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Apr 2, 2019Print this page

Medical Swabs: How to Choose the Right Tools


From specimen collection and wound treatment to equipment maintenance and medicine application, medical professionals perform a range of duties every day; each calling for a different set of tools. 

Choosing the Right Medical Swabs

Swabs are one of the most commonly used single-use devices in the medical industry, but how do you know which to choose for which applications? We’ve put together this brief overview on how to choose the right medical swabs based on your specific needs. 

Cotton Tipped Swabs

Tips of U.S. pharmaceutical grade spun cotton fiber have been a standard for applicators used in everything for basic patient care to crime scene investigation. Very absorbent, soft, low cost and safe, cotton tipped swabs perform consistently and reliably. However, cotton tipped swabs are not typically recommended for specimen collection. 

Why? The properties of this natural material are such that efficient release of the specimen is not achieved and the naturally occurring fatty acids in this material interfere with processes employed in microbiology and DNA extraction, having shown to be injurious to organisms.   

Rayon Tipped Swabs

Much like cotton, rayon tipped swabs are predictably soft and absorbent and an economical choice for many applications where cotton would not be suitable. Rayon is a synthetic spun fiber manufactured from wood pulp. It is widely accepted for specimen collection.   

While produced from natural material, the manufacturing process eliminates any components that may damage the specimen or interfere with specimen transport and/or processing. The rayon-spun fiber used in Puritan products is made to Puritan’s specification to meet strict standards for specimen collection.

Polyester Tipped Swabs

Polyester is a synthetic spun fiber made from a polymer. Originally introduced into the realm of medical diagnostics by DuPont under the brand name Dacron®, it is now manufactured by others and no longer carries a brand name. Polyester fiber has been tested and validated for use in specimen collection in microbiology, rapid test diagnostics and PCR analysis.  

Polyester tipped swabs boast excellent collection and release properties and, while somewhat more costly than cotton or rayon, are not absorbent and boast superior release properties. Puritan purchases only the finest grade spun polyester fibers which are then produced to our specification of finish and other characteristics to assure reliable performance, every time.

Foam Tipped Swabs

Medical grade polyurethane foam has been found to be an excellent tip material for diagnostics.  Foam is produced in a range of porosities in sheet form. Common configuration for use in tipped applicators is 100 ppi (pores per inch).

Puritan specifies thickness, width and porosity of the material purchased from a U.S. manufacturer for incorporation in medical devices. Other properties are specified as well, such as absorbency (hydrophilic being very absorbent and hydrophobic being not absorbent), open or closed cell, conductive or electro-static dissipative, even colored. For chemical resistance, polyethylene foam is chosen. Your intended use dictates which foam tipped swabs will work best.

Flocked Swabs

Flock or “flocked” swabs have brought tipped applicators to a new level. State-of-the-art and highly acclaimed, these specialty devices bring superior collection and release characteristics to the lab. Multi-length split end polyester fibers are adhered by Puritan’s proprietary flocking process, assuring ultra-clean tips and reliable performance. 

Specimen collection relies on the physical properties of this structure, not absorbance within a spun fiber, so the specimen is extracted completely and efficiently. Puritan offers PurFlock Ultra® flocked swabs in a range of tip shapes and sizes to meet the specific needs of every diagnostician.   

Taking this technology one step further, Puritan’s HydraFlock® flocked swabs bring ultimate collection and release characteristics not before achieved. Through our proprietary processing technologies, each raw material is rendered optimal before all components are brought together for final production steps. The result is a truly unique specimen collection device. 

Whatever your medical or diagnostic needs, Puritan has the swab for the job. Want more information about ordering medical grade swabs for your facility? Click below to contact one of our knowledgeable product specialists. 


Topics: Flocked Swabs, Medical, Specimen Collection Procedure


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