Can Airport Scanners See Through Clothes?

Airport scanners are advanced machines designed to find concealed items under clothes even tampons or menstrual to find illegal drugs or objects hidden inside the body like in the stomach or in the bum. 

Necessity is the mother of invention,

I am sure you must have heard this before

In 2009, a Nigerian citizen hid explosive contents in his underwear, and at that time he was able to board a plane because the scanners were not able to detect concealed contents behind the clothes. 

He tried to explode the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight this attempt remained unsuccessful and now he is serving a lifetime sentence in maximum prison.

Then in 2010, TSA ordered 500 backscatter scanners and deployed them all over the US Airports but these scanners were too revealing and passengers got worried for their privacy and safety and soon were replaced by Millimeter wave scanners.

Can Airport Scanners See Through Clothes?

Both backscatter and millimeter scanners can see through clothes but backscatter uses x-rays which invade privacy ( shows tampons, genitals, explicit body parts, even junk ) and compromised the health of passengers while the millimeter scanner uses low-energy non-ionizing radiofrequency waves to see through clothes without invading privacy and compromising the health of passengers and successfully can detect drugs as well.

Can Airport Scanners See Through Clothes

Scanning Underwears?

Now you must wonder if the Airport scanners can look through your clothes, what about the underwear? Can the Airport scanner see through the underwear?

Do not let this confuse you, as the scanner will only see the underwear’s outlines; it will not highlight your body parts in the scanner, but the display will show a hazy image of your private parts that the agents can see. You cannot do anything about it.

Scanning Hidden Items in Clothes

As mentioned, the most popular scanners for scanning Airports can easily detect banned or illegal items using x-ray technology by displaying the contents on the screen that the agents can find suspicious if those items are banned.

The scanners represent the contents through different colors, and all types of contents are represented by only three colors Orange, Green, Black, and Blue.

The orange color is for organic materials like weeds or pills, the green color represents non-organic materials, and the Blue/Black color represents hard materials like plastic and metals.

So, when you pass through the scanner, the display will show things in different colors. Then they must act accordingly to intervene and investigate, finding anything suspicious or forbidden.

Scanner limit to scan layers of clothes?

Scanners use powerful technologies, and the most popular one for scanning humans is the full-body scanner, which uses space radar technology and is powerful enough to see through at least 30 layers of clothes. 

The cherry on top is that the scanner can not only see through multiple layers of garments, but the real power is showing the stuff behind the clothes and showing them with clarity to help security staff properly investigate.

So keep in mind that you cannot fool these advanced scanners, which are even capable of seeing through the thick coat layer to see the logo on your undergarments.

Other than that, the Airport scanners can also see through your bags or luggage, constructing remarkably clear images of the contents inside to see if there are no illegal items with your stuff.

What materials Can’t Airport Scanner see?

The Airport scanners cannot see a handful of things, including metallic objects like belt buckles and non-metallic materials like pills. However, seeing through these materials is not possible because of the composition of these materials.

So, Airport scanners cannot see through the solid items due to their thickness, which can be gold chains, platinum, tungsten, and other metals.

Some people use body cavities to hide stuff the scanner cannot see through and other materials like aluminum foil and crystals.

Airport Scanners & Privacy Concerns

Everyone going from the Airport is concerned about their privacy, but they are also not afraid of being checked because that’s also important for their safety. So when stepping through the scanner, they are double-minded but more concerned about being their body exposed.

Keeping this in mind, the United States of America recognized an Automatic Target Recognition software, also known as ART, that can make you feel calm as it will only show the outlines of the body parts, not the entire structure. This software was officially used on June 1, 2013, in all Airports across the U.S.

Although there is already some imaging technology software, the ART did a perfect job.

TSA officials also claim that they never store any data or images for any human, but they accept that they have been doing that for thousands of people.

Some other worst-case scenarios are where full-body scanner images were saved illegally and exposed publicly.

Can Airport Scanners See you Naked?

Well, the ability to see passengers naked was only in the backscatter scanner,, which is no longer used at Airport security checkpoints. Images taken with the backscatter scanner were too revealing and explicit or intimate to the extent that TSA agents would share them , violating passengers’ privacy rights.

Backscatter scanners were known as “nudie scanners” because of the borderline pornographic images they produced with only face blurred. But that’s not the case anymore.

The image below shows a female TSA scan.

TSA scanner female scan

The millimeter scanner is an alternative scanner that is much safe than a backscatter scanner but shows a vague genderless cartoon-like avatar of passengers to agents, which means you are not demonstrated naked. Your private body parts are not even highlighted. Even the agent cannot differentiate between a man and a woman passing through the scanner with that representation.

The image below shows the Millimeter scanner scan.

Millimeter wave scanner image

You can either opt for TSA pre-check to eliminate the screening process even when you have periods or insert tampons in your vagina. Otherwise, you may have to go through the tedious process of searching if the scanner detected something on you, like Tampons or menstrual cups.

If you are afraid that you will be flagged and annoyed with the tap-down search, make sure you follow all the protocols when you leave your home and be prepared like do not wear body jewelry before the screening process and remove items like rings, braces, watch, piercings if you can, nose pins, hair pins.

Scanners can sometimes be set off due to medical devices like pacemakers, knee or hip implants, sweaty armpits, or even higher-than-average body pictures.


Airport Scanners are advanced enough to see not only under your clothes but inside your body cavities but they do not represent that data on the visual display and use different software and advanced image technologies to replace the human body with an vague genderless outline to not compromise the safety of humans.

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