How To Fail the TSA Swab Test – Iceland Eclipse Trip


TSA Screening a Bag (US Department of Homeland Security)

TSA Screening a Bag (US Department of Homeland Security)

Have you ever been swabbed by TSA going through the security checkpoint at the airport? Have you ever failed? It’s okay… me too.

If you work in certain jobs (like, presumably, those that demonstrate the ability to make explosives), there’s a good chance you’re going to get tested. Or, it may be completely random. I somehow doubt that.

So, I try to get to the airport bright and early (or dark and early, more often than not) to allow extra time so I won’t miss a flight. Actually, some airports are awesome about holding a flight a few minutes, but don’t count on this.

You could fail the TSA swab test completely by accident, doing nothing worse than washing your hands with the wrong soap or wearing the same shoes you wore when you fertilized your lawn. The swab test looks for nitrates and glycerin, which may be used to make explosives. These chemicals are found in a variety of everyday products, such as baby wipes, lotions, fertilizer, and medications. Anyone can fail the test.

So check your ingredient list, rinse very thoroughly after washing your hands, and allow time to get through security, just in case.

How am I preparing for the Iceland trip? I am not taking my camera case, which has been to enough rocket launches, chemistry project photo shoots, and fireworks displays to have a nice dusting of nitrates. If you are ever flagged, chances are it will just be your hands, from something you touched. But, if you ever have a bag test positive, it’s probably not worth trying to fly with it ever again. Definitely don’t make matters worse trying to clean it used glycerin-based soap. Just saying.

Have you ever failed the swab test? What happened? I just get the pat-down and extra swabs on my carry on, nothing terribly dire. Feel free to post a reply and share your own stories.

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