How Do I Take a Stool Test? Top Tips and Practical Insights.

Need to take a stool test and don’t know where to begin? Our top tips and practical insights will cover everything you need to know.

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Medical review by
Dr Alasdair Scott MBBS FRCS PhD

gut doctor, PhD and our research director

Published

So, you’re taking a stool test. We know this can be a little daunting if you’ve never done it before. Not to worry - read our How Do I Take a Stool Test guide and you’ll understand how to make it as simple as possible. We cover all the key steps from preparation and collecting your sample through to returning your sample to the lab and getting your results. On the way we’ll answer all the questions you were a little too embarrassed to ask!

Read the instructions

There are quite a few different types of stool test kit. So, even if you’ve taken a stool test before, it’s important to read the instructions that come in your kit before you do anything else. You can always ask us for help if you’re confused about anything.

Your instruction leaflet will list all the items that should be in your kit. It’s a good idea to check to make sure that everything is there. If something’s missing, let us know and we’ll send out a replacement.

Woman reading stool test kit instruction leaflet

Timings

Taking a stool test is usually pretty quick. It should take you about 30 minutes from start to finish. However, it’s important to bear in mind that you need to sample your stool as soon after passing as possible. You can’t leave it sitting around!

Also, it’s best if the lab receives the sample as soon as possible after you take it. Allow plenty of time to complete the test and post the same day before the last collection from your postbox. Be wary of weekends and Bank Holidays - make sure your sample will reach the lab the next day after you post it. We recommend only taking samples Monday to Thursday for this reason.

You may be able to hand your sample directly to the lab if you live close enough. In this case, you won’t need to think about the post.

Royal Mail Post Box

Activate your stool test kit

Activate your kit in your personal online dashboard before you take your sample. This makes sure we have your details and know to expect your sample in the lab. Your dashboard is also where you can keep an eye on the status of your test and where you’ll be able to see your results. Activation is really important and our lab won’t usually be able to analyse your sample if you forget to do it.

Prepare your space

Do you have somewhere in your bathroom to set out the kit contents? Clean your surfaces and make sure everything is level. You might want to put some newspaper or paper down just in case. Lay out your sample pot so it's ready to use.

Keep the instructions where you can see them for reference. You may not be able to turn any pages once you’re performing the test.

Parts of a stool test kit

Pee first

We want to try and avoid contaminating your stool sample with urine so it’s best to pee before you collect your sample. You don’t want any urine to touch your stool sample.

Catching the stool

The trickiest part of taking a stool sample is catching the stool and making sure it doesn’t touch any toilet water, urine or other surface.

Here are a couple of suggestions for how to do it:

  • Folded toilet paper or a plastic bag over your hand,
  • A “hammock” of cling film or newspaper across the rear of the toilet seat,
  • A cleaned out container such as an egg box, grapes carton, margarine/ice cream tub or takeaway container,
  • A bed of toilet paper in the toilet bowl.

The key thing is that the stool doesn’t touch anything that could interfere with your test result.

How do you take your sample?

Exactly how you take your sample will depend on the type of stool test kit you have. Your instructions will explain what you need to do. In general, stool test kits come in two flavours. They may have a collection pot with a spoon in the lid. With these, you use the spoon to fill the pot up to the “fill line”. This is usually just a few scoops of stool. If there’s anything in the stool that doesn’t look normal, like blood or mucus, it’s helpful to scoop that part of the stool into the pot. Make sure to screw the lid on tightly once you’ve put your sample in the pot.

Standard stool sampling tube

The other common type of kit comes with a tube that has some liquid in and a lid that’s attached to a small stick. The liquid is a preservative and it’s really important that you don’t accidentally tip this out. To collect your sample, you just scrape the stick along the stool to collect a small amount on the grooves of the stick. You really don’t need much at all for this one. Put the stick back in the tube with the liquid and you’re done.

qFIT stool sampling tube

Clean-up

Once you have sampled enough stool, you can flush the rest. If you used something like toilet paper to collect your sample, you can probably flush that too. Obviously, if you used a container or cling film to collect your sample, you’ll need to throw it in the bin.

Fill in your details

Most stool test kits come with a paper form for you to fill with your details like name, date of birth, sample type and so on. It’s really important to fill this out and make sure to return it with your stool test. Otherwise, we might not know who the sample is from!

Woman completing stool test kit form

Post your test

No awkward hand-ins at the GP - with Selph you post your sample directly to the lab for analysis. Your kit will contain an addressed envelope for you to use.

Place the stool sample pot into the required packaging. Remember to include any paperwork or forms that were included in your kit. Make sure everything is inside the return envelope before you seal it. You’ll find a Royal Mail tracking number on your return envelope. We recommend making a note of this so you can track your sample return and make sure it reaches the lab ok.

When will you receive your stool test results?

It depends exactly on the type of test you’re taking. Most results take one to two days to come back from when the lab receives your sample.

Don’t worry, we’ll let you know as soon as your results are ready to check out in your dashboard. You’ll also get a report and advice from one of our doctors so you understand everything about your stool test result.

Can I order a Stool Test today?

You can order a stool test from us here at Selph. We’re here to help you on your journey to better health. Our tests cover all aspects of gut health including infection, inflammation and bowel cancer. Order your stool test today.

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124 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX

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