​When Should You Use a Vortex Mixer?

​When Should You Use a Vortex Mixer?

In the Mix of Things: How Vortex Mixers Became Laboratory Staples  

Vortex mixers were invented in the late 1950’s by the Kraft brothers for Scientific Industries and first became widely available in the 1960’s, right around the time that molecular science first began to take off.

With the discovery of the three dimensional structure of DNA in 1953, the molecular revolution started.

A race began to discover knowledge about DNA, and subsequently RNA, and this led to significant evolutions in lab technology.

The method of replication was uncovered, nucleotide language translated.

Gene regulation became a subject of interest.

A decade after mixers were invented marked the advent of recombinant DNA technology and PCR.

This was an age when vortex mixers found their purpose in the lab. An age of tiny tubes, rapid steps, and lots and lots of mixing.

And thus, a whirlwind of scientific innovation began.

Today, vortex mixers range from boring and basic, to highly sophisticated forms of equipment.

Parts and Functions

  • Head (removable)
  • Rotor
  • Base and feet
  • Controls (digital or manual)

The rotor can fit alternate heads if needed. A cup or flat style top are the two traditional types, but others exist.

Mixers have adjustable speeds that range from 0 to the 2000-4500 RPM range. Settings for “touch” vs. continuous activation are included, and an on/off switch. Some models have timers and additional settings.

Learn the basics before you give it a whirl.

Key Uses of Vortex Mixers in Laboratories

The main characteristic is the use of centrifugal force for mixing. While creating a vortex does mix components, there are hang ups. Partially frozen samples should not be vortexed to avoid shearing.

To vortex, or not to vortex? That is the question…

Primary Uses:

  • Resuspending cell pellets
  • Resuspending DNA and RNA during isolation
  • Mixing western blot samples with loading dye
  • General purpose mixing **

** This method for mixing may be too rough for sensitive reagents. Many enzymes do not respond well to vortexing.

Additionally, reagents that bubble when vortexed may be unusable if the volume is affected.

For processes that indicate gentle mixing, use of a pipette or finger tapping is superior.

The centrifugal force works with greater speed and uniformity than pipette mixing can, and this is what makes automatic mixers like these such a popular choice among scientists.

Features of Vortex Mixers

Now that we’ve covered what mixers are for, it’s time to marvel at the plethora of options. Most are equipped with a flat head or cup head, but some mixers come with microtube holders.

The possibilities are dizzying…you’ll be bowled over.

There are even heads specifically for microplates, and it is possible to buy replacement parts for an existing mixer.

One of the nice bonuses is that they fit neatly on most benchtops, most have adjustable speed options, and most can be used for continuous vortexing or short pulses.

Vortex mixers can be very minimalist or very state of the art, like this low-profile benchtop mixer vs. this digital screen co-mixer that has heads for a microplate and conical tubes.

Maintenance and Safety Tips

Although simple in design, mixers need routine maintenance. Cleaning requires the mixer to be unplugged, so that the mixer head and surrounding area can be wiped with a gentle detergent.

Issues that may arise include rotor breakage, electrical issues, and loss of balance from wear on parts. Replacement parts are an option if equipment cannot be traded in.

  • For the safest use, make sure that mixers are only plugged into working outlets, and that the rotor head and speed of force is appropriate for the sample you are mixing.
  • Wear gloves and be especially wary of mixing anything caustic with badly matched rotor heads or high speeds.

That’s all. Now you’re ready to take off with your new (or maybe old) equipment.

You spin me right round, baby, right round.

Let us Guide you Towards the Perfect Solution

You know when you’ve chosen the right piece of equipment because it doesn’t sit there collecting dust. You can keep it simple, or you can level up your lab with something space age!

Don’t have much room for equipment? Here’s another combo-head mixer with suction feet that prevent it from walking where it shouldn’t. See the Benchmark Scientific Mortexer (BV1005).

And what if you need to vortex a lot of large tubes, quickly? See the BV1010 High Capacity Benchmixer XL for that. How fast do you need to go? Our mixers can offer speeds from 2500 RPM to 4500 RPM like this Noir Edition Benchtop Vortex.

Browse the Full Stellar Scientific Catalog

Stellar Scientific offers an entire online catalog of much more. From orbital shakers to vortex incubators, and replacement heads for any job you need done!

And if you ever feel unsure that an item is what you’re looking for, you can call or chat with us.



  1. John Buie. (2011) Evolution of Biological Shakers and Stirrers. Lab Manager Magazine. https://www.labmanager.com/evolution-of-biologica...
  2. DNA and the genetic code. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2024. https://www.britannica.com/science/genetics/Micro...