COVID-19 PCR Saliva Specimen Collection Instructions

Consistent with O. Reg. 671/92 of the French Language Services Act, test ordering and instructions on this page is only available in English because it is scientific or technical in nature and is for use only by qualified health care providers and not by members of the public.

How to Collect a Saliva Sample for a COVID 19 PCR Test

This video demonstrates how to collect a saliva sample for COVID-19 PCR test.

Duration: 4 min

Saliva Collection Kit Instructions downloadable PDF availabe here:

  1. Kits with Funnel and Cap Containing Blue Liquid
  2. Kits with Funnel and Saline Rinse Packet
  3. Kits with Funnel and WITHOUT a Saline Rinse Packet
  4. Kits with Straw and Saline Rinse Packet
  5. Kits with Straw and WITHOUT a Saline Rinse Packet


  1. Do NOT eat, drink, chew gum, smoke, or vape for at least 30 minutes before collecting saliva.
  2. Wash your hands and make sure you have everything you need before you begin.
    • A saliva test kit usually consists of an empty tube to store the saliva, a funnel or straw to draw the saliva into the tube, a label for the tube with your name and test information, a clear biohazard bag to place the tube for transport, and a COVID-19 test requisition form. Be sure to leave the small absorbent paper in the provided biohazard bag.
  3. Label the tube with the date of collection, full name and date of birth or Health Card Number, and stick the completed label on the tube. refusal
    • Failure to provide this information may result testing disqualification or delay.
  4. Complete all required fields of the COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Test Requisition.
    • Failure to provide this information may result in testing disqualification or delay.
  5. Unpack the test kit and place the test kit components on a clean surface.
  6. If the test tube comes with a cap already attached, unscrew the cap, and store the cap upside down on a clean surface for now.
  7. Insert the funnel or straw into the tube.
    • If using a funnel, the funnel should fit snugly into the tube opening.
  8. To promote saliva production, rub the inside of your cheeks with your tongue and allow saliva to pool in your mouth.
    • Some kits may also include an optional clear sterile saline mouth rinse (salt water). If so, squeeze all the clear saline solution in your mouth, then swish (5 seconds), gargle (5 seconds), swish (5 seconds), gargle (5 seconds), and finally swish (5 seconds) the saline solution in your mouth. DO NOT SWALLOW the saline solution. DO NOT USE other liquids for this step (e.g., blue liquid found in Spectrum kits).
  9. Carefully transfer your saliva into the tube via the funnel or straw, allowing saliva to run into the tube until 2 to 3 ml are collected, not including bubbles. The complete process may take 2-5 minutes. 
    • Some tubes may have a fill line to help visualize how much saliva to collect. 
  10. Once you have collected enough saliva, remove the funnel or straw and discard the funnel or straw in a waste bin.
    • Immediately seal the cap onto the tube, twisting tightly.
    • Some caps may contain a blue liquid used to preserve the saliva (e.g., Spectrum kits). If so, twist the cap until you hear a click and the blue liquid mixes into the tube. Shake the tube for a few seconds to mix the saliva and blue liquid.
    • Once the cap is back on the tube, do not reopen the tube or remove any liquid.
  11. Failure to recap the test tube properly may result in leakage and testing disqualification.
  12. Wipe away any remaining saliva that may have contacted the outside of the tube.
  13. Place the tube in the main compartment of the biohazard bag.
  14. Place the fully completed test requisition form into the outer side pocket of the biohazard bag so that it is not exposed to the specimen.
  15. Wash your hands and confirm how to provide the sample test to the lab.
    • If collected at home, the specimen should be kept at room temperature and dropped off within two hours of collection to a designated drop off site. 
    • If the specimen was collected on site by a health care professional, it should be stored and transported at 2-8°C. If transport to the laboratory will be delayed beyond 72 hours, specimen should be frozen at -70°C or below and shipped on dry ice.

Storage of unused kits:
Unused kits should be stored at 2-25°C until used. Improper storage will result in a loss of efficacy. Kits should only be stored up until their expiry date.

Some collection kits may have expiration dates extensions beyond the manufacturer label. The list of expiry extensions for COVID-19 testing products is available through the Ontario Health COVID-19 Health System Response Materials page.

Saliva may be less feasible to collect in some patient populations with reduced salivary production or inability to reliably salivate into the collection tube. All PHO laboratory locations accept saliva specimens for COVID-19 PCR testing. However, some non-PHO laboratories may not be able to accept this specimen type. Contact your local laboratory provider if you have questions regarding the availability of COVID-19 saliva testing. Testing of respiratory viruses (including influenza) other than SARS-CoV-2 is not available on saliva specimens at this time. Settings requiring testing of both SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses should consider other collection options.

To order kits or for more information: Submit your order via the PPE Supply Portal.

Updated 12 June 2023