Cheek Cells Under A Microscope: Requirements, Preparation, And Staining

Cheek cells are a perfect way to see a eukaryotic cell under a microscope. Cheek cells shed really easily so are quick and painless to obtain which makes them the perfect option.

Cheek Cells Under A Microscope: Requirements, Preparation, And Staining.

Using biological stains, looking at a eukaryotic cell under a microscope is a great way to learn about the makeup of these cells. With the use of these stains, you should be able to see the cell membrane, cytoplasm, nucleus, and organelles when you take a peek.


So what do you need to get started? I’ve compiled a list below of everything that you’ll be needing!

  • Sterile Cotton Swabs
  • Clean And Sterile Microscope Slides
  • Microscope Cover Slips
  • Methylene Blue Solution (0.5-1%)
  • Dropper
  • Blotting Paper Or Tissue Paper
  • A Microscope

All set? Let us move on to the next step!


Swabbing The Cheek Cells

You’re Not Ready To Go Until It’s Clean

First of all, always make sure that your work surface is completely clean before you start anything. It is always advised that you wear clean gloves too to avoid any contamination.


When swabbing remember that cheek cells are easy to obtain. You don’t need a heavy hand, just gently scrape the inside of your mouth using your sterile cotton swab.

Preparing A Wet Mount Of Cheek Cells

So now that you’ve got your cheek cells, let’s move on to the next step – preparing the wet mount. Below you’ll find a simple to follow step by step guide on how to do just that.

Place a small drop of the physiological saline solution on your clean microscope slide. You want to get this as close to the center as you can.

Next, you’re going to rub your cotton swab over the center (and the solution) for about four seconds.

Now you need to add a drop of the methylene blue solution onto the smear that you’ve just created and then very gently place a coverslip over the top so that you can cover both the stain and the cells.

(If you don’t have ant methylene blue solution you can use you can always substitute it with iodine.)

If there’s any excess solution, you can use your blotting paper or paper towel on the side of the slide to wipe it away.

Check for air bubbles – you don’t want any. If you do see any just push lightly on the coverslip downwards to release them.

You’re now ready to place your slide underneath your microscope. You’re going to want to set your objective to 4X or 10X so that you can observe the cells.

Finally, once you’ve found the cells you can up the objective more to get better observations of the cells and you’re all set to start identifying the nucleus from the cytoplasm!

Top Tip: Make sure you always keep your surfaces clean and discard rubbish as you go.

Why Do We Need To Stain The Cells?

Why Do We Need To Stain The Cells

So why do we have to stain the cells to see them? Cells are made up of different parts and it can be really educational to distinguish these underneath a microscope.

The issue is that even looking at them under a microscope which is a lot more powerful than the naked eye, they can still be difficult for us to see.

This is because they are almost transparent which will cause you great difficulty when trying to identify one from another.

The cell’s different parts can be chromatic. What does that mean? Basically, it just means that those different parts can absorb stains or dyes.

When the cells absorb the stains or dyes they are no longer transparent as so it makes identifying these parts so much easier.

When the Methylene solution comes into contact with both the DNA and RNA of the cell it creates a darker stain which is what makes us able to observe the cells under the microscope.

The nucleus is the central part of the cell and contains all of the DNA so when it meets with the blue solution it stains much more than the rest of the cell which is what makes it so easy to identify.


So you’ve prepared everything properly and now it’s time to look under the microscope and take a look at the cheek cell. Here I’m going to go through with you exactly how you do that and exactly what it is you’re looking for.

When taking a peep under the microscope, you should be able to see 3 main things.

  • A distinct nucleus which will be dark blue in color, in the center of the cell.
  • A lightly stained cytoplasm in each cell.
  • Large irregularly shaped cells with their own distinct cell membranes.

This is actually all really easy to do too. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to get to the desired results!

  1. Use the 40x magnification setting and take a look through the viewing lens.
  2. Use the focusing dial and keep adjusting the image until it becomes crisp and clear.
  3. Next, you’re going to want to look for irregular edged circle structures and a dark center (nucleus) when you find this you’ve found your cell.
  4. To see this in better detail, you’re then going to increase your magnification settings to about 100x.
  5. You may need to use your focusing dial again to refocus the lens and get a clear image again.
  6. Now that you’ve increased the magnification you should be able to see the cell in even more detail.
  7. Start taking notes of the different structures that you see. You should now be able to clearly observe the cell’s cytoplasm and nucleic structures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Cheek Cells Look Under A Microscope?

Cells under a microscope essentially look like a small blue irregular circle with a darker blue center (the nucleus) in the middle of it.

Does A Cheek Cell Have A Chloroplast?

You won’t find a chloroplast in a cheek cell as these cells are produced by humans. Humans don’t have chloroplasts in their cells. If you want to see a chloroplast under a microscope you’ll need a plant cell.

Are Cheek Cells Permeable?

A cheek cell is semi-permeable.

How Do Cheek Cells Differ From Onion Cells?

The shape and structure of cheek and onion cells are different from each other. While both can be used under the microscope to identify cell structures, human cells do not have cell walls or a large vacuole to observe.

Onion cells are also more brick-like in shape whereas cheek cells are more rounded.

Why Can You Not Observe The Mitochondria In Cheek Cells If They Are Present?

While it is true that mitochondria is present in cheek cells, you won’t be able to see them when you look under the microscope. The reason for this is that they are really, really small. So small, in fact, that they can’t even be picked up on the microscope!

Final Thoughts

Observing cheek cells under a microscope is a really easy way to approach hands-on learning for children which I think is fantastic.

It’s a great way to make learning fun which is always beneficial as it’s always easier to learn when you’re having fun! And it will hopefully lead to fewer disruptions in classroom settings than just learning from a book.

What I really like about this experience is that it gives children the opportunity to actually see what they are learning about.

It is one thing to be told about how a cell works and something completely different to have a cell in front of you and be able to identify each part of it.

This will also make explaining the functions of these cells easier to learn as they have a better understanding of the cell now.

Jennifer Dawkins