Polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG 3350) is useful as an orally administered probe to measure in vivo intestinal permeability to macromolecules. Previous methods to detect polyethylene glycol (PEG) excreted in the urine have been hampered by inherent inaccuracies associated with liquid-liquid extraction and turbidimetric analysis. For accurate quantitation by previous methods, radioactive labels were required. This paper describes a method to separate and quantitate PEG 3350 and PEG 400 in human urine that is independent of radioactive labels and is accurate in clinical practice. The method uses sized regenerated cellulose membranes and mixed ion-exchange resin for sample preparation and high-performance liquid chromatography with refractive index detection for analysis. The 24-h excretion for normal individuals after an oral dose of 40 g of PEG 3350 and 5 g of PEG 400 was 0.12 +/- 0.04% of the original dose of PEG 3350 and 26.3 +/- 5.1% of the original dose of PEG 400.