Guide: Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

Guide: Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

A Complete Guide to Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

Following the right specimen collection procedures is critical. Not only does it protect healthcare professionals, laboratory staff, and the patient, it also ensures accuracy in diagnostic testing. For infectious diseases, it’s important to get specimen collection right on the first try. That’s why having the proper tools is essential.

When it comes to the swabs and vials used for collecting specimens for diagnostic testing, you have a lot of options. While traditional cotton tips may have been the go-to choice of yesteryear, today’s selections boast significant advancements and options tailored to your unique needs.
Indeed, modern-day swabs come with a number of features designed for ease of use. In this post, we’ll share a comprehensive overview of specimen collection kits as well as considerations to help you determine which option is best for your application.

Media Transport Swab Systems

In many healthcare settings, media transport systems are used. These systems can optimize the specimen collection process and make handling and transporting specimens safe and convenient. They are also designed to provide rapid release, and by integrating high-quality swabs into the system, you’ll receive the best level of elution.

UniTranz-RT Transport System: UT-302
Puritan UniTranz-RT ® Transport System: UT-302

One popular choice for transport media is the Puritan UniTranz-RT ®. It can be used to transport any virus, in addition to bacterial specimens such as Chlamydia and Ureaplasma. The universal transport liquid suspends the cells until processed. They can be purchased as vials of transport medium exclusively; or, for utmost convenience, you can also choose different tipped applicators to complete the system.

Puritan Opti-Swab Mini-Tip Swab with Liquid Amies: LA-116
Puritan Opti-Swab Mini-Tip Swab with Liquid Amies: LA-116

For fastidious and both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria, the Opti-Swab ® transport system is an ideal choice. The liquid amies suspends the cells until processed. It protects the viable bacteria specimens during lab transport and employs flocked or rayon swabs for effective specimen collection.

For certain types of microorganisms, enrichment media are needed to create ideal environments. By adding enrichment media, you’ll promote the development of the particular microorganism for which your testing while also limiting the growth of others. Staph organisms, for instance, require the specific liquid transport MRSA, due to its resistance to antimicrobials. Salmonella, on the other hand, can be enriched with selenite broth. LIM broth is used as an enrichment media for Group B Strep in pregnant women.

In comparison to media transport swabs, there are also Dry Transport Swab systems to consider. Dry transport swabs can be used in general-purpose cell collection and transport to the lab, testing, screening, and DNA testing.

Puritan Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT
Puritan Dry Transport Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT

As you can see, there are various types of systems available for the collection and transport of specimens, many of which are designed specifically for one type or group of of bacteria or viruses. While it’s helpful to know what you’re testing for in order to determine the best type of collection kit to use, it’s also beneficial to consider the place from which you’re collecting specimens on the patient. We’ll discuss these considerations below.


Considerations By Application

For certain types of specimen collection, proper practices are mandated by the CDC. For instance, to collect upper respiratory tract specimens, it is recommended by the CDC that collectors use flocked swabs to collect specimens from the tonsil and nasal areas. To avoid inactivation of certain viruses or inhibition of molecular assays, it’s recommended that users do not select wooden-shaft swabs for this application, as the wood could compromise the specimens. Additionally, sterile rayon swabs or sterile polyester swabs are recommended.

Once collection of upper respiratory tract specimens has been completed, swabs must be immediately placed into vials with non-antibiotic transport media. There are additional steps outlined by the CDC for the process, including the use of both oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal swabs. Nasopharyngeal swabs are also used to test for conditions such as whooping cough and certain types of flu.

HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Mini Tip with Transport Tube: 25-3316-H-EMB-100-BT
Great as nasopharyngeal swab: HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Mini Tip with Transport Tube: 25-3316-H-EMB-100-BT

Of course, the nose and throat aren’t the only sites for specimen collection. For any area of the body, patient sensitivity should be considered to help determine which swab and collection products to use.

For instance, rectal cultures can be obtained to identify types of bacteria indicating gastrointestinal diseases, but because of the levels of sensitivity, the gentlest swabs possible should be used to collect samples from this region. Likewise, specimens from genitalia, orifices, and any other sensitive areas should be collected using swabs that will minimize discomfort. Calcium Alginate Swabs are also a good choice, since any residual trace fiber left will safely dissolve.

Puritan Sterile Calcium Alginate Nasopharyngeal Tip Swab: 25-800-A-50
Puritan Sterile Calcium Alginate Nasopharyngeal Tip Swab: 25-800-A-50

Luckily, there is a vast number of options available for specimen collection and transport to keep patients safe and comfortable while also preserving the integrity of the sample. By weighing the considerations listed here, you can identify the best types of swabs, vials, and complete transport kits to best meet your needs. Harmony Business Supply has an extensive range of products available to choose from, which you can view online. If you’d like additional assistance deciding on the best option for your application, feel free to consult with one of our product specialists.

Harmony Business Supplies

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 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.

Lint-Free Wipes Maintain High Resolution Printer Output

Lint Free Wipes & Large Format Printers

Lint Free Wipes & Large Format Printers

Large format digital printers (LFDPs) are the best tech-partners that you can have when it comes to high-quality printing business. They offer the best print outputs in their most vivid and clear state, in large and efficient formats.

Since large format digital printers benefit your business with both profit and reputation, you need to know how to work around large format digital printers, let alone care for them!

Wrong cleaning equipment = printing problems

Did you know that one wrong move could jeopardize your entire printing business? Unknowingly, you could be using the wrong cleaning equipment that could lead to numerous printing problems, such as using industrial cleaning rags for cleaning inkjet heads. Here’s why:

Large format digital printers are known to have delicate inkjet heads. Clean inkjet heads produce superb-quality prints, however, maintaining these inkjet heads means cleaning them, too. Once you use industrial cleaning rags, it will shed fibers which would surely interfere with the inkjet heads’ performance and thus putting the output’s quality on the line.

All for a piece of cheap rag, it can cost you your business’ efficiency and profit..

How to Avoid Printing Problems?

Don’t worry. You can avoid these printing mishaps. All you have to do is invest in cleaning tools and materials that are worth spending your money on such as lint-free wipes.

Prevention is better than cure, since you wouldn’t want your printer inkjet to be factory serviced. That would cost more than a few pieces of lint-free wipes. Be sure to have them around your shop before it’s too late!

Qualities of Good Lint-Free Wipes

Teknizorb MicroFiber Lint Free Wipe

There are dozens of Lint-free Wipes to choose from in the market. Variety of them offer good cleaning quality. However, be smart enough to opt for the ones which have genuine and superb features.

Here’s what you need to consider when opting for good Lint-Free Wipes:

  • Lint-free wipes should have durable microfiber quality which can easily remove particulates without shedding its own fibers.
  • It should be non-abrasive so as not to scratch or damage sensitive surfaces
  • It should be made from quality materials e.g., like continuous filament polyester wipes and 30% Nylon with sealed edges.

You can also consider keeping lint-free swabs on hand for detailing and cleaning those hard to reach places.

Having the right lint-free wipes around for your printer’s preventive maintenance is one way to guarantee the prolongation of your printer’s shelf life. As a result, you’ll get to enjoy the profit of your printing business as you continue to produce printing outputs for your clienteles with the best possible resolution – all thanks to lint-free wipes.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Swabs

1.     Homely Inspiration

The inventor of the modern cotton swab, Polish inventor Leo Gerstenzang, was inspired at home when he saw his wife sticking cotton balls onto the ends of toothpicks, and using this tool to clean out their child’s ears. Can you imagine doing that now? The original target audience for this new product was babies, and Q-Tips were first called “Baby Gays”.

2.     Boric Acid Baths

Original cotton Q-Tips were dipped in boric acid in the factory, as an idea to promote them as personal hygiene instruments. Boric acid has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and sterilized the swabs.

3.     Stuck on Wood

Cotton swabs were made exclusively with wooden shafts until 1958. The company bought another company that made paper sticks for candy, and used the paper shafts in their swabs. Now, swabs are made with various shaft materials, including polypropylene shaft swabs, paper shaft swabs, aluminum shaft swabs, and others.

4.     Swabbing Sailors

A swab is a piece of absorbent material on end of a shaft/stick.

Did you know the word swab comes from the 17th mid-century “swabber”, in the sense of a sailor swabbing the deck of a ship. Why did they even swab the decks? Well, loose gun powder on gun-decks (cannons!) was a significant fire hazard. Swabbing the decks with a mop (swab) dampened the powder and reduced fire risk. Regular maintenance of the decks also slowed decomposition and gave sailors something to do. (Idle hands lead to mutiny!)

5.     All Ears (But Not Really)

Cotton swabs are widely known for being used to clean out ears. However, using swabs to clean the INSIDE of your ears can actually have an opposite and detrimental effect. Improper usage can lead to compacting wax or damaging sensitive ear organs caused by pushing the swab into the ear too far. Be cautious when using swabs to clean out ears.


Nowadays swabs are super useful across many different fields! Swabs of various kinds are used in critical environment manufacturing, diagnostics, environmental surface sampling, food safety testing, forensics, healthcare, and pharmaceutical applications.

Modern swabs are made tough to scrub hard to reach places, or soft and gentle for use in electronics or sensitive components. Hopefully you learned something new about swabs (who knew!), and whatever your application is, we have the swab for the job.