An Introduction to Slide Stainers

Although often underappreciated, slide stainers play an essential role in modern medical research, as they improve efficiency and accuracy in the life sciences industry. Preparing histology slides and examining tissue samples under microscopes is commonplace in medical research, and slide stainers help automate these time-consuming tasks.

Discover the basics of slide stainers and their significance in medical research as we compare manual and automated slide staining methods, the impact of slide stainers on research and diagnostics, and the benefits of automation.

What Is a Slide Stainer?

A slide stainer is crucial in histology and pathology because it is highly meticulous in automating microscope slide staining. This tool uses dyes such as hematoxylin and eosin to accentuate cellular structures precisely.

Manual staining is the traditional method, requiring hands-on attention and offers flexibility. However, manual staining can introduce variability and take more time. In contrast, automated slide stainers streamline the process, boosting efficiency and providing reproducibility.

Several kinds of slide stainers can replace manually staining slides, ranging from benchtop models to highly sophisticated systems that provide a streamlined alternative and consistent results. A slide stainer's precision and automation can speed up your lab's workflow and elevate the accuracy of cellular analysis so you and your researchers can get answers quicker and have more time to focus on essential lab work.

The Process of Slide Staining

Although there are different slide stainers, the fundamental process of preparing and using slides includes the following steps:

  1. Preparing: Affix the tissue specimens to a slide, which goes into a slide holder.
  2. Loading: Insert the slide holder into the stainer and program the device to the desired staining protocol.
  3. Staining: The slide stainer takes over and applies the staining reagent, such as dyes or antibodies, to the slides.
  4. Timing: The slide stainer precisely controls each step's duration, ensuring precision and consistent results.
  5. Washing: The slide stainer rinses any excess stain or reagent to ensure a clear specimen.
  6. Drying: Certain slide stainers also include a drying step that removes any moisture that could impair your analysis.
  7. Covering: Once completed, remove the slides from the stainer and cover them with the protective coverslip. 

The Significance of Slide Stainers in Life Sciences

Without a doubt, slide stainers are one of the critical automated and cutting-edge technologies in pathology. They help accelerate the process, which is particularly relevant for large sample numbers, and improve accuracy, ensuring medical professionals can quickly identify anomalies.

This staining method is also essential for the pharmaceutical industry due to its efficiency and dependability. For drug development, pharmacists can analyze cellular responses with improved speed and accuracy. Slide stainers integrate seamlessly with lab workflows and assist with understanding different diseases, leading to innovative pharmaceutical research.

Automated vs. Manual Slide Staining

In many instances, improving efficiency and accuracy is a fundamental reason for technological advancements, such as quickening time-consuming lab tasks with staining slides. However, in certain instances, an expert may wonder if they might have done a better job themselves rather than leaving it to a machine. Both automated and manual slide stainers come with an array of benefits and downsides.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Automated Slide Staining

Automated slide staining changes how this process works, with the biggest impact being an increase in overall efficiency. 

Incorporating automated slide staining offers the following benefits:

  • Increased throughput: You experience accelerated workflow as it can process larger quantities of slides at a time.
  • Precision and consistency: A machine offers consistency based on its setting, leading to reduced variations.
  • Improved results: Automation can provide better staining qualities, offering quicker and more accurate analysis. 
  • Time-saving: Pathologists and lab assistants can focus on core work instead of repetitive tasks.

Possible drawbacks of automated slide staining include: 

  • Upfront cost: New slide stainers are a substantial investment, which is a challenge for labs with limited funds.
  • Less flexibility: This option yields less customization and does not account for specialized histotechnologist techniques.
  • Technological downtime: Machines require routine maintenance and can break down, leading to downtime.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Manual Slide Staining

Manual slide staining is a more traditional method researchers have used for years, but it has drawbacks.

Choosing to use manual slide staining can provide the following benefits:

  • Increased control and flexibility: Pathologists and technicians can work with a broader range of specimens and completely control the process and the techniques they employ.
  • Cost saving: Manual staining saves you the upfront cost of a slide stainer and could reduce lab reagent consumption. There are also no maintenance or repair costs involved.
  • Space saving: Manual staining kits suit various lab sizes as they are compact and do not require a dedicated space.

Unfortunately, manual staining leads to the following drawbacks:

  • Decreased throughput: Manual staining for larger or busier labs will heavily impact overall productivity as it is notably slower than automated staining.
  • Increased variations: It is possible that manual staining will introduce variations and inconsistencies due to human error and varying techniques.
  • Reduced time efficiency: Instead of focusing on critical lab work, pathologists and technicians spend more time on repetitive, labor-intensive tasks.
Browse Our Selection of Slide Stainers

How to Select the Best Slide Stainer for Your Laboratory

Automated and manual slide staining have merit and certain disadvantages — the choice comes down to your lab requirements, budget allowances, research preferences and available space. You will want to consider productivity, flexibility, stain quality and other factors before deciding to adopt manual or automated slide staining.


Evaluate the following considerations to help pinpoint your laboratory's operational needs:

  • Research protocols: Ensure your chosen method aligns with existing staining protocols.
  • Throughput requirements: Decide which method would fit the volume of specimens you need to process.
  • Staining flexibility: Determine what level of staining technique flexibility your lab needs.
  • Accuracy and quality needs: Note whether you can afford to compromise on these factors.
  • Budget allowances: Review what you can afford and decide which method is financially viable.

Integrate Slide Staining Solutions With New Life Scientific

If you require histology equipment with quality assurance and warranty at an affordable price, we at New Life Scientific have precisely what you're looking for. We offer a range of used and refurbished slide stainers that our expert technicians put through rigorous quality control testing. Moreover, we provide a 120-day warranty on all equipment you purchase and comprehensive after-sales support.

Feel free to contact us today with any product inquiries or other questions — we ensure fast response times and will respond within a single business day or less. We look forward to assisting you!

Still unsure? Contact Us!