What do You Have to Remove at Airport Security?
written by Dom Herrera
Alternative Travel Tips
Passing through airport security doesn’t need to be the long and painful process that it’s made out to be. In fact, as long as the queues are short and you’ve done a bit of preparation, you can actually whizz through security in no time.
However, one thing that’s sure to slow you down is not knowing what airport scanners detect and the items you have to remove at airport security.
Annoyingly, the truth is that some airport scanners have higher sensitivity levels than others. And, sometimes, what you have to remove at airport security might be down to the discretion of each individual security member.
But to help you out, we’ve made a list of some of the items that cause the most confusion at airport security and what the general take is on whether they’re fine to wear or if they’re likely to set off the alarm on the body scanners.
What do airport scanners detect?
Belts with metal buckles will set off the metal detectors at airport security and — at most airports — you’ll be asked to take your belt off and put it in a tray for it to go through security separately.
If your belt is made from plastic, it won’t set off the metal detectors and, technically, you won’t have to remove it. However, the fact that your belt buckle is made from plastic might not immediately be obvious to airport security. And, if your belt is on show, you’ll most likely be asked to take it off anyway. It’s probably just easier to remove it rather than the hassle of going back-and-forth with security trying to explain the material the belt is made from.
✖Remove in most cases.
✔Keep it on if you have a plastic buckle and it’s not on show.
While one or two bobby pins won’t make a difference, if you have a head-full — or even hand-full — of bobby pins in your hair, that’ll be enough to set off the metal detectors at airport security.
✖ Remove bobby pins if you have more than two in your hair.
Rings (and other jewellery)
Jewellery will only set off metal detectors if it’s made from magnetic metals. This means that you don’t need to remove good-quality rings, necklaces, bracelets and piercings if they’re made from silver, gold or platinum. However, if your jewellery is inexpensive and made from cheaper materials, it’ll most likely set the detectors off.
✖ Remove, if it’s made from cheap magnetic materials.
✔ Keep on if made from expensive materials (gold, silver, platinum).
Similar to jewellery, if your watch is made from cheap metals or is large and chunky, you should take it off. Otherwise, it’s okay to leave on your wrist as it’s unlikely to set off metal detectors. Some airports will ask you to remove the watch, regardless of the materials.
If your watch is expensive and you’re worried about leaving it in a tray unattended, put it in the inside pocket of your jacket or pack it in your carry-on baggage.
✖ Remove if made from cheap metals, is large or you're asked to.
✔ Keep on otherwise.
Smartwatches, such as Apple watches and other electronic wristwear, including FitBits, can often be worn through airport security. However, this might differ from airport to airport and you might be asked to remove your smartwatch.
We’ve never heard of any cases where smartwatches set off metal detectors at airport security, so, unless asked, you should be okay to leave it on.
✖ Remove if asked to.
✔ Keep on otherwise.
Although some have claimed otherwise, there are thousands that wear underwire bras through airport security each day without setting off the alarm. If you really want to avoid setting off the metal detectors at all costs, consider wearing an underwire bra with plastic, a strapless bra or a sports bra.
✔ Underwire bras are fine to wear through airport security.
You’ll not be asked to remove your hearing aid at airport security and hearing aids will not set off the metal detectors. If you’re still concerned, you can notify a member of airport security about your hearing aid, but, as mentioned, they are unlikely to ask you to remove it.
Hearing aids are fine to wear through airport security.
Wallet and purse
As long as your wallet doesn’t hold something metallic, you’re fine to leave your wallet in your pocket and won’t have to remove it at airport security.
As purses tend to be larger than wallets, they’ll need to be removed and screened separately. If you’re worried about leaving your purse unattended, you can take any valuable items out of your purse and carry them in your pocket. Or, pack your purse away in your carry-on baggage so that it’s out of sight.
✔ Wallets containing non-metallic items are fine to pass through security.
✖ Purses must be removed from person and screened separately.
Pacemakers will not set off body scanners and metal detectors at airport security will not be affected. However, the hand-held scanner that airport security uses after the initial detector is set off may affect pacemakers. As a result, it’s best to notify airport security that you have a pacemaker by showing them your pacemaker card.
✔ Pacemakers are okay to go through the body scanners at airport security.
✖ Pacemakers may be affected by the hand-held scanners at airport security.
Intrauterine device (coil)
As the coil is small and deep inside your body, the airport detectors will not pick it up and you’re fine to pass through any airport with an IUD.
✔ An IUD/coil will not set off the body scanners or metal detectors at airport security.
Metal plate or screws
If you have metal in your body after an operation, it might set off airport security. This is one of the cases where it’ll depend on the sensitivity of the detector at the airport, as well as the amount of metal in your body. If you want to be cautious, you can alert security of the metal in your body prior to passing through. Or, alternatively, you can tell if and when the alarm sets off.
Metal in the body might set off the alarm at airport security but it depends on the person and the airport.
What items can I wear through airport security?
While shoes won’t alarm any metal detectors (unless they’re steel-toe cap), airport security will ask you to take off any boots, heels or high-top trainers. All other shoes are okay to wear and can be kept on unless told otherwise.
✖ Remove if they’re boots, heels or high-top.
✔ Keep on all other shoes.
Jeans are fine to wear through airport security. So, don’t worry, you won’t be asked to remove them! Some people might be concerned that metal buttons and zips on jeans will set off the metal detectors at airport security but these metals are so small that they’re unlikely to get picked up.
The only time that you need to be wary is if your jeans have a chain attached to it, in which case, you should remove it to be screened separately.
✔ Jeans are fine to wear through airport security.
Hats are not allowed to be worn through the scanners at airport security. You’ll be asked to remove your hat before walking through the metal detectors and can put it back on once on the other side.
✖ You must remove your hat at airport security.
Religious headscarves can be kept on during airport security. However, if the alarm is set off by a person wearing a headscarf or a turban, a member of airport security of the same gender may pat-down the headscarf. If the cause of what’s setting off the alarm can not be determined by a pat-down, you may be asked to remove the headscarf in a private area.
✔ Religious headscarves are okay to wear through airport security.
Babies can be carried through airport security and don’t have to be removed if they’re carried in a baby carrier.
If your baby is in a stroller, you’ll have to remove the baby from the stroller and carry them with you through the metal detectors by hand.
✔ Babies can and must be carried/worn through airport security.
Airport security will not make you remove your wig when passing through. The metal clip on a wig rarely sets off metal detectors.
✔ Wigs can be worn through airport security.
Outer layers, including hoodies, jackets and cardigans will be asked to be removed and screened separately when passing through airport security. Depending on the security officer, you might also be required to remove loose-fitting sweatshirts
✖ Remove outer layers such as hoodies, jackets and cardigans.
✔ Keep on fitted sweatshirts.
Glasses & sunglasses
Regular glasses will not need to be removed when passing through airport security. There’s no official rule stating that you can’t wear sunglasses through airport security. However, wearing sunglasses through the airport may raise suspicion and you’ll most likely be asked to remove them at security.
✖ Remove sunglasses.
✔ Keep on regular glasses.
First published: 27.02.20