How to Select Sampling Tools

Use the right tools for collecting samples for accurate results.

Sampling tools are used for collecting solids, powders, particulates, semi-solids, and liquid samples. They are used for chemical analysis, quality testing, and microbiological testing in a variety of industries including pharma, biotech, food and agriculture, chemical, industrial, and healthcare. Sampling collection best practices suggest that collecting samples improperly will provide inadequate results. So, using the right tool is critical for accurate results.

It can be confusing to locate the right tool because a variety of manufacturers will place the various tool types into different categories. But, knowing the types of samples being collected will make it easier to drill down to exactly what’s needed.

To make selection easy, Cole-Parmer has categorized sampling tools by general lab sampling tools, powder sampling tools, and liquid sampling tools. Here is a quick list and links to the products:

General sampling tools

Select these tools for a variety of general industry uses; these could work with either liquid or powder samples and in some cases both. This category includes scoops, spoons, spatulas, scrapers, and funnels.

Powder sampling tools

These sample tools are ideal for powder and particulates. They include slot samplers, grain samplers, powder sample collectors, powder lances, and powder spatulas. See how a powder sampler collector is used in Figure 1 below.

Powder sample collector in use

Figure 1. Image courtesy of Sampling Systems at Figure 1. Image courtesy of Sampling Systems at

Liquid sampling tools

Look for liquid sample collectors, viscous sample collectors, ice samplers, and ladles in this category to collect samples in liquid form.

What to consider when choosing your sampling tools

Select tools that are robust enough to withstand many hours of use, easy to clean, conform to any safety requirements, and available from a reliable manufacturer. When looking at the features, consider the types of samples being collected, the height and/or diameter of the container or drum, the sampling method, and the documentation required with the tools. Also consider whether a single-use disposable tool is needed for the application, rather than a reusable tool.

Types of samples

What type of samples need to be collected? Consider the types of samples including powders/granules, liquids, and semi-solids that can be free-flowing, viscous, and cohesive or sticky.

What is the height or diameter?

Consider if samples need to be collected from items such as open top drums, bulk bags, or bags on a pallet. Ensure sampling tools fit exact needs to avoid spillage or having to reach and stretch too much.

What is the sampling collection method?

Will the sample be single point (one sample from a specific point) or multi-level (cross sectional powder sampling from one container)? See the difference between the single point and multi-level in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. Image courtesy of Sampling Systems at Figure 2. Image courtesy of Sampling Systems at

Disposable or reusable?

Disposable sampling tools eliminate cross-contamination; they are available sterilized and individually packaged, are mostly manufactured in a cleanroom environment, and are lot traceable. Reusable tools provide long-lasting materials such as stainless steel or PTFE and are easy to clean. See website for Certificates of Conformity.

Documentation considerations

Documentation may be required with your tools. At Cole-Parmer, all disposable sampling tools are available in a sterile version with sterility certification and lot traceable certifications. Certificates of Conformity are available for some reusable sampling tools.

We also devised the chart below, so you can easily find the type of sampling tool you need

Sampling Tools Selection Chart

Sampling Tool Sample Materials Tool Materials Available Applications
Powders Particulates Granules Semi-Solids Liquids Viscous Ice Reusable Disposable
Scoops SS, aluminum, HDPE, PP, PTFE HDPE, PS; sterile Sampling and dispensing, pharma, food, chemical, general industry
Spoons SS HDPE, PS; sterile and nonsterile Sampling and dispensing, pharma, food, chemical, general industry
Scrapers N/A HDPE; sterile and nonsterile Cutting, cleaning, and general scraping. Pharma and food industry
Spatulas SS, PP PS; sterile Mixing, scraping, and tasks related to transferring materials and samples from one place to another. Pharma and food industry
Funnels N/A HDPE, PP; sterile and nonsterile Transferring materials, general industry
Slot Samplers SS, aluminum HDPE; sterile Taking large-volume or multi-level samples. Ideal for chemical, food, and pharma quality control
Sleeve Sampler SS N/A Sampling volumes at great depths, pharma industry
Grain Samplers Aluminum N/A Larger powders, granules and grain samples, food, and environmental
Powder Sample Collectors N/A HDPE; sterile Sampling bulk powders in set locations mostly used in pharma for sampling/receiving raw materials and quality control testing
Powder Lance N/A HDPE; sterile and nonsterile Taking cross-sectional samples from bulk powders and cohesive powders like flour, pharma industry
Powder Spatula N/A PS; sterile Surface and general sampling, cohesive powders like flour, pharma and food industry
Liquid Sample Collectors N/A HDPE; sterile and nonsterile Taking samples of liquids, thin oils, and ointments. Works like a large syringe. Pharma and food industry
Viscous Sample Collectors N/A HDPE; sterile and nonsterile Taking viscous materials such as honey, creams, and pastes. Works like a large syringe. Pharma and food industry
Ice Samplers SS N/A Demanding applications like frozen products and ice sampling. Designed to fit most common drills. Used mostly in food and agriculture.
Ladles N/A HDPE, PP; sterile Taking samples of liquids, creams, and pastes. Commonly used in pharma, food, and chemical.