Currently, there is a variety of swabs for collection of biological evidence from crime scenes, but their comparative efficiency is unknown. Here, we report the results of an investigation into the efficiency of different swab types to collect blood, saliva and touch DNA from a range of substrates. The efficiency of extracting blood and saliva from each swab type was also tested. Some swabs were significantly more effective than others for sampling biological materials from different substrates. Swabs with the highest sampling efficiency, however, often did not have the highest extraction efficiency. Observations were recorded regarding practicality of each swab in a variety of situations. Our study demonstrates that selection of sampling device impacts greatly upon successful collection and extraction of DNA. We present guidelines to assist in evaluation of swab choice.