Azocoll, an insoluble, ground collagen to which a bright-red azodye is attached has been widely used for the assay of proteolytic enzymes. Earlier studies showed that hydrolysis of azocoll progressed linearly as a function of proteinase concentration but in an exponentially increasing manner as a function of time. No explanation for the latter behavior has been offered. We have found that assays of both crude extracts of Bacillus subtilis and commercial preparations of subtilisin BPN' gave linear rates of hydrolysis of azocoll as a function of protease concentration; however, both gave increasing rates of hydrolysis of azocoll as a function of time. In attempting to improve and standardize proteolytic assays using azocoll we have found: (a) the absorption maximum of solubilized azocoll at pH 7.8 is 516 nm and is not significantly altered at acid pH; (b) assays which are perfectly linear as a function of time can be obtained by using azocoll that has been vigorously prewashed with buffer; (c) the soluble filtrate removed by prewashing can regenerate the nonlinear time courses previously observed; and (d) the rate of hydrolysis of azocoll can be varied by a factor of 3 by varying the rates of agitation of the assay tubes. In summary, to obtain reproducible, linear assays it was essential to prewash commercial azocoll and agitate reaction tubes vigorously.