A cotton swab is a small, thin shaft which terminates at one or both ends with a tightly wound cluster of soft cotton. Introduced commercially in the 1920s, the cotton swab is a common household item in many countries. Its household uses include applying cosmetics, cleaning, and making craft projects. Cotton swabs are also widely used in medical settings.
The design of a cotton swab is simple, comprising just a thin rod wrapped at one or both ends with a cluster of soft cotton. This rod may be made from wood, plastic, or paper which has been tightly rolled. Swabs intended for household use usually measure around 4 inches (10 cm) in length, while those intended for medical use generally measure around 8 inches (20 cm). Another key difference between household cotton swabs and medical swabs is that household swabs tend to be tipped with cotton at both ends, while medical swabs usually have just one cotton tip.