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WD-40 in the luggage spells trouble


Question: My husband and I flew from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a cruise in April. In a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration, dated May 3 but postmarked Nov. 2, my husband was informed that he may have been carrying WD-40 in his checked bag, and that "WD-40 may be a hazardous material." If it was hazardous, why wasn't it confiscated? If it wasn't hazardous, why write the letter? Also, does this put my husband on some sort of list that will make it more difficult to pass through security in the future?

Karen Hoover


Answer: For those preparing to fly home after Thanksgiving, here is a word to the wise: Do not put an aerosol can of WD-40 in your suitcase. "Pressurized aerosols that are not for personal or medicinal use are considered hazardous material and must be specially packaged if they're going to be brought onto commercial aircraft in checked luggage," Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, wrote in an e-mail. "This item would appear to fit that description."

Gregor also said that the wording -- Hoover's husband may have had this in his suitcase and it may be a hazardous material -- is done to avoid accusing someone of something the FAA itself did not see.

"Typically, when TSA [Transportation Security Administration] screeners find something they believe might be hazardous material, they'll call the airline and ask that an airline representative come and decide whether the item needs to be removed from the luggage. (The airline, not TSA, is responsible for custody of checked luggage.) I don't know why nobody confiscated the WD-40 because clearly the carrier saw fit to report the item to us."

So that will remain a mystery, along with the question of why a letter dated May 3 wasn't postmarked until six months later.

What is more certain: Hoover's husband hasn't spoiled his good name. "This incident will not result in any action against this passenger," Gregor wrote. "Nor will it cause either her or her husband to be flagged as suspicious subjects in their future travels."

To me, the real question is this: Why was he carrying WD-40 on a cruise in the first place?

Easy, Hoover explained later. Her husband carries a small tool kit and a can of WD-40 because "he likes to fix things, and cruise ships squeak." In that case, our contacts at WD-40 suggest the No-Mess Pen, which delivers the same secret stuff (the company doesn't say exactly what's in its product) as the can but without the offending aerosol component.

He can probably squeak by with that.

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