Buccal Swab DNA-Collection Instructions

This quick visual guide is designed to help you collect DNA for at-home testing using cheek swabs

Using Buccal Swabs: Five Easy Steps

For most types of DNA tests, DDC requests samples collected with specialized buccal (cheek) swabs. We send you a buccal swab kit containing everything you need to collect DNA safely and easily in the comfort of home, and the process itself is simple. Be sure to completely fill out the information on the paper sample envelope for each test participant before starting the swabbing process. This visual guide is meant to be an additional reference for you but is not a replacement for kit directions, so be sure to read through all buccal swab kit instructions before getting started!

Start Clean

To maintain the integrity of the DNA sample, do not eat, drink, or smoke for 30 minutes prior to swabbing. Doing so does not change the DNA or affect the result of the test, but foreign substances on a swab may negatively affect the ability to effectively extract the DNA. 

Remove Swab

Tearing the end of its packaging carefully, remove a cheek swab by the stick, taking care to not let the fabric end touch the table or other surface. 

Brush Up and Down While Rolling the Swab

Using a rolling motion, swab the inside of the cheeks on both sides for a full 30 seconds, taking care to avoid the gum areas as much as possible. Move the swab up and down while still rotating to maximize the collection of cheek cells that contain DNA. Remember, you are not collecting saliva—you are collecting cheek cells. Do not spit on the swabs. Repeat Step 2 with the remaining swabs, alternating cheeks with each swab; be sure to use all 4.

Allow to Air Dry for 60 Seconds

If the swab seems “too wet,” wave it back and forth in the air for 60 seconds.  The swab does not need to be completely dry before placing in the paper sample envelope.

Place Swab in Paper Envelope

Taking care not to touch the fabric end, place the swab directly in the paper sample envelope. Swabs should never be put back in the original plastic packaging or stored in plastic baggies since this can degrade the sample during shipping. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I waved my cheek swabs in the air but the paper envelope still seems damp. What do I do?

A: If the sample envelope seems damp, just place it on a clean counter and let it air-dry before placing the envelope into the mailer. This will not compromise the integrity of the DNA in any way.

Q: How can I be sure I collected enough DNA?

A: The buccal swab kit we send you contains complete instructions for collecting each test participant’s DNA safely and effectively. We provide three (4) cheek swabs for each person, which you use to firmly swab the inside cheek. This collects more than enough DNA to run the test.

Q: What happens if different participants' buccal swabs touch?

A: Handle swabs with care! If different participants’ swabs touch before being placed in their respective paper envelopes, they might cross contaminate. Please contact us and we’ll be happy to ship you out new DNA-collection supplies at no additional cost. 

Q: Can I put samples into plastic baggies?

A: Please do not put swabs with samples back into the original plastic packaging or into household baggies for storage and/or shipping purposes. Paper sample envelopes included in the kit are ideal receptacles for organic matter like DNA because paper “breathes.” When DNA is confined in plastic it can become a breeding ground for mold and the sample quickly becomes degraded. If the lab receives degraded samples, they won’t be able to be tested and the lab will request new samples; this will delay results. 

If swabs seem too “wet” after DNA collection, wave them in the air for about 60 seconds before placing in the paper sample envelopes. 


Q: Will I get an accurate result if I collect one tested party hours, days, or weeks before the other party(ies)?

A: Yes; DNA on swabs remains viable for up to 6 months as long as the swabs are stored in paper envelopes and kept in a cool, dry place. 

How long do samples remain viable for testing?

As long as cheek swabs are stored in the paper envelopes provided in the buccal swab kit (not in plastic) and are kept in a cool, dry place, samples remain viable for up to 6 months. 

Can I provide a different type of sample like hair or a cigarette butt?

Cheek swabs are optimal for collecting the amount of DNA necessary for testing, which is why they are DDC’s choice. The price of testing for postnatal tests includes analysis from DNA obtained through cheek swabs only; it does not include testing other types of samples.

If you want to use other types of samples, be advised there is a non-refundable $150 – 300 fee for a viability test wherein we determine if enough DNA can be extracted from the sample for testing. Contact us for more information at 800.831.1906.

If I'm doing a paternity test, can I use the third set of swabs to collect another child if the mother is not participating?

The third set of swabs is intended for use by the mother and her participation is included in the price of testing. Because the mother’s participation can sometimes strengthen results, submitting her DNA is recommended but it is not mandatory. If you want to use the third set of swabs to test an additional child, you’ll need to pay an additional lab fee. Contact us at 800.831.1906. 

Reach Us

Have questions or need assistance? Contact our team.

DNA Technology Park
1 DDC Way
Fairfield, OH 45014

INT: + 1.513.881.7800

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