The extraction and recovery efficiency of swabs used to collect evidence at crime scenes is relatively low (typically <50%) for bacterial spores and body fluids. Cell‐free deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is an interesting alternative compared to whole cells as a source for forensic analysis, but extraction and recovery from swabs has not been tested before using pure DNA. In this study cotton, foam, nylon flocked, polyester and rayon swabs are investigated in order to collect pure DNA isolated from saliva samples. The morphology and absorption capacity of swabs is studied. Extraction and recovery efficiencies are determined and compared to the maximum theoretical efficiency. The results indicate that a substantial part of DNA is not extracted from the swab and some types of swab seem to bind effectively with DNA. The efficiency of the different types of swab never exceeds 50%. The nylon flocked 4N6FLOQSwab used for buccal sampling performs the best.