Swab & Applicator Shaft Materials

Swab & Applicator Shaft Materials

What Are the Different Types of Swab/Applicator Shafts?

From collecting a throat culture to cleaning a wound, swabs have countless applications in the medical field. They’re also used to collect DNA and perform microbiological tests, by hobbyists painting china plates or other highly detailed work, for cleaning guns, and to rid print heads on wide format printers of unwanted residue. For these reasons, swabs and applicators are among the most versatile products used across a variety of industries.
Yet, when swabs and applicators come to mind, most people only think of one type. In fact, there are dozens of different options available, for the very reason that there are so many distinct purposes for these handy tools. In addition to choosing the size of the applicator as well as the tip material, you can also select the material for the shaft based on the most appropriate fit for your unique needs.
Here, we’ll discuss the four main types of applicator and swab shafts, as well as the unique properties of each.

Paper Shaft Swabs

Paper Shaft Swab 808-COTTON
Paper Shaft Swab 808-COTTON

If you’ve ever had a lollipop, you can imagine what an applicator with a paper shaft might look and feel like. They’re typically white in color and are smooth to the touch. You can choose your option for paper shaft applicators based on your application, taking into consideration the length and tip type you’ll need.
Paper is among the more basic materials available for swab shafts. With smaller tips, it can be used for cleaning sensitive components in critical environments, as the materials are anti-static. Paper shaft applicators with larger tips can be used in some medical applications, such as gathering specimens during exams, or collecting cells to perform laboratory research. In general, paper shaft swabs are also ideal for cleaning hard-to-reach places throughout offices and other workplace environments.

Wood Shaft Swabs

Puritan Wood Shaft Swab 25-806-10WCL
Puritan Wood Shaft Swab 25-806-10WCL

Like paper, is also considered to be a “no-frills” option for shaft material in swabs and applicators. Most wood is sourced from birch trees, making them a sturdy and inflexible choice for industrial environments. Some medical offices also select wood shaft applicators as materials for cleaning minor abrasions and similar practices.
Because it doesn’t take much force to fracture wood, this particular type of applicators is not recommended for applications in which there’s a risk of breakage. Additionally, since these shafts are made of natural materials, there’s always a risk that they can introduce dust or contaminates into the environment. Thus, wood shaft swabs are not intended for use in cleanroom environments.
That being said, wood swab shafts are an excellent, budget-friendly choice for basic applications. There are sterile wood swabs that can be used in many medical applications. Additionally, there are some types of wood shaft swabs that do boast low particulates for cleaning sensitive components. Like the other types of shafts listed here, they are available in varying lengths and quantities, and they can also arrive pre-packaged to prevent the risk of contamination.

Plastic Shaft Swabs

Plastic Shaft Swab 25-1506PF
Plastic Shaft Swab 25-1506PF

Plastic shafts are a step above wood and paper for a number of reasons. First, they have non-porous properties and will also not produce dust or contaminates, making them ideal for sensitive environments. Additionally, they are more flexible than wood, and you can even break them cleanly if needed.
Because they are synthetic, plastic shaft applicators are ideal for collecting microbiological specimens. They are also widely used in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s office for patient care purposes, such as wound dressing and cleaning. They also are a go-to choice for collecting cells for DNA testing.

While the most common type of plastic used in applicator shafts is polystyrene, some users prefer a different type of plastic: polypropylene. While it is also a synthetic material, it’s quite different from polystyrene because it is much more resistant to breaking. In industrial settings, many companies choose to go with polypropylene due to its increased level of durability. Of course, users who simply want the peace of mind in knowing the applicator shaft won’t break can also use this option in other environments as well.

Metal/Wire Shaft Swabs

Puritan Aluminum Shaft Swab 25-800-A-50
Puritan Aluminum Shaft Swab 25-800-A-50

Lastly, we have the type of applicator shaft that’s perhaps the most unique of all: metal wire. Wire shaft swabs are most commonly found in healthcare environments. The diameter of the shaft can be designed to be much smaller than that of wood, plastic, or paper. For situations in which a standard swab would be too large, the fine-diameter wire shaft swabs come in handy.
Aluminum is commonly used in swab shafts due to its malleability. In medical situations where cells must be collected from sensitive areas like the ear, nose, throat, or other sensitive areas, the flexible, small shafts are useful for ensuring patient comfort. Additionally, these applicators fit well into transport tubes to make examination and lab testing seamless and hassle-free.
Wire shafts are more flexible than other materials, so be sure to take that into consideration when choosing the right type for your needs. Additionally, they should not be used in any environments where conductivity might pose a risk.

What Swab Shaft Do You Need?

With so many different options available, it can be challenging to know which type of applicator shaft is best for your needs. To help you decide, we’ve come up with a brief list of questions that should help narrow down your choices:

  • In what type of industry/environment will you be using the swabs?
  • Is conductivity a concern in your environment?
  • Will you be collecting cells from a person, and if so, is there a chance you’ll be retrieving them from a potentially sensitive area?
  • Where will the specimens be sampled – onsite or at a lab elsewhere?
  • Do you need to worry about dust?
  • How durable do you need the applicators to be?

If you’re still overwhelmed with your choices, you can always start by visiting Harmony Business Supplies and searching for swabs based on your intended use. You can choose among the following purposes: critical environments, fiber optic cleaning, forensics, gun cleaning, print head cleaning, sign machine cleaning, and crafts and hobbies.

A broad range of sterile swabs intended specifically for healthcare environments is also available. For convenience, many types of swabs can also be purchased in varying quantities.
No matter your unique needs, there’s a swab out there for you! Just visit Harmonycr.com to find the right swab for the job, or give one of our supply specialist a call and we’ll help you find the right swab for your needs.

Swabs & Applicators 101

Swabs & Applicators 101

What are Swabs & Applicators?

If you’ve used a Q-Tip, you already know what a swab basically is. However, there are many more uses and variations of Swabs & Applicators (AKA single-use applicators). Learn about swab tips and shaft materials, and their uses.

In general a swab is:

A small piece of absorbent material attached to the end of a stick/shaft or wire, and used for cleaning a surface, applying medicine/chemicals, or collecting a sample of a substance.

Uses for Swabs

Common uses for swabs and applicators include: cleaning hard to reach areas, applying solvents/chemicals, wound cleaning, applying medicine, collecting samples.

Single-use swabs are widely used in healthcare, diagnostic, forensic, controlled environments (cleanrooms), food safety, and drug manufacturing industries.

Swab Tip Materials

Swabs tips come in many different materials. Here are some of the most common swab tip materials.

Cotton Tip Swabs

Our cotton tip swabs are made with top pharmaceutical grade spun cotton fiber. Cotton fiber swabs are absorbent, soft, low cost, and safe for many applications. If you require low-lint for your application, cotton swabs are available in low-lint options or standard.

Whether you require 3 inch cotton swabs, 6 inch cotton swabs, or double tip cotton swabs (twice the bang for your buck!) we are sure to have the cotton swab you need.

Polyester Tip Swabs

Polyester is a synthetic fiber. Polyester tip swabs are non-absorbent. Polyester swabs also contain no fatty acids or latent sugars. This is important in the collection of specimens for testing.

Polyester swabs are a good medium for cell collection, screenings, and testing. Ideal for use in microbiology, rapid test diagnostics, and industrial surface testing.

Foam Tip Swabs

Foam swabs are made of soft, non-abrasive polyurethane foam. Foam swabs are lint and residue free. They won’t leave anything behind. Foam swabs are also shred-resistant and perfect for cleaning applications.

The foam tips are thermally bonded to the shaft, so there is no glue or bonding agents in the swab that could contaminate your environment. Foam swabs are soft enough for delicate cleaning but not too soft that they bend or fold.

Rayon Tip Swabs

Rayon is a semisynthetic fiber material made from cellulose. Rayon swabs are soft, highly absorbent and ideal for applications where cotton wouldn’t be suitable.

Rayon is low-linting. Rayon swabs are widely used in specimen collection, testing, and screening.

Flocked Tip Swabs

Flocked swabs have a unique tip structure and construction. Flocked tip swabs are comprised of multi-length fibers arranged around the applicator handle. This brush-like structure assures ultra-clean tips and reliable performance.

Unlike traditional wound fiber swabs, flocked swabs have no internal core to absorb and trap collected specimens. Flocked swabs have superior collection and release characteristics which make them ideal for specimen collection and testing purposes.

The process starts with producing the swab fiber, composed of a unique porous microchannel “fiber-within-fiber” design structure. The swab fiber is then applied to tips to produce a versatile, high-performance brush-like swab without an inner fabric or core to collect specimens. Further proprietary manufacturing processes result in multi-length, “split-end” fibers that create a greater overall surface area and tension for more rapid elution and maximal sample preservation. Scientific studies have confirmed Puritan flocked swabs provide the most efficient collection and elution on the market.

Microfiber Tip Swabs

Microfiber swabs are highly resistant to normal cleaning solvents, which make them perfect for removing contaminants and excess materials.

Microfiber tip swabs are soft, non-abrasive (wont scratch delicate surfaces!), and has excellent wipe/dry characteristics lending itself to cleaning applications.

Swab Shaft Materials

Depending your application, there are different types of swab shaft materials you should use.

Wood Shaft Swabs

Economical and rigid, these shafts do the job for many applications.  The down side?  Wood is a natural material with variations in moisture content and fracturing is possible.

Wood dust from these shafts is minimal, but in areas where particulates is a problem, wood should not be used.

Paper Shaft Swabs

Non-linting and non-conductive, these clean, white shafts are good for use in controlled environments.

Semi-rigid, they will not fracture in use, but if bent will not return to the original shape.  Paper shaft swabs cannot be sterilized by autoclaving.

Polypropylene Shaft Swabs

Very clean and non-absorbent with no particulate to shed.

Can be rigid or semi-flexible and resistant to breakage.  This plastic material will stand up to many chemicals.  Autoclaving to 250 degrees F is OK.

Polystyrene Shaft Swabs

Economical plastic shafts can be hollow or solid. Also very clean and non-absorbent, non-dusting.

Depending on the composition can fracture as needed, or be flexible for use in tight spaces.  Suitable for use with IPA. More rigid than polypropylene. This material is suited for applicators with scored break points, providing a clean break.      

Aluminum Shaft Swabs

Slender and flexible but once bent will retain the angle for precise cleaning.

Clean with no particulates, but conductive.  For medical applications, slender dimension is desirable.

Additional Types of Swabs

Anti-Static & ESD Swabs

ESD swabs have anti-static properties that make them safe for working with static-sensitive components. Anti-Static & ESD-Safe Swabs are ideal for precision cleaning, sampling, validation, and more.

ESD swabs have special antistatic handles that make them ideal for use in cleanrooms and other static-sensitive environments. We offer ESD/Anti-Static swabs that are foam tipped, polyester tipped, cotton tipped, and nonwoven tipped with anti-static attributes.

Transport Swabs

There are primarily two types of transport swabs. Dry transport swabs consist of a dry swab and transport tube or cap. Media Transport Swabs are a vial of transport medium liquid and dry swab. This “wet” transport swab keeps collected specimens suspended in a liquid medium for testing.

Both Dry Transport and Media Transport Swabs are used for collection and/or transportation of a wide range of specimens (including: bacteria, viruses, microorganisms, trace evidence, DNA, and more). The transport tube/vial contains the specimen and provides safe and stable transport.

Environmental Surface Testing Swabs

Environmental Sampling and Surface Testing swabs are used for industries in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics. Surface Testing Swabs are designed for sample collection and validation of hard to reach areas. Surface testing swabs are used to test for contamination and chemicals on surfaces.

Environmental Sampling Kits consist of a polyester tipped swab and polypropylene vial for transport with broth/solution/buffer liquid.

Medical/Sterile Swabs

Sterile/Medical Swabs have a wide range of uses. Our sterile medical swabs are offered in Rayon and Cotton, available in a variety of head shapes. Handle options include wood, plastic and biodegradable paper.

Sterile Swabs are wrapped and always fresh. Ideal for medical applications such as wound care, surgery, diagnostic testing, DNA testing, Gynecological OB/GYN screening, and more.

Wood Applicators

Wood Applicators include applicator sticks, cuticle/orange sticks, and wood medical spoons. Disposable wooden applicators are often used for specimen transfer, as mixing rods, in laboratory work, and other general purpose applications.

Our wood applicators are made with straight-cut splinter-free ends. Wood Applicator Sticks come with different bevels, points, or straight edges depending on your use need. Wood applicator sticks are biodegradable and available sterile or non-sterile.

Critical Environment (Cleanroom) Swabs

You can’t use any old swab in a Cleanroom. Critical Environment Swabs are precision manufactured, ensuring the swabs eliminate contamination and provide consistent cleanliness. Critical Environment Swabs are available in materials such as cotton, microfiber, knitted polyester, and anti-static/ESD.

Cleanroom Swabs are designed for effectively cleaning small surfaces in controlled environments and other critical environment applications. Cleanroom swabs are widely used in industries such as healthcare, diagnostics, fiber optics, electronics, semiconductors, and more.


When it comes to swabs and applicators, there are a lot of variations to consider depending on your usage case. With so many options we know it can get a little overwhelming. But don’t worry! We’re here to help.

If you’re not sure exactly what you need, we are available to help via Phone, Chat, or Email. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions selecting the right swab for you and your application.

Cosmetic Swabs: Beauty Tips for Salons and Spas

Cosmetic Swabs: Beauty Tips for Salons and Spas

Harmony offers the best quality and selection of swabs and applicators for use in Spas, Salons, and so much more!

We’ve chosen to supply primarily Puritan Medical swabs and applicators due to their supreme quality and value.

Puritan produces high-quality swabs and other single-use products for industries such as healthcare, forensics, and food safety. These products are medical-grade swabs with fantastic beauty and wellness applications too. From cotton swabs to cuticle sticks, Harmony and Puritan Medical can help spa and salon owners keep clients looking their best.

Spring is around the corner and there’s going to be lots of events like vacations, proms, weddings – people need to be photo ready!

Here are some great beauty tips, advice, and tricks made possible by high quality cosmetic swabs and applicators.

Special Swabs for Cosmetics

Cutting-edge technology has been used to produce high-quality cotton swabs which are almost enough on their own to perform every part of a beauty routine. From facials to pedicures, Puritan Swabs from Harmony are highly resourceful as a tool used in a wide range of beauty and salon services.

Here’s some great ways to use swabs for beauty!


  1. Use a swab to precisely cover a blemish with just enough concealer.
  2. Target dark spots with brightening cream in the same manner.


  1. Use a swab to get every last bit of lipstick out of the tube before tossing it.
  2. Lip-gloss comes in a pot right? So keep your fingers clean by applying with a cotton swab.
  3. Don’t let bright lipsticks or stains bleed outside your clients’ lip line. With a swab, you can trace her pout with powder to keep lip color in place.


  1. Avoid sticky fingers when applying eyelash glue to false eyelashes by using cotton swab to disperse the glue.
  2. Use a swab to dot concealer on undereye circles, then blend.
  3. Cotton swabs are the perfect tool for smudging or cleaning up eyeliner.


  1. Embellish nails by using a swab to create designs (adorable polka dots!) or add decorations.
  2. The pointed cotton tip on our tapered swabs can clean up the messiest manicure or pedicure.
  3. Cleaning bottle necks with swabs dipped in nail polish remover keeps polishes from getting stuck shut.

The Perfect Cosmetic Swabs:

Bonus TIP: Seal swabs covered in concealer or perfume in small storage bags and tuck them into your purse. You’ll be able to touch up your makeup or reapply your favorite scent while at a wedding or during a long flight.

Wooden Tongue Depressors (AKA Wax Applicators)

Isn’t it amazing how much better you feel after an eyebrow wax? Well, our tongue depressors were actually designed to apply wax too! The wood has a smooth polish, and with two different sizes, the sticks can be used on multiple areas of the body.

The Perfect Wax Applicators:

Cuticle Sticks (AKA Orange Wood Sticks)

Keeping nails clean is good for hygiene and for first impressions. We offer cuticle sticks with beveled ends that are just the right tool for pushing cuticles back into place. Our single bevel sticks with pointed ends can clean out dirt and other built up grime. Whether thanking an instructor for vacation surfing lessons or meeting a cousin’s new boyfriend at a family gathering, your clients will confidently extend their hands knowing they look great!

The Perfect Cuticle Sticks:

You can trust our swabs and applicators to perform the best, no matter your usage!

Feel great, look great, and enjoy a moment of Harmony with Puritan Medical Swabs and Applicators.

Harmony Business Supplies

Rayon Tip Swabs: The Better Swab

rayon tipped swabs

Swabs come in different sizes, formats, and materials. You need to pick the right kind for the job. Confused with the huge assortment of swabs available in the market? Learn about rayon tip swabs and how they’re used.

Rayon Swabs are soft and highly absorbent and a good choice for applications where cotton would not be suitable. Rayon Swabs are widely used for specimen collection.

Swabs are generally thought of as cotton wads wrapped around on one side of a small rod. Did you know that swabs are made with many different materials?  Majority of swabs used in the medical field are sterilized and often made of synthetic material for better test results without contamination. If you are investing money in a swab, one strong option to consider should definitely be rayon tip swabs.


The Best Swab for the Job

With so many different kinds of swabs on the market, it can be hard to know which kind is best for your particular applications. If you are concerned with clinical applications, rayon tip swabs are considered one of the best in the industry. They are available in varying sizes and formats so that they are compatible with your applications.


Tips on Choosing the Best Swabs

  • The shaft of the swab is very important. Make sure that it is made of the highest quality material. Generally, you will have wood, plastic or aluminum as choices. Different shafts materials offer different flexibility and traits.
  • If the application is carried out for nasopharyngeal or pediatric fields, you’ll want to use a rayon swab with an aluminum shaft that is ultra thin and highly flexible.
  • Look out for the swab bud. If it is for clinical purposes, the rayon tip swab is the best available option.


Why are Rayon Swabs Preferred?

  • Since one primary use is for clinics and medical fields, most of our rayon tipped swabs are wrapped individually so that there is no contamination and the medical results are accurate.
  • The tips of the rayon swabs are made of the top notch quality USP grade rayon fiber.
  • They are easily disposable and most are sterile.
  • Rayon swabs are available with either wooden, plastic, or aluminum shafts and you have the option to choose.


Try Out Rayon Swabs

A rayon tip swab is also considered the best for gynecological cell collection and for research work. In fact, they are without any odor or taste and thereby ideal for food industries as well. Overall, it could be said that rayon swabs are better in most cases than other alternative options like cotton.

Like Mom always said, you won’t know until you try it. Try out rayon tipped swabs in your applications and see the difference today.


If you need assistance selecting the right swab for your needs just get in touch and we’ll be glad to help.

View our selection of rayon tipped swabs here.

Harmony Business Supplies