Here’s how to properly take a FTDNA, AcestryDNA or 23andMe sample.

How to take a Proper DNA sample (Saliva and Cheek Swab)

There are two kinds of samples DNA testing companies ask for: a saliva/spit sample or a cheek/buccal swab.

Both are pretty easy to take and require no more than 5 minutes to take and secure the sample. But if you are not careful, you can mess up the sample resulting in unreliable or inconclusive results.

The company might send you a new kit for another sample, which means you’ll have to wait several more weeks for your results.

Here’s how to take each type of sample properly.

Note that these are just general tips. Your sampling kit will come with specific instructions that you should read before you proceed.

Taking a Saliva Sample

  1. Do not eat, smoke, drink, chew gum, use mouthwash or brush your teeth for half an hour before you provide a sample. This ensures your sample will be reliable enough for testing.
  2. Open the kit and place all the items on the table. Take the tube and note the mark indicating how much saliva you should provide. Add saliva to the tube until it reaches that point.
  3. Unscrew the funnel and replace it with the extra cap provided. This cap contains a buffer fluid that mixes with your saliva to keep it in a good condition for months and in a wide range of temperatures by inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
  4. Tighten the cap until it snaps or the buffer fluid begins to drain out. Do not wait too long to put on the second cap and release the buffer fluid. It could degrade the quality of your DNA sample.
  5. Shake the tube to properly mix your saliva with the buffer.
  6. Seal the tube in the provided plastic bag and put it in the prepaid box. Make sure both bags are securely sealed. Mail the box to the lab and wait for your results.

Note: Saliva samples are not ideal for certain individuals such as the elderly, infants and anyone who has trouble spitting. If you are unable to produce enough saliva for a sample, use a company like FTDNA that asks for a cheek swab.

Taking a Cheek Swab

  1. As with a saliva sample, do not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush your teeth or use mouthwash for 30 minutes before you provide a sample. Some companies specify you wait a full hour.
  2. Open the kit and lay out all the items on the table.
  3. Open the vial containing the preservative buffer liquid. This ensures the swab is ready to go into the vial as soon as you take a swab.
  4. Take the swab and scrape the inside of your cheek. Move the swab up and down while also rotating it with your fingers to make sure you collect an adequate amount of DNA-containing cells.
  5. Making sure the end of the swab doesn’t touch anything else, put it in the vial and snap off the top end. This step applies to FTDNA kits. Check your kit’s instructions on how to put the swab into the vial.
  6. Shake the vial to get the swab mixed thoroughly with the bacteria-inhibiting liquid.
  7. Seal the sample in the included plastic bag and put it in the prepaid envelop or box. Mail it to the lab for testing.

Important: Don’t Forget to Register

This should actually be the first thing you do when you open the kit. Go to the company’s website and register the kit.

If you’d not created an account when ordering, you’ll have to create one. If you have an account, log in and register the kit using the code or serial number displayed on it.

Most labs will not process a kit if it has not been registered.

About the Author Charles McKnight

I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.

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