Re: Anybody's Stains

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From:Barry Rittman <>
To:histology <>
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I suspect that your comments were with tongue in cheek.

The terms dye and stain are of course used interchangeably.
Both are technically correct as we talk about dyeing cloth not staining
cloth (unless spaghetti sauce has slipped onto your shirt, in which case
it is initially stained and then has "character". Your wife may disagree
and throw the shirt out because it is "stained").
Here in the States, I think that it is usual to talk about dye powders
and stain solutions.

Dye powders are the dry powders and stains are the staining solutions
used for staining sections etc.
Bolles Lee used the term "stains" for simple staining solutions which
essentially use one dye in solution. He used the term "compound dyes"
for those solutions which contained a mixture and in which interactions
had occurred (e.g. Romanovsky blood stain)
The term staining has also been used inappropriately for
immunohistochemical reactions and for techniques used for demonstrating
structures with silver. The former is a chemical reaction, the latter an
I suspect that much of the confusion has arisen because companies have
used the terms interchangeably in their catalogues.


> Dear Jim,
> It would greatly help the debate if you were to clarify exactly what
> you mean by "stains" and what you mean by "dyes"
> Contrary to your statement, there are very many thousands of labs
> making stains and very few, sometimes only one, "institution",
> making dyes.
> I usually buy both myself. [work that one out!]
> yours colourfully,
> Russ Allison,
> Dental School
> Cardiff
> Wales

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