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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Histology Special Stains: Carbohydrates. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Acids, Bases, pH and Buffers

Special staining protocols are often dependent on the use of acids, bases, and buffers for favorable staining outcomes. The pH of a staining solution is a measure of its acidity (the balance of hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxyl ions (OH).

On a pH scale of 1-14

  • 1-6.9 is Acidic (More hydrogen than hydroxyl ions)


  • 7 - 7.4 is Neutral (Equal hydrogen and hydroxyl ions)


  • 7.5-14 is Basic (More hydroxyl than hydrogen ions)


Buffers are substances that are often added to staining solutions to prevent fluctuations in pH.