Using An Alternative Sample For DNA Testing

DNA testing can be done with alternative DNA samples such as a toothbrush, hair, earwax, blood, cigarette butts, any many other items.

What can I use to test for DNA instead of a mouth swab?

Journey Genetic Testing’s alternative DNA sample testing process allows you to put your mind at ease without anyone else knowing. Discreet DNA testing involves collecting non-buccal swab DNA samples from the people in question and sending them into our lab for comparison.

You may want to test someone without their knowledge. There are some samples that provide a better opportunity for obtaining a usable genetic profile than others.  In fact, much of our DNA testing is done using alternative DNA samples such as hair, fingernail clippings, ear wax swabs, a toothbrush, cigarette butts, and chewing gum. There is an additional testing fee of $100 for items we test that are not mouth swabs. The additional cost is for the viability testing of the sample prior to standard testing.

We can’t guarantee that DNA will be found on the sample that you provide to us, but if it does contain enough DNA to obtain a profile, we can compare it to another DNA profile to determine paternity, maternity, sibling, grandparent, and avuncular relationships.

Note: The success rate for alternative DNA samples is not as high as with a standard mouth swabs. The success rate depends on the quality of the DNA material.

When should you use an alternative DNA sample for testing?

  • The alleged father is unavailable for a paternity test but you have an item that you believes contains his DNA.
  • You want to do a sibling DNA test, an avuncular DNA test, or a grandparent DNA test, and want to keep the testing secret.
  • There is a DNA sample from deceased, or missing, person that you want to test.
  • Finally, the child in question may be older, and you don’t want them to know that their paternity is in question.

The average success rate of different DNA samples is listed below.

DNA SampleCommentsSuccess Rate
Buccal/cotton swabSwabbing of cheek inside of the mouth99.99%
Whole bloodMedical blood tube drawn in Vacutainer99.99%
Blood stainsBand-aids, tampons, bloody tissues90%
SemenSwab from condom, undergarments, clothing, etc.90%
Dried umbilical cordEnclosed in a paper container90%
Used tissueNasal mucus/discharge80%
HairAt least 5-7 strands with roots80%
ToothbrushAir-dry the toothbrush for 30 minutes80%
Dental flossDo not touch with fingers75%
Nail clippingsNew cut stored in paper envelope75%
Ear waxCotton swab or “Q-tip”65%
Chewing gumSugar-free is preferable, stored in foil gum wrapper50%
Cigarette butts2 to 4 butts in paper envelope50%
ClothingHats, baseball caps, underwear, bandana45%
RazorsPlace in paper envelope40%

Alternative DNA Samples FAQ

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As long as the lab technicians are able to obtain a DNA profile from the sample, the results as just as accurate as a mouth swab. Using a higher number of genetic markers to test each person allows us to issue testing results that are 100% accurate based on the profiles generated.

Testing of alternative samples may take up to an additional 5 days, depending on the DNA sample. This is to ensure that a strong enough genetic profile can be obtained. Once a DNA sample is found to be viable, the testing ordered will be completed. Our goal is always to help you get the answers you need in the shortest period of time.

In most cases, no. A legal test requires written consent from all parties (or legal guardians), photo identification, and a third party who performs the DNA collection. Alternative samples are provided for discreet testing and therefore cannot be used in court.

Non standard samples do not always guarantee that a DNA Profile will be obtained as we have no way to determine the quality of the sample prior to receiving it.

However, it is not just the type of sample that is important but also other variables such as :

  • Poor storage conditions (e.g. damp environment, extreme heat or cold, etc).
  • Poor sample handling (possible contamination with other DNA or dirt).
  • Not enough DNA present (e.g. heavily used toothbrush vs used once only).

In all cases the laboratory technicians are trained to make every effort, and multiple attempts, at obtaining a usable genetic profile with every DNA sample that is tested.


Yes, you are protected by our strict privacy policy. No one may access your DNA test information without your written consent.

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