Did you put a 23andMe kit into a drawer and forget about it? You may be thinking it’s now too old to use.
23andMe say that their kits expire and have a due date on the packaging. However, don’t worry too much if you are past that date.
I’ve collected real-life experiences from people who used a kit several years after purchase. Details from the kit suppliers also suggest that 23andMe downplays the shelf-life.
You may be unlucky in having an old kit that doesn’t work. But we’ve got good news about how to avoid paying for a second kit.
Do 23andMe Kits Expire?
The collection tube in the 23andMe kit has a “Collect saliva by” date. This date is about two years from when the kit was manufactured.
In the past, people have reported purchasing kits on Amazon and being alarmed that the “Collect saliva by” date was up within a matter of days.
Similar scenarios are reported by people buying kits on eBay.
This is a good reason to purchase the kits from the 23andMe official store.
However, we already mentioned that 23andMe customers report successfully using kits that were ell past the collection date.
Real Customer Experiences Of Using Old Kits
I checked on Reddit so that you don’t have to! To be fair, the genealogy subreddits are full of nice and helpful people.
Here are some fairly recent experiences from people answering a question on whether an old 23andMe kit can be used:
One user reported in 2022 that they used one after a delay of nearly two years.
Other 23andMe kit users report success using kits that were fourteen or eighteen months old.
I can’t find anyone who reported similar success to the guy who used an Ancestry DNA kit that was six years old!
However, both testing companies use the same kit supplier. So, I’d be surprised if 23andMe’s kits degraded a whole lot faster than Ancestry’s.
23andMe’s Expiry Information Is Too Short
The 23andMe expiry information suggests that the shelf-life of the kit is about two years. It’s hard to believe it could be so short – and this isn’t borne out by what people report on social media.
Let’s remind ourselves of the kit contents:
- Cardboard packaging for returning the kit
- plastic collection bag
- saliva collection tube
- sealed vial of stabilizer liquid
It’s fair to conclude that the cardboard envelope, the soft plastic collection bag, and the hard plastic saliva tube will not expire or degrade in quality.
However, the kit includes a small vial of stabilizing fluid that you add to your saliva.
The real question is whether this liquid degrades or goes out of date. I reviewed the manufacturer’s documents to find out.
23andMe uses a company called DNA Genotek to manufacture its DNA kits. The same company supplies the kit for Ancesry.com and other DNA testing services.
How long does the stabilizing fluid last?
The company documentation says this:
DNA from saliva is stable in the self-collection kit for up to 5 years.
This stability is achieved with proprietary reagents that inactivate bacteria and nucleases in saliva and minimize chemical hydrolysis of DNA.DNA Genotek
This information is referring to how long the fluid lasts when you’ve mixed it with your saliva.
But most people are probably wondering about how long their unused kit will last. The answer will be longer than a used kit, as you haven’t exposed the liquid by opening the vial.
Judging by the manufacturer’s information, the stabilizing liquid could last for over five years.
If you’re wondering how it can last so long, the reason is that the liquid is a combination of pure distilled water and extra chemicals that act to preserve your saliva.
What Does 23andMe Do When An Old Kit Doesn’t Work?
Most people won’t forget a DNA kit for five years. It’s more likely that you let eighteen months to two years go by.
Then you look at the “saliva collected by” date and realize that it’s some months in the past. Should you take out your credit card and purchase a new DNA kit?
Based on other people’s experiences, you have two choices:
- Take the “old” test and send it to 23andMe and see what happens
- Contact 23andMe customer support with details of the “expired” kit
Do the test anyway!
If you take the first option, then you may find that the kit processes perfectly. Your 23andMe results will be available according to the usual timeline.
You can check what that is in our overview of how long 23andMe takes to process your results.
But what happens if the kit fails? You don’t need to worry as long as this is the first time you’ve sent in a kit.
23andMe will send you a replacement kit free of charge. They will do this even if the kit is long past the “saliva collected by” date.
However, they’ll only do this once! So, don’t sit on the second test for years.
Contacting customer support
The one disadvantage of sending in the test is that you’ve wasted the postage and initial processing time if it doesn’t work.
Alternatively, you can contact 23andMe customer support to inform them that your kit is past the “saliva collected by” date.
They should send you out a replacement kit without requiring you to try the “old” kit.