Phlebotomy Order Of Draw Explained

Order of Draw Explained: Clearing Out Any Confusion

Phlebotomy is not just about drawing blood. It also covers proper care and handling of the specimen that will be used for laboratory testing or analysis. It is vital that the samples are not contaminated or tainted in any way, and should be handled in such a way that quality and accuracy of the analysis is not compromised. Special considerations must also be applied when collecting indwelling catheter line draw and blood cultures. This is where the order of draw becomes necessary.

To avoid cross-contamination of additives between tubes, blood must be drawn in a specific order. The procedure is the same for all types of tubes or instruments used. It is vital that the order is followed not only to avoid contamination, but also to ensure accuracy of test results. Because the smallest error could mean that the patient might not receive the most appropriate care and treatment for his specific case.


Who determines the order of draw?

Formerly known as the National Commission of Clinical Laboratory Standards (NCCLS), the Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) ( approves and publishes the order of draw. Since the procedure can change if new research indicates probable inaccuracy in a test result, it is important that health care and testing facilities use the most recent order of draw. The latest update is the H3-A6 from November 2007 that is also used by several laboratory accreditation agencies, including The Joint Commission and the College of American Pathologist.


What is the recommended order?

The same order is used for glass and plastic venous blood collection tubes, evacuated system and a syringe. There used to be a separate order for blood collected using a syringe, but it has been rendered obsolete as research showed there was no reason to use a different order.

Before getting to the order of draw, familiarizing certain acronyms will make the entire process simpler and easier to understand. 

SPS – Sodium polyanethole sulfonate

SST – Serum Separator Tube

EDTA – ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid

FDP – Fibrin degradation products

Order of Draw as Recommended by CLSI (

  1. Yellow – SPS (Blood culture)

Blood cultures are used in microbiology. The additive it uses is a broth mixture that is intended to preserve the quality of microorganisms.


  1. Light Blue – Sodium Citrate

Coagulation tubes have light blue-colored stopper and a sodium citrate additive. It is used for coagulation tests, requiring full draw.


  1. Plain Red – No Additive

This is commonly used for routine venipuncture and does not require any additive.


  1. Plastic Red – Clot Activator

Tubes with plastic red stoppers contain a clot activator. It causes blood clots and help in separating the serum by centrifugation. This process is often used in blood bank (cross-match), chemistry, immunology and serology.


  1. Gold, Red/Gray – SST/Gel w/Clot Activator

Serum separator tube (SST) does not have any additive but a clot activator that will separate blood from the serum by centrifugation. This draw is used in chemistry, immunology and serology.


  1. Green – Heparin-Lithium or Sodium

Tubes with green tops have lithium heparin anticoagulant.


  1. Lavender, Purple, Tall Pink – EDTA

The EDTA anticoagulant in tubes with lavender or purple stopper helps remove calcium by forming calcium salts. This draw is often used in blood bank cross-matching and hematology.


  1. Gray – Sodium Fluoride, Potassium Oxalate

Tubes with gray-colored stopper contain sodium fluoride or potassium oxalate additives, which acts as an Antiglycolytic agent that helps preserve glucose for up to five days. This requires full draw, as the opposite may cause hemolysis.

Aside from these, there is a tube with royal blue top that contains FDP. The draw is used when there is an order to test deep vein thrombosis or blood clot in a deep vein, pulmonary embolism, stroke and other blood clotting disorders. If a patient shows any symptom related to the condition, royal blue draw will be requested.


Order of Draw for Skin Puncture

Skin puncture specimens have to be collected according to a certain order as recommended by CLSI, which is as follows:

  1. Lavender (EDTA) micro-collection tube
  2. Plasma additive micro-collection tubes, such as green (lithium heparin) light green (lithium heparin with gel), gray (sodium fluoride and potassium oxalate)
  3. Serum micro-collection tubes, such as red (no additive), gold (clot activator and gel)

This is to ensure that specimens requiring anticoagulants are drawn first. Whenever clot appears in a micro-collection tube with a lavender stopper/shield, the specimen will be rejected. An added precaution is to never use iodine or Betadine solutions to cleanse the skin before collecting blood samples to prevent possible interference of test results, especially in the analysis of potassium, glucose, and total protein.


Why must the order of draw be followed accordingly?

As already mentioned, this is done to avoid cross-contamination and unreliable test results. How can this happen?

A tube with EDTA, for example, is rich in potassium and can cause an increase in potassium levels. Therefore, if a test for potassium is required, the tubes used must be those that are placed before those that contain EDTA. The same thing is true when a coagulation test need to be performed. Since tubes with clot activators can interfere with the results, tubes with light blue stopper or shield must be used before those that have red/gray stopper, gray/yellow stopper, gold shield, red shield and orange shield tubes.

Blood culture tubes are usually at the top of the order of draw to avoid contamination of the blood collected. This is because bacteria from non-sterile tube stoppers or shields may result in bacteria growth, which will show in the test result as a blood infection. This is why blood culture bottles or SPS tubes with yellow stopper must be collected first before any other tubes.


How do you remember the order of draw?

Considering the number of colored stoppers or shields to remember, mistakes are bound to happen. Since there is no room for error in phlebotomy, it is crucial that you memorize the order in the easiest way possible. A very helpful mnemonics has been developed — Sally brings really good grease and leaves the gravy.

Sally – Sterile?????????????

Brings – Blue

Really – Red

Good – Gold

Grease (and) – Green

Leaves (the) – Lavender

Gravy – Gray

Using this mnemonics, remembering the order of draw would be easier. There are also products in the market that are designed to aid phlebotomists in their jobs, such as a bracelet that is colored according to the draw specified.

Be aware, however, that certain tubes are made for research purposes only. The order of draw in this case is according to manufacturer’s instruction. When you switch from research to actual venipuncture, it is important that you are able to differentiate one task from another.

Color codes may also differ in certain laboratories and you should always verify before you draw any blood. It is the responsibility of a laboratory to determine the type of specimen to be collected based on various factors, such as manufacturer’s recommendation, analytical method and type of analyzer used. For STAT testing, for example, some labs may use a tube with a green top since the test can be done on plasma and can be centrifuged right after it was received. This eliminates the time spent on waiting for a specimen to clot.

There is the CLSI-recommended order of draw and there are steps specified by a laboratory. It is important to verify which order you should follow wherever you are assigned as a phlebotomist.


  1. Definitely helped me with the learning of the proper order!


    Thank you!!!


    • You are very welcome Rosa. We are glad to provide this information for those looking at the Phlebotomy Field. If there are any other questions that are not answered on our site, feel free to ask away. We will do our best to answer anything.

    • Please help.  I am starting new job and have not drawn blood in 15 years.  as of 2017 is there a new order of draw?  Is light green now used for chemisty testing?

      Thank you, Lori

      • Welcome back to the medical field Lori. The order has not changed much over the years. I would recommend checking out as they set the official order of draw. Heparin and plasma separator tubes are topped in light green or green and grey.

      • Some labs use light green for chemistry because of turn around times. They do not have to wait for the blood to clot then spin down. THey can just send it on down the line.

  2. Congratulations and thank you very much for such a valuable information that you are giving in this medical field .  I went to school and got my certification on medical assisting and never had this important information in my phlebotomy class. I have been working as a Certified Medical Assistant and right now looking for a good school where I can study for my Phlebotomy Certification. I found the mnemonics "Sally brings really good grease and leaves the gravy" absolutely helpful, very interesting! Thank you again!!!! 

  3. Hi! What does "short draw" mean?

    • Thanks for the question DaI.


      In phlebotomy, each tube has a specific level that it must be filled to. If the phlebotomist pulled the tube off before it was completely filled, that could cause a short-draw. Sometimes phlebotimists do this to save time. If during the collection the blood flow stopped, and the phlebotomist could not get it to flow again (due to a possible trauma to the vein), and he did not take another sample from another spot. Then that would result in a short draw as well. Essentually it means that a full sample was not taken.

    • A Glucose specimen was forgotten in a phlebotomist trays it was descovered 3 hours after it was drawn. Should the specimen be submitted should it be recollected ? 


      • It is should be submitted since it is a glucose specimen and the Gray tube contain antiglycotic additives which prevent glucose from breaking within 5days.

  4. Question: What effect, if any, does drawing an EDTA tube before a sodium citrate tube have on coagulation testing? 

    • Hi Vic,


      Coagulation testing is highly sensitive to a myriad of specimen collection and handling variables, it is highly recommended that blood specimens for coagulation testing be collected by venipuncture using a vacuum collection device that collects the specimen directly into an evacuated tube with a non-wettable surface. That being said Drawing an EDTA tube should not have a large effect on testing regarless of draw order.

    • There will be an increase in phosphate level which could affect the coagulation test.

  5. Stephanie DeFazio

    It seems like the order of draw says two different ways I'm confused what is the order of draw ?

  6. Sohail Ahmad Niaz

    Sir, what is the reason of blood drawing in order 



    • Hi Sohail,


      The reason for the order of draw is to prevent cross contamination. If not followed the specimen could become contaminated. Hope it helps!

  7. Cual de estos tres esta excepto de ser anticoagulants

    EDTA,Heparin,citrato de sodio

  8. order of draw is a good method to Drawing the sample . we should always follow this procedure . this is very helpfull improve our result reading . in this method we use the culture bottol ,and sodium citrate ,sst/red top , heparin , edta , flouride aslo we used  


  10. You look really super good lets go!


    lt blue






  11. It should be mentioned that if you do not collect a blood culture, a blank tube (no additive) should be collected before the coagulation tube. This is particularly important when using a butterfly device as the air in the tubing may cause you coagulation tube to be a "short" draw. 

  12. Assalam o Alaikum!

    Dear Brother thank you for this useful information. you did not mention here about the Black Top (For ESR). It also contains Sodium Citrate Additive. What will be the Order of Draw in this case???



  13. Blood in this tube normally clot within 5 minutes ? A PST B RST C SPS D SST

  14. Can you tell me if this is the current order of draw? Thanks 🙂

  15. who created the order of draw? 

  16. Hello, I teach a phlebotomy class and would like to see if you have the order of the draw with the tests available for printing or do you allow us to use this information in the classroom. I am asking due to plagiarism laws. 

    • Hi Patti,


      Currently we do not have the tests available for download, but is something that can be looked into. Give us a few days and we may be able to provide you with downloadable copies of the tests. You can certainly use the information in a classroom setting without worry of copywright issues. As long as you do not publish it in a public fashion we are ok with you using the material.

      • Hello Admin,

        Are the downlodable copies of tests available?

        • Hi Veronica,


          I may be able to get some copies for you. I do know some visitors that use these practice exams for their students. Please send an email through our contact form, so I will have your email, and I will send you a copy you can download.

          • I am in my third week learning Phlebotomy. I really enjoy the subject and would love to see some samples of questions posted

            Thanks in advance

  17. This is great to learn and very easy to follow.  One question though, are tube colours universal across North America?  Will the same colour mean the same in Canada and the US?  

    I am going to be taking a phlebotomy course and finding this information is proving difficult online lol.

    Thank you.


  18. Hi Can you send me downloadable copies of practice test? 

    Thanks loads..



  19. How about ACD tubes?  We draw Labcorp test Helper T-Lymph-CD4

    which requires a lavender and ACD tube.  I can not find any information on order of draws that include the ACD tube.

  20. Layne Halfpenny

    Does anyone know why the red top used to be before the blue top? I am completing a project for my phlebotomy class and this is one of the questions. I have been unable to find the answer.

  21. Hello , I am a New Phlebotomy student . Our Teacher/Instructor has given us a new Order of Draw and it shows Royal Blue and Tan which you haven't mentioned in this . Why ?


  22. Lylibeth P. Halasan

    Hi admin, please send me copy of your downloadable order of draw files and questionares too it would be of help to my Clinical Chemistry class thanks alot and more power. 

  23. Re: order is determined by the CLSI.  I don't see the answer on the website unless you become a member? 

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