Absorption and antibacterial action of some polyhexamethylene biguanides upon Escherichia coli has been investigated. An amine-ended-dimer (AED) (n = 2), a polydisperse mixture sold by ICI Limited as the active ingredient of vantocil IB (PHMB) (n = 5.5), and a high molecular weight fraction of PHMB (HMW, n greater than or equal to 10) were used. Bactericidal activity was determined over a range of pH (5-9). Similarly, adsorption of drug to the cell surface, indicated by changes in electrophoretic mobility, and overall drug absorption by the cells were determined. Maximal activity occurred at pH 6 for PHMB and HMW and at pH 5 for AED. This corresponded to minimal surface adsorption and maximal distribution of drug to the underlying cytoplasm and cytoplasmic membrane. Uptake of drug corresponded to high affinity isotherms and indicated a rapid transfer of biocide into the cells following their initial interaction at the surface.