Swab DNA Test: How Accurate Are They?

Written by Lewis Cuthbertson, PhD | Last updated:

So you’ve decided you may want to delve into the world of DNA testing, but some information you’ve come across has left you wondering can a swab DNA test be wrong? We’ve got you covered. Read on to find out all about the pros and cons of mouth swab DNA testing to help you make a completely educated decision as to whether they’re right for you.

At home DNA tests

The recent boom in ancestry testing has popularized at home DNA tests, but they’ve actually been around for quite some time. When someone says ‘at home DNA test’, the only part of the test actually performed at home for DNA swab tests is the swabbing of the inside of your cheek to collect cells containing DNA. The rest of the testing is performed in the scientific laboratory which you mail your swab sample to.

At home DNA test accuracy

So really this is the big question surrounding the tests. A lot of the skepticism probably comes from confirmation bias. It’s only natural to be suspicious if your DNA test results say you should like coffee, but you’ve never drank a cup in your life.

But that suspicion is actually wrongly founded, as whether or not you may like coffee is actually a combination of both your genes and your environment.

At home DNA tests are in fact accurate.

There are really only two very minor causes for concern when it comes to DNA test accuracy. The first would be if there was a mistake made when the sample was being processed within a lab. However, such instances are very rare, with most labs imposing a large amount of quality control to prevent such issues from arising.

The second potential cause of inaccuracy in your results could come from the misinterpretation of your genetic data. Your data is analyzed by the provider you choose such as 23andMe. Unfortunately, when it comes to health, a lot of DNA companies only analyze a few genetic variants per report. This means you might not receive the most complete results, which can be disencouraging if you’re looking for a gene-based approach to optimizing your health.

If you want to have complete confidence in your DNA test analysis, make sure to choose a company like SelfDecode who provides links to the valid scientific studies in which their information is founded. SelfDecode uses AI and machine learning to analyze up to 83 million genetic variants to give you the most accurate results.

The SelfDecode team includes over 80 highly skilled scientists, MDs, NDs, and software engineers to make sure you receive the most complete information for your health.

How to do an at home DNA test

The tests are pretty simple and the majority of reputable companies will provide you with exact step by step guidelines to performing the test as optimally as possible.

In general it’s good practice to thoroughly read the instructions before touching any of the test components. The most common instructions emphasize to not eat or drink prior to taking the test, and that the best time to take the test is in the morning prior to brushing your teeth.

Most DNA swab tests come sealed to avoid contamination from any other sources, so of course it’s best to only open this sealed swab when you’re ready to perform the test to avoid anyone else getting their DNA on there. You also want to avoid rubbing the swab too hard as this may remove some of the saliva, which is the more important part of the sample.

DNA swab test accuracy vs other collection methods

The mouth swab test is an accurate and affordable method for testing your DNA at home, but other methods are just as effective. Certain companies such as 23andMe and SelfDecode prefer a saliva sample rather than a swab, as there is a risk when using a mouth swab that you may not collect sufficient saliva.

Swab DNA Test vs Saliva DNA Test

Whether you decide to swab test DNA or use another method, the only potential avenues for inaccurate results are if you don’t follow the instructions correctly at home, if your sample was compromised in the lab, or if the service analyzing your data does not use reputable sources to back their claims. Also keep in mind that the number of genetic variants analyzed can affect how accurate your results will be.

It’s not only the sample collection that plays a role in how accurate your results will be. How your DNA is handled by the lab and which method your DNA provider uses to analyze your genes are just as important as how careful you are when collecting your DNA sample.


If you’re considering taking a swab DNA test at home then don’t worry, they’re just as effective and accurate as a DNA test performed anywhere else so long as you follow the instructions.

However, if you would like to guarantee a seamless experience, you may wish to consider using a company which uses a DNA test such as a saliva sample, as DNA swab tests run the risk of not collecting enough DNA. This could result in you having to collect another sample, which can cost you more time and money.

You should also take care to choose a reputable company which uses scientifically validated literature to analyze your genetic data, especially if you want to use this data to improve your health. For science-based health recommendations based on an analysis of up to 83 million genetic variants, you should check our SelfDecode.

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About the Author

Lewis Cuthbertson

Lewis completed his PhD in Molecular Microbiology at Northumbria University (UK). Lewis spent several years researching the biodiversity of bacterial communities in the Arctic and Antarctic, whilst also performing research for a DNA sequencing service, where he was involved in several health based microbiome studies. This gave him an insight into how the highly diverse and invisible to the naked eye portion of human health, can potentially impact an individual’s quality of life, driving his desire to help others understand their own complex health needs through the most current scientific research.


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