The 23andMe website says that they typically take 6 to 8 weeks to produce your DNA results from your kit arrives at the lab. Last year, some happy customers reported that their results took only two weeks to be ready. But are there delays in current times?
I’ve checked the genealogy forums to see what 23andMe customers are saying in 2021. Read on for my summary. I’ll also show you how to get the most up-to-date feedback from your fellow customers.
What Is The 23andMe Turnaround Time For DNA Results In 2021?
Because people are posting kits from Europe, Australia, and Canada, I’m not including the mailing transit time in this article.
This year, the fastest report I’ve seen from a 23andMe customer is a 12-day turnaround from the time that the DNA kit arrives at the lab. Another lucky few report 14 days. But this doesn’t seem to be the norm!
The typical reported timeframe is about three to four weeks from arrival at the lab to your results being available on the 23andMe website.
The time of year does impact the processing time, particularly after major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is always a spike in the purchase of consumer DNA tests at these times.
Once the boxes arrive at the labs, they have to be opened and scanned before processing. Even a bigger pile of boxes than usual can introduce delays. You may see this message on the app or website: “Due to high volume at our lab, processing is taking longer than usual.”
23andMe gives an upper limit of eight weeks to allow for unusual delays in processing DNA results. I’ve read through reports on social media from a small number of customers who had to wait several months. The reason always turns out to be some problem with the DNA sample. 23andMe will send out a replacement kit for free. But of course, this gives the unfortunate customers a further wait.
If you’re unfortunate enough to experience a lengthy delay, check out our troubleshooting section later in this article.
Why Does 23andMe Take So Long?
Our expectations may be set too high by crime dramas where the detectives rush to the labs for fast answers. The CSI crew seems to process DNA results in minutes!
So why does 23andMe seem to take forever? There’s a lot involved in turning your spit into raw DNA results.
- The lab receives your DNA kit
- The kit is prepped for processing
- DNA is extracted from the saliva sample
- Your DNA is analyzed by complex processing chips and the data is sent to 23andMe
- 23andMe adds your data to their customer database and runs further analysis
- The 23andMe website displays your results to your account
The website and app let you track your sample through these stages.
How Long Does 23andMe Take After DNA Extraction?
23andMe shows the progress of your DNA sample through specific stages. The longest wait is usually between “Extracted” and “Genotyped”.
I was recently watching one customer provide daily updates on her kit progress on a genealogy forum. She figured her kit was stuck at DNA extraction. The updates looked like this:
- “Still in the Genotyping Abyss…”
- “Still stuck in Genotyping Limbo…”
Her genotyping finished in about ten days. And that seems to be the average reported by other 23andMe customers.
Are There Delays Due To Covid?
There are certainly delays between your local mailing service and the two labs in the United States. As you send the kit by registered post, you should be able to track the delivery to the laboratory doors.
Even Canadian customers are reporting mailing times of three weeks. Some countries also have to route the kits via the United Kingdom. The intermediate routing stops may be experiencing delays due to the pandemic.
But what about the labs themselves? As it happens, these labs are set up for the safe handling of biological material. Staff of course will follow federal guidelines on isolation, but their workplace is a safer environment than most.
In early 2021, there currently aren’t signs that the global events are impacting the lab processing time. I will update this article if that changes.
Where Are The 23andMe Labs?
23andMe uses DNA laboratory services in North Carolina and Los Angeles. That covers the west and east coast respectively.
If you want to know where your kit is going, the mailing service will show the destination. It is usually listed as NC or LA. When your kit goes into the processing phase, the 23andMe status display will show the lab too.
Why is this relevant?
Well, there may be differences at times in how fast kits are moving through the stages at each lab. This will most likely be if one lab receives a big pileup of kits. When your fellow customers report online on their progress, they often include the lab. If your kit hits the same lab on the same day, it’s reasonable to assume that your progress will be similar to theirs.
Factors That May Delay Your 23andMe Results
When your DNA kit is opened at the labs, the first step is an inspection that the sample is intact.
Unfortunately, breakages can occur in transit, despite the heavy packaging. You also may not have provided enough spit. When a sample simply can’t be processed, you will be immediately informed by email. 23andMe will send a replacement without further charge.
Another possible delay is the periodic quality review phases that the lab conducts. Occasionally, a batch of kits is randomly chosen to get extra audits and reviews. This can add a week to your processing time.
This extra phase isn’t shown on your status display. But if you contact 23andMe support, they can see which kits are under review. I’ve seen customers mention that the support folk told them they are in review.
The Most Up-To-Date Reports On 23andMe Turnaround
What would you say if I told you that there’s a place where 23andMe customers report daily on their kits’ processing status? I’m sure you’ll shout Hooray!
If your heart sinks when I admit that it’s a Reddit thread, then don’t worry. You won’t be forced to watch cat videos or read conspiracy theories. You don’t even need to create an account on the website.
Just follow the steps below to find oodles of other 23andMe customers giving helpful updates on their progress.
Reading Current Customer Reports
Step 1: Use this link to open the 23andMe subreddit.
Step 2: Look for a pinned thread at the top of the page.
It will look like this one from the first month of the year. The thread will say “PINNED BY MODERATORS” at the top.
Don’t worry if the title is a few months in the past. The moderators may keep the same thread open for a while.
Click on the title of the thread to open it.
Step 3: Show the most recent comments
The comments in the thread are ordered by a “Best” filter. This isn’t what you want.
Expand the dropdown beside “Best” and choose the “New” option.
Step 4: Find the most relevant report to your situation
There may be thousands of comments in this thread. This is a place for people to vent and chat. So, a lot of the comments won’t answer your question as to exactly how long the process is taking.
You’re looking for the most recent comments where the final stage has been completed. Many people are (usefully) reporting their progress half way through.
So, you don’t want to see this at the end of the report: “Results expected Mar 14-28“. That’s what 23andMe is providing as an estimate.
Insetead, you want to see a comment formatted like this (a real example):
Arrived at Lab: February 1 at NC lab.
Prepped: February 1
Extracted: February 6
Genotyped: February 16.
Reviewed: February 16.
Computing Your Results: Feb 16.
Results Ready: February 18th
Also, notice how the report includes the lab in the first line. In this example, it’s North Carolina.
I advise that you trawl back through the comments looking for reports where the “Prepped” date is similar to your own and the lab is the same. The DNA kits are processed in batches, and you may find someone in the exact same batch as you!
It’s also useful to look for prep dates a few days or a week before yours. If they have got their results, then you can reasonably expect yours to be coming soon.
While You’re Waiting
You can check out some of our articles on 23andMe. However, these will be more useful when you actually have your results!
I recommend an introductory guide to genetic genealogy to get a good grounding on aspects of DNA. That will give you a headstart on using and interpreting your results. Here’s my review of Blaine Bettinger’s guide, which is a great read.