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.

Forensic Swabs

Updated 12/1/16

No field requires as much precision as in forensic investigations. The data collected is a major factor in investigations, and how the data is collected plays a role in the accuracy of that data. DNA-Free and RNase-Free Forensic Swabs must cleanly and accurately collect samples while being certified DNA free and 100% sterile to avoid any cross contamination. Swabs are usually individually wrapped to stay fresh and to easily be transported after collection.

Forensic professionals rely on high quality swabs for clean and accurate sampling. Our collection forensic sampling swabs have been independently certified to be DNA-free at a threshold lower than any other swabs on the market today.

There are different types of DNA free forensic swabs to choose from, each with different specific focuses. Each swab features a soft, smooth, and absorbent tip. The swabs are manufactured to be medical grade and are ideal for crime scene investigations, buccal cell collection, and general specimen collection.

Foam tipped swab:

  • Large surface area for maximum cell collection
  • Ideal for swabbing the inner cheek and all buccal cell collection

Ultra Flocked Swab:

  • Unique fiber structure is designed for maximum cell yield
  • Ideal for conditions in which sample size is limited

Cotton Tipped Swab:

  • Manufactured with U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) grade cotton
  • Ideal for collection blood and buccal collection
  • A true multi-purpose forensic swab

We have a wide selection and sometimes picking out the right swab for the job can be a little challenging. If you have any questions about what swab is right for your application, please reach out to us and our product experts will be glad to help you!

Harmony Business Supplies

How To: Clean Clogged Print Heads

clean print heads

Clean Clogged Printer Heads

If the printer head nozzles are blocked or dried out you will need to dissolve the dried ink.

If the cleaning cycle doesn’t do the trick in clearing up poor and incomplete output, don’t give up and assume you’ll need to buy a new printer head (which can cost more than a new printer).

How To Manually Clean Print Heads

Manual Cleaning Print Heads

  1. Check your printer’s owner manual for the location of your print head. Refer to the directions below if the head is in the printer and not part of the individual ink cartridges.
  2. Remove the ink cartridges and dab hot water or isopropyl alcohol onto a cotton swab. Or use our self-saturating alcohol foam swab.
  3. Rub the swab against the print head to loosen dried ink. You can also use a dropper to drip 7 to 10 drops of the isopropyl alcohol into the ink receptacle if your print head is deep in the printer.
  4. Use a non-abrasive dry foam swab to clean and dry the area.
  5. Run the printer’s own cleaning program 2 times and then let the printer sit overnight. Repeat the self-cleaning utility the next day.

NOTE: You may want to wear latex gloves to help keep ink off your hands.

Preventive Maintenance

Regularly conducting preventive maintenance on your printer will prevent it from developing clogged printer heads. The most common reason printer heads get clogged is simply that the ink cartridge and the printer head have dried out.

Never let the printer stand with an empty cartridge. Either fit a fresh one, or seal the print head unit in a plastic bag with a few drops of water for humidity. Print heads become clogged when not used for long periods of time so regularly print a page or two to keep the print heads clear.

More Printer Cleaning Tips:

  1. Regularly run printer cleaning cycles.
  2. Cover the printer when not in use to keep it free from dirt and debris also helps prevent the printer heads from getting clogged.

INFOGRAPHIC: Flocked VS Spun Fiber Swabs

FLOCKED-versus-SPUN-FIBER-crop

There are 2 main types of swabs when it comes to tip of the matter.

Most people have experience with spun fiber swabs (cotton swabspolyester swabs, rayon swabs). Most consumer product swabs for cosmetics and hygiene are spun cotton fiber swabs.

Flocked swabs are different.

Flocked swabs have ultra tiny bristles that are far better at picking up and releasing specimen and materials for collection and diagnostics.

Spun fiber swab’s traits make it far less effective for these types of uses as the specimen and material gets trapped in the spun fiber and often softer/porous core.

Sometimes picking the right swab for the job can be challenging.

We’re just a call or chat away to answer all your questions.

Check out our infographic:

FLOCKED-versus-SPUN-FIBER