Abstract The interaction of polymers with other materials is an important issue, being their surface properties clearly crucial. For some important polymer applications, their surfaces have to be modified. Surface modification aims to tailor the surface characteristics of a material for a specific application without affecting its bulk properties. Materials can be surface modified by using biological, chemical or physical methods. The aim of this work was to improve the reactivity of the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material (Elastollan®) surface and to make its surface cell repellent by grafting carboxylic groups onto its surface. Two TPU materials were studied: a polyether-based TPU and a polyester-based TPU. The grafting efficiency was evaluated by contact angle measurements and by analytical determination of the COOH groups. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the membranes surface was performed as well as cell adhesion tests. It was proved that the surfaces of the TPUs membranes were successfully modified and that cell adhesion was remarkably reduced.