How does formalin work?

How does formalin work?

Formalin is a solution of formaldehyde in water. It is a colorless, pungent liquid with a sharp odor. Formalin is a common fixative, which means that it is used to preserve tissues and cells. It works by cross-linking proteins, which stabilizes the tissue architecture.

When formalin comes into contact with tissue, the formaldehyde molecules react with the amino groups of proteins. This forms methylene bridges, which are covalent bonds that link the proteins together. The cross-linking of proteins prevents them from denaturing, which is the process by which proteins lose their shape and function.

Formalin is a very effective fixative, but it is also a toxic substance. It can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Formalin is also a known carcinogen, which means that it can cause cancer.

Formalin is used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Histopathology: Formalin is used to fix tissues for histological examination. This is a process in which tissue samples are sliced very thin and stained with dyes. Histological examination is used to diagnose a variety of diseases, including cancer.
  • Embalming: Formalin is used to embalm bodies. Embalming is a process that preserves the body for burial or cremation.
  • Disinfection: Formalin is used to disinfect surfaces and equipment. It is also used to disinfect medical waste.

Formalin is a very useful tool, but it is important to use it safely. It is important to wear gloves, goggles, and a mask when handling formalin. It is also important to work in a well-ventilated area.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using formalin:


  • Effective fixative
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use


  • Toxic
  • Carcinogenic
  • Irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract

It is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using formalin before using it. Formalin should only be used when necessary and should be used safely.

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