
Metallic magnets containg iron or iron mixed with with neodymium or cobalt will likely set off metal detectors at the airport. It’s best to put them in the screening tray or in your carry-on luggage, provided they are under the strength allowance.
Key Takeaways – Can You Bring Magnets on a Plane?
In summary, as long as you are carrying small quantities of items with weak or small magnets you should have no problem bringing them on a plane. In either your hand luggage or checked bag. You only need to worry once you start carrying a lot of magnets, or are transporting strong rare earth magnets by air.
Safety regulations are there to make sure everyone can have an enjoyable and safe flight.
So grab all the toys you need for your long flight with kids to keep them happy, and the noise canceling headphones to tune out the world and keep you happy.
Related travel tips and ideas:
- Family travel resources and tips
- Can you bring Water Bottles on planes?
- Is travel an excused absence from school?
- Pre-Travel Checklist – everything you need to do in an easy checklist
- Stay sane on family vacations with these easy tips
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