Do Ancestry DNA Kits Expire? (Time Limits Explained)

Did you put an Ancestry DNA kit into a drawer and forget about it? Maybe you needed time to decide whether you would use a gift test that you hadn’t expected.

So, do Ancestry DNA kits go out of date?

To answer this question, I collected real-life experiences from people who used a kit several years after purchase. I also looked at the manufacturer’s documents about the kits.

You may be pleasantly surprised by how long the Ancestry kits last. And even if your old kit doesn’t work, we’ve got good news about how to avoid paying for a second kit.

Real Customer Experiences Of Using Old Ancestry Kits

I checked on Reddit so that you don’t have to! To be fair, the genealogy subreddit is full of nice helpful people.

Here are some fairly recent experiences from people answering a question on whether an old kit can be used:

One user reported in 2022 that they used one after a delay of sixteen months.

Another user reported that they had no problems with a kit that was a whopping six years old!

Comments on Reddit

However, another user didn’t have the same level of success:

I used three old tests. Two out of the three didn’t work.

[However, Ancestry] do replace them though.

This brings me to the question of what happens if you send an old kit to Ancestry.com and they can’t process it?

Is there an expiration date after which Ancestry will not process kits? Read on.

What Does Ancestry Do When An Old Kit Doesn’t Work?

You’ll find it hard to find an “official” line from Ancestry on whether their kits go out of date. There is mention of “one year” on some of their website documents.

We’ve already seen that this is well short of the manufacturer guidelines and reported customer experiences.

The “one year” seems to be advisory only. In other words, Ancestry.com doesn’t reject kits that are over a year old.

If you find an old kit at the back of a drawer and are worried that it has become unusable, you should still use it and send it to Ancestry.com for processing.

Ancestry.com will try to process a DNA kit of any age.

If the quality has degraded so that they cannot extract enough usable DNA from the saliva sample, Ancesry.com will send you a replacement kit free of charge.

Some rival DNA testing companies will not replace kits that are past a certain age. Ancestry.com does not follow that policy.

If they can’t process the kit, they will replace it – no questions asked.

If you’re wondering how long you’ll have to wait to know if it worked, check out our overview on how long Ancestry takes to process your DNA kit.

Do Ancestry DNA Kits Have An Expiration Date?

I have an extra kit that I purchased in 2017 as a gift for someone who decided not to go ahead with testing.

I fished out the dusty box from a drawer and scoured the packaging for an expiration date. There isn’t one.

Then I looked inside at the contents, which include:

  • sealed container with saliva collection tube and blue stabilizer liquid
  • plastic collection bag
  • cardboard box for posting

None of these items has an expiration date on their packaging.

My Unused Kit

It’s fair to conclude that the soft plastic collection bag, the hard plastic saliva tube, and the cardboard mailing box will not expire or degrade in quality.

However, the kit includes a small vial of blue liquid. This is the 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.

Does The Ancestry Blue Liquid Go Out Of Date?

Ancestry uses a company called DNA Genotek to manufacture their test kits. This company is a market leader and is used by some of the other big DNA test providers.

DNA Genotek supplies the vial of blue stabilizing liquid that comes with the kit.

It’s worth noting that this liquid was designed to be stored at room temperature. So, you shouldn’t try to prolong the shelf life of the kit by putting it into a fridge. Keep it stored in a dry area in your house.

The company documentation says this:

DNA from saliva is stable in the self-collection kit for up to 5 years.

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 documentation

This means that when you mix the liquid with your saliva sample, you could keep it (at room temperature) for up to five years before mailing it to Ancestry.com.

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.

The Ancestry blue stabilizing liquid could last for over five years, depending on the conditions in which it is stored.

If you’re wondering how it can last so long, the reason is that the liquid is primarily distilled water! Of course, there are extra chemicals that act to preserve your saliva. But the vial has a long shelf-life.

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