Inappropriate blood collection potentially comprises the major pre-analytical problem for coagulation testing. Inappropriate samples are most difficult to detect when received as secondary aliquots, common for referred tests. This study aimed to identify a simple, quick and inexpensive process to help laboratories distinguish the type of sample, should there be suspicion of inappropriate collection. Samples from 15 patients [selected on the basis that four different primary tubes were available: serum, citrated plasma, ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) plasma, lithium-heparin plasma], were tested for common electrolytes that might substantially differ according to the type of sample. In citrated plasma, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium were significantly decreased compared with serum and lithium-heparin plasma, while sodium was markedly increased. In EDTA plasma, sodium and chloride were significantly decreased compared with both serum and lithium-heparin plasma, potassium was always >14 mmol/l, whereas magnesium and calcium were virtually undetectable. These data allowed development of two algorithms for differential identification of citrated plasma vs. other samples with 100% sensitivity and specificity, the former based on the sequential measurement of potassium, calcium and sodium, the latter on potassium and sodium. These simple assays can supplement classical coagulation test methods to identify most inappropriate blood collections and validate sample rejection.