Gibco 500 mL bottle of Phosphate Buffered Saline

Maintaining balance in your cell cultures

Balanced salt solutions provide an environment that helps to maintain the structural and physiological integrity of cells in vitro. Trust Gibco Balanced Salt Solutions to provide an isotonic buffer system that keeps your cells in the physiological pH range and helps to maintain high viability during short-term incubations.

Available in many formulations and formats, both liquid and powder.  All powdered balanced salt solutions are produced without sodium bicarbonate to increase stability. Powder formats will require sodium bicarbonate supplementation, pH adjustment, and filtration at the time of preparation (see this protocol for details).

All Gibco Balanced Salt Solutions are manufactured in state-of-the-art cGMP, ISO-certified facilities to ensure the highest quality and consistency for reproducible results every day. Tests include osmolality, pH, stability, the absence of bacterial and fungal contamination, and endotoxin tests.

Shop all balanced salt solutionsCompare PBS & DPBSCompare HBSS & EBSS

Balanced salt solution selection guides

The essential functions of a balanced salt solution are to maintain pH and osmotic balance as well as provide your cells with water and essential inorganic ions. Gibco Balanced Salt Solutions are available in many different formulations and formats. To help you choose which balanced salt solution will meet your specific research needs, use the following selection guides to compare PBS, DPBS, HBSS, and EBSS. 

Here are the common formulation components found in balanced salt solutions and how they may impact your cell culture.

Calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+are involved in cell adhesion, so it is recommended that calcium and magnesium are present when cells need to remain attached to the culture substrate. Formulations with or without calcium and magnesium can be found in PBS, DPBS, HBSS, and EBSS.

Glucose and pyruvate act as energy sources and support cell survival. Their inclusion in a balanced salt solution may help to keep cells alive longer in the absence of culture medium. Formulations with or without glucose and pyruvate can be found in PBS, DPBS, HBSS, and EBSS.

Phenol red is a pH indicator that exhibits a gradual color change from yellow to pink between pH 6.8 and 8.2. Formulations with or without phenol red can be found in HBSS and EBSS.

Sodium bicarbonate helps to stabilize pH. The amount of sodium bicarbonate in EBSS is designed for use under 5% CO2 but that in HBSS is much lower and for use out of a CO2 incubator. Formulations with or without sodium bicarbonate can be found in HBSS and EBSS.


Phosphate buffered saline (PBS) and Dulbecco’s phosphate buffered saline (DPBS) are commonly used in biological applications. Both include sodium chloride and phosphate buffer and are formulated to prevent osmotic shock and maintain water balance in living cells.

PBS is a commonly used buffer with a simple formulation, while DPBS also includes potassium chloride and is available in a larger variety of formulations, including with or without calcium and magnesium and with or without glucose and pyruvate.

Your choice of an appropriate buffer will depend on your application of interest. For example, to wash cells before dissociation, buffer without calcium/magnesium is preferred; to keep cells viable for moderate periods of time outside of growth medium, buffer with glucose/pyruvate and calcium/magnesium is suitable.

ApplicationCa2+, Mg2+Glucose, pyruvatePBS Cat. No. DPBS Cat. No.Publications
Cell dissociation, immunostaining
Tissue dissection, assay, immunostaining, perfusion++ 
Immunoprecipitation, immunohistochemistry+ 
Cell therapy applications 
Flow cytometry 


Hank’s balanced salt solution (HBSS) and Earl’s balanced salt solution (EBSS) are isotonic solutions used to maintain osmolality and pH in biological applications. Both HBSS and EBSS include glucose and sodium bicarbonate for short-term maintenance of cells outside of growth medium. The amount of sodium bicarbonate in EBSS is designed to maintain pH under 5% CO2, while HBSS has lower sodium bicarbonate levels and is intended for incubation without CO2. These buffers also come in a variety of formulations, including with or without calcium/magnesium and with or without phenol red, so you may choose the appropriate buffer depending on your application.

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