What Is a Foam Swab?

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  • Written By: Misty Wiser
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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A foam swab is a hand-held apparatus consisting of a short handle attached to a small foam tip. Most are made of a reticulated polyurethane foam material that is hydrophilic, or resistant to water. The tip of the swab may be rectangular or rounded, depending on its intended use. Sterile foam swabs are individually packaged for single use and are generally latex-free. These swabs can be used for cleansing wounds, collecting biological specimens, and cleaning delicate electronics.

Medical professionals frequently use a sterile foam swab for wound care. The unique hydrophilic polyurethane medical swab is resistant to contamination from bacteria and fungi. A sterile swab may be used to apply topical wound dressings. These swabs are also used to remove exudate materials from healing wounds without leaving any residue in the wound.

Most dentists use foam swabs on a regular basis. They swabs are used to apply anesthetic liquids to oral tissue and absorb excess fluids. It may be used to gently wipe away leftover amalgam material after a filling is placed inside a tooth.

Foam swabs are often used to collect buccal or oral cells to identify deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in laboratory testing. The foam is ideal for quickly collecting and releasing cells for evaluation. Some swabs have tips that break off easily into specimen collection receptacles. They are also commonly utilized in pre-surgical disinfection and to absorb small amounts of bodily fluids during surgical procedures.


These are also commonly used for removing dirt and dust from electronic equipment. Many automated teller machine (ATM) technicians use a foam swab to clean the interior of the ATM. Keyboards, cameras, and digital printers may all be cleaned internally with such swabs.

A special feature of some foam swabs used for the purpose of cleaning lab equipment is a hidden reservoir in its handle. Clean solution is stored within the hollow space in the handle. When the time comes to use the swab, the solution is manually released into the tip.

Many medical devices and specialized lab equipment are cleaned with these swabs to preserve the delicate electronics located within the machines. A lint-free foam swab is ideal for cleaning without leaving any harmful residual material. Some technicians use a swab of this kind during the assembly and repair of medical equipment.


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