Abstract Recent developments in the electrokinetic determination of particle, polyelectrolyte and protein deposition at solid/electrolyte interfaces, are reviewed. In the first section basic theoretical results are discussed enabling a quantitative interpretation of the streaming current/potential and microelectrophoretic measurements. Experimental results are presented, pertinent to electrokinetic characteristics of simple (homogeneous) surfaces such as mica, silica and various polymeric surfaces used in protein studies. The influence of the ionic strength, background electrolyte composition and pH is discussed, and the effective (electrokientic) charge of these interfaces is evaluated. In the next section, experimental data obtained by streaming potential measurements for colloid particle mono- and bilayers are presented and interpreted successfully in terms of available theoretical approaches. These results, obtained for model systems of monodisperse colloid particles are used as reference data for discussion of more complicated experiments performed for polyelectrolyte and protein covered surfaces. Results are discussed, obtained for cationic polyelectrolytes (PEI, PAH) and fibrinogen adsorbing on mica, interpreted quantitatively in terms of the theoretical approach postulating a heterogeneous 3D charge distribution. The Gouy–Chapman model, based on the continuous charge distribution proved inadequate. Interesting experimental data are also discussed, obtained by electrophoretic methods in the case of protein adsorption on colloid latex particles. In the last section, supplementary results on particle deposition on heterogeneous surfaces produced by controlled protein adsorption are discussed. Quantitative relationships between the amount of adsorbed protein, zeta potential of the interface and the particle coverage are specified. Possibility of evaluating the heterogeneity of protein charge distribution is pointed out. The anomalous deposition of colloid particles on protein molecules bearing the same sign of zeta potential, which contradicts classical DLVO theory, is interpreted in terms of the fluctuation theory. It is concluded that theoretical and experimental results obtained for model colloid systems and flat interfaces can be effectively used for interpretation of protein adsorption phenomena, studied by electrophoresis. In this way the universality of electrokinetic phenomena is underlined.