The antibacterial agent chlorhexidine has long been used as an agent for medical antisepsis. This compound is a membrane active agent which probably has its major antibacterial action by interference with the function of cellular membranes. The results demonstrated an inhibition of oxygen utilisation by bacteria which was related to falls in cellular ATP levels. There was an effect on the outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria which allowed the release of periplasmic enzymes. The inner membrane was not ruptured but its functionality was breached and there was an inhibition of active uptake of small molecules which did not appear to be related to cellular ATP levels.