Buying lab supplies: How to find trusted alternatives that save money

If you're a scientist working on a tight budget ― which is most of us these days ― you face a familiar dilemma: how to stretch your funds as far as they can go without compromising the quality of your work.

It's one thing for me to buy a cheaper brand of toothpaste for my bathroom, but another to put months or years of work and hard-won experimental outcomes on the line. When I find a lab supply that works, I don't take the decision to switch products lightly ― even if the budget side of my brain is crying out for it.

Here's the good news for penny-pinching scientists everywhere: Quartzy has a life science team dedicated to finding safe, reliable alternatives that save money. (You can meet the team right here.) These former scientists are intimately familiar with the erratic formatting of supplier websites, can spot the key terminology buried deep in item descriptions, and in most cases have actually tested these alternative supplies themselves.

As you use Quartzy, you'll see the money-saving equivalent matches they make presented as quotes when you use the Requests feature. In order to help make all your purchasing decisions easier, I asked them to share their guideline for finding alternatives and making matches. Here’s what they gave me:

CHEMICALS: For chemicals, Quartzy’s science team is matching CAS #, purity, volume, grade, and application while also comparing pricing to find the best alternative for your lab. If there are different isomers or combinations of isomers then this will be checked as well.

Here’s an example of a chemical match:

Manufacturer Fisher Scientific Amresco Chem-Impex Caisson Labs
Catalog # S374-1 0404-1KG 00835 S018-1KG
Description Sodium Phosphate Dibasic Anhydrous Sodium Phosphate, Dibasic, Anhydrous Sodium phosphate dibasic, anhydrous Sodium Phosphate, Dibasic, Anhydrous
CAS # 7558-79-4 7558-79-4 7558-79-4 7558-79-4
Purity ≥99% ≥99% ≥99% ≥99%
Grade ACS ACS ACS ACS
Quantity 1 kg 1 kg 1 kg 1 kg
Price $253.06 $55.13 $40.00  $33.85


ANTIBODIES: 
For antibodies, Quartzy’s science team is checking animal origin, reactive species, clonality, immunogen, isotype, conjugation, and clone if applicable. 

Here’s an example of an antibody match:

Manufacturer Abcam Novus Biologicals Tonbo Biosciences
Catalog # ab97057 NB7115 72-8104-M001
Description Goat Anti-Rat IgG H&L (HRP)  Goat anti-Rat IgG (H+L) Secondary Antibody [HRP]  Goat anti-Rat IgG (H&L) - Affinity Pure, HRP Conjugate
Reactivity  Rat  Rat  Rat
Clonality Polyclonal Polyclonal Polyclonal
Immunogen IgG (H+L) IgG (H+L) IgG (H+L)
Host Goat Goat Goat
Isotype IgG IgG IgG
Conjugate HRP HRP HRP
Application ICC, IHC-P, ELISA, WB WB, ELISA, ICC/IF, IHC, IHC-P WB, ELISA, IHC
Volume 1 mL 1 mL Lyophilized
Amount  1 mg 1 mg 1 mg
Cost $185 $109  $105


KITS: 
For kits, Quartzy’s science team makes sure that your process can continue as it would. We make sure things like targets, yield, downstream applications, and number of preps are the same or a better deal. 

Here’s an example of a matching kit:

Manufacturer Qiagen Zymo Research IBI Scientific
Catalog # 12125  D4019  IB47171
Description  QIAGEN Plasmid Mini Kit  Zyppy™ Plasmid Miniprep Kit  I-Blue Mini Plasmid Endo-Free Kit
Starting material 3-10 ml culture 600 ul - 3 ml culture 1-7 ml culture
Binding Capacity 20 ug 25 ug 50 ug
Typical Yield <20 µg 2 - 15 ug 50 ug
# of Preps 100 100 100
Use Purification of ultrapure supercoiled
plasmid DNA with high yields. LyseBlue 
(color indicator) prevents common 
handling errors that lead to inefficient 
cell lysis and incomplete precipitation.
Fast purification of transfection quality 
plasmid DNA with help of innovative 
colored buffers included in the kit 
permit error-free visualization and 
identification of complete bacterial 
cell lysis and neutralization
Rapid isolation of plasmid DNA
from cultured bacterial cells. I-Blue
Lysis Buffer (an optional color indicator) 
included to prevent 
common handling errors, ensuring 
efficient cell lysis and neutralization.
Down-Stream Applications Transfection, Enzymatic Digest,
Ligation, PCR, and Sequencing
Transfection, Enzymatic Digest,
Ligation, PCR, and Sequencing
Transfection, Enzymatic Digest,
Ligation, PCR, and Sequencing
Equipment Centrifuge/Vacuum Manifold Centrifuge/Vacuum Manifold Centrifuge/Vacuum Manifold
Price $665.00 $109.00 $89.83
Cost/Reaction $6.65/rxn $1.09/rxn  $0.90/rxn

 

CONSUMABLES: For consumables like paper towels, gloves, glassware, centrifuge tubes, pipettes, tips, and safety glasses, Quartzy’s science team is making sure the equivalents can do the job, are the right size, and are what you’d expect. 

Here’s an example of how we would match gloves:

Manufacturer Fisher Scientific High Five Supermax
Catalog # 19-130-1597C N852 93997
Description Fisherbrand™ Powder-Free Nitrile Exam Gloves Nitrile Exam Gloves Aurelia® Protégé™ 
Nitrile Powder Free
Exam Gloves
Size Medium Medium Medium
Material Powder-Free Nitrile Powder-Free Nitrile Powder-Free Nitrile
Length 9.5 inch 9.5 inch 9.5 inch
Palm Thickness 4.0 mil 4.0 mil 4.0 ± 1.2
Finger Thickness 4.7 mil 4.7 mil 5.2 ± 1.2
Quantity 1000/CS 1000/CS 1000/CS
Price $249.48 $94.44  $42.40

 

Further examples

  • Glassware: We verify the material, volume, glass grade, and if applicable, that their fittings match.
  • Centrifuge tubes: We match on material, volume, racked/bulk, sterility, RNase/DNase/Pyrogen free, centrifugation max speed (RCF), and cap style.
  • PCR tubes: We check all of the things checked for normal centrifuge tubes plus verify if the caps are domed, flat, optically clear (for qPCR), attached, and if they’re in strips.
  • Petri dishes: We check sterility, volume, and stackable/slippable.

 

If you're in the US and would like help finding alternative lab supplies, try Quartzy's Effortless Quote feature. Our product specialists will send you quotes for equivalent items automatically.

We hope this guide gives you confidence as you work your way through those daily purchasing decisions!


Quartzy is the world’s No. 1 lab management platform. We help scientists easily organize orders, manage inventory, and save money. We’re free and always will be. Visit Quartzy.com or reach out at info@quartzy.com.

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Tags: advice, tips, chemistry, antibodies, kits, consumables

Leslie Williams

Leslie Williams

Leslie studied neuroscience and conducted research at UCLA. She now works with labs to streamline workflows and save money.

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