The effects of diethyl ether, methoxyflurane, halothane, dichloromethane and chloroform on the ionic currents and electrical capacity of the squid giant axon have been examined. The peak inward current in voltage-clamped axons was reduced reversibly by each substance. Sodium currents under voltage clamp were recorded in intracellularly perfused axons before, during, and sometimes after exposure to the test substances, and the records were fitted with equations similar to those proposed by Hodgkin & Huxley (1952). Shifts in the dependence of the steady-state activation and inactivation parameters (m infinity and h infinity) on membrane potential, reductions in the peak heights of the activation and inactivation time constants (tau m and tau h) and decreases in the maximum Na conductance (gNa) have been tabulated. For each of the anaesthetics the steady-state inactivation curve was shifted in the hyperpolarizing direction though less markedly than for the hydrocarbons. The steady-state activation curve was in each instance shifted in the depolarizing direction, as for the alcohols and other surface active substances. In common with both the hydrocarbons and the surface active substances the peak time constants were invariably reduced. The membrane capacity at 100 kHz was affected significantly only by methoxyflurane, where decreases of ca. 9% were observed for 3 mM solutions. The extent to which the results can be accounted for in terms of the perturbation of membrane lipid has been discussed.