Where to find materials and reagents:

Working with microbes can present a challenge in terms of the reagents and equipment used. In many cases items can be obtained from a local drug or grocery story, particularly for simple experiments analyzing biochemical activity. To directly culture bacteria from environmental or other sources required use of solid media. Agar-based plates are the recommended standard. Though gelatin also acts to solidify a liquid culturing broth, it is frequently messy and will not maintain a solid support for species of microbes able to digest gelatin, of which there are quite a few.

Scientific Supply Houses specialize in providing sterile microbiological media, though materials can sometimes be expensive. Common suppliers include Carolina Biological Supply, vWR, Fisher Scientific, and Sigma-Aldridge Chemicals. Most companies require that you have or open an account with them, in which case check if your school has such an account.

Where to Find
Safety Gear

Latex gloves
Protect your hands while handling bacteria or contaminated materials
Drug store
Lab Coat/Smock
Protect your clothing
Medical clothing store/Scientific Supply House/old clothes pile?
Protect your eyes/face from any materials that may splash
Hardware Store

20% solution (1 part bleach to 4 parts water) kills most anything living in 30 minutes
Grocery store/Drug store
Rubbing Alcohol
Kills many but not all microbial species by disrupting their outer cells wall. Will not always kill bacteria or fungal spores (use bleach)
Drug store (rubbing alcohol = 70% isopropyl alcohol)
Spray bottle
Spray down your work surfaces to clean and decomtaminate them
Hardware store
Wipes/Paper towels
Wipe down work areas
Grocery store
Hand soap
Always wash your hands when you're done or if you get something on them!
Drug store/grocery store
Specimen collection

Sterile Swab
Swab an area for environmental collection of microbes (skin, floors or other surfaces)
Drug store/Scientific Supply House
Can streak existing colonies to new agar plates
Grocery Store
Sterile Saline
Used to when a swab prior to wiping an area, or to place your material of interest until it is plated or further evaluated
Drug store
Sterile tube/container
Hold swabs or materials until they are plated or analyzed.
Drug store/Scientific Supply House
Nichrome inoculating loop
Reusable loop for inoculating agar plates or liquid media
Scientific Supply House
Disposable spreaders or loops
One-use only plastic spreaders or loops for manipulating microbial materials
Scientific Supply House

An oven is not the most ideal equipment, but "cooking" broth or agar-based media can generally sterilize the material
At home
Pressure Cooker
Can place items/media at defined pressure and temperature to provide better sterilization. Check with the owner of the cooker before using it to prepare media!
At home?/Appliance store
Machine designed specifically to sterilize things
Commonly found in hospitals, and universities
Bunsen Burner
Flame source to sterilize nichrome wires/inoculating loops while streaking plates or inoculating media
Scientific Supply House
Aluminum foil
Use to wrap items that will be sterilized
Microbiological Media

Pre-poured plates
Agar plates to which you can directly streak or plate your materials
Scientific Supply House
Empty Petrie Plates
Plastic dish and lid for preparing your own agar media
Scientific Supply House
Distilled Water
For preparing liquid or agar media
Scientific Supply House or Drug store
Chicken Stock
Ready source of nutrients that can be diluted in media for general growth
Agar base
Derived from algae - allows a liquid broth to solidify like jell-o
Scientific Supply House, possibly some healthfood stores or Asian markets
Nutritional Components Can include sugars, sources of nitrogen, vitamins, amino acids
Scientific Supply House
Sugars: sucrose, glucose/dextrose, fructose
Common source of carbon for many microbial species
Grocery, Scientific Supply House
Nitrogen source
Ammonium chloride is commonly used, depends upon the media being made.
Scientific Supply House

Microbiology Techniques