How to Test for COVID-19 at Home

Versión en Español

Did you know self-tests can help you find out if you have COVID-19? You can take self-tests anywhere and get a result in 10-15 minutes.

Self-tests are also known as home tests, at-home tests and over-the-counter (OTC) tests. These tests include a nasal swab for you to collect samples from your nose.

How to Get Home Tests

A person looks at a rapid antigen test kit before self-testing for COVID-19 at home.

Tips: Before You Test

  • Store your test according to the manufacturer's instructions until you are ready to use it.
  • Check that your home test has not expired and is not damaged.
  • Keep the test directions handy so you can follow them.
  • You may need a smartphone to perform some tests and access your results.

How to Use a Self-Test

Read the complete manufacturer’s instructions before using a test. Instructions shown here are general and may differ from those for your specific test.

  • Wash your hands before and after testing.
  • You will collect a sample from your nose and test that sample.
  • Your test result may be incorrect if you don't follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Get Instructions for Specific Tests

What Comes in Your Test Kit

Tests kits vary based on the manufacturer. Most kits contain two tests.

Photo of COVID-19 home test components: collection swab; tube with liquid; test strip, card or cassette

Each test has three items:

  • Tube with liquid
  • Collection swab
  • Test strip, card or cassette

Place these items on a clean surface to begin.

This video from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains the basics of how to get a self-test, perform the test, and dispose of the test.

Watch Video in More Languages: Español [04:02] | ASL [03:25]

Watch instructional videos for specific self-tests

How to Get a Sample from Your Nose

Step 1
Remove the swab from the package. Do not touch the soft end.

Step 2
Insert the entire soft end into one of your nostrils, no more than 3/4 of an inch.

Step 3
Slowly rotate the swab. Gently press against the inside of your nose at least four times for a total of 15 seconds.

Step 4
Gently remove the swab.

Step 5
Using the same swab, repeat steps 2-4 in your other nostril.

How to Test Your Sample

A person squeezes drops from the sample tube onto a home test strip to test for COVID-19..
  1. Insert your swab into the tube. Stir at least five times.
  2. Squeeze the tube's sides against the swab as you remove it. Return the cap.
  3. Tap the tube to mix your sample.
  4. Squeeze three drops from the tube onto the test strip.
  5. Set a timer based on your test's instructions. Then read your test.

These general instructions may differ from the manufacturer's instructions for your specific test. For example, some tests require you stir your swab up to 15 times.

Read the complete manufacturer’s instructions before using a test.

What Your Results Mean

If you do not see a red-colored line in the control area ("C") of the test, the result is invalid. Please discard the test and try again with a new test. If you continue to have invalid results or need help, contact the test manufacturer or a health care provider.

If you see a red-colored line in the control area ("C"), your test worked correctly:

Negative Result

COVID-19 rapid at-home test showing only one line, indicating the test is negative.

Do you see a red-colored line in the test line ("T")? NO

Your test result is negative.

A negative result does not rule out COVID-19. Test again later if needed.

What should I do if my test was negative?

Positive Result

COVID-19 rapid at-home test showing two lines, indicating the test is positive.

Do you see a red-colored line in the test line ("T")? YES

Your test result is positive.

Even a faint line next to the "T" means your test is positive.

What should I do if my test was positive?